Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Your story entitled "Philadelphia Hospital, Middle School Team Up To Expose Students to Health-Care Careers'' (Feb. 3, 1993) may well reveal the deceptive purpose behind America 2000 and the "radical'' restructuring of American education.
The New American Schools Development Corporation and its hand-picked 11 design teams will exploit poor and minority children to meet the needs of the global economy, which is controlled by vested-interest groups, hoping to make a profit (like the Edison Project) at the expense of taxpayers. Their hidden agenda robs children of an equal opportunity to achieve a quality education and an equal chance in our society. It creates a caste system which is alien to all our democratic principles.
The following quotation from this article speaks for itself: "'I like it all--you ain't going to get no experience anywhere like this,' says Sheree Jenkins 13, who spent her session in the dietary department wrapping food on trays and sterilizing utensils.''
This child will be doing "service'' for the rest of her life unless she is educated.
Paradise Valley, Ariz.
To the Editor:
Perry Zirkel has taken the limited available studies on teacher
strikes and student achievement and drawn his own conclusions ("Do
Teacher Strikes 'Hurt' Students?'' Commentary, Dec. 16, 1992). With
such limited data, it is difficult to understand how he can state that
is largely a myth.''
While attempting to add his own qualification to the acknowledged results of several studies, and without providing further proof or facts, he further concludes that "the verdict that strikes have a notable negative academic effect must be reversed and remanded.''
While it is true that research studies on the effects of teacher strikes on student achievement are limited by research techniques or other "academic research'' ingredients, it really doesn't take an expert to identify reasonable research variables and draw conclusions to validate what most students, parents, school administrators, school board members, and taxpayers instinctively know about the effects of a strike.
And if perception is indeed reality, the real world of the general public's view of the effects will surely carry more weight than any academic-research models with all of their noted flaws.
Having said that, allow me to provide some reality checks based on my personal involvement with some 650 teacher strikes in Pennsylvania over the past 22 years:
- If "time on task'' is one of the key elements in academic achievement, as the experts claim, it is perfectly logical to conclude that time not spent on task has a negative effect on academic performance.
Time on task is measured not only in days (180 days of instruction in most states), but in minutes per day and week spent on a particular topic; the sequence and timing of course content; the time spent on related and supplemental activities relevant to the subject being taught; and the order of presentation to insure a logical extension of learning activities related to time on task. Examples include the timing order of teaching algebra I and math concepts before algebra II, simple division before long division, and so forth.
A strike that interrupts the logical, sequential order of time on task clearly has a negative effect on student achievement. If this were not true, the question of makeup days would be moot and the typical response of teacher unions, stating that "we taught harder after a strike to make sure the kids got everything they needed,'' wouldn't even be raised.
Continuity of thought and thinking processes are also interrupted as negotiations and strike issues loom. We all know there is a loss of learning and retention over summer vacations and extended holiday periods. Couple this with the day-to-day uncertainty of whether a new school year will begin or how long it will go before it is interrupted by a strike and it's clear to most people that the learning atmosphere has, in fact, been seriously altered.
- The public (and students) have an image of teachers which, if changed through actions related to strike activities, will have a negative effect on students in both direct and indirect ways.
Teachers traditionally have been viewed as "professionals'' and role models. They not only teach our children, they counsel and encourage them to be better citizens, to follow the rules, and to be a productive, learned people. Teachers and other educators stress the fact that individuals can succeed, can make a difference, and should not be tempted or influenced by "peer pressures.''
During negotiations and strikes, perceptions of teachers begin to change. Students hear of the impending impasse in board-union negotiations; character assassination begins on both sides; the credibility and integrity of people involved in the process is questioned; judgments are made concerning the ability of all parties to carry out their respective roles; union demands are confused with educational-quality issues; and in general, the whole structure of the public school system is questioned as the public argues over how much people should get paid and other negotiation issues.
In Pennsylvania, these circumstances have polarized communities, pitted families of teachers and nonteachers in lasting battles that stretch long beyond the signing of a new labor contract, and have otherwise dealt a killing blow to the continued public support of education.
Pennsylvania's new law limiting strike activity was clearly seen as a critical public-policy concern by the state legislature, one affecting the lives of students, parents, and communities. The law deals only with teachers and other school employees and leaves intact the existing laws on strikes by all other public employees in the state.
If time on task and other factors of student achievement were not important for most Pennsylvanians, policymakers would not have changed our law after 22 years. Do teacher strikes hurt students? The answer is clearly yes.
Joseph V. Oravitz
Pennsylvania School Boards Association
New Cumberland, Pa.
To the Editor:
For two decades or longer the sexual-choice evangelists from Planned Parenthood, SIECUS, and similar groups have tried to impose their ideology on children in government public schools. But now they are in an uproar because parents who do not share their views are finally asserting themselves ("Teenage Pregnancy, AIDS Spurring Support of Abstinence in Curricula,'' Jan. 27, 1993).
From where I stand, sex education that promotes choice looks like an unmitigated disaster. By using such fraudulent slogans as "safe sex'' (with condoms, of course) in the fight against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and by alienating children from the moral teaching of their parents, the choice approach probably has resulted in more teenage pregnancy and disease than it has prevented.
How amusing that the choice propagandists accuse their opponents of bias. Can anyone seriously believe that telling children that it is their right to choose whether or not to have sex is unbiased or neutral? Can one point to even a single good reason why a 6th-, 7th-, or 8th-grade child should have sex? Why don't we also tell our children that it is their choice whether or not to be racial bigots or anti-Semitic?
Well, at any rate, hurrah for the parents. They're a brave bunch, and I wish them success.
Richard A. Baer Jr.
Professor of Environmental Ethics
To the Editor:
I must comment on your Dec. 2, 1992, "Q & A'' conversation with Bruce Wilkinson, the chairman of the group CoMission, regarding a consortium of 60 Christian education groups mobilizing to teach Judeo-Christian principles in over 120,000 public schools in the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Wilkinson states, "Now that Communism is dead they don't have a world view to consider,'' and further states that his group's Christian morals and values will be presented as a foundation for society.
Not only am I deeply opposed to Christians (or those of any religion) using public schools as a venue for proselytizing, I am also offended that Mr. Wilkinson apparently considers citizens of the former Soviet Union as being devoid of a world view. From my travels there and from interactions with Russians from Moscow to the Crimea to the Soviet Far East, I find them to have high morals, a strong spirit, and a sense of ethics easily comparable to "Christian'' nations such as the United States.
I am further disappointed that Education Week did not ask any critical questions of the morals and ethics behind Mr. Wilkinson's own organization.
John D. Lyle
To the Editor:
In the illustration for George R. Kaplan's Commentary ("Let's Do Federal Policy Right This Time,'' Commentary, Jan. 13, 1993), the worm in the apple of American education policy wears an Uncle Sam hat. Though Mr. Kaplan probably disagrees, this could serve to illustrate the distinction Irving Kristol and others make: The public authority, with its taxing and police power, may be in a good position to fund and encourage education equally, or at least equitably, for all. But in this pluralistic society, the state is not in a good position to be The Schoolmaster.
The public authority can spoil the American educational enterprise by failing to recognize that schools are at root religious institutions; they all touch on ultimate values in their embrace of a particular view of the nature and purpose of the educational mission.
Moreover, a one-size-fits-all policy seems to violate the rights of the parents "to have a prior right to direct the education of their children.'' This is a human-rights guarantee of the U.N. Declaration of Universal Human Rights, article 26.
The serious religious believer wants a school for his or her child that reinforces his or her world view or values. It puzzles us why the child cannot take a share of the community's education funds to a school with a pro-God orientation, while the school with the no-God orientation has a monopoly on the community's education funds. This seems in violation of the parents' prior right to direct the education of the child.
This present policy also seems in violation of the First Amendment. It puts the world view or value system of a principal or school board or state superintendent into a bully pulpit. And it chills the freedom-of-exercise-of-religion guarantee.
The Rev. James Higgins
To the Editor:
Missing from your story on homosexual guest speakers in public school classrooms ("Lesbian Parents' School Visit Sparks a Clash of Cultures in Boise Suburb,'' Feb. 10, 1993) was any reference to the scientific study of Meridian, Idaho, parents' attitudes toward the high school curriculum, which was conducted by the University of Idaho immediately following the "incident'' related in your story.
This study gave parents an opportunity to voice their preferences of what should be taught at the high school. The results were given in an open meeting to school district officers and board members, the teachers' union, and the community groups cited in your story. The study's findings were also reported on the local news programs of the three major-network television stations, and in numerous newspapers and other publications. Results from the study have also been debated by Idaho legislators.
The study's findings did not show a "clash of cultures'' as your story indicates, but rather demonstrated parental concern that academic curricula be given priority over contemporary, philosophical, social issues during the precious and limited class time of the local high schools. The parents overwhelmingly stated that mathematics, English, science, history, and computer use should be given class-time preference over such issues as contemporary health concerns, alternative lifestyles, and multiculturalism.
We are disappointed that your story did not include this major university study conducted for the very purpose of helping the school district understand the desires of the community. We are also disappointed that you, more in the style of the sensation-seeking media, have made this an issue of academic freedom and homosexuality. As professors, we are extremely supportive of academic freedom. But this issue was purely one of curriculum--both as it is written, and as it is desired by district parents.
Michael E. Tomlin
Associate Professor of Educational
Professor of Adult Education
University of Idaho
To The Editor:
I have read with steadily increasing revulsion recent articles concerning homosexuality in both Education Week and the popular press. I can remain silent no longer.
Concerning the furor over the visit of three homosexual parents to the group of students in Meridian, Idaho, as reported in your Feb. 10, 1993 issue: This is no more "the death of academic freedom'' than would be the suspension of teachers who permitted an admitted murderer to speak to the students. Homosexuality is not a civil-rights issue; it is a morality issue. Homosexuality is not an "acceptable alternative lifestyle'' but is morally wrong. This is not "homophobia'' any more than a rejection of murder is "murderphobia'' or the rejection of rape is "rapephobia.''
The liberal humanist's rejection of "standards'' and "right and wrong'' over the last 30 years is the basis for most of the problems in American society today.
It is time (past time) for all right-thinking individuals to reject the liberal-humanist agenda and return to the one moral standard our parents and grandparents had. If America is to survive as a society, it will not be because the liberals and their "every situation must be decided on its own merits; there are no absolutes'' morality have completed their takeover of this country, but because those who believe in right and wrong and are willing to stand up and be counted have retaken the initiative.
Walter M. Clark
Moreno Valley, Calif.
To the Editor:
We are honored that you chose to mention the work of the University of Chicago in your Special Report "From Risk to Renewal'' (Feb.10, 1993).
I am writing to correct a small piece of information. The six-year grant from the Amoco Foundation that began the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project came to the university in October 1983, not in April 1985, as you indicated. In fact, the first work on the project had begun the previous month, in September 1983.
Professor of Education and
University of Chicago School
To the Editor:
A law of physical science states that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.'' A law of social science has yet to be written, but it would probably take note of the fact that today "you never know what the reaction is going to be'' when something happens involving humans.
California is full of good examples that could prove this law.
Eight months ago in Olivehurst, Calif., a young man who had failed to graduate from the Olivehurst high school four years earlier decided to pay back the "F'' given him in history. He returned to the school, killing four persons, including the "responsible'' teacher, and wounding 11 others.
Just weeks ago, a long-time outpatient of a Los Angeles university hospital returned to pay his regards to the hospital staff by shooting three doctors because the hospital "had failed to give good treatment'' to the avenger.
And, as I write this, the federal court in Los Angeles is trying to find a dozen or so unbiased citizens to undertake jury duty to determine whether four Los Angeles police officers did or did not perform acts beyond the call of duty in the beating of Rodney King. A decision by another jury had led many people in that city to believe that a "pay back'' of a couple hundred million dollars of destruction was fair return.
The physics teacher has it so easy, teaching natural law. For some reason, teachers in the fields of non-physical science have failed to get the right message across to their students. Too many have taught that all have the right to bear arms. Too many have taught that "punishment'' and crime do not necessarily bear a logical connection to one another. Too many have taught that some people are better than other people. Too many have taught that one is prepared to graduate to the outside world merely by sitting in a classroom for 12,960 hours.
It is time for a change.