Letters To The Editor
I would like to comment on your recent article on Christian schools ("The Rise of the Fundamentalist Christian School," Education Week, Oct. 17, 1984) and the subsequent letter by Ralph O. Lyons, superintendent of Southland Christian Schools Inc., ("Joining Associations: A Christian-School Leader Comments on Criteria," Education Week, Dec. 5, 1984).
Mr. Lyons wondered if a fundamentalist Christian school would be denied membership in independent-school associations even if it met all criteria for membership.
Most of the independent-school associations, including the Independent Schools Association of the Central States, do have Christian member schools. The two isacs members are also members of Christian Schools International and do meet all membership criteria, including those regarding the "independence" of the school with respect to its governance, financial support, and the integrity of its academic mission and program.
The quotation from me in the article was not intended to cover all Christian schools, but rather those fundamentalist schools that would not qualify for membership in our association because they did not encourage the development of independent thinking and were not, therefore, independent schools as we define them.
Approximately one-fourth of isacs's member schools have a specific religious affiliation and combine a strong, effective religious component with an academic mission that is truly committed to the development of the mind.
Finally, I would like to point out that the membership standards in our association and other independent\school associations were not developed for the specific purpose of accepting or refusing applications from fundamentalist schools. They are applied as equitably as possible in the handling of applications from all kinds of private schools, whether or not they are religiously affiliated.
Thomas Read President Independent Schools Association of the Central States Downers Grove, Ill.
As a chairman of the curriculum committee of the National Council for the Social Studies I was, of course, interested in your recent article on the meeting of the council ("Social Studies: Amid Criticism, Still in Search of a Clear Rationale," Education Week, Nov. 28, 1984).
You did a fine job of reporting on a critical and controversial issue, namely the development and publication of a document entitled, "In Search of a Scope and Sequence for Social Studies." As noted in your article, the statement is a preliminary report issued by the ncss board of directors.
The fact that the document has generated considerable debate is neither surprising nor a cause to criticize the organization and its leadership. A vigorous response from the membership was anticipated and, in fact, provided for in the program of the conference. Critical analysis, dialogue, debate, and compromise are the very heart of the disciplines that provide the content and energy of the social studies. For the board of directors to routinely accept "Scope and Sequence" without providing for feedback would have been irresponsible and inconsistent with virtually everything the profession represents. It can be argued that what was witnessed at the annual conference is a sign of organizational health rather than the symptom of catharsis.
Finally, I believe it is important that the intent of "Scope and Sequence" be clearly understood. The curriculum committee was not charged with the responsibility of restructuring the framework of social-studies education, proposing a "national currriculum," or developing a universally accepted rationale. On the contrary, the mandate was to generate a model that local school districts could use as a starting point for curriculum planning. As clearly stated in the narrative of the document: "The material is presented for illustrative purposes and should not be construed as a model or ideal program. Rather, it is intended to extend the outer boundaries of existing practice, without moving so far out as to make the document unusable. Local school-district curriculum developers, teachers, and lay persons should find the examples useful as a guide in building their own programs."
A subcommittee of the curriculum committee is now in the process of sifting through the input received since the publication of the document in April 1984. A report will be presented to the board of directors in June 1985. Regardless of the recommendations that ultimately emerge, I believe the process, while far from perfect, is commendable.
Michael A. Radz Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Olympia C.U.S.E. #16 Chairman ncss Curriculum Committee Stanford, Ill.
As a longtime department head in a secondary-school industrial-technology department, I appreciate the coverage you gave to the report of the National Commission on Secondary Vocational Education ("Too Much Stress on Academics, Voc.-Ed. Commission Charges," Education Week, Nov. 28, 1984).
The report itself is disappointing because it sidesteps some important issues that should be addressed. Indeed, one wonders if the report would have been much different had the quarter of a million dollars that the study allegedly cost simply been turned over to an advertising agency along with a charge to give vocational education a strong, positive image.
Nowhere in the report is there a call to teachers and administrators within the field of vocational education to improve the state of the art, to move into the 1980's, and to contribute to an education that will make young people employable in fields where technology makes enormous inroads every five years. No, according to the report, those who need converting are the counselors whose loads are too great, the principals who are not in sympathy with vocational-education programs, and the educators in "academic" areas who constantly demand a bigger share of the educational pie.
I maintain that those of us who are in the industrial-education field must show a willingness and initiative to update and upgrade our operation before we can justly say that outsiders who are above us in the educational power structure are holding us back.
The report became so engrossed in its posture of the little programs fighting back against the academic Goliaths that it dealt almost wholly in generalizations. One certainly cannot tell by reading the report that members of the commission visited different sites because there is no detailed mention of the working characteristics of a specific exemplary program. Based on outside observation, how many programs across the country can genuinely be said to, as the report says, "promote the use of scientific inquiry and reasoning"? How many miss that goal completely?
Finally, why didn't the commission spend some of its dollars to generate a few meaningful statistics of its own to supplement the data that government agencies had already assembled? For example, what would a follow-up study reveal about students who spent three semesters or more in high-school vocational-education programs? Did they get jobs? Did their employers think they had strong job-entry skills? Or what correlation, if any, exists between high-school training and success in college or technical-school programs aimed at job placement?
I would also think that a complementary study looking back at vocational-education programs from the worker's and employer's perspective would be useful.
Because of the inadequacies in the final report, I think that presenting carefully surveyed answers to questions such as these would have been more productive than sending members of the commission around the country to talk with people.
Finally, although you have included notes on the text, there are no captions with the pictures. The last picture, which shows a group of smiling boys and a girl gathered around a Rhino Robot, was taken in an industrial-technology class at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich., where I am the department head. Having chided the commission about its generalizations, I hesitate to make one here. It is rather interesting to note how relaxed this mixed group of students looks as the students contemplate the technology of the future, whereas the students in the other two pictures that accompany the article look a little more stressful as they apparently deal with some of the "tried and true" units in wood-working classes.
Michael C. Pierno Department Head Industrial Technology Department Seaholm High School Birmingham, Mich.