Declarations: Essays on American Ideals (PBS, 10- 11 p.m.): The Independent Television Service, a nonprofit group funded by the United States Congress in 1989, offers its first public-affairs series: an ambitious three-part production - aired weekly - about liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness.

Those three ideas may remind readers of the right age of the sometimes bland ``civics'' classes in school, but don't be fooled. Consider a few of the people involved in the TV ``essays'' that make up the shows: Lars Eighner, a ``scavenger'' and author goes to a city dump to find clothes and other items he wants - part of his realization of the pursuit of happiness. Derrick Bell, a legal scholar who resigned from the faculty of Harvard Law School over a tenure controversy, presents a parable called ``The Fable of Equality's Child.''

The opening show is called ``Liberty: Freedom of Expression.'' One essayist is Salman Rushdie, the author-in-exile (``The Satanic Verses''), who speaks from an unspecified location about the crucial value of free expression. A contrasting contributor is Mari Matsudi, a legal scholar partly responsible for the ``political correctness'' movement, who says some speech is assault and should be banned. * WEDNESDAY

Sesame Street's All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! (ABC, 8-9 p.m.): The classic children's series has always managed to attract big names to its regular slot on PBS - everyone from astronauts to rhythm-and-blues greats.

This time commercial TV is following suit as it salutes the program's 25th year. Charles Grodin and Susan Sarandon play an ultra-rich couple looking for a penthouse with a view. Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford make a cameo appearance as themselves. Barbara Walters portrays the host of a newsmagazine called, in ``Sesame Street's'' typically jaunty style, ``25/25.'' Joe Pesci is a real-estate tycoon; John Goodman operates the Tough Guy Helpline; and Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are ``Worm TV'' veejays.

Not bad for a kid's show.

Please check local listings for these programs.

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