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M. Andrew Johnston Dean of Faculty and Head of the History Department Pingree School South Hamilton, Mass.

In her Commentary, Beverly K. Eakman lays out a strong defense for the notion that spiritual values underlie the U.S. Constitution.

She asserts, "The Constitution is completely unworkable unless people are self-reliant, self-determined, and resourceful." She is right--right in a practical sense and right in a historical sense.

She also asserts that the spiritual values that underlie the Constitution derive from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Right again. Then she tells us that humanist philosophy teaches collectivism--atheistic collectivism, at that. Here, Ms. Eakman goes astray on two points.

1. Collectivism in some form is not so foreign to the Judeo-Christian tradition as Ms. Eakman assumes. In the Biblical accounts of creation in the book of Genesis, the Hebrew word "Adam" means "mankind, the human race." Only secondarily does it refer to the male of the species, and even then it remains a collective noun. Indeed, a concern for the family of man and the common task of the human race is no less central to the Judeo-Christian tradition than respect for the individual.

2. In the history of Western civilization, the sources of humanism are spiritual. Genesis tells us that God created man, male and female, in His own likeness. What gives human beings sanctity is their having been made in God's image. The humanism of Periclean Athens was simultaneously spiritual and secular, and the same could be said of the humanism of the European Renaissance. A person doesn't have to be an atheist or a crusading secularist to be a humanist.

Far too many would-be reformers of American education, such as Ms. Eakman, are distant from the classroom, distant from teaching. Proposed reforms will work only if they command respect among teachers. And would-be reformers ought to keep a few points about teaching in mind as they tell us teachers how to do our jobs better.

First, teaching is inductive; you have to start with the students where they are, as they are. They bring their own problems and concerns to school. Teachers must take this reality into account in planning what students will do and how they will do it at school. Otherwise, both teachers' and students' time is wasted.

Second, teaching--good teaching--is idiosyncratic. I can show you a tremendous variety of teaching styles among my own colleagues--teaching styles that work to inculcate skills and knowledge in kids and to inspire kids to learn.

Third, teaching is at once individualistic and collective. For example, in my advanced-placement European-history class, I have to pay attention to the group task of mastering the subject and also to the progress of each student.

Finally, teaching is prophetic: A teacher's job is to find potentialities in each student and draw these out.

What counts in the long haul is the character of the students who emerge from our schools. Schools help shape character, but so too do parents, churches, synagogues, peers, genes, and even television.

We teachers have a role to play in shaping the rising generation of Americans. But do not ask us to stand in for the work that other character shapers should be doing but aren't--unless, that is, you want us to fail.



To the Editor:

The U.S. Congress will soon be considering an issue that may reverse the course of elementary and secondary education in the United States ("ed Voucher Bill, in Shift, Offers Parents Choice," Nov. 13, 1985).

The Education Department's Chapter 1 voucher initiative, teach (the equity and choice act of 1985), is a bit of a gamble on the part of the powers that be. Those who cast their vote in favor of vouchers will do so on the assumption that given a choice, parents will seek the highest-quality education available for their children. Another assumption is that parents can recognize and reject what is gimmicky, insubstantial, and mindless--in other words, the kinds of trivia that have been passed off as solid subject matter for the past 15 years.

Here is an idea specifically targeted to help disadvantaged families. And if it works for the disadvantaged, its success will undoubtedly encourage state and local governments, sooner or later, to come up with voucher, or choice, plans of their own--something all parents can use.

That is why groups like the National Education Association are so adamantly against it. The nea released a statement on Oct. 22 condemning the initiative. Its many bogus arguments included: (1) the voucher plan "could undermine public support and funding for public schools, ultimately weakening and destroying them"; (2) it "could potentially violate the separation of church and state"; (3) it "could lead to racial, economic, and social isolation of children"; and (4) it is "a diversionary tactic to shift attention away from the nation's most critical issue of the day--adequate funding for high-quality public education."

The assumption undergirding the first argument is that, given a choice, all parents will flock away from public schools to support private institutions. Yet the vouchers would probably not cover the entire cost of tuition at a private school, since the proposal applies only to the amount allotted for Chapter 1 compensatory-education funds. And in many areas of the country, private schools are not available.

That leaves the option of transferring one's children to another public school, either inside or outside one's own district. The voucher program is meant, for the most part, to generate competition among public schools.

Second, the nea's argument on the separation of church and state is also misleading. Vouchers are designed only to encourage freedom of choice, not to either promote or discourage attendance at church-affiliated schools. The whole argument is fallacious, because the term "separation of church and state" is not even in the Constitution. The First Amendment was never intended to separate God from country.

Third, to suggest that vouchers "could lead to racial isolation of children" is perhaps the most intellectually dishonest of the nea's charges. The voucher plan would produce the opposite result because parents would, in fact, no longer have to find the "right" neighborhood for their children's schooling. Because the disadvantaged can rarely move to the "right" neighborhoods, the voucher concept becomes especially beneficial to them.

Finally, there is the charge that the voucher plan shifts attention away from the issue of a supposed lack of adequate funding. The "give us more money" liberal educationists always claim to be progressive while they are busy denouncing every positive or constructive suggestion to come down the pike.

The sad fact is that many in our country find the ideal of competition oppressive. Yet competition is especially critical in an educational environment, where we are supposed to be teaching youngsters how our system, economic and otherwise, works. Competition is one of the bases of our democracy, and the values that go with it--initiative, perseverence, determination, and self-reliance--are what make democracy work.

Sally D. Reed Chairman and Executive Director National Council for Better Education Alexandria, Va.


To the Editor:

After reading "Teacher-Training Standards: Change and Debate" (Oct. 30, 1985), I could no longer not say anything.

South Dakota has just completed revising its standards for teacher education. A task force was formed to make recommendations to the state board of education concerning certification and standards. The state board adopted most of the task force's recommendations in their entirety. For a number of reasons, the process we on the task force used is more relevant to the needs of education in South Dakota than the recommendations of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and the Holmes Group Consortium combined.

The task force consisted of a parent, an elementary-school teacher, a secondary-school teacher, a special-education teacher, a special-content teacher, a principal, a school-board member, college instructors in teacher education, deans of schools of education, and representatives from the state department of education. I was elected by the faculty of Black Hills State College's education/psychology division to represent the college.

The meetings were open to the public and anyone who had concerns was welcome to voice opinions. Teachers, college students, parents, and representatives from Indian-culture groups were influential in guiding the discussion of relevant issues. The Board of Regents sent a representative to respond to mandates that had been implemented in the state institutions of higher education. Two or more members of the state board of education were at the task force's meetings and observed the process from its conception to the final recommendations.

In the fight over "who leads," let the person with 30 years of experience in all aspects of public education in South Dakota step forward and become part of our staff. As a team, we will come up with better standards. Until then, let the committees, consortiums, and organizations go about arguing over who can invent the best standards for improving teacher education.

In the meantime, the staff and students of the education/psychology division at Black Hills State College will quietly go about their business of working with teachers, children, principals, and parents; will keep listening to each other to continue the high-quality education they provide; will work with the state department of education and accrediting agencies to articulate standards; and will participate in professional organizations to incorporate the findings of the latest research.

But they will not tell the legislators how to run the affairs of the U.S. Congress, nor the corporations how to run their business, nor the governors how to manage their states. Teacher-education programs should be treated with the same respect.

Darlene J. Swartz Associate Professor Education/Psychology Division Black Hills State College Spearfish, S.D.


Leo Klagholz Director Teacher Preparation and Certification New Jersey Department of Education Trenton, N.J.

In an article last month, Education Week reported criticisms expressed by a few New Jersey teacher educators regarding the National Teacher Examinations' certification-test results, which were released by the state department of education ("New Jersey Teacher Educators Say Test Failure Rates Overstated," Nov. 27, 1985).

These teacher educators contended that the department's report "exaggerated" the number of teacher-education graduates tested at each institution. They asserted that the report, therefore, made graduates of traditional teacher-training programs at New Jersey colleges appear to have performed more poorly than they did in reality.

The article reported that education-school officials within the state allege that the New Jersey Department of Education "intentionally misrepresented the failure rates of education-school graduates to enhance the credibility of the state's new 'alternate route to certification."'

In fact, the data presented in the state department's report are accurate and the reported criticisms distort its contents.

One criticism suggests that the department somehow fabricated comparisons of traditional and alternate candidates in order to reflect favorably on the alternate-route program. This contention is untrue.

The state report did indeed present accurate comparisons. The data for the comparisons were obtained simply by removing the scores of 734 alternate-route applicants from the scores of our traditional pool of certification applicants. Traditional candidates were further divided into baccalaureate- and graduate-level applicants.

The failure rate for the 734 alternate-route examinees was 5.2 percent; 8.0 percent of the graduate-level traditional applicants failed; and for baccalaureate-level traditional candidates the failure rate was 13.5 percent. Alternate-route applicants achieved higher mean scores as well.

A second criticism noted that for each New Jersey college, the number of test takers cited in the report exceeds the number of that institution's May 1985 graduates of traditional teacher-education programs. This "disparity," it was contended, is evidence that the data are "obviously wrong."

This criticism, too, is without foundation. The reported test data for individual colleges were not intended to reflect only the performance of this year's teacher-education graduates. The college-by-college data were accurately represented by the state department as including people other than teacher-education graduates. The department's report, on page five, states clearly that the New Jersey college data include the scores of "both graduate and undergraduate as well as traditional teacher-education students and liberal-arts students applying as alternate candidates."

The state department did not choose the format of its report data on individual New Jersey colleges. Instead, the data were collected by the Educational Testing Service through a standard questionnaire. This questionnaire asks each examinee to indicate the college he or she is currently attending or last attended. This question elicits for each college data that are general in nature and absent of any detailed breakdown of types of students and graduates.

The department would have preferred also to draw upon information in its own certification files in order to report separately the test performance of the teacher-education graduates of each New Jersey college. Ironically, however, because so many of these students were misadvised by their colleges' teacher-education faculties as to procedures for sending their test scores to the state, the state department was prevented from having knowledge of their performance and therefore from reporting such information to the public.

Each college's education program was directed by the state department to instruct its students to indicate on their test-registration forms that their scores should be sent to the state department. The department's written and oral explanations to the colleges' education departments were explicit and detailed. Yet as early as July, it became clear that significant numbers of the state's teacher-education graduates were not having their scores sent to the state department's certification office.

Some graduates of traditional programs have told us they were instructed by their education faculties not to have their scores sent to the state unless they were sure they had passed the tests. The students indicated they were told to retake the tests if they failed and to withhold their scores until they had passed.

Whatever the motivation for this misadvisement, it caused considerable delays in the issuance of certificates, even to those traditional-program graduates who had passed the tests. Furthermore, because approximately 200 of those graduates still have not sent their scores to the state, the New Jersey Education Department has been obstructed from collecting and reporting complete data on the test performance of the teacher-education graduates of New Jersey's colleges.

A broader concern emerges from the unsavory experience that the state of New Jersey has had with traditional teacher-education programs during the implementation of its test requirement. This experience has illustrated rather dramatically the grievous error that many state departments of education have made in abdicating their authority over teacher certification and giving it to collegiate schools of education.

The New Jersey experience has consistently revealed an indignation among some collegiate education faculties toward any assertion by the state of its rightful authority to certify teachers, to regulate their preparation, or to collect and release data on their qualifications.

Many of our institutions have worked with us in a most responsible manner, but many have not. Some have apparently decided to be permanent adversaries of the public-school sector in its effort to improve the quality of teachers--a curious and tenuous position for teacher educators.


Rudy Benavidez Supervisor Foreign Languages and English as a Second Language El Paso County School District No. 11 Colorado Springs, Colo.

It is really sad to see that Secretary of Education William J. Bennett has publicly judged bilingual education a failure after it has been in existence only 10 years ("Bilingual Policies Have Failed, Need Revisions, Bennett Says," Oct. 2, 1985). At most, bilingual-education programs have been in place since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1974 decision in Lau v. Nichols.

Secretary Bennett states that research proves bilingual education has not been successful in teaching limited-English-proficient children to speak English.

It is interesting to note that "A Nation at Risk," a study conducted through the Education Department, states that our nation's educational system--which has existed for 200 years--has failed to teach basic skills.

Considering the "Nation at Risk" research, can we expect Secretary Bennett to recommend that our present educational system be scrapped, too?

Sally D. Reed Chairman and Executive Director National Council for Better Education Alexandria, Va.

The U.S. Congress will soon be considering an issue that may reverse the course of elementary and secondary education in the United States ("ed Voucher Bill, in Shift, Offers Parents Choice," Nov. 13, 1985).

The Education Department's Chapter 1 voucher initiative, teach (the equity and choice act of 1985), is a bit of a gamble on the part of the powers that be. Those who cast their vote in favor of vouchers will do so on the assumption that given a choice, parents will seek the highest-quality education available for their children. Another assumption is that parents can recognize and reject what is gimmicky, insubstantial, and mindless--in other words, the kinds of trivia that have been passed off as solid subject matter for the past 15 years.

Here is an idea specifically targeted to help disadvantaged families. And if it works for the disadvantaged, its success will undoubtedly encourage state and local governments, sooner or later, to come up with voucher, or choice, plans of their own--something all parents can use.

That is why groups like the National Education Association are so adamantly against it. The nea released a statement on Oct. 22 condemning the initiative. Its many bogus arguments included: (1) the voucher plan "could undermine public support and funding for public schools, ultimately weakening and destroying them"; (2) it "could potentially violate the separation of church and state"; (3) it "could lead to racial, economic, and social isolation of children"; and (4) it is "a diversionary tactic to shift attention away from the nation's most critical issue of the day--adequate funding for high-quality public education."

The assumption undergirding the first argument is that, given a choice, all parents will flock away from public schools to support private institutions. Yet the vouchers would probably not cover the entire cost of tuition at a private school, since the proposal applies only to the amount allotted for Chapter 1 compensatory-education funds. And in many areas of the country, private schools are not available.

That leaves the option of transferring one's children to another public school, either inside or outside one's own district. The voucher program is meant, for the most part, to generate competition among public schools.

Second, the nea's argument on the separation of church and state is also misleading. Vouchers are designed only to encourage freedom of choice, not to either promote or discourage attendance at church-affiliated schools. The whole argument is fallacious, because the term "separation of church and state" is not even in the Constitution. The First Amendment was never intended to separate God from country.

Third, to suggest that vouchers "could lead to racial isolation of children" is perhaps the most intellectually dishonest of the nea's charges. The voucher plan would produce the opposite result because parents would, in fact, no longer have to find the "right" neighborhood for their children's schooling. Because the disadvantaged can rarely move to the "right" neighborhoods, the voucher concept becomes especially beneficial to them.

Finally, there is the charge that the voucher plan shifts attention away from the issue of a supposed lack of adequate funding. The "give us more money" liberal educationists always claim to be progressive while they are busy denouncing every positive or constructive suggestion to come down the pike.

The sad fact is that many in our country find the ideal of competition oppressive. Yet competition is especially critical in an educational environment, where we are supposed to be teaching youngsters how our system, economic and otherwise, works. Competition is one of the bases of our democracy, and the values that go with it--initiative, perseverence, determination, and self-reliance--are what make democracy work.

Darlene J. Swartz Associate Professor Education/Psychology Division Black Hills State College Spearfish, S.D.

After reading "Teacher-Training Standards: Change and Debate" (Oct. 30, 1985), I could no longer not say anything.

South Dakota has just completed revising its standards for teacher education. A task force was formed to make recommendations to the state board of education concerning certification and standards. The state board adopted most of the task force's recommendations in their entirety. For a number of reasons, the process we on the task force used is more relevant to the needs of education in South Dakota than the recommendations of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and the Holmes Group Consortium combined.

The task force consisted of a parent, an elementary-school teacher, a secondary-school teacher, a special-education teacher, a special-content teacher, a principal, a school-board member, college instructors in teacher education, deans of schools of education, and representatives from the state department of education. I was elected by the faculty of Black Hills State College's education/psychology division to represent the college.

The meetings were open to the public and anyone who had concerns was welcome to voice opinions. Teachers, college students, parents, and representatives from Indian-culture groups were influential in guiding the discussion of relevant issues. The Board of Regents sent a representative to respond to mandates that had been implemented in the state institutions of higher education. Two or more members of the state board of education were at the task force's meetings and observed the process from its conception to the final recommendations.

In the fight over "who leads," let the person with 30 years of experience in all aspects of public education in South Dakota step forward and become part of our staff. As a team, we will come up with better standards. Until then, let the committees, consortiums, and organizations go about arguing over who can invent the best standards for improving teacher education.

In the meantime, the staff and students of the education/psychology division at Black Hills State College will quietly go about their business of working with teachers, children, principals, and parents; will keep listening to each other to continue the high-quality education they provide; will work with the state department of education and accrediting agencies to articulate standards; and will participate in professional organizations to incorporate the findings of the latest research.

But they will not tell the legislators how to run the affairs of the U.S. Congress, nor the corporations how to run their business, nor the governors how to manage their states. Teacher-education programs should be treated with the same respect.

Karen Bojar Co-Chairman Parents Union for Public Schools Philadelphia, Pa.

Gary M. Ratner's argument on the implications of effective-schools research is a compelling one: The existence of effective schools serving poor and minority children clearly demonstrates that problems of underachievement are not necessarily the fault of the children but rather of flawed educational practices ("A New Legal Duty for Urban Schools: Effective Education in Basic Skills," Oct. 30, 1985).

Mr. Ratner's Commentary cites the five characteristics of effective schools identified by Ronald Edmonds and argues that since there exists substantial evidence that such practices have a positive effect on student achievement, failure to adopt them constitutes educational malpractice. He suggests that legal remedies may be available to parents whose children are not receiving effective schooling. Although I consider his argument a compelling one, I think his point about basic-skills instruction needs some clarification.

For too long, poor children and minority children have been getting nothing but reductive basic-skills instruction--without much success in achieving the all-too-limited goal of learning such skills. The term "basic-skills instruction" needs to be clearly defined as building the linguistic, mathematical, cultural, and scientific literacy essential if students are to have a range of career opportunities and if they are to become informed citizens.

Let's make sure that our call for high-quality education for poor children is not misinterpreted as a call for more of the same reductive skills instruction that has for so long limited the opportunities and dampened the aspirations of poor and minority children.

Harry A. Dawe Headmaster The Harvey School Katonah, N.Y.

In the interest of sanity and perspective, it seems appropriate to speak to the hysterical inaccuracies continually generated by the "secular humanism in the schools" debate, and expressed so blatantly in Beverly K. Eakman's Commentary, "Religion Packaged as Psychology" (Nov. 20, 1985). At issue is not only historical accuracy, but also an almost Orwellian misuse of politically loaded words.

Humanism is one such word. For most educated people, humanism emerged during the late Middle Ages in a movement traditionally called the Renaissance, when Greco-Roman culture blended with medieval Christianity, thereby bringing together two strands that then formed, and continue to form, our cultural heritage.

In the 19th century, Matthew Arnold, in Culture and Anarchy, identified these two components as Hebraism and Hellenism; more simply, as faith and reason, ethics and intellect; or more romantically, as "sweetness and light." At different periods in history, one aspect predominated and then another, in a pattern of mutual compensation. The Protestant Reformation, striking a note of faith and man's dependence on God, emphasized one side of this polarity. The Enlightenment stressed reason and science and emphasized the potential of man.

In the form of Protestantism and the Enlightenment, both strands went into the formation of the American republic. This fact gives our history and our society many of its special qualities, and a history of tension between these two traditions. Our most valued principles, which Ms. Eakman identifies as "standards of fair play," "respect for the individual," and "free speech, free press, and right of assembly," are products of both traditions--theism and humanism--not just of one.

These virtues come from multiple sources. Solon, Aristotle, Cicero, the Italian humanists, and the thinkers of the Enlightenment--humanists all--had as much to do with the formation of the American ethos as did the writers of the Old Testament, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin.

The Judeo-Christian tradition is but one element in our culture, and it is fortunate that the American republic was founded during the Enlightenment, so that its humanistic values could serve as a corrective to the repressive and pessimistic elements of Calvinism, which are part of our heritage. Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards were not overly concerned with "standards of fair play" and did not believe that "man is sensible and basically good-natured"; nor did the writers of the U.S. Constitution, as Ms. Eakman suggests. Any serious student of the founding fathers knows that they had a pessimistic, almost Hobbesian, view of human nature and motivation, and hence they devised an ingenious instrument of government to check and balance the selfish instincts of men.

Fortunately, the founding fathers were classicists as well as Protestant Christians, and as good British subjects had been as familiar with the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers as they were with Calvin's Institutes. It was a unique synthesis of these two traditions that brought about what might be called the American civic religion, which until now has sustained our polity.

Our public schools and national holidays carried on and celebrated this tradition. Now, in the late 20th century, with the demise of mainstream Protestant cultural hegemony and the emergence of a genuinely pluralistic culture, the Enlightenment side of the polarity has gained the ascendancy in the state schools. In Arnold's terms, Hebraism has given way to Hellenism.

The result has been a reaction of Hebraism in the form of a 20th century "Great Awakening" of Protestant Christianity, including the founding of separate fundamentalist Christian academies. Jonathan Edwards has Tom Paine on the run.

In observing the unraveling of this American cultural synthesis, we must realize that our fundamental values are sustained by more than one tradition, and we must be careful in our choice of words to identify the enemy of those values.

Ms. Eakman knows the enemy and she is correct, but she is dangerously unclear as to what to call it; she tosses around phrases like "collectivism," "global awareness," and "physical gratification," all of which she associates with humanism. This she contrasts with "the bracing, risk-filled venture of freedom," which is somehow associated with "theistic religious values."

The enemy she is trying to define is, I believe, etatism, the granting of power to the group over the rights of the individual. But theistic religion can be as etatist as any other cultural tradition.

Books can be burned and freedom of inquiry suppressed in the name of Christ, as well as in the name of Caesar. There may well be some dreary products of behavioral psychology in the schools masquerading as humanism, but it would be equally foolish to substitute Sunday-school tracts of bland optimism. If the school curriculum is to be purged of the seamy subjects Ms. Eakman finds inappropriate, what would become of Dickens, Shakespeare, and the Bible?

In its deepest and broadest sense, the Judeo-Christian tradition is one of the great sources of our concept of individual freedom, but so is the tradition of Renaissance humanism and Enlightenment philosophy. Unalloyed, each can become destructive of the individual and the rule of law.

M. Andrew Johnston Dean of Faculty and Head of the History Department Pingree School South Hamilton, Mass.

In her Commentary, Beverly K. Eakman lays out a strong defense for the notion that spiritual values underlie the U.S. Constitution.

She asserts, "The Constitution is completely unworkable unless people are self-reliant, self-determined, and resourceful." She is right--right in a practical sense and right in a historical sense.

She also asserts that the spiritual values that underlie the Constitution derive from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Right again. Then she tells us that humanist philosophy teaches collectivism--atheistic collectivism, at that. Here, Ms. Eakman goes astray on two points.

1. Collectivism in some form is not so foreign to the Judeo-Christian tradition as Ms. Eakman assumes. In the Biblical accounts of creation in the book of Genesis, the Hebrew word "Adam" means "mankind, the human race." Only secondarily does it refer to the male of the species, and even then it remains a collective noun. Indeed, a concern for the family of man and the common task of the human race is no less central to the Judeo-Christian tradition than respect for the individual.

2. In the history of Western civilization, the sources of humanism are spiritual. Genesis tells us that God created man, male and female, in His own likeness. What gives human beings sanctity is their having been made in God's image. The humanism of Periclean Athens was simultaneously spiritual and secular, and the same could be said of the humanism of the European Renaissance. A person doesn't have to be an atheist or a crusading secularist to be a humanist.

Far too many would-be reformers of American education, such as Ms. Eakman, are distant from the classroom, distant from teaching. Proposed reforms will work only if they command respect among teachers. And would-be reformers ought to keep a few points about teaching in mind as they tell us teachers how to do our jobs better.

First, teaching is inductive; you have to start with the students where they are, as they are. They bring their own problems and concerns to school. Teachers must take this reality into account in planning what students will do and how they will do it at school. Otherwise, both teachers' and students' time is wasted.

Second, teaching--good teaching--is idiosyncratic. I can show you a tremendous variety of teaching styles among my own colleagues--teaching styles that work to inculcate skills and knowledge in kids and to inspire kids to learn.

Third, teaching is at once individualistic and collective. For example, in my advanced-placement European-history class, I have to pay attention to the group task of mastering the subject and also to the progress of each student.

Finally, teaching is prophetic: A teacher's job is to find potentialities in each student and draw these out.

What counts in the long haul is the character of the students who emerge from our schools. Schools help shape character, but so too do parents, churches, synagogues, peers, genes, and even television.

We teachers have a role to play in shaping the rising generation of Americans. But do not ask us to stand in for the work that other character shapers should be doing but aren't--unless, that is, you want us to fail.

Robert S. Marlowe Executive Director Council for Educational Freedom in America Forestville, Md.

Ethelbert Haskins made a good case for humanism while continuing the debate among your paper's readers over secular humanism in the schools ("'Outrageous Distortions' Misrepresent Values Professed by Humanists," Dec. 4, 1985).

In taking issue with the charge that the public schools have been infiltrated by a humanist conspiracy, he missed a point that more thoughtful critics have been making. It has to do with the role education plays in a free society.

While schooling can be defined, education is very difficult to define. One of the big debates now is over what the purpose of education is--to regain or maintain America's economic and technical supremacy, or to broaden understanding so we can work more closely as interdependent world citizens.

I have yet to see anyone make a broad statement about the vision and purpose of our country's huge educational effort that has attracted substantial support. There is as much diversity about the purposes of education as there is about anything else of real importance.

Horace Mann envisioned public schools as the "center and circumference ... [of the] great circle of benevolence." The center of this great circle was seen as the inculcation of specific moral values in all future citizens. The circumference was pictured as a morally based public philosophy, denominationally--but certainly not religiously--neutral.

We have come to fufill a prophecy that the Princeton theologian Archibald A. Hodge made in 1861: "If every party has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he who believes the most must yield to he who believes absolutely nothing, no matter how small a minority the atheist and agnostic may be."

The solution does not lie in trying to find an acceptable value system for the schools. We agreed in the founding of this country that we should not attempt to impose a common creed in religion, speech, or assembly. We agreed to disagree and let each citizen find his own best way. We made the momentous decision to trust one another.

We must find a way to replace education as a function of government and start trusting parents and teachers. Schools should be as independent of government and majority rule as are churches and the media. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

Karen Bojar Co-Chairman Parents Union for Public Schools Philadelphia, Pa.

Gary M. Ratner's argument on the implications of effective-schools research is a compelling one: The existence of effective schools serving poor and minority children clearly demonstrates that problems of underachievement are not necessarily the fault of the children but rather of flawed educational practices ("A New Legal Duty for Urban Schools: Effective Education in Basic Skills," Oct. 30, 1985).

Mr. Ratner's Commentary cites the five characteristics of effective schools identified by Ronald Edmonds and argues that since there exists substantial evidence that such practices have a positive effect on student achievement, failure to adopt them constitutes educational malpractice. He suggests that legal remedies may be available to parents whose children are not receiving effective schooling. Although I consider his argument a compelling one, I think his point about basic-skills instruction needs some clarification.

For too long, poor children and minority children have been getting nothing but reductive basic-skills instruction--without much success in achieving the all-too-limited goal of learning such skills. The term "basic-skills instruction" needs to be clearly defined as building the linguistic, mathematical, cultural, and scientific literacy essential if students are to have a range of career opportunities and if they are to become informed citizens.

Let's make sure that our call for high-quality education for poor children is not misinterpreted as a call for more of the same reductive skills instruction that has for so long limited the opportunities and dampened the aspirations of poor and minority children.

Rudy Benavidez Supervisor Foreign Languages and English as a Second Language El Paso County School District No. 11 Colorado Springs, Colo.

It is really sad to see that Secretary of Education William J. Bennett has publicly judged bilingual education a failure after it has been in existence only 10 years ("Bilingual Policies Have Failed, Need Revisions, Bennett Says," Oct. 2, 1985). At most, bilingual-education programs have been in place since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1974 decision in Lau v. Nichols.

Secretary Bennett states that research proves bilingual education has not been successful in teaching limited-English-proficient children to speak English.

It is interesting to note that "A Nation at Risk," a study conducted through the Education Department, states that our nation's educational system--which has existed for 200 years--has failed to teach basic skills.

Considering the "Nation at Risk" research, can we expect Secretary Bennett to recommend that our present educational system be scrapped, too?

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