Letters to the Editor
I read with interest your article on the "process approach'' to teaching writing ("A Quiet Revolution Is Transforming Teaching of Writing in Many Classes,'' May 17, 1993). Our "revolution'' in Rye, N.Y., was clearly top-down rather than bottom-up, and it was far from quiet.
From what we have seen in Rye, the problems with the "process approach'' are not so much in concept as in implementation. We found that the steps added by the approach reduced emphasis on other parts of the process and reduced the actual amount of writing done. Attention to the mechanical aspects of writing and editing were much attenuated and fewer actual pieces of expository prose were produced.
This in turn led to the unedifying spectacle of teachers arguing that five or 10 poorly punctuated compositions a year were really better than 20 or 30 well-punctuated ones.
Beyond this silliness, some of us also found our children's quick grasp of the new rules of play led them to writing even less-polished first drafts than usual in order to minimize later editing and redrafting efforts. More than this, the originally expressed goal of clarifying thought through pre-writing and editing seemed to drift into more affective areas involving self-esteem. Much of the journal-writing came to be seen as unfocused, unmonitored, and directed more at allowing teachers to say that more writing was going on el-10lthan actually was.
So, based on our experience in Rye, I would say to parents and to administrators contemplating this not-so-quiet revolution, proceed with caution and caveat emptor.
Paul W. Johnston
Rye Middle School Parent Organization
I was shocked to learn that the Milwaukee public schools are spending $45 million this year for the voluntary-desegregation plan ("Governor Seeks Scrutiny of Milwaukee Busing Plan,'' May 12, 1993). Using simple math and your figures, that's over $6,700 per student, for busing costs alone!
You quote Thomas Phillips of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as saying that the program "was created to promote racial balance and cultural integration.''
If that's the case, why not turn that $6,700 into tuition vouchers to give parents and children more choices, integrate the schools, and get a better education to boot.
Janet R. Beales
Walnut Creek, Calif.
I read the Focus On: Students feature in your May 19, 1993, issue with a mixture of amazement and disappointment ("Rural Students Learn About Hazards to Health in 'Culturally Relevant' Program''). Let me preface my remarks by saying that I lived in Doddridge County, W.Va., for more than 25 years. I am a 1948 graduate of Doddridge County High School.
My entire adult life has been spent in public education as a classroom teacher, school counselor, school social worker, and administrator. It is my considered opinion that if this article was intended to further the health education, self-esteem, and community spirit of the citizens of Doddridge County, it falls far short of any mark I have ever heard of.
For instance, to the inaccuracies of the article: 1. There are four d's in Doddridge, not three. 2. There is no such place in the county as "Big Flint Hollow.'' 3. There are no coal mines in the county. 4. There are no mountains; West Virginia hills, yes, but no mountains. 5. Big Flint community/Carr School is located an easy 15-minute drive from West Union, the county seat. It is less than an hour to each of three West Virginia cities where medical services, shopping, entertainment, etc., abound. And this is all on asphalt or cement highways!
The article is loaded with innuendo that alludes to a myth that the students and residents of Doddridge County do not know how to wash, bathe, or comb their hair; and that they must hunt with firearms for wild animals for food.
Yet, in the photograph with the article, the children seem to be well-kempt and well fed. If the intent of the article was to praise yet another little overpriced federal-state program, fine. It also put in a plug for the Clinton Administration--great, someone needs to.
But, if the intent was to take an honest look at "Dodridge'' County, no way. As for what needs to be done in public education, a lot, I'm afraid. We should start with better-educated, better-trained, better-paid teachers. Fluffy little prepackaged mini-curricula are just that. Stopgaps, perhaps; solutions, no.
And inaccurate, misleading articles such as this one help no one.
Maurice L. Buck
Warren County Schools
Your informative, front-page article on corporations providing information, equipment, and supplies--as well as marketing their products--to students was excellent ("Some Educators Casting a Wary Eye on Corporate Curriculum Materials,'' May 12, 1993). After carefully weighing the pros and cons of this practice, I fall back on my own experiences and feelings.
Recently, "Ronald McDonald'' told elementary students at our school (as well as in schools across the country) to "say no'' to drugs and to "dial 911 for emergencies,'' among other things. I doubted whether this information was anything new. But, beyond that, I had ethical questions about whether public schools should provide for-profit corporations with a veritable ocean of potential consumers, without any standards, scrutiny, or discussion by educators or parents.
My feeling is that if corporations are truly as sincere in their stated desire to make schools better, to contribute to society, and to donate supplies and equipment as they say they are, then they will do so without glitzy logos, people in clown suits, and promotional propaganda.
Parents and educators should honestly ask themselves what the probable result of these corporate promotions and expenditures will be (in terms of increased sales or profits), and whether this wholesale exposure to millions of consumer-conditioned children around the country is both fair and ethical.
John D. Lyle