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To the Editor:

Although Floretta Dukes McKenzie's Commentary, "Attitude Is the Reason For Japanese Schools' Success" (Education Week, Feb. 16, 1983) is her perception of the Japanese educational system, her statements about discipline and mathematics are questionable.

My reaction stems from my work in arranging for a team visit to the Charleston County school district this year by 24 Japanese educators. While the visitors were here, a planning officer of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Koher Toyama, spoke of the increased incidences of violence in Japan's schools. And in the area of mathematics, Mr. Toyama said that although Japanese students in the 1st and 2nd grades practice calculations more than American students, Japan still needs to learn from Americans how to think at a higher mathematical level.

I do not mean to discredit Ms. McKenzie's findings; many of her points are thought provoking. Surely, if there is anything we should learn from the Japanese, it is to change our attitude of superiority and learn from others.

On the other hand, for so many years America has been "first" in developments, changes, and discoveries. Other nations have sent their scholars to be trained in our country and to gain from our expertise in improving their educational systems, their governments, their economy, and their military strength. It's time for us to wake up to this reality.

Blondell E. Kidd Elementary Consultant Charleston County School District Charleston, S.C.

To the Editor:

Your article, "'Slight' Academic Gains Made by Blacks in Desegregated Schools" (Education Week, Feb. 16, 1983) contained a competent report on a recent National Institute of Education (nie) symposium to assess the effects of desegregation on academic achievement. Two things need to be said about the symposium:

First, by excluding most studies that look at the effects of desegregation on children who begin school in kindergarten or 1st grade, the nie panel did not consider studies that are most likely to show positive effects. Similarly, recent meta-analyses of several dozen studies (two undertaken by members of the nie panel) show more positive effects than do the more limited reviews undertaken by the nie panel.

Second, to ask what the overall effects of desegregation have been is to ask the wrong question both for purposes of policymaking and the development of new knowledge about the conditions that foster or impede academic achievement. What we need to know, of course, is what accounts for the variations found in the achievement of students who experience desegregation. Research that assumes that desegregation--or any other broad social policy that encompasses so many programmatic differences--is a discrete treatment, is not only likely to yield few insights, it is likely to be misleading.

It is time to stop fighting old political wars with educational research and to get on with the important business of understanding how people learn and under what conditions learning is best facilitated.

Willis D. Hawley Dean Peabody College of Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tenn.

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