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To the Editor:

While I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the generally positive press given to the New York City school system in your Dec. 1, 1993, front-page article on Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines, I would also like to give you another perspective on one portion of the article.

The article refers to the "restructuring'' of Andrew Jackson High School (the quotation marks are yours) and refers to that school as a failing school. Although you do mention that certain efforts were under way before Chancellor Cortines was in office, the impression left by your use of language is painful for the teachers, administrators, parents, and community leaders who have labored long and hard for the "restructuring.'' A Dec. 5, 1993, article in New York Newsday gives a very different perspective on the ongoing evolution of Andrew Jackson High School, one that credits the "excitement and sense of accomplishment'' of local residents over the opening of this new magnet school. It also notes incorrect news stories in the city's press that had disparaged the neighborhood and its school.

I hope that this information clarifies the situation for you and that you might apprise your readers of it.

Robert Haberski
Director of Instruction
Queens High Schools
Corona, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Elena Devos Binder's failure to land a permanent college-teaching job in a nonrural area certainly arouses compassion ("Close Your Eyes or Else,'' Commentary, Nov. 24, 1993). Somebody apparently once misled her into thinking that "paying her dues'' on the academic treadmill would guarantee her a nice spot on the academic gravy train.

The nonacademic public, which includes me, is increasingly disturbed by a system that exploits the oversupply of aspiring professors by getting them to do most of the teaching for little pay, while the tenured elite hogs all of the resources. The newest laws say the old folks who rarely teach can never even be forced to acknowledge they've retired and thus be removed from the payroll.

Maybe if the rewards of teaching were leveled out--and never included an alluring vision of perpetual, well-paid, and undemanding employment at the far end of the rainbow--we would see more and better teaching and a supply of applicants more in line with the demand.

Thomas P. Geyer
Morristown, N.J.

To the Editor:

As a volunteer on the campaign to defeat California's Proposition 174, I feel that your articles on school choice omitted important information ("Choice for the Long Haul'' and "Connecticut District Considers Vouchers as Alternative to More Classrooms,'' Nov. 17, 1993). The major questions in the issue of school choice are financial and educational, you say, yet, without an understanding on the religious backing for certain types of choice, one cannot realize how vouchers threaten American public education.

There are four major types of choice allowed in choosing schools (when any choice is available): A magnet-school program allows children with gifts in certain subjects to be educated above the standard grade level; parents may be allowed to choose from any school within their district; parents may be allowed to place their child in any public school in the state; or parents may receive vouchers to fund their child's education in a private school.

Magnet schools have proven to provide excellence in education in many public school districts around the country. Intradistrict and interdistrict school choice may have some benefits. In the Los Angeles area, where people routinely work 50 to 100 miles from their homes, the primary advantage would be convenience, being able to enroll a child in a school near one's workplace rather than near one's home.

Proposition 174 would have established the funding for a mass exodus from the public schools to the private schools. We do not know how many people would have chosen to take this opportunity. Initially, the analysis estimated the voucher would be worth up to $2,600. A non-scientific random telephone survey of private schools in the greater Los Angeles area suggested that this would not be sufficient to cover tuition at most schools. The exception was the majority of schools run by the Roman Catholic Church. Parents would have to make up the difference..

It is easy to see that the majority of the benefit would be financial assistance to parents whose children already attend private schools. It is one thing for the school district to pay a private school to provide space for children that district schools cannot accommodate; it is another to rob children in public schools for the benefit of parents of children in private schools.

The clear majority of financial backing for Proposition 174 came from fundamentalist groups and the Catholic church. (The article on proposed vouchers in Connecticut mentions that the leader of the Fairfield voucher campaign is a parochial-school parent and that parents from a closed Catholic school have joined the campaign.) These groups have a vested interest in supporting religious education and would benefit greatly from public assistance for private religious education. While the Catholic schools with which I am familiar provide excellent secular education and some religious training, there are a growing number of smaller schools whose curricula are tainted by an emphasis on religious thought.

These are the schools whose science programs include creationism and not evolution. These are the schools which teach that there are God-ordained differences between men and women and members of different races. These are the schools that teach skewed versions of history, and where the traditional tools of the literature class--Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Heller, Tolkien, and the Greek myths--are banned for theirbawdy "immoral'' content or their "pagan'' influence.

These schools do exist. One can see the entries of their students in the county science fairs, where display boards include "Hypothesis,'' "Experiment,'' "Conclusion,'' and "Biblical Reference.'' I have personally seen projects on cometary meteor showers as a source for manna and the Ark of the Covenant as a source for neutrino energy. Under Proposition 174, tax dollars, public funds, would have been made available for parents who wished their children educated in this manner.

The separation of church and state is a constitutional imperative, though not always, unfortunately, a societal truth. It is the duty of the public schools to educate the children of the land toward a good understanding of our current knowledge of science and mathematics, history and social studies, and literature and language. It is not their duty to provide religious instruction, nor to filter knowledge though a lens of religious thought; religious instruction belongs in the family home and in the family's place of worship.

Similarly, the funds that support public education, raised from taxpayers as a whole, people of many different religions and cultural experiences, should not be used to promote religious education or to emphasize one culture, one race, or one ethnic origin over another.

It is unfair to expect a child to deal with real-world issues in an increasingly technological society with the belief that scientific theories are atheistic hoaxes imposed upon good Christians. It is unfair to expect the public to cope with citizens with such an understanding of science. It is unfair to expect future generations to suffer the consequences of people so educated determining public policy on matters such as environmental protection and elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals. And it is unfair and unconstitutional to expect the public to pay to promote such education.

Lauren Eva Pomerantz
Resources Coordinator
California Space and Science Center
Los Angeles, Calif.

To the Editor:

Although there was little new--or true--in Frank Ec-cles's charge that powerful teachers' unions are a predictable and inevitable source of resistance to firing "even their most incompetent members'' ("Should Incompetent Teachers Be Protected?'' Commentary, Nov. 3, 1993), his use of the phrase "weeding out'' in reference to teachers is so repugnant to us that a response is not only appropriate, but required.

As educators and trade unionists, we are committed to enabling New York City teachers to take collective responsibility for maintaining high standards and strengthening performance. New York City's collaborative Peer Intervention Program--jointly run by the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City board of education--emphasizes nurturing and nourishing teachers, not "weeding [them] out.'' Our goal is to help teachers become more effective or, if this is not possible, to counsel and assist them in considering other career options.

This is accomplished through the efforts of experienced, veteran teachers, our peer interveners, who are specially trained in peer assistance and interpersonal skills. They use whatever strategies and resources are appropriate, including coaching, classroom demonstrations, and visits to other teachers' classrooms. This individualized professional-development program results in refining--or sometimes, redefining--participating teachers' professional goals. After participating in the program, many teachers who previously experienced difficulties receive satisfactory ratings from their principals. Still others are making valuable contributions to the school system outside of the classroom.

Now in its sixth year, the Peer Intervention Program, proposed by the U.F.T., has become an ongoing part of our contract with the board of education. Although it is currently limited in size, we eagerly look forward to expanding it. In such a fertile atmosphere, marked by commitment to helping teachers discover ways of addressing their problems, the garden of new educational "plants'' to which Mr. Eccles refers (cooperative education, the use of technology, and so forth) will be more likely to grow and flourish.

This is quite different from inciting principals to get rid of those whom they perceive as harmful or superfluous--after all, isn't that what "weeding out'' means?--in accordance with the "tail of the bell curve'' and the grayness of their hair, as Mr. Eccles suggests. Further, with regard to his justifying the possibility that this "weeding out'' process might result in unfair employment practices (from which, he feels, teachers need not be "insulated''), Mr. Eccles has chosen to ignore education and labor laws, which in New York, anyway, require due process and fair representation. The union, which has no license to ignore the law, must assure due process for all members, a far cry from "protecting incompetent teachers.''

Clare Cohen
Alfred Weiss
Assistant Coordinator
Peer Intervention Program
New York, N.Y.

To the Editor:

The Commentary by Frank Eccles brings to the forefront a growing problem facing the public schools of our nation. As these institutions struggle to keep afloat fiscally, the burden of "minimalists'' (a euphemism for incompetents) has insidious ramifications for the system as we know it.

In an era when many of the most recognized and profitable corporations are reorganizing to keep costs in line with the changing forces in business, teachers' unions would do well to become proactive in the drive to rid the system of this unsavory lot. Businesses are taking the painful steps to downsize the workforce in the face of changing technologies and production automation. (Remember when railroads had to do away with firemen?) These measures have become necessary in order to compete in the 21st century.

The "minimalists'' have always been included in the ranks of our public school faculties, carried on the backs of those not in the extreme low end of the "bell curve.'' It is up to the hard-working majority of the teaching profession to clean its own house, lest the task be left to outsiders who could be more likely to make errors of judgment.

Although our children will be immediately helped by removing the "deadwood'' from our schools, the beneficiaries of this needed culling extend far beyond the classroom into the very heart of American society. We can no longer ignore this problem. Until this situation is rectified, our system is in jeopardy.

John F. Thomson
Director of Mathematics
Educational Teaching Aids
Rochester, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Walter Annenberg, save your money.

In Education Week's story, "Annenberg Mulls Large-Scale Gift To Support School Reform'' (Nov. 3, 1993), we learn that you will give millions for various education-improvement measures. I have witnessed, participated in, and taught about such measures going back to the 1950's. They include the accountability movement, competency-based education, busing, comprehensive high schools, nongraded schools, compensatory education, differentiated staffing, team teaching, flexible scheduling, individualized instruction, inquiry and problem-solving, media and technology, pupil-team learning, national assessment, programmed learning, vouchers, year-round schools, drug-abuse prevention, and so on.

Most of the measures or improvements were well intentioned, short-lived, and often not remembered. It seems clear that we have not lacked for educational ideas or improvement efforts.

Given the relatively disappointing history of educational-improvement measures, it may be that, inpart, we have been targeting the wrong things. Given conditions in the United States today, why not target parents, students, and teachers? How about awards (rewards) to: parents who overcome great difficulty to insure their children's school success, students who succeed despite major difficulties, and teachers who make extraordinary commitments to children at risk of school failure.

Donald R. Cruickshank
Professor Emeritus
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

To the Editor:

Please note that your story of Dec. 15, 1993, entitled "Massachusetts Approves Bill Outlawing Bias Against Gay Students'' is incorrect when it asserts that Massachusetts is the first state "to attempt by statute to safeguard students from harassment ... as a result of their sexual orientation.''

The Wisconsin legislature adopted a pupil nondiscrimination statute, s. 118.13, Wis. Stats., in July 1985, that protects students in the state's public schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation, among other bases. The state promulgated administrative code in 1986, PI 9, which defines discrimination as "including bias, stereotyping, and harassment.''

The statute requires that every public school district adopt and disseminate a policy prohibiting such discrimination, designate an employee to receive complaints, adopt and disseminate a complaint procedure, and evaluate progress in complying with this statute, every five years. Residents of a district or aggrieved persons may file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. If the complainant receives a "negative determination'' by the school board of the complaint, he or she may appeal the decision to the state superintendent.

Melissa Keyes
Sex Equity Program
Equity and Multicultural Education Section
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Madison, Wis.

To the Editor:

This letter is a response to the article in your Nov. 24, 1993, edition entitled "Panel Takes N.Y. Regents, Schools Chief to Task.''

I was not present at the State Senate hearing in Albany, N.Y., on Nov. 16 (because of a schedule conflict), but I have been told that the points I will make in this letter were not emphasized at the hearing.

My response is focused on three factors essential to any discussion of the role and responsibilities of the New York Board of Regents: (1) Its unique structure; (2) Its constitutional duty to shelter educational policymaking from partisan politics; and (3) Its history of effective leadership.

  • Of all the educational systems in the United States, New York's has the most distinctive structure. Since 1784, when the state legislature created the board of regents of the University of the State of New York, a very unified policymaking and oversight system has been in place. Since the university absorbed the department of public instruction in 1904, the system has become more inclusive.

Today the state education department, under the aegis of the board of regents, sets policy for all public and private education in New York and charters colleges, universities, libraries, museums, and historical societies. It also licenses and regulates 37 professions and oversees rehabilitation and training programs for the disabled.

As president of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 1979-80, I was privileged to attend state-board conferences and meet state and local board members across the nation. While respecting their great commitment, I am convinced that New York's structure encourages more coordination and assures less duplication of services within its broad spectrum of responsibilities than do the policymaking and oversight structures in other states.

  • Unlike state-board members in 45 states and territories who are appointed by governors or run in partisan elections, New York's regents are selected for five-year terms by both houses of the legislature. Neither the governor nor political-party leaders are directly involved in the process. Twelve regents represent judicial districts across the state, and four function at large.

During the selection process, applicants are interviewed by committees in both legislative houses; and support from education groups at state and local levels is helpful.But political and constituent ties are much less important than demonstrated commitment to high-performing schools.

As noted by Alexander Hamilton (an early member of the board), New York's structure shelters the education-policymaking and -oversight process from partisan, day-to-day politicking. One inevitable result, however, is some tension between the regents and the governor and party leaders--an obstacle which can and should be overcome by more frequent communication.

  • The history of educational, cultural, and professional achievements in New York over the last two centuries has been very positive. Principal credit belongs to the various organizations' leaders and "workers in the vineyards.'' But the continuing vision and commitment of the board of regents have contributed to the cause.

In the 19th century, New York's statewide curricula and examinations set high standards which elementary and secondary schools in other states have followed. In this century, as the regents were given added responsibilities for postsecondary institutions, libraries, museums, archives, the licensed professions, and, most recently, education and training of disabled individuals, New York has continued to be among the nation's leaders. In the last l0 years, the regents have concentrated on those restructuring and reform initiatives needed to prepare people of all ages for the 21st century. Along with a continuous decline in school dropouts statewide, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of students graduating from high school and entering college.

This is not to say that New York or its board of regents have all the answers. We acknowledge that we do not; however, we are prepared to share our successes and learn from our failures.

Emlyn I. Griffith
Regent, New York Board of Regents
Rome, N.Y.

To the Editor:

In two recent issues we have had to read about teachers who have sexually abused children or advocated pedophilia ("A Trust Betrayed,'' On Assignment, Nov. 17, 1993, and "Teacher's Advocacy of Pedophilia Raises Legal Questions,'' Dec. 1, 1993). The coverage has been significant in that you have given these people national coverage and notoriety. In many years past this would have been punishment in itself, but today it may very well fill their pockets with dollars. I can see Eliot Wigginton on "Donahue'' now, with Peter Melzer waiting in the wings.

To make matters worse, at least one of the teachers had earned quite a name for himself. I do not believe that you have an obligation to "inform the readers'' of the actions of these two men. How many teachers out there, doing selfless things for children, could not get recognition in your paper because what they were doing was not sensational? Rather, you choose to compete with the tabloids.

One paragraph for these bums is plenty. How about a follow-up on the lasting image that education has received as a result of the actions of the three individuals--Mr. Melzer, Mr. Wigginton, and you.

James V. Parker Jr.
Pelham City Public Schools
Pelham, Ga.

To the Editor:

I am returning the article "A Trust Betrayed'' so that you will be aware of my sentiments on this type of reporting. I purchase Education Week to obtain new, factual, updated information relevant to the educational process.

This long personal history is old, old, old. The names may be different, but the message is the same boring stuff polluting local media.

If you continue to send me "ancient history,'' I'll cancel both of my subscriptions. I have one sent to my home and one sent to the school office. Our staff members have no time for this type of rerun. Teachers threw it aside.

Beverly M. Stroll
Zion Lutheran Church and School
Akron, Ohio

To the Editor:

In "A Trust Betrayed,'' Eliot Wigginton is portrayed as a man searching for his future. I would like to suggest that his future may lie in finding out how he came to abuse the children in his care and offering society his insight as a recovering offender. As it stands now, he has very little insight into the phenomenon, waving uncomfortable issues away with his hand.

Mr. Wigginton has obviously served time, but not been offered any treatment for his illness. If he had, he might not say so easily that "kids are like oxygen,'' evidence to me that he may want to breathe them in--thinking that leads to objectifying them and risks their harm. He needs to participate in a relapse-prevention program, one which will teach him to see dangerous thought patterns. (A call to (802) 247-3132 would provide him a referral to a sex-offender treatment program.)

The group STOP IT NOW! has been established to get messages out to sex offenders to encourage them to call a hot line for help and referral. We know this is a hard issue for society to digest, but the larger community must help in the solution to the problem of sexual abuse of children. The Foxfire organization and his friends would do well to help Mr. Wigginton understand his disease and get help so that he can get free of this problem.

And the victims deserve help with the confusing and profound harm caused when their trust was ripped apart.

Fran Henry
Haydenville, Mass.

To the Editor:

As a charter subscriber, I have followed your publication with considerable interest. I have found it to demonstrate consistently high standards of scholarship and fairness in presenting issues current in the field. Through reading it, I have been able to remain professionally informed and been encouraged in the pursuit of excellence.

Your story on Eliot Wigginton, therefore, was a major disappointment. I was appalled that you chose to "honor'' a convicted child molester with such extensive coverage. The teaching profession has enough exceptional members whose records remain untarnished with crimes against students to provide ample material for feature stories of interest.

I fail to understand the purpose of featuring Mr. Wigginton--if it was to recognize his former accomplishments, you could have done so without a lengthy feature presentation. He made a terrible choice, and if it has cost him the joy of teaching, I may have compassion for him but I do not want him honored as if he were somehow exempted from the consequences of that choice.

If your purpose was to recognize the ongoing success of the Foxfire movement despite its founder's disgrace, then your choice of picture on your cover and the story's emphasis were poorly placed.

I encourage you to maintain your high standards of journalism in highlighting excellence in education and keeping the members of our profession informed.

Judith B. Munday
Chairman, Resource Department
Western Branch Middle School
Chesapeake, Va.

To the Editor:

That Chapter 1 fails to spur gains ("Chapter 1 Fails To Spur Gains, Data Indicate,'' Nov. 24, 1993) should not come as a surprise to school administrators. The search for causes to this failure will round up the usual sus-pects--poverty, single-parent homes, limited English proficiency. They are all culpable, to a degree.

There are, however, some other factors that are not so obvious. They include the system of designating "special needs'' students and the bureaucratic codification of program development that underlies federally mandated programs. This phenomenon of designating failures limits the range of solutions and the possibilities for seriously restructuring this area. It is an old paradigm based on the traditional role of sorting and labeling students. Its premise is, if I sort them better they can get better instruction. It is clearly wrong.

Research has shown that there are specific programs that work with slowly progressing reading students, but they are expensive and not widely disseminated. They include Reading Recovery and Higher Order Thinking Skills. Unfortunately, it becomes difficult to channel funds into those areas because schools must have specialists covering all designated Chapter 1 students.

As a result, Chapter 1 students get educated at their level for a brief portion of the day, then frequently go into a class situation where they are unlikely to succeed. There is also little time devoted specifically to "stretching'' those students' abilities. Chapter 1 instruction is usually at the basic-needs level. Frequently missing are stimulating higher-order challenges that would be relevant to their background. High-quality student work and accelerated achievement cannot prevail in this model.

William Glasser has said students will do things that are of value to them. Our reading curriculum and instructions are usually highly irrelevant to the lives of our poorer students, a point that was brought home to me when I visited a primary classroom and saw a Chapter 1 student's drawing of a drag racer. I am certain that none of our reading materials aligned themselves with the reality of his life.

The entire area of federally mandated programs needs to be reconceptualized. Deregulation, emphasis on exemplary programs that serve as models for educating diverse populations, the innovative use of technology, and intensive staff training should be emphasized in future funding. There must be a paradigm shift at the federal level if we are to see significant gains for our students. Monitoring and regulations need to be replaced by support structures.

Barnett Sturm
Assistant Superintendent of Schools
New Paltz Central School District
New Paltz, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Ruth Mitchell starts her Dec. 15, 1993, Commentary, "Write Where It Belongs,'' with the statement, "The English/language-arts curriculum has got lost.'' She contends that the present trend toward configuring "writing and reading'' programs is a disservice to the teaching of writing outside of a context. Before contending that removing the name "English'' from the curriculum and restoring the central subject matter of the discipline by entitling it "literature,'' maybe Ms. Mitchell ought to investigate what is really meant by "language arts.''

Writing and reading are only two of the language arts. She seems to omit the speaking and listening components entirely in her attempt to rethink the language-arts curriculum.

Research shows that people spend 75 percent of their day engaged in communication, with 46 percent of that time devoted to listening and 30 percent to speaking. At present, the absence of formal communication training is adversely and profoundly affecting students' abilities to function as effective communicators. Twenty-five percent of the nation's young people cannot adequately communicate orally. Almost 63 percent of young people cannot give clear oral directions. About 20 percent of the children in any given school exhibit high levels of communication apprehension in most speaking situations. The apprehension level of those who fear speaking in public is estimated at 50 percent to 70 percent. Many teachers assume that a student talking in class, or reading aloud, constitutes oral-communication teaching.

The fact that the child has the ability to speak does not equate to the child's having the ability to competently use effective communication strategies, such as being able to selectively choose appropriate language, organize and present ideas, critically listen and evaluate messages, and process the information received.

If we are to enhance the child's use of effective oral communication, schools must adjust their focus from teaching communication mainly as a reading/writing skill to accepting the responsibility for instructing in oral communication, including both speaking and listening.

It must be understood that written and oral language are not the same, and that speaking/listening and writing are not the same skills. Yes, Ruth Mitchell, "writing is a sad story''; but, maybe more importantly, ignoring speaking and listening as important aspects of language arts is even sadder.

Roy Berko
Associate Director
Speech Communication Foundation
Annandale, Va.

To the Editor:

Robert Kubey expresses the same kind of blind fear of the advertising component of Channel One that I hear from parents and teachers who appear oblivious to the great educational potential of these ads ("Whittling the School Day Away,'' Commentary, Dec. 1, 1993). It is astonishing, nonetheless, to find that Mr. Kubey, who "has just completed a study of media education,'' also seems so thoughtless and amateurish in this respect.

Channel One actually offers a unique opportunity to educate students to become informed consumers. Through regular, systematic analyses of its ads, students can be taught how to reject misleading, dangerous, or distasteful ads, and how to dissect those with purposely hidden symbolic messages. Students thus can become aware of the psychological ploys and manipulations that ads use to influence buyers' options. What better training is there of the enlightened self-interest of citizens in a capitalistic economy?

Gerald Graff proposes well the need for the careful study of ads in school in Beyond the Culture Wars. As he sagely concludes: "How something supposedly so mindless and degraded as ads could have become a powerful force in our lives cries out for investigation''--particularly by young, vulnerable people.

Patrick Groff
Professor Emeritus
San Diego State University
San Diego, Calif.

To the Editor:

Robert Kubey's Commentary ("Whittling the School Day Away,'' Commentary, Dec. 1, 1993) only scratches the surface of the concerns many parents and P.T.A. members have about Channel One.

The issue of having over one school day a year spent watching commercials pales when one considers that watching 10 more minutes of "news'' and "greetings, quizzes, and feature stories'' adds up to another six entire school days spent passively watching whatever Channel One decides to put in its programming. This calculation is based on my state's requirement of an instructional day of at least 300 minutes.

Six days? Really almost 7 days when you combine the time watching Channel One's programming and commercials. In the average 180 class days per year, that is over 4 percent of available instructional time.

Seven and a half days--that the public pays the costs for buildings, teachers, and other expenses associated with providing an education. The dollar figures are staggering--just ask any school board what it would cost to add that many days to their instructional year.

Seven and a half days--paying a professional instructor to stand aside while students watch the TV.

Seven and a half days--what teacher worth his or her salt wouldn't be able to provide amazing amounts of instructional opportunities in that many extra days of class time?

Seven and a half days--during which a school board and the professional educators of that district have abdicated their responsibility to establish, design, and implement a curriculum that will assure that students have the knowledge and skills necessary to achieving their future goals.

Seven and a half days during which some commercial entity is controlling the education of a very large segment of our teenage population. Here we are, having long and serious discussions about whether voluntary national standards might lead to a national curriculum, and thousands of schools have already allowed Channel One to use 12 minutes a day--7 school days--to teach a captive audience of our teenagers anything it decides to put on the air. Whose national curriculum is that?

Wake up, parents and educators, and take back control of the precious learning time our students have in school. They have much to learn, and we, through our states and school boards--not Channel One--should be deciding what it is important for them to be spending their time studying.

We cannot afford to sell our children's futures for any price--and certainly not for the price of a TV set!

Gretchen McDowell
Past President
Illinois P.T.A.
Chicago, Ill.

To the Editor:

This is in response to Paul Hain's letter (Dec. 15, 1993) accusing the U.S. Supreme Court of "blind bias'' against the public schools in the Florence County Schools v. Carter case.

Mr. Hain is showing his acceptance of the 'blind bias' of the public education bureaucracy against any public or parental response to its blind bias about the right way--or whether there is a right way--to teach reading of an alphabetic language such as English. I called the private school in that case, and was told that their reading program was "multi-sensory Orton-Gillingham,'' which educators know as a phonetic--not a whole-word or "whole language'' method.

It seems that everybody--except educators--knows that the right way to teach beginning reading is by alphabetic principles. That's why people are spending $100 million a year on the commercially marketed "Hooked on Phonics'' program and other similar ones. It is also why families are deciding on home schooling in droves to fill the intellectual void created by the blind bias of the public education bureaucracy.

Mr. Hain bemoans all the "regulatory baggage'' laid on the public schools, ignoring the fact that most such baggage was requested by elements of the public education bureaucracy to cover its own derriƁere against complaints about children not learning to read. They set up the regulatory nightmare around the charade of the "learning disability'' nondefinition. There's nothing to stop public schools from teaching reading by research-proven ways--they're actually cheaper, in dollars and in lives.

I suspect Mr. Hain's empire in special education benefits from the blind bias of those "special-education regulations'' in using nonvalid tests to label children "learning disabled,'' therefore shifting the blame onto the victims, as was eloquently described in David Krantz's open letter published in your June 23, 1993, issue ("Separate Is Not Equal,'' Commentary).

Open your eyes, Mr. Hain; look in your mirror for blind bias. I say the Supreme Court really let the people win one for a change.

Charles M. Richardson
Huntington Station, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Your brief news item entitled "Group Alleges Discrimination'' (News Roundup, Dec. 15, 1993) fails to address a key point regarding the claim of discrimination by the Chelsea Commission on Hispanic Affairs, a private advocacy group.

Boston University administers the Chelsea, Mass., public schools. Boston University has neither jurisdiction nor control over the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School, where discrimination is alleged to have occurred. Boston University does not have any power to choose which students are accepted by the vocational school.

Boston University should not have been named in the discrimination complaint. We will vigorously contest any claims to the contrary.

Michelle Cooley
Media-Relations Associate
Boston University
Boston, Mass.

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