Vital Signs

Harkness Road High School

Hillary Clinton would love Amherst, Massachusetts, a town aptly nicknamed "The People's Republic of Amherst." A stroll down Main Street quickly reveals that Birkenstocks and Volvos dominate the landscape. Amherst's legislative body, the Town Meeting, often votes on the kind of citizen petitions that call on the community (population 35,000) to join the AFLCIO's "union cities" movement or to block off a busy street so spotted salamanders can make their annual trek to breeding ponds without becoming roadkill.

Amherst, situated in the picturesque Pioneer Valley, is the quintessential college town. Once home to Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, it now insulates old hippies and left-wing scholars from the traditional values of ordinary Americans. The town's public schools are, of course, fertile ground for the country's most ambitious social engineers. In 1996, the town's four elementary schools displayed a gay and lesbian family photo exhibit with accompanying text. This winter, the Fort River Elementary School principal hosted a blacks-only breakfast for staff and families.

The problem with Amherst educators indoctrinating their charges is that they sometimes succeed in unexpected ways. This winter, junior and senior high students skipped class to join University of Massachusetts/Amherst students who had occupied an administration building to demand an increase in minority enrollment....

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