Published Online: September 17, 1997

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On Shifting Reform Debate From Utility To Humanity

To the Editor:

My recent Commentary, "Making Democracy Safe for Education" (July 9, 1997), elicited more response than anything I have written since 1984's A Place Called School. (Letters, Aug. 6 and Letters, Sept. 3, 1997.) Some of these responses suggest the existence of a larger piece of work. There is. Although the credit line identified my authorship of In Praise of Education (Teachers College Press, 1997), it did not state that what appeared constitutes several pages of this book.

If just a few pages from a little, 155-page book can stimulate serious debate about the fundamental mission of education and schooling, there is hope that the rhetoric of school reform will shift markedly from the narrative provided by the god of economic utility (to borrow from Neil Postman's The End of Education) to a narrative of more promise to humankind. The core of my argument is that the public purpose of education--namely, the shaping of civility in a context of democratic social and political civitas--will not be advanced by a system of schooling geared primarily to economic ends.

John I. Goodlad
President
Institute for Educational Inquiry
Seattle, Wash.

Entry Age Affects Child's Foundation for Later Work

To the Editor:

James K. Uphoff's letter on the impact of year-round schooling on the debate over age cutoff dates for entering kindergarten is indeed significant ("Year-Round School Calendar Affects Entry-Age Debate," Letters, June 25, 1997). While there will always be a few children who have difficulty keeping up in the 1st grade, we find that too many of these younger-entry children have not developed a level of abstract thinking necessary for 1st grade mathematics.

Getting children on a firm foundation before they enter grades 2 or 3 would be an answer to the recurring question of whether to promote or retain. There should be tutors available in the primary grades to help children at the very moment they begin to fail in either math or reading.

Mary K. Khan
Morgan Hill, Calif.

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