Letters to the Editor
A Liberal Slant?
As a middle-class, middle-age teacher, I have learned to expect teachers' unions, organizations, and publications to present the liberal point of view. Last month's letter from John Wilson ["Letters,'' March] decried the lack of two points of view in an article you published about Columbus ["What Happened In 1492?'' January]. I would like to point out to you a quote from that same issue regarding President Bush as the "education president'': "Less than a quarter of those polled gave him an A or B, a full 25 percent gave him a D or F.''
Since a quarter equals 25 percent, I suspect that the two figures were actually very close (22 percent or 24 percent vs. 25 percent). But the words that you chose to use make a different impression. On purpose? I guess over half the people polled gave him a C, which is about what he would get from me, but that majority result wasn't mentioned at all.
Since I have subscribed to Teacher Magazine, there have been many issues that have been so good that I have made it a point to pass them on to other teachers. I hope that the quality of the discussions about current, meaningful educational issues will continue in upcoming issues. I especially appreciate that you have positive stories to inspire good teaching in these days of such negative press about education.
I'm glad Edward Rauchut ["Viewpoint,'' February] quit. I'm only sorry he continues to teach at a college. I wonder if he isn't the "dysfunctional system'' he claims schools are. He does a lot of complaining but says nothing substantial. In my own teaching career, I avoid this type of person, someone who spends most of the time complaining and very little time trying to solve problems. Maybe the school system cannot be changed as fast as we would like, but we can begin with ourselves. When the door is closed in a classroom, the teacher determines how to proceed. Being an example of good teaching practice is far more effective than complaining. Teaching is not just a job; it is a lifetime's work. If you don't like it, can't handle it, or won't do anything about it, then it's time to leave.
How can Rauchut just quit? Is this what we teach our children? Should we quit when things become difficult?
You can't change a system unless you're a part of that system.
I thought teachers had the power to make a difference. Maybe Rauchut could have been the teacher who made a difference in some child's life, the teacher who gave a child his or her "moment of motivation,'' a moment that would change that life forever. Instead, he chose to quit.
MACOS Is Alive
Your book review of Schoolhouse Politics ("Books,'' February) seems to suggest that "Man: A Course of Study,'' MACOS for short, is a dead and buried curriculum.
While the historic impact of the forces Peter Dow chronicles can hardly be overstated, the fact is that the program is still published and sold in this country and is currently used by a small but committed minority of excellent teachers in uncommonly good schools. I know this because they buy the materials from us.
Curriculum Development Associates Inc. is a small publishing company whose singular focus is the publication and promulgation of learning materials and teaching methods that teach learning skills in the study of subject matter. We are delighted to be able to offer MACOS along with several other programs that provide support for such better-than-average instruction. Should any of your readers wish more information, I hope they will contact me directly.
Curriculum Development Associates
Funny how some obscure, little point in a news story can catch your eye...and turn your stomach. I refer to the short article about the Illinois principal found guilty of encouraging her teachers to cheat on standardized student achievement tests ["In Brief,'' February]. The last paragraph states: "In early January, the local school board was considering whether to demote [the principal]...to a teaching job.''
This is the second time I've read a story in an educational journal that inadvertently denigrated teaching in this manner. The other was a story in a state education department newsletter lauding one of their own recently retired bureaucrats for having "started at the bottom as a classroom teacher and worked his way up.'' For some reason, I do not see assignment to classroom teaching as a "demotion,'' nor do I feel like the pedagogic equivalent of the "office boy.''
As a 25-year veteran classroom teacher, I've come to expect this attitude from non-educators, but it jump-starts peristalsis to see such Freudian slips in our own professional journals.
Port Allegany (Pa.) High School
As a reader of your magazine, I was very disappointed to see the derogatory reference to teachers in the February issue. In a magazine called Teacher, or in any educational publication for that matter, teaching should not be considered as a demotion or a punishment for wrongdoing. As for the school board, if this person was considered not competent to be a principal because of her dishonest behavior, what makes them think she should be in a classroom influencing children?
White Plains, N.Y.
Demoted to a teaching job? Being a classroom teacher is not a demotion but the choice of many educators. And a principal who encourages cheating on standardized tests has no place being in a classroom.
The January issue of Teacher Magazine included an article called "Fatal Attraction'' about the problem of guns in schools. As I read the article, I found myself wondering how professional educators could ignore an obvious solution to the problem--EDUCATION.
It's true that youngsters are fascinated with guns--the media and our popular culture make it almost inevitable. The article quotes Charles Patrick Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, as saying, "Guns are almost unreal.'' He has hit the nail on the head and missed the point entirely: Make them real! Let children know that guns are real, deadly weapons. They are not adult toys or coffee table artifacts.
In the article, Dewey Cornell, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor at the University of Virginia, offers a bloody example: "A 14-year-old girl, who was angry at her boyfriend for cheating on her, grabbed a household gun and fatally shot a neighbor who got in her way.'' Cornell blames the availability of the gun. Equally important is the fact that a 14-year-old girl who had access to a gun was never taught gun safety. She knew she was angry. She knew that when people on television are angry they grab a gun. It probably never occurred to her that by picking up that gun she could kill someone.
All gun owners--especially parents--have the responsibility of making their guns safe. That means more than hiding them in a closet. It means educating their children and educating the public that guns are weapons. They kill.
Schools have taken on the job of educating children about sex, AIDS, and drugs. Why then, do schools lament the "fatal attraction'' of guns without offering the education that could prevent their misuse? Telling adolescents that they can't or shouldn't have something (guns, drugs, sex) is like tempting them to go out and get it. It would be much wiser to give children the information that they need to help them make their own (hopefully intelligent) decisions.
We must teach kids that guns kill. It sounds so obvious, but we watch it every day on television and never really see it. Show a movie that depicts the real death of real people who have families and feelings. Make it a gory movie like After the Prom, which we all saw in driver's education to teach us about drunk driving.
The National Rifle Association has a reputation for being a lobbying organization for hunters and gun owners. It is also a valuable source of information. The NRA has made a commitment "to promote the protection and safety of children, not to teach whether guns are good or bad.'' The NRA Education Division offers gun safety materials and would probably design more if schools were interested in using them.
I am not an NRA member. I am not even a gun owner. But I am trying to deal with realities, consequences, and education rather than mass hysteria. I do not believe that guns belong in schools any more than I believe that drugs belong in schools. Our job as responsible adults and teachers should be to make the schools as safe as we can. Rather than moaning and groaning about problems, teachers should educate children about those problems.
A Valid Diagnosis
I am writing in reference to the letter by Patricia Roach ["Letters,'' January]. I am a counselor in an elementary school, and I share her frustration at the methods used to diagnose and treat attention deficit disorder ["Teaching A Moving Target,'' October].
It takes weeks and sometimes months for me to gain the trust of a new student and for him or her to feel safe disclosing the presence of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse to me. Often when there is a learning problem, I see parents rush their child to a psychologist or pediatrician who conducts one interview, possibly does some testing, and sends the child home with a label and the hope that a drug will solve the problem. He or she never hears the child's whole story, what the child has witnessed in the way of family violence--physical or emotional. The parents certainly don't volunteer it.
It's my understanding that for a valid ADD diagnosis, emotional problems should be ruled out; but in my experience, that is often not the case.
Many of the children I see with learning problems are living in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional families. To watch parents reach for a drug to control the symptoms is very sad.
From the first copy of Teacher Magazine, I saw a clarity in the editorial policy that reflected an uncommon sensibility. I saw an unsentimental caring. I think a hand works best when it lets knowledgeable others do the making and the saying. Perhaps it was the distress of change, the new format, and the crisis about monies that resulted in the approval of the "name withheld'' letter ["Letters,'' January].
Calamity Janes are usually mean-tempered, and this person is no exception. If the letter was intended as a comment on Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities ["Season Of Darkness,'' October], it wasn't. It was a catalog of put-downs. The letter writer describes, for example, "paying for certain items from my own pocket. Seeing things I paid for vandalized or stolen...delicate equipment would be broken in less than a week,'' etc.
A streetwise staff locks up good equipment. What I hear in this letter is the mindless voice of history's oppressors: Blame the victim. Of course children steal. Of course they break equipment. They also stop--with one or two exceptions--when they are helped with their work and addressed as young human beings.
Has "name withheld'' been the partner in a rebirth of hope? Has he or she watched mutually destructive students turn into mutually supportive students? What I do hear in the letter is the clank of the cash register on pay day and a 3:01 p.m. departure every day as the basis for teaching. Those of my colleagues who operate on these criteria have not many concerns about young human beings nor do they have much of a commitment to the future, except to decry its coming.
Our New Format
I am not happy with the new format of your magazine because it looks cheap, it is difficult to copy, and it is inconvenient to store.
New Britton Elementary School
As teachers, we have all made mistakes. And you, as a teacher's teacher, have made a doozy. It concerns the new magazine format. Yes, "it is the message, not the medium, that really matters.'' But when you give me a large, bulky, glorified newsletter in place of the professional magazine format that was worthy of neatly stacking on my bookshelf for future reference, I feel I have been cheated. Yes, the message is the same, but the new medium is cumbersome and has an aura of temporariness.
You have not lost a reader, though, for I will continue to subscribe to, and devour the message of, Teacher Magazine. But you have spoiled me with the old medium, and I am resistant to change.
I appreciate your subscription price reduction, but I will gladly forgo one cola a month to see the old format returned. I will even sacrifice two colas a month if that is what it will take to see the top-quality, traditionally styled, old format of Teacher Magazine make a resurgence.
I am so sad. Teacher Magazine is the one magazine I read from cover to cover and save. Yes, I actually return to my back issues from time to time. Alas, your new format is not conducive to being neatly stacked and I know the lowered quality of paper will mean faster aging for my old copies. But I will not desert you. I need you--even in your economy package. I just think it's too bad that you, like many, are a victim of the Great Depression of the 1990s.
Central High School
Grand Forks, Minn.
Congratulations on your new format. From adversity comes strength. I give you Piet Hein's "A Maxim for Vikings'': "Here is a fact that should help you fight a bit longer/Things that don't actually kill you outright make you stronger.''
Your new format is a noble, heroic improvement. It gives the sense of something new, current, important, even revolutionary. Don't apologize.
Teacher Magazine welcomes letters. They must include your address and daytime phone number and may be edited for length and clarity. Mail them to: "Letters,'' Teacher Magazine, 4301 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 250, Washington, DC 20008.