Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
An item in your Colleges Column (Education Week, Jan. 26, 1983), notes that the number of heavy drinkers "rose from 11.6 percent in 1974 to 17.2 percent in 1982." This increase is described as rising "somewhat."
The "somewhat" increase measures 48.28 percent, a rather startling increase, I feel. Why has it happened? What is being done about it? Or, since it is described as only "somewhat" of an increase, doesn't the 48-percent increase matter to Education Week?
Dorland R. Russett Crestwood, N.Y.
Editor's note: The increase can be seen as moderate, says David J. Hanson, associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Potsdam and one of the two researchers who conducted the study, "compared to the expectations of people--especially college administrators--that the rise would be far more dramatic."
Mr. Hanson, who worked with Ruth C. Engs of Indiana University on the longitudinal survey of the drinking habits of college students, also notes that "good" data exist suggesting that heavy drinking in college is not predictive of later adult behavior. College, he adds, may be in some sense a "time-out" period in which young adults feel free to experiment with kinds of behavior they will later reject.
To the Editor:
Fred L. Pincus has written a provocative attack on seasoned civil libertarians like Nat Hentoff, and thereby displayed a perverse misunderstanding of the meaning of civil liberties and an all-too-common blindness about the nature of public schooling ("Censorship in the Name of Civil Rights: A View From the Left," Education Week, Jan. 26, 1983).
Mr. Pincus is correct in concluding that educators "should not wrap themselves in a mantle of moderation to protect themselves from 'extremists of the Left."' But neither should educators be wrapped in the bland garb of good community morals. To be so avoids acknowledging that majority control of education always produces minorities whose lives and values are degraded by schooling that they neither choose nor influence.
Mr. Pincus's contention appears to be that pressure on public-school curricula and libraries is lamentable when it comes from the Right's treasury of troglodytic values, but healthy when it comes from those who favor race and gender equality. The New Right engages in "censorship" on behalf of "white supremacy, male domination, religious ethnocentrism, and knee-jerk patriotism," whereas the same actions by feminist and anti-racist groups are "criticisms and suggestions" that should be encouraged and honestly evaluated by those in charge of the schools.
According to Mr. Pincus, representatives of the American Library Association and the National Council of Teachers of English arrived at the "outrageous conclusion" that objecting to race and gender stereotypes is as bad as objecting to the discussion of sex and drugs in the classroom.
But Mr. Pincus cannot defend his claim that one pressure on the curriculum and the library is worse than another by claiming that one side's values are correct. There is a multitude of differing, articulate, and sincerely held beliefs and world views that motivate these pressures.
One might be tempted simply to smile at a transparent attempt to legitimize the "good" values and belittle the "bad," especially where, as in Mr. Pincus's Commentary, the good and bad have been "correctly" identified. But this wry smile may turn to a grimace upon seeing the hatchet job Mr. Pincus does on freedom of intellect and belief.
For it is impossible to secure liberty to some and deny it to others without making a mockery of our system of freedom of expression. Those who place a high value on intellectual freedom should resist the efforts of the Right to use the school system as a coercible tool of indoctrination, but with no more vigor than they employ in resisting pressures from those whose values they share.
The source of the controversy over which values should be endorsed by the nation's schools is embedded in the nature of the public-school system itself.
Education policy in this country is determined by political majorities. But under the Constitution, an individual's freedoms of expression and belief may not be made to depend upon the support of the majority. So, while a parent's choice of how his or her child will be educated represents one of the most central exercises of freedom of expression, it is transgressed by the concept of majority rule that operates in education policymaking.
As a result, Left- and Right-leaning parents do battle over the content of curricula and libraries. But the primary victims of public education's rejection of individual liberties are the poor and racial minorities, who usually cannot afford to send their children elsewhere. This is the real injustice of censorship that the advocates of racial justice and gender equality must face.
New Right censorship is the predominant and most intolerant form of pressure on schools now. But none of us should imagine that moderation and pluralism can be achieved while we force compulsory socialization on the poor and working classes and while we guarantee liberty in our most intimate form of communication--child-rearing--to the rich.
If those who believe that racism is the most corrosive and degrading of America's problems cannot struggle toward its elimination without trashing the system of freedom of expression, we are destroying our own cause.
Stephen Arons Associate Professor of Legal Studies University of Massachusetts/Amherst
To the Editor:
As a supporter of racial justice and feminism, I find Fred L. Pincus's Commentary, "Censorship in the Name of Civil Rights: A View From the Left," (Education Week, Jan. 26, 1983) frighteningly nave.
His argument that "the 'Left censors' are correct in their criticisms of the schools" and therefore should be given consideration denied to critics of the schools who are concerned about "frank discussion of drugs and sex" in Go Ask Alice, smacks of the old idea that error has no rights.
What, he asks, are parents to do when they find that books that are objectionable to them are considered "educationally sound" by the "professionally trained"? I trust he realizes that this is a concern that he shares with those he consigns to the New Right. If only those who are "correct" are to be given the opportunity to appeal the judgment of the professionals, who is to determine which side is correct?
Schools teach values, whether they want to or not, and responsible parents feel very deeply about the values that they want conveyed through the school environment. The community also has a stake in the values taught in the schools it supports. This entirely appropriate parental and community concern inevitably will, from time to time, come into conflict with the First Amendment idea that the government should not limit the individual's freedom to read what he or she wants. The conflict sharpens as we extend First Amendment rights to younger children.
This kind of conflict does not lend itself to quick solutions based on easy absolutes. In muddling through this tension between two conflicting goods, we would do well to remember that in this society disadvantaged groups usually have made their gains by insisting that the laws be applied fairly to all groups. We do not need "solutions" that provide to those we perceive as correct remedies that are not made available to those we perceive as incorrect.
Loretta K. Andrews Baltimore, Md.
To the Editor:
A recent article on the fingerprinting of elementary-school children in Union County, N.J., ("Police To Fingerprint 44,000 N.J. Children,'' Education Week, Jan. 26, 1983), gave the impression that this idea had been widely accepted.
At a meeting with Sheriff Ralph Froehlich and Underchief John J. Troiano on Jan. 21, 1983, the chief school administrators of Union County did agree that the idea of fingerprinting school children might have some merit. However, the following concerns were shared with Sheriff Froehlich:
The manner in which the idea had been developed made it a law-enforcement matter.
The questions of what would be included in the files and of who would receive the fingerprints needed to be addressed. Consequently, it was decided that a child's fingerprints would be given only to his or her parents, to be filed in a place of their choice and used in case of need.
To protect against violation of any child's rights, it was recommended that fingerprinting be done on a Saturday or after school, and that the procedure be worked out with school authorities.
We suggest that any future project involving schoolchildren on a wholesale basis be developed in consultation with the school officials who eventually must account to children, parents, and the community for what happens to the children. Children are best served with extreme care to their rights, interests, and well-being.
John T. Farinella President Union County Superintendents' Roundtable and Superintendent of Schools Clark, N.J.