Letters to the Editor
In the controversy over the National Diffusion Network's "Facing History and Ourselves" program ("Bias Charged in Denial of History Course," Sept. 14, 1988), supporters of the curriculum accuse Shirley Curry, who oversees the program, of bias in denying funds for the course.
As a former junior-high social-studies and history teacher, I consider "Facing History" a poorly conceived curriculum. It teaches little history and uses the horrors of the Holocaust as an entree to issues of nuclear armament and other political and social controversies.
The program requires students to submit journals revealing their private views and those of their family and friends on these topics.
And it forces 13- and 14-year-olds to confront moral dilemmas in stressful group-criticism sessions.
What do young teenagers gain from this emotionally trying experience?
Certainly not a mastery of history or geography. Teaching the curriculum takes at least eight weeks--nearly one quarter of the school year.
Neglecting essentials to put programs like this one in American classrooms has had two measurable consequences: a rise in youthful depression and a decline in knowledge of history and geography.
To reverse these trends, we need to eliminate programs emphasizing psychology, which upset students and steal time from academic instruction.
Perhaps Ms. Curry's critics are themselves biased--in favor of such psychological curricula and against a return to emphasis on academic learning.
Martha C. Brown Olympia Fields, Ill. To the Editor:
Your article, "'Literacy' Urged for All Students on Agriculture" (Sept. 21, 1988), seems to stress the negative aspects of the National Research Council's report on agricultural education.
Your subhead, for instance, reads "Study Says the ffa Fosters Wrong 'Image'."
Although I have yet to receive a copy of the report, I must take exception to the tone of the article.
Is it proper to blame the established delivery system of vocational-agricultural education for the shortcomings of the general-education system in not providing sufficient education about agriculture--"agricultural literacy"--to all students?
Indeed, the nrc's publication announcement states: "Current funding structures for agriculture tend to preserve the status quo, the committee said. Most of the money now comes from federal and state general vocational-education budgets, which require that the funds be used only for instruction designed for vocational purposes."
The Future Farmers of America is the largest and most successful organization of its type in the world.
Founded in 1928 and chartered in 1950 by the U.S. Congress (not 1928, as stated in the article), the ffa is a democratic student organization that has undergone constructive change throughout its history.
The student delegates at this November's 61st national convention will consider 19 proposed amendments to the ffa constitution. If accepted by the student leaders, the amendments will liberalize the organization greatly.
Those of us in agricultural education will welcome increased emphases on agricultural literacy for all students and liberalization of the ffa--but will resist change for change's sake.
The recent rhetoric of educational reform has yielded little in the way of positive results. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water in agricultural education.
William G. Smith Associate Professor Agricultural Education Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, N.J.
Editor's note: The writer mischaracterizes both the article and the National Academy of Sciences' report. The report, as the article stated, argued not only that "agriculture is too important a topic to be taught only to the relatively small percentage of students ... pursuing vocational-agriculture studies" but that such studies are currently ''uneven in quality." The headline's use of the word "image," referring to a problem the nas report ascribed to the Future Farmers of America, simply reflects the report's own terminology.
The article's incorrect date for the ffa charter was due to an editing error.