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To the Editor:

Lewis Perelman's message in School's Out is much bolder and deeper than the three excerpts you selected ("Nurturing the 'Hunger for Know-How,''' Commentary, March 3, 1993). Development of know-how over a life span, on-the-job learning, and total quality management are important, but are minor elements of this high-impact book.

Mr. Perelman has built a strong case for "hyperlearning'' as a total replacement for conventional education. He is talking about the car replacing the horse, not just breeding a slightly better horse. Technology-based hyperlearning is on a rapid growth path, while classroom learning processes with their 93 percent labor costs become steadily more expensive.

Mr. Perelman boldly describes how overeducation becomes a "Solid Gold Life Jacket,'' effective schools are a myth, educational goals continue to be a fiasco, school choice is a diversion, "new American schools'' are a charade, and current reform efforts are pseudo-innovation. These gauntlets are laid with a strong foundation of facts. Innovation is impossible in the $400 billion education business when R&D investment per worker is less than $50 and R&D also is less than 0.1 percent of revenues. Capital investment per worker is less than $1,000. Average businesses invest 10 times more than that, and for high-tech businesses the figure is over 100 times higher.

Mr. Perelman's action steps may raise controversy in education, but are a normal way of life for innovative business and governmental agencies. He advocates outlawing credentialism for all hiring and bypassing the established bureaucracies through distance and technology-delivered learning. Privatization should be the primary goal of restructuring education's socialistic economy, he says, and we should capitalize by investing 3 percent to 5 percent of annual expenditures ($8 billion to $20 billion) in R&D, innovation, and commercialization of the hyperlearning systems suitable for a knowledge-age economy.

A National Institutes of Learning would be created with a size comparable to the National Institutes of Health. The N.I.H. has a $9 billion R&D budget. The U.S. Education Department only spends a few million dollars on advanced learning technology. Finally, he suggests, we should replace education colleges with Institutes for Learning that focus on research and on-the-job training for technology-based learning facilitators.

Lewis Perelman's book reframes the debate on education and develops a new paradigm to address the opportunity presented by the knowledge age. It is much more than your "safe'' excerpts suggest. I believe it will become one of the "required reading'' books of this decade for entrepreneurial business leaders, and, one would hope, for our professional educators.

Theodore C. Kraver
President
Learning/Research
Enterprise Inc.
Phoenix, Ariz.

To the Editor:

In his recent Commentary, David N. Perkins urges us to bring thinking and knowledge together in a much more thoroughgoing way ("Creating the Metacurriculum,'' Commentary, Feb. 24, 1993). He even suggests that this merging is a good definition of understanding.

He proposes a "metacurriculum'' in which students explicitly learn the contrasting patterns of justification in the disciplines, in which there are integrative mental models, and students are taught for transfer. He wants students to learn the higher-order aspects of a discipline.

These are grand ideas, but not new. Mr. Perkins himself concedes that Plato, John Dewey, and Jerome Bruner would all be comfortable with his thesis. The critical question to ask then is why such laudable efforts fail?

I wonder, for example, how well the liberal-arts portion of my education has allowed me to appreciate a metacurriculum? It should be the foundation for my ability to help students learn in the way Mr. Perkins envisions. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards proposition two states, in fact, that "teachers in command of their subject understand its substance--factual information as well as its central organizing concepts--and the ways in which new knowledge is created, including the forms of creative investigation that characterize the work of scholars and artists.''

"Proficient teachers,'' the board continues, "appreciate the fundamental role played by disciplinary thinking in developing rich, conceptual subject-matter understandings.''

This command of subjects would be desirable and necessary to teach the metacurriculum. But I am afraid we have learned more frequently in the manner described by Arnold Arons, professor emeritus at the University of Washington. "We professors proceed through these materials at a pace that precludes effective learning for understanding,'' he has written. "In other words, students do not have the opportunity to develop habits of critical thinking ... and they acquire the misapprehension that knowledge resides in memorized assertions, esoteric technical terminology, and regurgitation of received facts.''

Since coming across Professor Arons's observation several years ago, I have found countless colleagues who agree that our educations have been very much as he described--and obviously out of sync with the teaching called for by national boards or by David Perkins.

If schools are going to have a "value added'' function, we need a new core technology of teaching and learning. Mr. Perkins calls this the metacurriculum. But first, we are in desperate need of rigorous adult learning experiences in the disciplines for teachers and administrators.

Randolph J. Schenkat
Director
Winona Council for Quality
Winona, Minn.

To the Editor:

We were delighted to see your story on the Bravo! Bravo! Opera Company of Bloomington, Ind., ("Hitting a High Note,'' Across the Nation, Feb. 17, 1993). We are writing to clarify the genesis of this opera project at Childs Elementary School.

Both teachers mentioned in your article attended "Creating Original Opera,'' a program developed by the Metropolitan Opera Guild Education Department. This intensive workshop series devotes over 40 hours to training teachers to help students create, produce, and perform their own original opera. It stresses hands-on, multidisciplinary learning, as well as cooperative problem-solving and individual responsibility.

After implementation in the classroom, teachers consistently report that the program changes the way children learn and the way that they teach.

To date, over 678 general-classroom and music teachers from over 332 elementary schools in 34 states have attended these workshops. Schools are selected through an application process. We encourage those interested in "Creating Original Opera'' to contact: Education Department, Metropolitan Opera Guild Inc., 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York 10023-6593; (212) 769-7000; Fax: (212) 769-7007.

JoAnn Menashe Forman
Director of Education
Metropolitan Opera Guild Inc.
New York, N.Y.

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