Letters to the Editor
'Anti-Christian Bias'Shown in News, Essay
To the Editor:
As an educator and a journalist, I am deeply disappointed by George Kaplan's vague diatribe against the "religious right" (related story ). Who makes up the religious right? Is Mr. Kaplan beating up only the "arch-fundamentalists," or is he also striking a subtle blow at any parent who appeals to biblical principles? I am a politically conservative Chris-tiandoes that combination qualify me as a member of the religious right?
Mr. Kaplan's Commentary attacks a straw man with no supportive evidence beyond a reference to Albert J. Menendez's assessment of unstated Christian school texts. Teachers of history and communication will easily identify time-honored techniques of propaganda. What are the "basic texts" cited by Mr. Menendez in Visions of Reality? If they are used in private Christian schools, why do those books present a threat to public education? I would hope that discerning readers were struck with the irony of the author's accusation of "the most casual demon-ization of American secularism and democracy" followed by his comparison of the religious right with Communism. Welcome to an effective illustration of demonization.
An essay like Mr. Kaplan's simply drives a deeper wedge into the bridge of trust between homes and schools. The author condescendingly accuses "millions of decent Christian fundamentalists who care deeply about their children's upbringing" of being duped by a political power play. How much tolerance is shown when a particular belief is disenfranchised?
If diversity and intellectual freedom are indeed "ingrained qualities of national life," should not Christians also be allowed a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion?
Charles W. Johnson
Colorado Springs, Colo.
To the Editor:
I hope that I am not the only person who perceives your bias against Christians as unworthy of the self-styled "American Education's Newspaper of Record."
I have read with interest the many articles and numerous other references during the last several months, in which you refer to "Christians," the "Christian Coalition" and the "religious right." Invariably, the tone and thrust are designed to belittle the Christians and to encourage the anti-Christians' efforts to keep those nasty people away from the public schools.
Perhaps I missed something in my learning, but I thought (as a long-time teacher of United States history and government) that the parents of the children enrolled in a school district had a right--no, an obligation--to involve themselves in their local schools. There have been many groups of American parents who have joined together to advocate their special agendas through-out our history. Why are you singling out Christians for your alarm? Could it be for the reasons delineated by Stephen L. Carter in his The Culture of Disbelief, that Christians are O.K. as long as they don't get too visible and attempt to influence policy? Have we suffered through the same attitudes about women and African-Americans without learning anything?
There are groups of Christians--and others--who will alienate their fellow citizens for a host of reasons. But, Americans should never be afraid of Christians in our democratic, republican society. To suggest that because of who they are Christians have no right to advocate for their perspectives about how their children should be educated is constitutionally, intellectually, and morally repugnant to our system of grassroots governance. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Your unveiled sponsorship of anti-Christian attitudes and behavior does nothing to improve education. What it may serve to do is to discourage a large and responsible, family-oriented segment of our society into forgoing its troubling disagreements with the educational establishment and into removing its children altogether from the public schools--and from the public debate. Those actions would be tragic for public education and for our society.
With all its flaws, our public education system is uniquely suited to the often rancorous exchange of ideas and philosophies that concerned groups of Christian or Muslim or Buddhist parents can generate. After the smoke clears, the system is enriched by those ideas and philosophies, not damaged. In the midst, the children flourish. That reality is the genius of our style of governance and education--a genius you seem to have overlooked.
I would like to read in your publication articles that mine the rich lode of diversity within our communities; articles that acknowledge the variety of contributions, without being judgmental. I do not want to read alarmist diatribes--in the guise of news stories--designed to divide and dilute the quality of that richness.
Glen H. Scofield
Taking Over Texas Board:'It Was About Intolerance'
To The Editor:
The recent article "G.o.p. Gains Control of Texas School Board for the First Time Ever" (related story) did not truly identify who had gained control of the Texas state board of education. The religious right will now have the control of the board.
The entire campaign for the state board by the so-called g.o.p. candidates was very vicious. Distortions, inaccuracies, innuendoes, and lies would best describe the tactics used by the religious-right-backed candidates. This campaign reminded me of a statement by Adolf Hitler. Hitler stated, "In the size of the lie is always contained a certain factor of credulity, since the great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one."
This campaign was not about political issuesit was about intolerance. I take solace in the statement by John Arbuthnot (1667-1735): "All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies." This might apply to some individuals as well.
Broaddus Independent School District
Have Privatization Critic Read New Brookings Book
To the Editor:
In her Commentary, Judith S. Glazer proposes several methods to bring about change in the Hartford, Conn., school system (related story ). She appears to be using a paradigm that has failed in many other efforts to bring about significant reform in urban school districts. I suggest that she turn to the community in Hartford and ask the citizens themselves what changes are necessary to bring about significant change in the lives of the students.
I would speculate that after Ms. Glazer asked that question, she would receive many answers conceptually represented in a book discussed in the same edition of Education Week: Making Schools Work, by Eric A. Hanushek and his fellow writers, published by the Brookings Institution. They suggest a new paradigm by which reform should be evaluated.
Parenthetically, this latter paradigm is consistent with the approach that Education Alternatives Inc. and the Alliance for Schools That Work use in their approach to managing public schools in public-private partnerships. I strongly suggest that Ms. Glazer read this book, as should all readers who wish to significantly change how schools operate. It is not a question of whether to hire a for-profit company or not. Rather, it's a question of changing the basic paradigm around which schools are organized.
Robert E. Pohl
California State Coordinator
Education Alternatives Inc.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Election Shows UnionsOut of Touch With Citizenry
To the Editor:
The title of a Nov. 2, 1994, article--"Teachers' Unions Fighting Some Losing Battles in State Races"related storywas right on target for Pennsylvania, as well as for the nation as a whole.
In demonstrating just how out of touch they really are with voting citizens, Pennsylvania State Education Association (p.s.e.a.-n.e.a.) union officials joined the losing ranks of the National Education Association hierarchy nationwide when its candidates lost the governorship, the U.S. Senate race, and aggressive efforts to control the commonwealth's agenda by failing to take back the state Senate.
Like its parent n.e.a. union, the p.s.e.a. has shown itself to be motivated solely by the union's self-interest--not education's, not children's--by becoming a virtual affiliate of the Democratic Party even though its own membership declares itself to be made up of independent voters.
Even funded by an estimated $2 million annually from thousands of nonunion Pennsylvania educators who have had "agency shop" coercive fees seized from their paychecks and sent directly to union headquarters without their permission, the p.s.e.a.-n.e.a.'s efforts this year brought next to no return.
Nonetheless, this disgraceful use of in-kind, forced-dues politicking in direct opposition to the views of those teachers who are ambushed into financing this scheme is more obviously indefensible in a free nation.
In 1994, American voters have emphatically rejected the incessant drumbeat of the teachers' union hierarchy tapping out the cadence of monopolistic, anti-freedom, Big Brother candidates.
Teachers' union officials are exposed at long last. Their "perceived" political power is nothing more than the grandiose pretension of an aging emperor with no clothes. The question is, will politicians continue to permit themselves and their agendas to be driven by that perception?
Pennsylvanians for Right To Work Inc.
Support System A Given In Catholic Schools
To the Editor:
As I reflect upon the essay "Strong Up the Middle" (related story ), I am left with a feeling of gratitude for people like David Summergrad, the author, who has a real sense of the importance of middle-grades students' need for "skills and confidence to face the challenges of the future as well as a caring environment with a supportive organizational structure to help keep track of each child's academic and social achievements."
I am left with the question, however, as to whether or not students in grades 6, 7, and 8 need to be placed in a middle school in order to achieve the goals so clearly presented by Mr. Summergrad. Is a school limited to students in the middle grades the best environment for them? Is there as much support available to them as there is to students who remain in the same school from grades K through 8?
It seems to me that the caring environment and the support system are a given in the Catholic school system. I have been a part of the Catholic school system since I attended school myself and I have been teaching in the system for 25 years. Students in grades 6-8 are in the same school where they attended grades K-5. There is a strong community-support system for these students, perhaps when they need it the most. We strive to instill in them leadership qualities because they are the senior members of our school. They do not need to adjust to a new school and a whole new group of teachers that they have never seen before. Their major adjustments are learning how to cope with their growing pains and how to improve and apply life skills and study skills that will help them be the best persons they can be.
My experience with the K-8 system favors the continuance of K-8 schools specifically because of the support system. Our middle-grades students receive ongoing, on-site support. Teachers that they had in grades K-5 continue to express interest in them and call on them to help give service in their classrooms after school. Students choose faculty and staff members to serve as confirmation sponsors, and high school students return to give aid after school to their primary teachers.
"Social capital" has been cited as one of the keys to the success rate of the Catholic school system (James Coleman, 1987). In the Catholic-school setting, "social capital" is the close relationship between teachers and students that provides a natural support community for the development of youths.
Mr. Summergrad requests that we do no take our middle schools for granted. In addition, let's not take the Catholic school system for granted either.
Los Altos, Calif.