Letters To The Editor
To the Editor:
Charlotte Crabtree's assertion that there is no "significant'' history taught in middle schools is not true ("$1.5 Million Awarded for Center on History,'' March 30, 1988).
Our 8th-grade U.S. history (to 1877) course is a narrative and primary-source curriculum, using a text written by the historian John Garrity.
The 11th-grade social-studies course, required for graduation, continues the narrative of U.S. history from 1877 to the present.
Again, a distinguished text, written by Daniel Boorstin and Brooks Kelley, is required reading.
And 5th graders in our district study U.S. history 150 minutes a week.
All of our students are required to study the following year-long courses: geography, Afro-Asian cultures, Western civilization, and one semester each of American government and economics.
Social Studies Supervisor
West Chester Area School District
West Chester, Pa.
To the Editor:
Your report on Montlake Elementary School's efforts to revitalize programs that weren't working made me shiver ("A Seattle Principal Defies the Conventional Wisdom,'' April 13, 1988).
Fifteen years ago, special-education legislation was initiated to reform an educational system that excluded or overlooked many students. Who would have thought it could lead to another mindset as rigid and limiting as the one it sought to change?
Having evaluated special-education programs in many school systems, I am convinced that the more responsive the teaching approach, the less need there is for "special'' education.
While keeping the safeguards, we must re-examine and change funding formulas that thwart efforts that work, contribute to destructive and inappropriate competition, and widen the gap between regular and special education.
Levaun Dennett, principal at Montlake, is on the right track.
To the Editor:
Congratulations to Levaun Dennett. Her innovative, school-based approach to change is laudable.
The success of similar programs elsewhere is documented.
When I encouraged staff members to modify this concept to meet the needs of our school, we were able to realize many positive outcomes. Morale improved; pupil-teacher ratios decreased; instructional options became available; time on task increased; and better relations between "special'' and classroom teachers developed.
Principal, Fairfax Villa Elementary School
To the Editor:
Your April 6 article, "Hopes for a 'Team of Fellow Professionals','' offers proof that the real problem facing the school-reform movement is monopoly bargaining.
The Cincinnati contract, patterned after the familiar "closed shop'' mentality of industry, has nothing to do with either "professionalism'' or school reform.
It has everything to do with the protection and perpetuation of the union.
The so-called "win-win'' bargaining that carved out the Cincinnati agreement plays the union officials' game as adversarial negotiations never did. For the first time in Cincinnati's history, some 500 teachers will be required to pay dues to the union in order to teach.
Dedicated, competent educators who, for one reason or another, had decided not to join the union will now be forced to hand over nearly $150,000 annually to the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers--an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the A.F.L.-C.I.O.--if they want to remain in their classrooms.
It is no coincidence that most of the school districts mentioned in the balance of the article are "agency shop'' districts--where there is no respect for teachers' freedom to not support a union.
Of the six states cited, only Pennsylvania protects its educators from compulsory-dues contracts.
Forced dues is the first priority of union officials; once they control who can teach in the district, negotiating for additional policy control is only a matter of time.
Monopoly bargaining leaves the community powerless to effect any change that does not pass union muster.
Lasting school reform will occur when those who care about the schools are free to share equally the power and responsibility to act.
The cries for "school-based management,'' "decentralization,'' "building autonomy,'' and "local control'' are born of a longing for a return to the time when citizens were truly in charge of their community's schools.
Director, Concerned Educators
Against Forced Unionism
To the Editor:
The arguments used by Tim Morrill in his March 30 letter criticizing my Commentary ("'Pressures' for Creationism To Be Resisted,'' Feb. 10, 1988) reflect the lack of understanding of science and evolution that often characterizes creationist attacks on science teachers and those responsible for developing science curricula.
First, he asserts that evolution cannot "be tested, much less proven,'' and raises the question of whether it "should be taught in science classes at all.'' He uses a quote by Stephen Jay Gould--who believes that evolution is not a gradual process--to suggest that the noted scientist thinks evolution is not occurring.
To depict evolution as a religious dogma, Mr. Morrill then associates it with a tax-exempt religious organization.
And he argues that "our students have a right to know the truth.''
Since he quoted Mr. Gould, we should note the scientist's recent statement that "evolution on an ancient earth is as well established as our planet's shape and position.''
The "struggle to understand how evolution happens (the 'theory of evolution') does not cast our documentation of its occurrence--the 'fact of evolution'--into doubt,'' Mr. Gould says.
And he goes on to indicate that it is the creationists who have abridged the academic freedom of teachers because they have pushed legislators to mandate the teaching of creation science.
This effort has been unsuccessful, Mr. Gould concludes, because creationism is false, and "because good teachers understand why it is false.''
As stated in the National Academy of Science's publication Science and Creationism, the goal of science is "to seek naturalistic explanations for phenomena'' and "to approach true explanations as closely as possible,'' with the recognition that "investigators claim no final or permanent explanatory truths.''
Science is not dogma and, as indicated by Mr. Morrill, should not be taught in a dogmatic way. However, creationism is dogma, and can only be taught in a dogmatic manner.
Finally, despite Mr. Morrill's misunderstanding, I did not contend that teaching creationism was illegal.
Rather, I argued that governmental mandates forcing the teaching of creationism were illegal and that there were no good reasons to include creationism in the biology curriculum, since it does not explain the natural world.
Department of Educational Leadership and Secondary Education
Texas Tech University
To the Editor:
I loved the Commentary by Gene I. Maeroff ("The Empowerment of Teachers,'' March 23, 1988), but I hated the accompanying artwork.
Was the art a parody?
Teachers at the elementary and secondary levels are usually female. They typically are given nice awards--such as flowers--but not noteworthy ones--such as higher pay, office space, paid conference trips, etc.
And the illustration places teachers "on a pedestal''--a patronizing position, out of the way of the action.
Could we see a depiction of teachers leading and being rewarded in a more appropriate manner?
Michaeline K.V. Chance-Reay
Department of Education