Letters To The Editor
I have read Education Week faithfully since the first issue, and am a great admirer. But I am constrained to observe that the Commentary by Leonard B. Stevens, "When You Are Against Busing, What Are You For?'' (Education Week, Feb. 9, 1983), is without question the silliest and most wrong-headed thing you have yet published. It subscribes entirely to the notion that the proper gauge of "desegregation" is the numerical ratio of black to white in a given school or classroom. Too high a proportion of any color is said to be evil, not to mention unconstitutional.
The best comment on this way of thinking was expressed in columnist William Raspberry's response to University of Chicago political scientist Gary Orfield's recent suggestion that students from the District of Columbia should be helped to attend school with those in local suburban systems. "I do wish he could learn not to see blackness as a disease and dilution as the only conceivable cure," Mr. Raspberry said. "[Mr.] Orfield and too many others pay too little attention to the psychological damage that can result when well-meaning reformers say to our children: The trouble with your school is that it has too many children like you." Mr. Stevens, I submit, is one of the "too many others."
Chester E. Finn Jr. Professor of Education and Public Policy Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tenn.
I quote from your lead article, "Reagan's 1984 Budget Gets Mixed Reviews" (Education Week, Feb. 9, 1983): "... Congressional supporters of education ... said they were skeptical about certain of the Administration's initiatives--including a plan for education 'vouchers' for disadvantaged children. ..."
The term "Congressional supporters of education" is misleading. Close observers of teacher-union politics know that these are code words for Congressmen and Senators who vote according to the wishes of the unions, principally, of course, the National Education Association (nea).
Unfortunately, the interests of children and education do not always coincide with the political objectives of the nea It is possible to be very supportive of education, and yet be profoundly opposed to the direction in which the nea is trying to take American education--a direction defined in detail in the February issue of Commentary magazine.
For the sake of those who may be unfamiliar with such stock union phrases as "Congressional supporters of education," I hope you will choose your words with greater care.
Tom W. Shuford Special-education teacher Roslyn Heights, N.Y.
I find Education Week useful in most respects--when it restricts itself to educational issues. What place does an article devoted to "cults" ("The Shadowy Empires That Beckon the Young," Education Week, Nov. 3, 1982), have in it?
Educational researchers are expected to be objective, to base conclusions on other than anecdotal incidents, to reject unrepresentative instances, and to verify information with the original source or as close to it as it is possible to get. This includes giving equal time to any contradictory or opposing information or opinions.
I cannot see how you could have followed professional reporting principles in preparing the article on cults. Following are some examples of the amateur reporting practices used in the preparation of that story.
The article starts with anecdotal information about The Way International and follows with: "These anecdotes, later confirmed ..." Confirmed how, by whom? Were officials at The Way International contacted for their versions of these "stories"?
What is the Citizens Freedom Foundation? Where are their offices? Who is on their board of directors? When and by whom were they organized? Do they represent the Moral Majority? A group of professional deprogrammers? Established church interests?
"Adolescents and young adults ... [help] to amass fortunes for cult leaders either by seeking donations on the street or by working for a pittance in cult-run industries." Is that what characterizes or defines a cult? If so, The Way International is not a cult. It has no industries and it does not solicit donations publicly--in airports, or anywhere else. It does maintain a biblical research center, an accredited college, a family learning center, and an outdoor skills-development facility. Is Oral Roberts University a "cult" school?
I have read several books published by The Way International. I have listened to tapes of sermons and teaching sessions. I spent several days at The Way College. I have talked with national leaders. I have observed the practices and activities of the Twig Coordinators. I have read The Way magazine. I have heard the "Takit" [a rock band of The Way International] and other skilled musical groups singing the praises of God and Jesus Christ.
I have seen the work performed by students in a combined work-study program at The Way College and have been told of the new, useful skills that they have learned--physical, communication-oriented, and expressive. I have been told by members of their new appreciation for the health and well being, the new interpersonal skills, the research skills, and the new awareness of their creative potential that they have developed. I saw no mind control attempts in any of these experiences--only a constant urging to look to the word of God and Jesus Christ for guides to living a rewarding life.
An article--especially as poorly researched as this one was--that clumps The Way International with the Moonies; the Hare Krishnas; The Jim Jones affair in Jonestown, Guyana; and others, has no business in a publication dedicated to educational issues.
A. Dean Hendrickson Professor of Education University of Minnesota-Duluth Duluth, Minn.
Editor's Note: Officials at The Way International were contacted but chose not to comment.