Letters to the Editor
Your article "Summit's Goal: Create Process To Set Targets" (Sept. 27, 1989) and other stories on the education summit left me breathless.
Well, maybe kind of awed that the President and the nation's governors could assemble, make such an effort, and have nothing to show for it.
Let's get real. At this point, trustworthy leadership will not come from the top down. Nor will it come from blue-ribbon commissions or the babble of think tanks.
Leadership will come from those groups and individuals who see the urgent need for reform and establish lines of communication, organize themselves, encourage and nurture creative ideas, welcome wide participation, and debate the issues until a consensus on realistic proposals is reached.
Efforts by various groups in recent years have been less than successful because they were elitist and because they acted before they were ready, among other reasons.
We stand at the crossroads. Will such a course as I have suggested be followed, or will such factors as inertia, fear of the unknown, ego, established interests, and jealousy continue to drag us down?
A final thought: Don't believe for a minute that leaving things the way they are is saving us money.
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On Images of Teachers in the Media
Myra H. Jones Franklin, N.C.
Mary Tanzy Crume may have a point in saying that unfavorable depictions of teachers in the media may be contributing to an "image crisis" for educators. ("Images of Teachers in Films and Literature," Commentary, Oct. 4, 1989).
I don't think this idea can be carried too far, however. Educators really do have low prestige in our country; the media's treatment of them may be more of a reflection than a cause of that situation.
Teachers certainly don't have to go to the media to get an accurate idea of their status: Salaries, if nothing else, would be a pretty accurate gauge.
How many teachers have an office like a bank executive's or lawyer's?
And I do not know many other professionals who would put up with the sweatshop-like working conditions that most teachers accept as customary.
The course of education reform is also a fairly accurate measure of teachers' status.
Many of the national calls for change have stated that the major faults lie within the system itself and that meaningful reform must address the system's structure.
But most of the innovations now under way concern teachers.
Without even bothering to ask teachers what they think or to find out what teachers could do if they worked under favorable conditions, reformers are whipping teachers into shape.
Teachers, like students, are low on the totem pole and thus make convenient scapegoats. If anyone doubts this, let him count the number of teachers invited to the recent public-relations event pretentiously called the education summit.
Allow my daughter to become a teacher? Never.
Mary Tanzy Crume gives the impression that she is the first person to formulate a theory about the negative image of teachers in the media.
In fact, there have been many studies on this topic.
My own doctoral dissertation focused on the use in preservice teacher education of short stories about classroom events. Many of the fictional teachers in my study also were portrayed negatively.
Why does Ms. Crume begin in 1980? The list of teachers in literature is endless, and their negative image is not a new phenomenon. Yes, teachers are currently depicted in unflattering ways--but they have been for centuries.
My contention is that preservice teachers, as part of their training, should analyze stories and films about members of the profession.
Students should examine not only negative but also positive images; they should discuss the kinds of influence these teachers have on their classes and the reasons for such influence.
In this way, perhaps, preservice teachers could be stimulated to think about teaching from fresh perspectives. The result might be a change in their outlooks on teaching--and in what later occurs in their classrooms.
Ruben Friedman Department Supervisor--English Plainedge Public Schools North Massapequa, N.Y.