Letters to the Editor
Kenneth D. McCracken Professor of Education University of Tennessee at Martin Martin, Tenn.
Patrick Groff's letter ("Curriculum for 'Best' Schools Said To Reflect a Sentimental Outlook," March 28, 1990) gave me as much the sense of deja vu as Jeannie Oakes and Martin Lipton's Commentary did him.
Mr. Groff remembers what he wants to remember of education in the 1920's and 30's.
He apparently does not believe in resurrecting old ideas. I am not fond of doing so either, but I seem to be in the minority.
During the 1980's, many concepts that were replicas of earlier approaches were adopted in our schools.
For example, back in 1943, I took an 8th-grade examination; the contemporary terms for such tests were not used then, but the exam's purpose was the same as that of those now called "competency" or "exit" tests.
My younger sister did not take this test two years later. Another sister, who was a teacher, told me that the these tests "were not accomplishing anything."
Merit systems were also "in" during the 20's and 30's. Most of these were abandoned, often because of the morale problems produced by their use.
World War II, forcing education to take a back seat, virtually eliminated these systems. Many were never officially cancelled; they merely died from "old age."
Phonics has at least a 400-year history.
It is time that people quit arguing over methods as though they were sacred ideologies and worry about teaching children to read.
Many have indeed learned by phonics. Others, such as myself, learned phonics after having learned to read--at which point phonics is easy.
Mr. Groff laughs at people who have open and creative minds. He apparently wants doctors who always know exactly what to do.
I am reminded of a physician who, in discussing a patient whose illness was difficult to diagnose, stated: "Back in 1880, I could have diagnosed it easily; I would have said she had dysentery."
This diagnosis, of course, was an umbrella for many diseases that had little in common beyond a few symptoms.
Mr. Groff may prefer experts who know it all, but I prefer those who have a little humility and who understand there is much to learn.
Jonette Zuercher Shoreview, Minn. To the Editor:
As a parent and member of the Minnesota pta, I disagree with the recent study suggesting that many parents are using the state's public-school choice laws primarily because of "convenience" ("Most Minnesota Students Transfer for Convenience, Survey Shows," Feb. 21, 1990).
One of the basic reasons our pta supported open enrollment was that we believed it would help increase parent involvement.
Some suburban parents who work in downtown St. Paul, for example, are now sending their children to the kindergarten operated by the district in the First Bank.
Having their children in this school allows parents to travel to and from school with them, have lunch with them, and check in at the school periodically.
Some rural parents are now able to send their children to a school many miles closer to home.
Why should students be asked to go to a school 25 miles from home when another school is available 2 to 3 miles away, just across the district line? Parents can be more involved if the school is closer to home.
This session, the state legislature is considering a proposal that would require employers to allow employees leave time, so that parents could participate in such activities as parent-teacher conferences and volunteer work at their children's school.
Parents who choose to send their children to schools outside their resident district are doing so for the same reasons that other families elect to remain at a neighborhood school--issues of nurturing, not convenience.
Parents are often criticized for not being involved enough with their children. Then, when they try to arrange a school site that would make participation easier, they are criticized for being interested in "convenience."
Parents should be supported in their efforts to remain in close touch with both their children and their children's school.
Jerrold T. Hanson Chairman, Division of Education Peru State College Peru, Neb.
I suspect that many educators who read the Federal File in your March 28, 1990, edition either chuckled or shook their heads over the emotional anecdote related by Roger B. Porter--not because the anecdote was inappropriate but because of his ignorance of its source.
The story related by Mr. Porter is the essence of a film entitled "Cipher in the Snow," produced by the Brigham Young University film-production department in 1974 and shown to thousands of pre-service and in-service teachers to emphasize the very point Mr. Porter was making.
Educators are well aware of the importance of creating in each child a positive feeling of self-worth, and this movie is a dramatic and sobering expression of the consequences of failure to do so.
We should be pleased that the White House domestic-policy adviser is also aware of the importance of developing such feelings, and we must hope that he will continue to support our efforts to accomplish this worthy goal.
Jean Luckowski University of Montana Missoula, Mont.
Shame on you for your reference to Judith Shulman as "the wife of Lee Shulman and a respected researcher in her own right" ("Teacher Educators Turn to Case-Study Method," March 28, 1990).
It's been a long time since I have seen a reference to a scholar's husband as an indicator of her identity or credibility.
Your story on the use of case studies in teacher education was useful and interesting, but please, skip the patronizing commentary on scholars' social status.