January 27, 1992

A SEVENTH GRADER we know is in a "GT" (Gifted and Talented) math class. Not all that gifted and talented, she will drop back to Algebra I next year.

Then in her first three years of high school, she will take Algebra II, Geometry and Algebraic Functions/ Trigonometry. After that, she may be compelled to take Calculus.

Why? Because in the name of keeping up with the Japanese, Maryland is moving toward a requirement that students take four years of high school math. Of course, not everybody will have to take Calculus, only those youngsters who accepted the challenge of harder math in middle school.

Fateful decision! Looking ahead, her parents see only one way to keep their daughter from getting in over her head by her last year in high school. They plan to have her take Algebra I twice -- in the 8th grade and then again in the 9th.

A more sensible solution is thinkable. The state might mandate either four years of math or completion of some fairly advanced level -- say Algebraic Functions and Trigonometry. How many of our readers (other than those with teen-age children) know what an algebraic function is anyway?

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FACING FATHERHOOD again the same year he hits the mid-century mark, a man we know made his way rather warily to the first of his "childbirth preparation classes."

In an auditorium full of expectant young couples, his thinning gray hair stood out -- until, shortly before the films and lectures began, an older couple made their way to two empty seats. Our friend was thrilled -- the man clearly out-aged him by a decade.

What's more, he was on crutches. Was it a temporary injury or a long-term problem? Our friend never found out. No matter, his spirits were lifted. He won't be the only elder statesman trying to sort through one of the great dilemmas of these times: disposable diapers or cloth?

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CONGRATULATIONS to Saddam Hussein, who was just awarded his second "Order of the People" decoration by the National Assembly of Iraq. Not everyone appreciates what that president has done for Iraq, but the 250 members he appointed to its parliament do.

They are not saying, however. Instead, they are praising him one year after the Persian Gulf war for the disaster. They gave him his first "Order of the People" after his tragic 1980-1988 war against Iran, which saw even more Iraqis killed for nothing.

Well, let him rest on his laurels. The one thing every Iraqi dreads is that the president whom the National Assembly wants in office for life may deserve a third "Order of the People." Iraq and its people cannot take that.