Letters to the Editor
To the Editor
No one can quarrel with the desire to teach young people to act honorably. It sounds sensible, therefore, to institute an honor code to achieve that worthy purpose, as suggested by Lewis Cobbs in his April 3, 1991, Commentary ("Honor Codes: Teaching Integrity and Interdependence"). In practice, though, the system raises as many ethical problems as it attempts to solve. Furthermore, many young people do not perceive the honor code to be "the foundation for a self-regulating community of trust." As Mr. Cobbs admits, it will not "obviate the need for vigilance by faculty members."
So the use of the honor code is not at all parallel to an honor system. Under the latter, trust is developed because it is conferred. For example, when people are permitHted to borrow property on the understanding that it will be returned, the only force acting upon them to do so is their own sense of honor. Sanctions are not necessary because the lender trusts the borrower.
No such trust is developed by the honor code because it cannot be assumed, without modes of enforcement, that all will comply. To make matters worse, students, not adults, are expected to be the enforcers."
Mr. Cobbs states that the "proposition of honor codes is clear and elegant," and goes on to describe honorable attributes. But the same qualities apply to work created in any school, whether or not it has a code. Issues of integrity and interdependence should consistently be addressed and respected in every institution. Commitment to "honor" does not require the use of disciplinary measures enforced by those who are faced with what they correctly perceive to be serious moral dilemmas whenever they feel that they need to fulfill their obligaHtions under the code.
New York, N.Y.
To the Editor:
According to a 1989 report by the American Jewish Committee and a 199joint statement by Catholic and Jewish religious leaders, the public schools can and should be teaching such moral values as courtesy, kindHness, honesty, decency, moral courage, integrity, justice, fair play, self-respect, and respect for others. These values are indeed essential to the survival of civilized society.
In Illinois, moral education is required by state law, which says that "every public-school teacher shall teach the pupils honesty, kindness, justice, and moral courage for the purpose of lessening crime and raising the standard of good citizenship."
Character education has proven to be enormously successful L throughout the United States. After San Marcos (Calif.) Junior High School implemented a character-education program, for example, the frequency of drug incidents on camHpus declined from 12 per year to 1 per year, the dropout rate fell from percent to 2 percent, pregnancies among students decreased from 147 to l9, and the number of straight-A students doubled.
Haven Bradford Gow
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Arlington Heights, Ill."
To the Editor
I must express my concern and frustration, but not my surprise, at the manner in which the story on a suburban Denver high school's conHdom-distribution policy was presented ("District's Condom Plan: 'Education Plus Safety,"' March 27, 1991).
If this is the way to handle in a responsible way the proported "high teenage sexual activity," I shudder to think how we will be addressing this and similiar issues by the 21st century. What "solution" will be next? Can distributing clean needles in high schools be that far away?
It seems to me that people in authority who should be role models are telling their students, "We know the vast majority of you are going to be sexually active and we have given up trying to modify your behavior. So whatever you do, don't become pregnant--and overcome that feeling of embarrassment if you have to come to us for a supply of condoms." (I cannot recall reading if there was a limit on the number to be given out during any time period.)
Your reporter noted that the only students who would not be eligible for the free distribution would be those whose parents wrote a letter objecting to their getting them. No doubt the peer pressure must be significant for the nonconformists. Is this yet another action to under mine the authority of the home and any out-of-school teaching that students may have received?
Concerning the reference to the area's being "heavily Catholic"--hatever that means--and to a priest's having been a member of the aids-policy committee that approved the condom-distribution plan, I have questions on whether the priest voted for the plan and, if he did, how he could do so and remain in good standing with the atholic Church.
Do the educators who have helped develop, promote, and convince parents and students of the efficacy of this condom-distribution plan really believe they are helping students grow into responsible citizens, strong parents, and the possessors of values that will help them in later years "when the going gets tough?" I need a lot more convincing that usHing a banana and a condom in a math class this is the answer.
To the Editor:
Chew my front legs off and call me bipedal. Janet Emig's neo-nasty style in her "Talking Back" to Susan OhanHian's Commentary on collaboration implies that Ms. Ohanian has a charm unadulterated by knowledge ("Yes, Reading and Writing Are Social Acts," Talking Back, March 20, 1991; "Against 'Collaboration': Reading and Writing Are Not Social Acts," Commentary, Feb. 13, 1991).
Ms. Emig would treat the non-embraced as sinners who have failed to see that "social acts" (reading and writing) must be worshiped like the capitalized essences of Soul, Idea, and Zero.
There is no time for increments of lament for the pseudo-intellectual clan of the National Council of Teachers of English who call anecdotal histories of how they taught their darlings to write from their psyches, from their hearts, and from other vestigial apparatus objective research. The jargon of the ncte clan is the language of man down on all fours. We should avoid them with even more passion than the one-HLlegged subjunctive.
Ms. Emig wonders if Ms. Ohanian has been in a cave (not Plato's she would say) for the last 2years and missed all the cognitive-sticky and glandular-emotive science going on. I have read the "literature" of what Ms. Emig signs on for (linguistics is my cave), and most of the theoretical stuff about language and writing is tangential to teaching writing. Most of what I see in the "teacher jour8nals" is boring and the cause of boredom in others.
Ms. Emig and her clan are less like sound researchers than sociologists of writing who know a great deal about a whole lot of things they can't do anything about. It is hard to imagine another country in which so many ways to improve education are put forward every year--and a most every one a failure.
In her piece, Ms. Ohanian says that "research projects, consultants, and warm, fuzzy teacher groups tell us we aren't whole if we aren't working in teams." Not a bad observation. We need more of an attitude of dismissal and habit of accusation about the groupee clan. There is a difference between being rooted in a thing and being stuck.
Connie Mack Rea
California University of Pennsylvania