Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Yet so much of the commentary pertaining to Mr. Steele has seemed so veritably relieved at finding an African-American voice to clutch on to (in this day of the Farrakhans, et. al.), that hardly any of the usual investigation into the background and personal presence of a popular media figure has been reported.
Who is Shelby Steele? What's his family background; not from his own words exclusively, but from independent investigative-reporting viewpoints? This is usually standard procedure. Why has Shelby Steele been given a pass?
Park Forest, Ill.
To the Editor:
"Memory" makes it sound as though oppression doesn't exist any more; that he (we) isn't assaulted by the same sort of oppression on a daily basis, whether it's by the media that continue to depict us as the worst of all things, or by professional colleagues that doubt his competence. In the Los Angeles Times Book Review (Sept. 30, 1990), Mr. Steele mentioned that he had been unaffected by the Black Power movement of the 60's. I would maintain that dodging that movement, and the independent study of African history that followed, is at the root of his (and African Americans') problem. We do not understand the enemy (white racists/supremacists) or their philosophy (white nationalism/supremacy).
Several interesting curriculum exchanges are in the works now, those in Milwaukee and Portland, Ore., being among the most notable. In both of those cities, educators are relying on an Afrocentric curriculum for African students to give them what can't be taken away by the insecure: Self-Knowledge.
It is no accident that the Temple of Luxor in Egypt has "Know Thyself" inscribed over the entry. Had Mr. Steele denied the culture (Eurocentric) he embraces wholeheartedly in his conservatism, I believe he could drop the baggage he has carried so long and describes so well in his book.
California and New York are pushing social-studies frameworks that call for the inclusion of all ethnic groups in factual, non-biased materials (California is having difficulty avoiding the Eurocentric, however). Mr. Steele should register for one of the classes.
K. Kamau Smith
University of California at Los Angeles
To the Editor:
The Secretary of Energy's speech she describes even went on to say-- after exhorting our scholars to lift the underclass up out of the mud--that we must (a.) go to Mars, (b.) pursue Star Wars, and (c.) become competetive with international business by cutting labor costs and using robots. Secretary Watkins did not say that he thought the educated citizens of this country should say to the uplifted underclass, saved from their plight, now educated and un employed. Perhaps "Have you thought of becoming a robot?"
Although we were not able to stay for the "ceremony" or listen to Tom Clancy's farewell address, I remember a Scholar's gently dismissive remark about the Energy speech-- "Yeah," he said, "Secretary talk."
I felt exactly as Ms. Wile did. These young people had very good manners, but they knew they deserved more than they got. After all, the President of the United States had told them so.
Riverdale Country School
To the Editor:
I worry, though, that the effort may be a case of "putting the cart before the horse." Most teachers are probably not teaching and evaluating the performance of their own students in a way that supports this innovative approach on such a large scale.
Perhaps Vermont should focus first on helping teachers change the way they teach and evaluate students in their individual classrooms before attempting to make such a dramatic change in a statewide program.
Even many English teachers who have adopted process-writing techLniques still grade student writing in traditional ways, by evaluating only the final copy of an individual piece, not a collection of the student's work.
Math teachers who teach from the book and base grades on the number of correct responses on periodic tests have probably never considered eval uating student thinking on the basis of a student-created math problem. If this project doesn't succeed be cause the teacher knowledge/practice base doesn't exist to support it, then a good idea may die without ever being given a fair chance to work. Educa tional change at any level depends in large measure on what teachers and students routinely do in classrooms. The failure of many innovations in the past can be traced to the fact that they lacked such grassroots support. Alternative assessment, I fear, will meet the same fate in Vermont. It's like expecting people to run before they learn to walk. Why don't we educators ever seem to learn anything from the mistakes of the past?
Anne Wescott Dodd
To the Editor:
By merely presenting the results of the study in question, without offer ing interpretation, you leave room for various perceptions. Those with the highest potential for being accepted as fact by your readers are, in my opinion, the following:
That black minority students are academically disabled by attending schools in which their own ethnic group is the majority.
That black students are academi cally enabled by attending schools L with white students, particularly Lwhen the white students are in the majority.
The consequences of such articles are obvious: The deliberateness of dis crimination becomes far more subtle and extremely difficult to intelligent ly challenge as misinterpretation.
The more responsible researchers would never present data that give the potential for total misrepresenta tion without guiding interpretation. In this instance, we educators Lknow that schools that are highly in tegrated, practically without excep tion, have more of the "desirable conditions" than schools that are Lprimarily minority. That is, they Lhave more parent participation and higher grade-point averages, daily at tendance, average incomes, etc.
To present data without an objec tive interpretation of the facts is, in the perception of this critic, criminal and should be responded to with pro fessional dissatisfaction.
Benjamin J. Bernoudy Superintendent, Area D
Detroit Public Schools
To the Editor:
I serve as president of a national, nonprofit support group helping
families cope with a variety of issues related to raising a child with
Attention Deficit Disorders. And I feel absolutely compelled to respond
to the erroneous implications regarding add made by Edward Kealy, a
lobbyist for the
National School Boards Association, in your Sept. 5 issue ("Attention-Deficit Proposal Spurs Spec.- Ed. Protests," Sept. 5, 199).
It is Mr. Kealy's contention that children with add are not unserved in the schools because they are getting help under other labels, such as learning-disabled or emotionally disturbed. Aside from the completely insensitive nature of this position, the facts point to its being woefully untrue.
The notion of serving any child with a handicapping condition as though he or she had some generic impairment is ludicrous. This frightening philosophy discounts the primary handicapping condi tion as completely irrelevant. To say that a child who has add can be served as though he had an emotional disturbance or learning disabilities is an insulting generalization and does not reflect the intent of the Congress, which is to serve children on the basis of their primary handicapping condition.
Placement in programs for children with these other dysfunctions is totally inappropriate for sufferers of add The Education of the Handicapped Act and its legislative history require that a child's primary handicapping needs be - identified and that services be de signed to fit those primary needs.
Yet, despite the thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles on add, despite the fact that this area has become a top priority at the National Institute for Mental Health, and despite the prepon derance of data collection on it, in cluding the l987 Learning Disabilities: A Report to the U.S. Congress (which, among other conclusions, found that in treating children with add, "educational management represents an important priority and often forms the cornerstone of all other therapies"), organizations such as the nsba, the American Association of School Administrators, and others, choose to ignore evi dence of add's impact by simply dismissing it out of hand.
As a parent of a child with this disorder, I am shocked to encounter such arrogance.
The nsba raises the possibil ity of a dilution of services for the handicapped, should add children become eligible for the help they need.
Is the nsba implying that some handicapped children are more deserving than others? It is unconscionable to pit chil dren against children in this bullying manner.
The whole purpose of special- education law and Section 54 of the
Rehabilitation of the Handi capped Act of 1973 is to provide services
that are necessary, so that a handicapped child may ef fectively
participate in the inL
structional program of the local education agency.
My group will continue to offer current information and research on add to dispel the myth that our children's symptoms "could L apply to many children."
Skeptics have taken individual symptoms of add from the official psychological diagnostic manual, the dsm, and highlighted them out of context in an effort to belittle the debilitating nature of add By so doing, they demonstrate their lack of knowledge and shamefully misrepresent the entire disorder..
Leading researchers at the n.i.m.h. have documented an abnormally low brain metabolism for this disorder, which is fully discussed in a report to be issued soon.
Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic banding to gether of add parent-support groups, teachers who work with our children, and health-care professionals from across the coun try. We have worked hard to have our children's needs recognized ; and met through the legislative process. We prefer this manner of resolution to the expensive and time-consuming judicial one."
But when groups that purport to represent children's best interests can defend "business as usual" as opposed to changing laws to reflect current knowledge, we must speak up and act accordingly. Any parent who has experienced the pain of trying to find some place for their bright, enthusiastic, impulsive, and inattentive youngster to fit in, some school system that can teach to his or her strengths while acLcommodating for areas of weakness, knows the potential for devastating problems this disorholds for children and their families. It is more than mere fidgeting, and it is insulting to have our daily frustrating experiences with add dismissed as somehow frivolous or insignifi cant. Our kids have a neurological impairment that is pervasive and affects every area of their life, day and night. Left untreated, they are at high risk for dropping out of school and being caught in the downward spiral of poor self-esteem. Yet, studies make it clear that this need not be. Proper treatment, which inL cludes a multi-modal approach from the disciplines of education, medicine, and psychology, can offer them a successful future.
All we want to do is turn the unencouraging statistics related to Ladd around. We cannot do it without putting the proper educational piece into place--which is why we need to have the protection of the eha Time is of the essence for these children. Every day that goes by without proper intervention and guidance places their bright potential in jeopardy.
Sandra F. Thomas
Children With Attention Deficit Disorders (chadd)