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More on Sports Culture: Can Psychology Help?

To the Editor:

Thank you, thank you, Henry Cotton, for articulating in your Commentary what some educators have been observing for a long time ("Neglecting the Obvious: How Schools Are Abetting the Rise of Our Sports-and-Entertainment Culture," Dec. 13 1995).

In some 25 years in the field, I have yet to see the first parent remove from the school sports team, even for two lousy weeks, a child who is failing one or more subjects. "Oh, no, I can't do that," is the parent's inevitable response, "Johnny's whole life is football (or basketball, or wrestling, etc.)." And whole life it is, as every sport has become a virtually 12-month-per-year enterprise.

Harvey Bollich
Lafayette, La.

To the Editor:

There is a greater need for sanity in sports than ever before.

What kind of world are we living in when the greatest professional football coach of all time, the Miami Dolphins' Don Shula, is mercilessly dragged to his knees by the amnesiac and ungrateful South Florida media, when every collegiate football champion is embroiled in some scandal, and when "me first" athletes provide the only role models for future generations?

There is still hope. This is life in 1996--a life that could be vastly improved by clinical sports psychologists refocusing us all.

John F. Murray
Gainesville, Fla.

'Local School' Commentary Correct, But Answerless

To the Editor:

Professors of education Paul Hill, James Guthrie, and Larry Pierce ably identified fundamental reasons why public school reform so far largely has failed. In "Whatever Happened to the Local School?" (Commentary, Jan. 10 1996) they rightly note that unless decisionmaking, spending, and accountability become the prerogatives and responsibilities of individual schools, there likely will be no improvement in students' academic achievement and civic deportment.

This trio of professors leaves us frustrated, however, since they offer no explicit solutions as to how to establish such empowerment for individual schools. All we are told in this respect is that "vouchers are not the solution," even though to date there has been no adequate experimental examination made of vouchers' effect on individual school empowerment. Vouchers are guilty of "jeopardizing the needs of the broader society," the three professors then blithely continue, leaving the false impression that there is experimental evidence that confirms this dubious generalization.

In light of the shortcomings of the Commentary, we frustrated readers suggest that you no longer publish Commentary pieces in which authors (1) delineate school problems but offer no resolutions for them, and/or (2) reject out of hand certain solutions for such problems simply because they are held to be ideologically offensive.

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

NEA Ad: A Little Pinocchio Goes a Long, Long Way

To the Editor:

Pinocchio may have moved to the National Education Association.

If Keith Geiger, the president of the NEA, is taken at face value in his paid advertisement of Jan. 10, 1996 ("Pinocchio Goes to School: Education Fibs Fail the Nose Test"), we might as well forget about Jonathan Kozol's reports in Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace. Certainly, we don't need to be too concerned about restructuring schools. They're OK as they are! Effects of organizational structure and behavior on how teachers relate to each other, students, parents, administrators pose no problems. Certainly, we can dispose of any efforts to improve the professional preparation of educators.

It seems more insidious to neglect a balanced view which may represent some improvements in some schools in some communities. Mr. Geiger seems to be "reacting" as a revisionist rather than "leading" in making the distinction between "change" and "improvement." Who really benefits?

People with a cold in the nose know how limited the ability to smell can be. Mr. Geiger's message may do more to dissipate smells we need to correct than to convince the public that schools generally are already professionally managed and that only society has to change. The smells are everywhere.

One must wonder what constitutes "professional growth" for "professional" educators. Does it include detection of undesirable smells, or am I being too nosy?

Edward Meyer
Fairfield, Conn.

'Underfunded' Board Gives School Critics Ammunition

To the Editor:

I read with great interest the articles on the ousting of the local elected school board of the Roosevelt school district on Long Island, N.Y. ("N.Y. Regents Oust Local Board, Take Over District, Jan. 10, 1996). What interested me the most was the comment by local board members, claiming the schools are "woefully underfunded."

The article mentioned a district budget of $30 million and an enrollment of 2,600. I understand that both those numbers are probably rounded off, so I won't refine my calculation too much, but that works out to something greater than $11,000 per student. I would love to work in a district that had even half that much per student.

Districts like Roosevelt give ammunition to those who say that more money is not the solution to the needs of public education.

Walter M. Clark
Moreno Valley, Calif.

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