Letters to the Editor
Joanne Yatvin Madison, Wis.
Has Patrick Groff considered going into the movie business? The plot he outlined in his essay ("Colleges Fail in Training of Reading Teachers," Commentary, Oct. 14, 1987) would make a terrific thriller, in the tradition of The Boys From Brazil.
Donald Sutherland could play the dean of a prestigious school of education, dedicated to turning out incompetent teachers, and Telly Savalas could be his co-conspirator, the head of a large educational publishing company, whose overriding goal is to keep school children ignorant.
Opposing them might be Glenn Close as the director of a small teacher-training company called "Phonix Phor Phun and Prophit," where a beleaguered band of aspiring teachers struggles to gain true wisdom by candle flame in an unheated room.
In the next room, Mr. Groff, played by himself, cranks out phonics workbooks on an ancient hand press, while Mel and Norma Gabler bundle them up, then ride off into the night to deliver them into the hands of phonics-starved children.
In a spectacular final scene, the building is assaulted by a squad of "Hole Langwidg Eareggulers," hired by Sutherland and Savalas. Mr. Groff and his supporters fight bravely, killing many of the mercenaries, but are finally overcome by sheer numbers.
As Mr. Groff is led away to some nameless fate, he slips a workbook into the hands of a small waif standing in the street, who gazes at it with wonderment, then runs off to share the news.
It sounds like a blockbuster to me.
Eva Meltzer Matinicus Elementary Matinicus, Me.
Reading your article on the drug Ritalin ("Debate Grows on Classroom's 'Magic Pill,"' Oct. 21, 1987), I have experienced the greatest anger over an educational issue that I've felt in a long while.
A teacher in a one-room, kindergarten-through-8th-grade school, I had been unaware of the fact that some teachers and psychiatrists were encouraging the use of dangerous and powerful drugs on children for reasons that strike me as being little more than the teachers' own desire for a disciplined and calm school environment.
Hyperactivity indeed occasionally--but only occasionally--results from a chemical disorder. The inability to sit still and concentrate typical of many children at a certain stage is quite natural.
How dare anybody presume to think that children might be chemically altered like lab rats to become what some educator wishes them to be. Not only unrealistic and unprofessional, such a view is downright unethical.
If one truly feels the need for calm, quiet surroundings, he ought to quit teaching and volunteer at the library, or at least quit teaching. Anyone who can't deal with wild-acting boys shouldn't be a teacher.
Could a behavior that most children outgrow require such drastic treatment?
David Wood Executive Director of Special Education Aurora Public Schools Aurora, Colo.
Your article on the alleged misuse of Ritalin presented only half the story and failed to seize upon a good opportunity to educate many readers about other options.
Why was there no mention of the other stimulants, such as Dexedrine spansules, that, contrary to the article, are preferred drugs in the treatment of some attention-deficit disorders? When a stimulant medication generates the adverse side effects described in the article, it is simple enough for the pediatrician to prescribe a different stimulant, which, while having no side effects, may help with the neurotransmission blocks the child is experiencing.
I have firsthand knowledge of students who, on one medication, experienced improvement with the disorder, yet endured side effects; upon changing to another medication, they gained even greater assistance with the attention problem, with absolutely no side effects.
To imply that a student is on drugs (particularly the wrong drugs) "because of the schools" is misleading. Schools do not prescribe medication; schools do, however, observe dramatic differences in children and continue to bear the responsibility of investigating whatever might be interfering with a child's ability to learn.
A good pediatrician should monitor, with the parents and the teachers, the effects of a newly prescribed medication. If contraindications appear, the doctor should recommend a change of medication. There is no practical reason to tolerate even minor side effects (labeled "the lesser of two evils" in the article) as long as other equally effective medications are available.
It is regrettable that schools and school officials have to face litigation when physicians have failed to monitor appropriately.
I would encourage a follow-up article that educates your readers about monitoring techniques in all settings and about the other effective medications available for attention-deficit-disorder children.
It is absolutely not true that there exists one "drug of choice."
Bernard A. Josefsberg Chairman English Department Wallkill Valley Regional High School Hamburg, N.J.
I suspect that Lorraine Giordano ("Teacher's 'Low Regard' for History Is Criticized," Letters, Oct. 21, 1987) left teaching not so much because of the attitudes Donald Rogan expressed in his letter ("Clash of Authors Over Use of Data Called 'Surprising'," Oct. 7, 1987) as because of the very circumstance he decries.
The grinding of axes does not help teachers impel students to explore meaningful disciplinary fields.
The issue is not the value of "history" as a discipline as opposed to "social studies." Rather, it would be useful to learn--through, among other sources, "educationally valid research"--why so many of our students are averse to the kinds of exploration that educators value for their inherent worth, the kinds that produce not only "correct responses" but responsive intellects.
Kenneth L. Tyson Public-School Educator Mercersburg, Pa.
David T. Kearns, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, has sent an open letter to presidential candidates blaming the public schools for the competitive disadvantage of our country ("Xerox Executive Exhorts Candidates To Focus on Schools," Oct. 28, 1987).
According to Mr. Kearns, Xerox expects from its suppliers 100 percent defect-free parts, from which it can form perfect products.
This statement explains why the industrial model cannot work for developing the minds of young people.
Xerox would, by implication, reject as "defective" from our schools children who are:
worried about their family problems
sick or tired
exclusively interested in non-educational concerns
abused, neglected, or delinquent
While Xerox, other businesses, and private schools have the option of rejecting their raw materials, parents should rest assured that the public schools of America will continue to educate their children.
James M. Larson Superintendent School District of Cochrane-Fountain City Fountain City, Wis.
I read with pleasure your article on the national board for teaching standards and its president, James A. Kelly ("Certification-Panel Head Selected," Oct. 21, 1987).
Those of us who have made education our life's work know that the only real factor influencing how well our students learn is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Therefore, we must applaud the effort being made through a national board to improve teaching standards.
However, as I read through the list of people selected to serve on the new board, I found that none were from Wisconsin. Further checking of the board members revealed that only one came from Minnesota and one from Iowa.
Students from these three states consistently rank at the top of the national Scholastic Aptitude Test and American College Testing Program lists. These students reflect the quality of their teachers, and the vast majority of these teachers received their training in the colleges and universities in the three states mentioned above.
If improving teaching standards with the idea of improving instruction for students is the primary goal of the new committee, more direction might be sought from those who appear to be achieving excellent results now.