Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
I had hoped for more from a newspaper dedicated to education--even a commercial enterprise--in the way of coverage dedicated to the Bell Commission report. Your article, "Education System Placing Nation 'At Risk"' (Education Week, April 27, 1983), replicated the same shallow, 11th-hour reporting given the Bell document in the rest of the media.
There is a lot in the document that is positive, and little that has not been said by educators for more than a decade. But none of this has come out in the stories related to the report.
Nowhere do you mention the sections of the report that directly address parents and students. Not once do you mention the section subheaded "America Can Do It." Not one of the boxed quotes from the report in your reprint of the document reflects the positive points of the report or the role of parents and students.
The institution of school (including teachers) is only one-fourth of an equation that includes parents, students, and the community. Nothing that is done in the institution (or to it) can outweigh the lack of commitment in the other three segments. Yet all criticism focuses on the school. The Bell report, for once, includes all segments of the education equation. Why can't the reporting on the Commission's work be as fair?
I suspect that the operating influence is the idea that criticism is manufactured and vague, and praise is hollow when it comes from within, and both are valid when applied by outsiders. But the readers of the Bell Commission report should also read carefully the list of commission members: 15 of the 18 are educators ranging from university presidents and state commissioners to classroom teachers. This, then, is a report by educators about education, a fact that is never pointed out.
The Bell Commission report is always represented as an indictment of educators when in reality it is a cry for help by educators.
Gary Hollingshead Coordinator of Social Services and Attendance Taylor County Schools Grafton, W.Va.
Editor's Note: Education Week also published in the same issue the entire text of the National Commission on Excellence in Education report and the names and affiliations of its members.
To the Editor:
As a diversionary tactic, the report from the National Commission on Excellence in Education rates an A-plus.
But this was a foregone conclusion when the study began, because Secretary of Education Terrel Bell loaded the Commission with career educators, and instructed them to concentrate their attention on the high schools, ignoring the elementary schools.
Hence, the quite predictable conclusion that much more money is needed to achieve "excellence" was received with great approval by educational leaders who have presided over the decline of education. Spending on schools has multiplied during the same era that results steadily grew worse, but the Commission failed to point out that billions of dollars now are misdirected and wasted. They also failed to note that the very simple reason why teachers' salaries are too low is that the school payrolls are overloaded with far too many people, many of them outside the classroom, many of them inside, teaching skills remedially that should have been learned by students the first time around.
In addition, those tens of millions of illiterates mentioned in the report came out of the first grade as illiterates. (Note that the report did not examine the causes of this illiteracy or propose solutions to the problem.) Because of this situation, the high-school curriculum has been greatly diluted; high-school textbooks now contain low levels of vocabulary, content, and value; a great array of easy electives and special programs has been substituted for tougher courses; and so on.
Good education cannot and will not be restored to our high schools until the schools begin to receive literate pupils from the elementary schools. And that day will not come until successful reading instruction returns to the primary grades in the great majority of schools that for years have used poor, ineffective, failing reading methods, theories, and programs such as the basal reading series. The often-publicized remark that elementary reading is all right now because scores have gone up is one of the great lies of the 1980's. The "scores" have improved very little (and one of the reasons for higher scores is just easier tests), and the children's actual reading abilities, vocabulary size, and so on, are still as pitiful among average students as they have been for years. And those are the children who receive "good grades"--not the illiterate millions who, in truth, can't read at all.
Instead of concentrating on the high schools, the Commission members should have turned their attention to the elementary schools. Perhaps one day an education commission or task force will study the early elementary grades, the primary source of our educational problems.
Kathy Diehl Freelance education writer Lima, Ohio
To the Editor:
Referring to the National Commission on Excellence in Education's report, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell is quoted as saying, "I haven't read a sentence in the report with which I disagree" (Education Week, May 4, 1983).
This is surprising since the report is characterized by emotionally biased remarks, simplistic observation, and superficial solutions. On second thought, it's not so surprising.
F.J. DeGrado Chairperson, Behavioral Sciences Triton College River Grove, Ill.
To the Editor:
I would like to enlarge upon the subject of French education in the U.S., as represented by your recent article on Detroit's Lycee International, "A New French School Accompanies 'Le Car' to Detroit" (Education Week, April 27, 1983).
It should be noted that there are more than 15 French schools in this country (not three as stated in your publication). Five of these schools are located in the San Francisco area and although they are independent from each other, all follow the French programs as determined by the French Ministry of Education.
There is some variety in the overall curriculum, however the "Lycee'' model tends to be closely based on its French counterparts. Some schools, including ours, strive for a bilingual curriculum. Both models produce children who are bilingual and bicultural and who can continue their studies in either language, either country, or both!
Annie-May Leland Development Director Ecole Bilingue East Bay French-American School Berkeley, Calif.