Letters to the Editor
To the Editor
As her Oct. 24 letter indicates, Sandra F. Thomas, president of an advocacy group for children with attention-deficit disorders, is quite disturbed by the National School Boards Association's challenge of her efforts to include add in the definition of disabilty in federal education law.
We contend that the change is unnecessary and would dilute resources for all handicapped children, increase overrepresentation of minorities in special education, and make program costs prohibitive.
But Ms. Thomas regards raising these policy views as alternately shocking, insensitive, ludicrous, frightening, insulting, arrogant, unconscionable, and bullying. She and the members of her organization should realize that these sorts of characterizations fail to make their case more convincing or credible.
Ms. Thomas's letter also fails to acknowldege that 18 major education organizations and agencies, representing not only school-board members and administators but also special educators and other advocates for the handicapped, such as the Council for Exceptional Children, as well as major civil-rights groups, such as the naacp Legal Defense and Educational Fund, shared our concerns.
The Congress also listened well to the debate. As a result, when it passed the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1990 last month, it dropped House provisions including add as a disability. Instead, it determined that the definition should not be altered until the U.S. Education Department has conducted an inquiry in which "no perspective on the issue of add should be excluded."
Is the Congress now also guilty of "unconscionable ... bullying"?
The fact is, Ms. Thomas's fervent convictions notwithstanding, the scientific and policy questions about add are far from settled. The information currently available does not justify creation of a new disability category for children under federal law.
Until proven otherwise, the needs of children with attention-deficit disorders can and should be met through adaptations and interventions in general education programs and through well-designed individualized educational plans in special-education programs under current law.
We welcome further discussion of these issues, but would prefer to do so without overheated rhetoric.
Edward R. Kealy
Director of Federal Programs
National School Boards Association
To the Editor:
Your article reporting that the National Science Foundation has awarded $3.7 million to a Chicago-area consortium (Across the Nation, Nov. 7, 1990) failed to mention the name of the Latino community organization that is part of the consortium.
That organization is aspira of Illinois, which has worked to improve educational achievement and leadership development among young Latinos in Chicago for the past 20 years. Aspira of Illinois is part of aspira Association Inc., the only national community-based organization devoted solely to serving Puerto Rican and other Latino young people.
Aspira has been in existence for 30 years and each year serves over 13,000 young people through offices in five states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. We are excited to undertake this new collaborative project in Chicago to improve minority representation in the science and engineering fields.
Elizabeth Weiser Ramirez
Coordinator of Policy and Publications
To the Editor
I want to express my profound disappointment with the discussion of issues surrounding the academic motivation of students ("Educators Focus Attention on Ways To Boost Student Motivation," Nov. 7, 1990).
Have we distanced ourselves so far from our basic humanity that we have lost a sense of the key ingredients of motivation? As educators, surely we will never solve the problem of lack of motivation if we overlook intrinsic forces leading to improved motivation. These include at best the following:
Presenting a student with a worthy challenge, an opportunity for adventure--physical, mental, spiritual; offering a student the sense of embarking on a personal quest;
The imperative of being needed by others, the act of having to be prepared to help somebody else.
Adolescents in particular--but teachers and administrators as well--are crying out for experiences that involve personal quest and the experience of being needed, truly needed, by others. Both of these forces are much more powerful than any array of economic incentives that might be devised.
Stephen S. Kaagan
Outward Bound School
Editor's Note: Mr. Kaagan was formerly commissioner of education in Vermont and deputy commissioner of education in Massachusetts.
To the Editor
Two articles on Asian-American students converged in your Oct. 17 issue. The first explained that the Harvard College office of undergraduate admissions is not guilty of discrimination against such students, even though, with equal or better academic records, they are admitted at a lower rate than their white counterparts ("Harvard Is Cleared in Asian-American Bias Inquiry, Oct. 17, 1990).
The reason for the differential admission rate, according to the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights, which investigated the college, is explained by the admission committee's preference for recruited athletes and children of alumni, known in admissions circles as "legacies."
The second article, a Commentary by Daniel B. Taylor, provides evidence on the extent to which Asian-American students, 43 percent of whom are not native English-speakers, excel on both the verbal and the mathematics portions of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Discounting bias in the test that might favor non-English-speaking immigrants from Southeast Asia, the author urges researchers to ferret out the reason for these students' performance.
These articles followed by about a week a finding of the same office for civil rights that the graduate mathematics department at the University of California at Los Angeles does discriminate in admissions against Asian-Americans. Following a 30-month study, the office cleared 75 other departments at ucla of such charges.
Perhaps Asian-Americans who study anthropology or linguistics are more likely to play football than those who pursue graduate degrees in mathematics. Or, per4haps, they are more likely to be admitted on purely academic criteria.
The juxtaposition of these articles leads to several conclusions. The first is that non-Asian Harvard aspirants should beware of hockey- or lacrosse-playing Asian-American competitors, who should be shoo-ins for admission. After all, won't Asian-Americans be admitted at least in proportion to their application rate when they excel at sports as well as on the sat?
And, when the current students are old enough to send their children to college, the latter should be able to count Harvard as a "safety.'' (The office for civil rights might want to make a note of this and check in 20 years or so.)
It is also clear that athletes must have been, in the past, a class subject to appalling discrimination because there seems to be a widely accepted affirmative-action program on their behalf in college admissions. As the parent of both a double bassist and a violist, however, I challenge this preferential treatment. The bassist has successfully run the selective-school gauntlet. The violist is in the throes of applying.
Why are they not recruited by symphony-orchestra conductors or chamber-music directors as their friends who run or jump are recruited by coaches? Why do admissions committees listen to the recommendations of coaches, who are encouraged to seek out talented shotputters, and ignore those that musicians might make if only they had similar resources for recruiting flautists?
Why do we provide incentives for our ablest and most ambitious students to spend their time playing tennis rather than a concerto?
The colleges have several responses. Sports develop teamwork. This is undoubtedly true for foot8ball players, but it is less true for lonely long-distance runners than for the first chair of the second violin section. High-performing athletes develop discipline and concentration. So do string players mastering a run of trills and double stops. My daughter-the-double-bassist claims that intense concentration is required simply to count the measures in which she does not play in order to come in at the right time.
The colleges insist that they seek not only a smart but also a diverse student body. I support diversity. I suggest that the professional association of college and university symphony conductors demand equal time around the admissions table. I do not argue that academic performance be the sole determinant in college admissions. On the contrary, colleges over-seek the scholar-athlete, and, although they welcome applications from musicians/artists/journalists, they fail to recruit them actively.
The Yale Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 25th year this season; the college has sported a football team, however, since the 19th century. Many years of favoritism need to be redressed. Perhaps if our colleges sought and graduated people who appreciate a good concert as much as a good football game, our concert halls would be as full as our stadiums, and our box-office receipts would multiply. Above all, our young musicians would feel as valued as our athletes.
Perhaps if the U.S. Education Department questioned its acceptance of bias in favor of athletes, it would recapture its mission of advocating education.
Cynthia Y. Levinson
Texas Education Agency