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To the Editor:

To paraphrase Santayana, may I say that those who are stupid enough to ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. William Berkson's Commentary about mastery learning ("Mastery Learning and 'Total Quality','' Commentary, March 24, 1993) passeth all understanding.

The ethics of Education Week in publishing an essay lauding such a commercial program is curious. Also, the educational incompetence of not only the author, but the superintendent of the Johnson City, N.Y., public schools, whom the story cites, is quite apparent.

It won't be long before both these educators learn, to their sorrow, as did Ruth Love and the Chicago Public Schools, that the only ones who do not benefit from mastery learning are the pupils subjected to it.

Jeannette Veatch
Professor Emerita
Arizona State University
Mesa, Ariz.

To the Editor:

My article last December on the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's report, "School Choice,'' included an error that should be corrected ("'School Choice': A Tragicomedy of Errors,'' Commentary, Dec. 9, 1993).

The article states that "the Milwaukee public schools are protected against the loss of state aid when pupils transfer to voucher schools.'' In fact, the state aid is deducted from the state aid to the Milwaukee Public Schools. The statement in the article that Milwaukee Public Schools has not changed its program to discourage transfers to voucher schools was and is accurate. These statements were and are valid, but one of the reasons given is not.

Myron Lieberman
Washington, D.C.

To The Editor:

As I read through Jean Schaeffer's "First, Do No Harm'' (Commentary, March 24, 1993), I found myself agreeing with every paragraph. Having been in elementary education for the past 16 years, I know of the dismal condition of science instruction throughout our schools.

Rarely does science hold an instructional slot of its own. More often than not, its instructional time period is shared with health. I am not suggesting that health is not important. Far from it. But what we must all recognize is the critical need to give science the importance it deserves in these early school years.

We must build on the natural curiosity each child brings to the classroom, not destroy it by simply reading about science. Children must experience the building blocks of science--observing, communicating, comparing, grouping, predicting, designing, and confirming--for the subject to have meaning. This requires using hands-on activities as the instructional method, period.

We must begin the task of demanding more science background of our future teachers. We must also begin providing appropriate in-service training to practicing teachers. We need to raise teachers' comfort level with science by delivering training in a non-threatening way. Most teachers have arrived at their current level of "uncomfort'' through no fault of their own--just as their pupils have.

As science becomes more and more of an integral part of our daily lives, we should embrace it, not retreat from it. Though our past may reflect poor science teaching, our future will demand that it be taught well--and often.

G. Joe Morgan
K-5 Curriculum/
Instruction Specialist
Genoa, Ohio

To the Editor:

I am writing about the language used in a page-one article in your Feb. 3, 1993, issue entitled "'The Spirit of Inclusivity''').

The subhead of that article read, "Minnesota Creates Athletics League for the Disabled.'' People with disabilities take offense at the use of the phrase "the disabled'' and would prefer to be recognized as "people with disabilities.'' The first usage--a label, really--places more emphasis on the disability; the second, on the fact that these are people first and that having a disability is only part of their lives.

In the article itself, the phrase "disabled students'' is used. The same language reasoning should apply here, too. They should be recognized as "students with disabilities.''

I realize that many may read these comments and think they are minor, but strong messages are conveyed through the use of language. Education Week devotes a lot of effort and sensitivity to these issues; I thought this information might be of value.

Matthew T. Ferry
St. Cloud, Minn.

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