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On California Education Laws: Critics Deal in Exaggerations

To the Editor:

The front page of your Feb. 8, 1995, edition contains an article about efforts in a number of states to reduce the regulatory burden on education by reducing, replacing, or repealing education codes ("States Take Aim at Regulatory Beast: School Codes"). That article contains three errors of fact in regards to California that I would like to bring to your attention.

First, the article states that in California "the school code consumes 11 of the state's 28 volumes of law." West's education code does, indeed, take up 11 bound volumes. Those volumes include not only the statutes but also the legislative history and summaries of case law related to those statutes.

However, the rest of West's bound codes for California laws comprise not the 17 additional volumes your article suggests, but rather an additional 176 volumes. And that doesn't even include the indexes. California's government code is 17 volumes, the code of civil procedure is 16 volumes, the penal code is 10 volumes, and even the water code is nine bound volumes. West's paperbound version of the California education code--which contains only the statutes themselves--is a single volume.

Second, the article quotes Gov. Pete Wilson's remark from his recent State of the State speech in which the Governor asserted that the education code's pages "have prescribed everything from how many electrical sockets must be in each classroom to how many fruit trees can be on a school campus." While these alleged examples of regulatory excess make great sound bites, they are simply not true. California's education code contains neither of those provisions, nor anything close to them. The Governor's staff needs to do a little remedial work in legislative research.

Finally, the article quotes Maurice Ross, assistant dean of education of the University of Southern California, who apparently said that in California "lawmakers introduce some 2,000 education bills each legislative session." U.S.C. is fortunate that Mr. Ross is in the school of education rather than the mathematics department. Of the nearly 6,000 bills introduced during the 1993-94 legislative session, 635 bills proposed to add, amend, or repeal provisions of the education code. And while the number of such bills will vary from session to session, 625 is quite typical.

There are certainly a great many laws on the books in California that relate to public education. Some of those laws may well be outdated or may unreasonably restrict school districts in their ability to provide quality education to the children they serve. But the above exaggerations and inaccuracies do a disservice to a state legislature that has been trying to improve the quality of public education in the nation's largest, most complex, and most diverse state.

Richard Simpson
Staff Director
California Senate Committee on Education
Sacramento, Calif.

'Disgust' for Rodeo Story's Glorification of Cruelty

To the Editor:

The front-page photograph, caption, and article praising rodeos ("The Young Riders," On Assignment, Jan. 18, 1995) totally disgusted me as an educator and as a caring person living in a frightening country.

"There is an event in this country portrayed as wholesome family entertainment and sponsored by large companies such as Wrangler, Continental Airlines, Ford Motor Company, I.B.M., Eastman Kodak, and others. This so-called sport involves harming and tormenting animals for entertainment. This spectacle is called rodeo and it is anything but wholesome.

"A great discrepancy exists between the realities of rodeo and its desired image. Rodeo is brutal and unmerciful, and its inherent cruelty resonates throughout its varied aspects.

"Rodeo embodies the domination of man over beast. Animals are roped, jerked off their feet, and forced into submission for the amusement of spectators. It is the conviction of the Humane Society of the United States that as the general public becomes more aware of the pain and trauma rodeo animals face, 'entertainment' that trivializes animals and dehumanizes us as a species will cease to be acceptable."

This quote is taken from the Winter 1994 edition of the Humane Society of the United States publication, the H.S.U.S. News.

I have been in education for 26 years and am a candidate for a doctorate. In my opinion, your newspaper needs to evaluate its standards.

Elizabeth A. Knowles
Tamarac, Fla.

Exposing the 'Vacuousness' Of Certain Education Gospel

To the Editor:

Chester E. Finn Jr.'s Commentary ("The Real Clinton Education Policy," Jan. 25, 1995) does more to support Gerald W. Bracey's argument ("The Right's Data-Proof Ideologues") than anything Mr. Bracey could have written.

Mr. Finn and his colleagues have been getting away with repeating their views as if they were the gospel for over a decade now. I am sure that the intention was not to expose the vacuous assertions of the Chester Finns of education, but the juxtaposition of Commentaries did just that.

A. Harry Passow
Professor Emeritus of Education
Teachers College
Columbia University
New York, N.Y

Praise for the Feature Story 'In Search of John Dewey'

To the Editor:

The recent piece "In Search of John Dewey" (On Assignment, Feb.1, 1995) is one of the best readings in the "educational literature" I have seen in 20 years.

Keep the good stuff coming.

Sam P. Sentelle
Superintendent
Putnam County Schools
Winfield, W. Va.

To the Editor:

Your article, "In Search of John Dewey," was a masterful piece evaluating Dewey's efforts at education reform. As a Christian-school educator, I have certainly heard many of my peers cast John Dewey in a very negative light. And although I do not agree with his world view, I certainly can appreciate Dewey's basic premise of knowing the child one seeks to educate. My appreciation to you for your objective writing.

Jim F. Leach
Headmaster
Kaufman Christian School
Kaufman, Tex.

Thoughts on Self-Esteem From Vermont Constitution

To the Editor:

When William Damon points out in his book Greater Expectations that "self-esteem is not a virtue that can be directly transmitted through abstract injunctions" (Books, Feb. 15, 1995), it reminds me of the religious rights vehemently defended in the 1797 Vermont Constitution.

The protectors of the state constitution observed that "it is impossible in the nature of things that one person can be profited intellectually by a conveyance to him of another person's right of thinking," or you might say, "of another person's correct thoughts."

Like self-esteem, the young cannot be compelled to embrace piety.

Henry Bissex
Montpelier, Vt.

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