Letters to the Editor
Your article, "Court Ruling Heats Tax-Credit Debate" (Education Week, July 27, 1983), noted that some people have criticized the Supreme Court's decision upholding Minnesota's tuition-deduction law on the grounds that it promotes religion in violation of the First Amendment.
This view, though widely held, is not based in history. As Robert Cord has demonstrated in his masterful Separation of Church and State: Historical Fact and Current Fiction, not all government support for religion is unconstitutional. In fact, when the First Amendment was written, five states had established religions. James Madison's proposal to ban these state religions was soundly defeated.
The First Amendment was meant--among other things--to prevent the establishment of a national religion imposed on all the states. The states, however, were free to establish their own religions.
As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in E. Corwin's Constitutional History:
"Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendments to it, ... the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation."
George Washington echoed this early sentiment when he wrote, "True religion affords government its surest support." So did the writers of the Northwest Ordinance who wrote, just four years before the Constitution, that religion and morality are "necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind."
Many proponents of "separation of church and state" claim the First Amendment as their proof-text, but this term cannot be found in either the Constitution or the First Amendment. It was Thomas Jefferson who coined the term in Paris while the First Amendment was being written 3,000 miles away on America's eastern seaboard.
The 20th-century Supreme Court has taught and enforced the principle that government may not support religion. But those Justices have done so on the basis of something other than our 18th-century Constitution.
Gerald R. McDermott Principal Park Christian School Moorhead, Minn.
Tucson Program Links
To the Editor:
Your recent article, "University, School Links Urged" (Education Week, Aug. 24, 1983), described links between universities and public schools. In the Tucson Unified School District, we have been active in developing just the kinds of links called for in the Pajaro Dunes, Calif., meeting.
Henry Koffler, president of the University of Arizona, has been eager to become involved with public schools and to cooperate with elementary and secondary educators in programs that benefit both institutions. Other state universities have demonstrated their commitment as well.
As a result, we have launched some exciting joint ventures. The first program was the University of Arizona's "adoption" of Pueblo High School, the district school with the highest minority population. That action has provided Pueblo's students and staff members with the expertise of education professors and subject-area specialists. Other important benefits include inservice training for staff members and meeting the special needs of minority youths.
The Pueblo program grew into a district-wide "Adopt-a-School" program. The business community has volunteered to work with students in all of our high schools after witnessing the University's success at Pueblo.
Another new program in conjunction with the University of Arizona encourages and supports minority students to enter the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering, in which minorities are traditionally underrepresented. Another program is "Career Decisions," which identifies high-school youths who have interest and potential in the educational disciplines; specifically, we hope to find and support talented young people who might otherwise not have considered teaching as a career.
It was a bit disappointing to note in your article that no mention was made of involving public-school administrators in the Pajaro Dunes deliberations. I would be delighted to participate in any coalition that includes large, urban school districts, or to contribute to any planning involving public schools, and I'm certain my colleagues would be, too.
Merrill A. Grant Superintendent Tucson Unified School District Tucson, Ariz.
To the Editor:
Your Aug. 17, 1983, issue contained three articles on the subject of children and parenting. "Students Have Lost Their 'Thirst for Knowledge,' Study Indicates" concluded that the home environment is one of the most important factors involved in the current change in students' attitudes. "Low Scores Linked to Mothers' Working" told of how children were adversely affected by maternal employment. And "The Loss of Childhood in the New Middle Ages," the Commentary by Marie Winn, discussed how today's children are moving into the adult world sooner than before.
Ms. Winn writes: "We will never return to the old-style family with the bread-earning father and the childlike, stay-at-home mother minding the house and kids."
We will never find out how much we are missing by such attitudes as this sentence fosters. How many mothers work full-time because their role at home was seen as "childlike" and ineffective? Is it less childlike to pound a keyboard all day, or to make change at the corner drugstore? What insanity we have perpetrated on an entire generation of American women!
The house and kids were never that dreamy, never-never land that Ms. Winn seems to think they were, or are. Ask any mother who stays at home. Raising children is the most frustrating, rewarding, screaming, laughing work in the world. And it just might be the most important.
Whichever study is correct--the one that concludes mothers' working is detrimental to education, or the one that concludes it is not--we are doing society no favors to continue the eternal put-down of full-time motherhood.
Grand Forks, N.D.
Supreme Court Justices
Are Seeking To Justify
Their Personal Politics
To the Editor:
Your excerpts from Justice Rehnquist and Justice Marshall's opinions in the Minnesota tuition tax-deduction case (Education Week, Aug. 17, 1983), illustrate that our Supreme Court justices are ideologues seeking to justify their own political preferences rather than carefully and objectively interpreting the Constitution they have sworn to uphold.
Justice Rehnquist defended tuition tax deductions by writing, "An educated populace is essential to the political and economic health of any community, and a state's efforts to assist parents in meeting the rising cost of educational expenses plainly serves this secular purpose of ensuring that the state's citizenry is well-educated."
Besides the question of whether the end justifies the means, Mr. Rehnquist ignores the simple fact that no branch of the U.S. government has any constitutionally authorized jurisdiction over the educational process. In short, education in Minnesota is none of Mr. Rehnquist's business.
Mr. Marshall recites the tired refrain that there exists a "fundamental principle that a state may provide no financial support whatsoever to promote religion." According to the First Amendment, the federal government is explicitly barred from rendering such financial support. There is nothing in that amendment, however, that would prohibit a state from providing such aid.
As we all now know, the wall of separation between church and state is a Jeffersonian ideal, articulated by our third president as one of his personally held tenets--and one that I regard as wise and prudent. It it not, however, a constitutional provision, and Justice Marshall has no constitutional authority to construe such a principal.
New Wilmington, Pa.
Tuition Tax Credits Could
Rescue Catholic Schools
To the Editor:
Patricia Lines concludes her Commentary--"The Impact of Mueller: New Options for Policymakers," (Education Week, Aug. 24, 1983)--with the hope that our policymakers will look beyond the rich when they draft legislation.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on Mueller, continued pressure for tuition tax relief will undoubtedly arise. But I suspect this pressure will come not from the rich, but from the leaders of Catholic schools, which constitute 64 percent of the private-school sector.
If Catholic schools are experiencing rising costs, anticipating raised tuitions, and serving primarily middle and low economic groups, as reported in the same issue in "Pressure To Increase Tuition Could Threaten Future of Catholic Schools," then the opportunity for tax relief to help offset tuition increases will appeal to leaders and parents of students in these schools.
Evidence of successful pressure from such groups for state support to underwrite some educational costs in private schools exists in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut, as Ms. Lines notes. To see what direction policymakers are likely to take, one ought to monitor the activity of state and federal policymakers in those four states, and in other areas of the country where there is a concentration of Catholic schools.
My hunch is that the policymakers will go for a tax deduction subtracted from gross income rather than seek help through itemized deductions, because it has greater impact for middle and low economic groups.
Tuition tax relief is not a high priority for the rich, as Ms. Lines implies. It is likely to be a high priority for the constituents of Catholic schools. Yes, the rich might benefit from such legislation, but the dollar numbers currently being considered are insignificant to them. These dollars, however, may make the difference to the survival of Catholic schools.
Duncan W. Alling Headmaster The Miami Valley School Dayton, Ohio
More Than Diplomas
beth: pls rerun whole letter for added address line
To the Editor:
I note in your Index (Education Week, Aug. 31, 1983), under the Minneapolis, Minn., section heading:
"HS grads recieve diplomas with misspellings, 6-15-83:3."
A pervasive problem, it seems!
James S. Catterall University of California at Los Angeles Los Angeles, Calif.