Letters to the Editor
Diane Ravitch's response to your summary of my review of The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980 in Dissent sheds much heat but little light on our differences ("Review of Education Book 'Unabashedly Dishonest,' Education Week, March 7, 1984). Readers interested in the fuller exchange will find it in the Spring issue of Dissent.
Stuart N. Bernstein Region Administrator, Operations Los Angeles Unified School District Los Angeles, Calif.
Regarding the picture entitled "Returning After a Tragedy" (Education Week, March 7, 1984), please be advised that the tragic shooting by a sniper at the 49th Street School occurred on Friday, Feb. 24. School was only closed on Saturday and Sunday as usual, and the instructional program was resumed on Monday morning, Feb. 27.
John D. Van Buren President, acte/ny Hofstra University Hempstead, N.Y.
You stated in a recent article that the Council of Deans is "a group made up of the deans of the state's education schools" ("New York State College Presidents Join To Aid Schools," Education Week, March 21, 1984). As president of the Association of Colleges of Teacher Education in New York State, I wish to point out that there are many more schools of education in the state than those that belong to the Council of Deans. You should have stated that the council represents the 11 schools that offer the doctorate. There are 69 institutions that are current members of acte/ny, including the 11 on the council.
Richard F. Barter Headmaster Collegiate School New York, N.Y.
Your answer to the Quizmaster question, "When and where was the first school in America established?" was conceptually correct but factually inaccurate (Education Week, March 21, 1984).
The first school in America was the Collegiate School in New York City, founded by the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in 1628 at the request of the Dutch West India Company. The company was trying to build up the settlement in New Amsterdam and the establishment of a church and a school was desirable to accomplish this mission.
Although Adam Roelantsen was in the colony as early as 1633, he returned to Holland in 1637 to become licensed as a schoolmaster. Upon his return to New Amsterdam in 1638, he became the first licensed schoolmaster in America. During the first 10 years of the school's operation, teaching was provided by the ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Henry McBride Superintendent of Schools Slater School District Slater, Mo.
I write in response to Wayne A. Moyer's Commentary, "Q. Whatever Happened to Creationism? A. It's Still Around" (Education Week, March 21, 1984). I think Mr. Moyer's view--that evolution must necessarily be true and must be the only way to explain natural changes and origins, regardless of any observations, facts, or questions that arise--shows very well why creationism is still around.
Being a devout evolutionist, Mr. Moyer probably will not recognize or accept the fact that evolution is more of a philosophy than a true scientific field like chemistry or physics, or that the current struggle between evolutionists and creationists is basically a struggle between different philosophies. One could just as easily write a column entitled, "Q. Whatever Happened to Evolutionism? A. It's Still Around." As a matter of fact, unless you are intentionally promoting evolution as the only way to explain natural changes and origins, I think you should have a qualified person write such an article.
Without going into thorough detail because of length, I will point out several places in Mr. Moyer's essay where the author's philosophical view as an evolutionist appears, and make a brief comment about it. I believe it is the author's philosophical view because he allows no room for question or dissent, which a scientific opinion would do.
Mr. Moyer writes that "the Texas board has managed to equate scientific theories with religious explanations, to confuse theories with mere speculations, and to separate evolutionary theory from the body of scientific knowledge."
It is the evolutionist's insistence that the theory of evolution is part of the body of scientific knowledge that provokes much of the debate to start with. They call it theory but teach it as fact, and one only has to read textbooks and articles or sit in class with an evolutionist to realize that.
Mr. Moyer refers to evolution as "the cornerstone of modern biology." If that is true, modern biology is built on a house of cards. It is too easy to shoot holes in the theory of evolution for it to have such importance.
Mr. Moyer also writes that "another problem is that ambiguous teacher-certification rules that fail to define proper training in science are being exploited by fundamentalist colleges to get their biology graduates certified to teach in public schools." I assume that "proper training in science" must necessarily include the author's acceptance of evolution as the final explanation of origins. It is because of philosophical differences, not scientific methods, that such statements as Mr. Moyer's are made. Evolution philosophy apparently cannot allow too many opinions on origins and still survive.
Mr. Moyer writes that "the creationists will never compromise. Those of us who believe in the integrity of science and the separation of church and state must be no less zealous." If the word "creationist" were changed to "evolutionist" in that statement, it would accurately reflect the view of those who do not accept evolutionism any more than the author accepts creationism.
The integrity of science is compromised more by the dogmatic evolutionist insistence that the theory be taught as fact and as the only possible explanation of how things came to be as they are. That is actually what evolutionist biology teachers do and that is the way many biology textbooks present evolution because they are written by believers in evolution. Too often, evolution is referred to as theory but taught as fact.
I am writing as one who went through the usual high-school biology classes where evolution was generally accepted without question, took a large number of college classes in biological science, including a course in evolution, and rejected much of evolution theory on its own merits long before creationism became an issue.
I receive a lot of information and some good ideas from your newspaper. I assume that commentaries are intended to present different viewpoints as might be done on an editorial page, rather than as a source of factual material.
Editor's Note: Your assumption is correct.
Don L. Danielson Superintendent Gonvick-Trail Community School Independent School District 158 Gonvick, Minn.
I write regarding Wayne A. Moyer's commentary. The Texas Administrative Code that, in his opinion, "is appalling in the ignorance it displays of science" is to me, a former biology teacher, a refreshing breath of fresh air.
Evolution is a theory, nothing less and nothing more. Move over Messrs. Scopes and Moyer, you cannot legislate values, then or now.
Richard B. Morland Professor of Educational Philosophy Department of Education Stetson University DeLand, Fla.
James W. LoGerfo's miserable experience obtaining his teaching credential is indeed unfortunate, but does this constitute a "crisis" in education ("The Crisis in Education Is Mainly a Crisis in Teacher Education," Education Week, March 21, 1984)?
If so, it is the most sustained crisis in history, for criticism of how teachers are prepared and what they must go through to be licensed has been around since the State Normal School in Lexington, Mass.--the first state teachers' college in America--was established in 1839. The more distressing and depressing the ordeal, the more likely it is to find its way into print. We should have learned by now that no combination of collegiate courses has either transformed unsuited people into good teachers or destroyed the potential of those of exceptional ability. We can be especially thankful for the latter.
Yet there is a crisis of mammoth proportions in the making and Mr. LoGerfo is a good example. Too few people with his qualifications and experience are choosing teaching as a second career, and the bright and talented women--traditionally the backbone of the teaching profession--are finding other employment opportunities more attractive. A serious shortage of teachers is imminent.
To meet the growing need, fundamental changes are imperative. The recommendation of Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey that would remove some of the barriers to certification that discourage professionals in other fields from becoming classroom teachers is a forward step. Let us hope this is not an isolated example, but the beginning of a national trend.
Rudy Pouch Director of Special Services Unified School District 327 Ellsworth, Kan.
I agree with James W. LoGerfo's comments. Some of my own experiences in teacher education parallel his--I had some instructors who had never been out of the college classroom and others who had never taught in the public-school system.
Upon entering school administration, I found many teachers well prepared in subject matter, but ill prepared in teaching abilities, discipline, and professional ethics. It was a red flag to me that subject-matter professors seemed to be doing their job, but the teacher educators apparently were not.
Mr. LoGerfo addressed the issues of selection, education, and training by competent professors; recruitment of a higher level of individual based on cultural and educational values; recruitment of individuals from the mid- to high-quarter of high-school graduates; and raising the minimum score acceptable on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. All of these are issues that need attention now. Some of the issues are surfacing because of the current push for "effective education."
To solve some of these problems, we should raise the salaries of entering teachers and establish a comprehensive master-teacher incentive plan. We have many good, dedicated teachers and we have some problems in education, but almost all of them can be solved if we work together.
Barry J. Kaiser Winslow Township School 3 Sicklerville, N.J.
"It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves a great result. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young." I'm sure Bertrand Russell must have had the annual process of school-board elections in mind when he made that remark.
This area contributes more to the problems in New Jersey education than inadequate teacher preparation. Although James W. LoGerfo may have had some unpleasant experiences at a New Jersey college, there are teacher-education programs that are succeeding and producing academically qualified graduates.
John Rocco, a New Jersey Assemblyman and an education professor at Rider College, talked recently at a New Jersey Education Association legislative dinner about undergraduate education for teaching majors. He offered statistics that contrasted sharply with the ones being cited by Gov. Thomas H. Kean, State Commissioner Saul Cooperman, and Mr. LoGerfo.
It is important to remember that statistics can be used to make whatever point one wants to emphasize. Unfortunately, Governor Kean and others quote from figures that are ascertained by inappropriately using the Scholastic Aptitude Test. They report that over 50 percent of New Jersey high-school seniors who indicated they would major in education scored below 400 on the verbal portion of the test. These scores and their subject-matter preferences were made by high-school students, not college graduates.
What is most important is not who might take an education course, but who is graduating from the teacher-college program.
Mr. Rocco said he checked the statistics when he first heard them. What he found was that teacher-college graduates scored above the statewide average based on those who entered the profession last year.
Although Governor Kean and Commissioner Cooperman would like to change the status quo in education, their major conundrum will be with local boards of education. There is too much inherent power exercised at the local level. Unless this is checked, there will be a need for more federal or state controls to ensure that children receive the best education available. More equity in education could be attained by restricting local boards' capacity to arbitrarily and capriciously decide the fate of projects, educators, and, ultimately, the education of the children.
The requirements for a board position need to be re-examined and redefined. Board members presently only have to be United States citizens, be residents in a community for two years, and have the ability to read and write. Yet, based upon these minimal requirements, board members can decide the fate of people with masters' and doctoral degrees who have become extremely proficient in their field of study. It appears that something is amiss.
Much could and should be learned from our Japanese allies. In Japan, the national policy is to have an educated and dedicated workforce. Therefore, the government has established a national curriculum. To ensure that this is followed, the ministry of education appoints board members at the state and city levels who are experienced educators. The Japanese do not feel, as we sometimes do in the U.S., that this creates a conflict of interest. These people are more cognizant of what is going on in education and they are able to spend time improving and strengthening the system in which they are working.
Many of our local school-board members seem more concerned with their own political aggrandizement and the maintenance of a nepotic hold on local communities. Certainly, if as much time and energy were spent on policy development and curricular improvements, the result would be a more worthy system. In addition, some board members have no sound background in education and therefore have a difficult time making sound judgments. There is a big difference between carburetors and kids!
You recently interviewed State Commissioner Cooperman ("'For Every Action, An Unbelievable Reaction,"' Education Week, Jan. 25, 1984) on his proposed changes for education. Mr. Cooperman said, "If we bring one more talented teacher into a school, that makes a change. In the end, it's what's done in the classroom that makes the difference." I think it's time to convey this message to our local school boards.
Reforms need to be enacted, or legislation should be approved, that would limit the discretionary powers of local boards. Otherwise, excellent teachers will continue to leave the system or will be forced to leave by autonomous boards.
If Commissioner Cooperman is sincere in stating that what is done in the classroom is what really counts, one hopes he will be able to use his influence to acquire the needed legislation to usurp some of the power of local school boards and help strengthen the requirements for board members.
Don Dumeyer Kentucky State Coordinator Tuition Tax Credit Campaign Louisville, Ky.
Your recent article on the proposed voucher plan for Colorado schools concluded with some rather contradictory quotes attributed to Calvin M. Frazier, the state's commissioner of education ("Proposed Voucher Plan Divides Colorado Politicians, Educators," Education Week, April 4, 1984).
If Mr. Frazier really believes that "Colorado education has been considered quite good," how can he also believe that the establishment of a voucher system would mean that public schools would end up educating "the leftovers"--students private education is unwilling or unable to educate?
Mr. Frazier's concern about the cost of a voucher system seems to be grounded in his fear that the state might have to spend an additional $35 million on the education of approximately 25,000 of Colorado's private-school students whose parents currently pay for their education. He conveniently forgot to add that those same parents also pay their fair share of whatever state and local taxes are levied to fund the public schools of Colorado.
It seems that Mr. Frazier is really concerned about the possibility that, if a voucher plan is adopted, the citizens of Colorado who currently enroll their children in private schools would begin to receive a benefit from their school taxes that would be somewhat equivalent to the benefit already being provided to those Colorado citizens who have their children enrolled in the state's public schools.