News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Textbook history begins to judge President Clinton

A teacher in a local church was leading his youth in a game called Cranium at a recent Christmas party.

He drew a card that required a young person to act out a character while classmates guessed the name of the famous person.

The famous person's name? Monica Lewinsky.

For obvious reasons, the teacher discreetly returned the card to the holder and drew another.

With an air of disgust and moral judgment, we automatically associate Miss Lewinsky's name with President Clinton.

Whether that stigma endures depends on history.

Associated Press Education Writer Ben Feller says that President Clinton's impeachment is a gray area of history, too long ago to be a current event, too recent to be judged in perspective. But, he added, history is already judging the former chief executive in the place where millions of students get their information: textbooks.

Seven years after he was impeached in a scandal of sex, perjury and political warfare, President Clinton has become a part of school texts.

Today's oldest high school students were only about 10 years old during the scandal and middle school students were in the first grade.

"This is very difficult for everybody, because it's so fresh," said Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council. "It's easier to nail down history like the transcontinental railroad. With Clinton, you're dealing with material that has by no means been settled."

The textbooks avoid the titillating details. The House impeached President Clinton on charges of lying to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice to hide an affair with Miss Lewinsky, a White House intern. The Senate acquitted him in a trial.

History will determine whether President Clinton is known for leading this nation through a time of peace and prosperity or for falling into lechery.

If the former president is like the rest of us imperfect creatures, he desires that his mistakes not discount his contributions.

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