Letters to the Editor
Edd Doerr Executive Director Americans for Religious Liberty Silver Spring, Md.
You are to be commended for your excellent report on the intrusion of fundamentalist missionaries into public schools ("'To Introduce Adolescents to the Person of Jesus,"' Education Week, Oct. 26, 1983). It is astonishing that this widespread practice has not been challenged in the courts.
In the light of the court rulings against government-sponsored group prayer, posting of the Decalogue, teaching Transcendental Meditation, and distributing Gideon's Bibles in public schools, it seems clear that allowing adult missionaries to operate in public schools is a violation of the First Amendment. When parents send their children to school, they do not want them to come home some day and declare, "Hey, Mom, I'm not going to your church anymore. The missionary who's helping coach our team has convinced me that his is the right church."
You can bet that if the missionaries represented the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Hare Krishna movement, Maharaj Jee, or Rev. Jim Jones's Peoples Temple, the outcry would be deafening.
Hal Malehorn Department of Elementary, Special, and Junior High Education Eastern Illinois University Charleston, Ill.
I was saddened to read that Ernest Spiva Jr. had such pleasant memories of being paddled in school ("Fond Memories of the 'Hickory Stick,'" Letters, Education Week, Oct. 26, 1983). However, I noticed that he did mention his fear of being found out and getting spanked again at home (and whoever heard of protecting kids against double jeopardy?).
Mr. Spiva also wrote that parents expect this kind of treatment (something that is permitted in few civilized nations other than the U.S. and the British Commonwealth). He referred to "good spankings"--a self-contradictory term, it seems to me.
Mr. Spiva, who is a principal in Panama City, Fla., said his teachers are encouraged to try several methods of disciplining, presumably using the paddle as a "last resort" (there are more than 100 other techniques most teachers ignore). He concluded his defense of his own schools by hoping that children "will remember the hickory stick with a special fondness." There are incipient dangers in benign neglect of violence.
Raymond M. Reinhard Program Analyst California State Legislature Sacramento, Calif.
While it may be true, as Richard A. Black claims, that "... the most dangerous part of football practice is driving home," I am not persuaded of this by the statistics he cites ("The Twin Tragedies in Football: Injury and Litigation," Education Week, Oct. 26, 1983). Specifically, Mr. Black cites a football-related death rate among participating 15-to-24-year-olds of 0.5 per 100,000 (presumably, this is an annual rate, although this is unclear from the article). In contrast, he cites a death rate from automobile accidents for all persons aged 15 to 24 of 70 per 100,000 (again, this rate presumably reflects annual deaths). From these two statistics, Mr. Black concludes that driving an automobile is considerably more dangerous than playing football.
The conclusion, however, does not necessarily follow. In order to conclude that time spent in an automobile is more dangerous than time spent on the football field, it is necessary to compare rates of death and injury while controlling for the amount of time actually spent in each activity. Because the typical person in his or her late teens or early 20's spends considerably more time in an automobile than on a football field, it stands to reason that the death rate per 100,000 per year would be higher for the former activity. This does not mean, however, that an hour in an automobile is more dangerous than an hour of football. It may or may not be--we simply cannot tell from the statistics cited by Mr. Black.
John B. Duff Chancellor Board of Regents of Higher Education The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Boston, Mass.
In a recent article, "Boston Universities Announce New Plan To Assist Public Schools" (Education Week, Nov. 9, 1983), Robert I. Sperber, special assistant to the president of Boston University, is quoted as stating, "Currently, the state provides $15-million for the Massachusetts State Scholarship Program. The colleges will work with the schools and businesses to lobby for five or six times that amount."
The truth is that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts currently provides $34 million in state scholarship funds, and the Board of Regents of Higher Education has proposed an additional $10 million for the 1984-85 academic year. The increase is one of the biggest percentage increases in the U.S. in the past biennium.
John C. Esty President National Association of Independent Schools Boston, Mass.
I found Freeman Butts' Commentary, "State Regulation of Private Schools" (Education Week, Nov. 9, 1983) fascinating and important--as much for public-school people as for those of us in private education. I thought Mr. Butts, one of public education's great figures in the second half of the 20th century, beautifully expressed the case for state regulation of schools, including private schools. He also revealed why it has not worked very well and why private schools resist it.
First, his call for state regulation of private schools to ensure education for good citizenship seems based on a picture of private schools that does not exist. Most private schools enroll minority students in fairly large numbers (17 percent of Roman Catholic schools are predominantly black or Hispanic) and are probably more diverse in student population because they often draw beyond neighborhoods and segregated housing patterns. Most are not racially discriminatory (white flight was largely a "public-school" phenomenon--from urban public schools to suburban public schools, abetted by federal tax deductions for higher suburban real-estate taxes and mortgage interest payments).
And most private-school students probably take more of the courses prescribed by Mr. Butts for good citizenship than their public-school counterparts. (New figures from the National Center for Education Statistics show private-school students take a higher proportion of the major courses recommended by the National Commission on Excellence in Education than do public-school students.)
My point is not just to defend private schools from outmoded or uninformed stereotyping like Mr. Butts's, but to point out that public-school people could learn a lot from the reasons more parents are choosing private schools. I believe public schools could replicate the attractive features of private schools in every particular, and thus win back the allegiance of those parents--without having to "restrain trade" by resorting to impediments like regulation.
Second, there is no evidence that the state regulations proposed by Mr. Butts lead to better citizens or, for that matter, to better learning. It does not matter how many civics courses a young person takes; if he or she can't write, read, reckon, or reason well, "educated citizenship" will come hard. It does not matter how many courses a teacher has had in how to teach; if he or she does not know the subject matter or is not sensitive, patient, compassionate, and smart, good citizenship for that teacher's students will come hard.
As Donald Erickson has pointed out, what counts is results; we simply don't know enough about the art of teaching and the mysterious chemistry between teacher and learner to forecast well who should teach and how they should prepare, except that they should know what they are talking about and care about youths.
And finally, Mr. Butts makes the now-classic and obvious mistake in thinking schools are the only key to good citizenship. I found a much more realistic key in Willis D. Hawley's commentary, "We Aided Schools To End Poverty; Now We Must End Poverty To Aid Schools" (Education Week, Oct. 19, 1983). It makes little sense to think that state regulation can engender good citizenship when poverty even gives it a chance.
Good citizenship, yes. Private as well as public responsibility, yes. State regulation to produce it, no. Education means "leading out," not jamming in!
Richard Risener Director of Instruction Columbia County School District No. 13 Rainier, Ore.
I read with some humor and a lot of dismay the interview with "our" new assistant secretary for special and rehabilitation services, Madeleine C. Will ("New Special-Education Official Seeking To 'Identify the Gaps,"' Education Week, Nov. 9, 1983). You would think that at some point in time we could get people in positions at this level who know what is going on. I do not mean to be unkind, but to say that money spent on P.L. 94-142 programs is not being diverted from other local programs, as Ms. Will did, is to say that there is a tooth fairy.
On the questions of interagency cooperation and postgraduate placement, I would like to have seen Ms. Will recommend that the federal government supply the money and let the states be responsible for creating and running the programs.
I know that those of us in Oregon grow more and more concerned with the number of trainable mentally retarded, educable mentally retarded, and learning-disabled students who are meeting with success in school programs, only to be "dumped" out of those programs into the world with no prospect for a job, a higher-education experience, or a place to live.
Tara Fitzpatrick Student Irvington High School Irvington, N.Y.
According to The Daily News of Irvington and Tarrytown, N.Y., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, east-side Yonkers residents, yelling "Take your niggers and get out," smashed the windshield of Joan Malanga's car to protest the presence of blacks in their neighborhood schools. This caused Ms. Malanga, a former assistant director for special-education programs, to bring the common crime of racial harassment into the light.
Ms. Malanga said that in Yonkers, blacks were not given an equal chance in the classrooms. Blacks with dilemmas were labeled "emotionally disturbed," while whites with the same dilemmas just had "problems.'' For the blacks who went to classes, there was more trouble; they ended up segregated from the whites and were treated in a degrading manner in their "special" classes, according to Ms. Malanga. Because of such attempted segregation, there is now a suit against Yonkers by the U.S. Justice Department and the naacp
If a principal or a member of a board of education lets proven racial harassment occur, that person should be fired immediately with no second chances. If we leave no room for error, our systems will strengthen--to everyone's benefit.
According to Ms. Malanga, this particular case of racial harassment seems to be an attempt at segregation. Hopefully, victims of racial harassment will bring this crime into the light more often and let the community know what is happening. Those who are aware of such harassment should write to local periodicals, raise the issue in conversation, and, most important, bring the argument to court. By working together, people can help bring more racial cases to court and help keep alive America's reputation as a land of opportunity.