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Eliot Wigginton

As a proud gay teacher, I am writing to express my concern about Debra Viadero's statement in "Fall From Grace'' [January] that "there had been rumors that [Eliot] Wigginton was homosexual and that he liked young men.'' If the reverse were true, and Wigginton victimized girls, would you have then said, "There were rumors that Wigginton was heterosexual and that he liked young girls''?

I doubt it. One has nothing to do with the other.

Shame on Teacher Magazine for allowing a bigoted statement like that to pass for fact. As I am sure you must already know, people who abuse children are called "pedophiles'' not "homosexuals.'' The sex of the child is unimportant to most pedophiles.

Statistics indicate that sexual abuse of children occurs primarily within the family, the main reason some look to scapegoat others for this horrendous crime. Additionally, most pedophilia is committed by men who would consider themselves to be heterosexual. Adult lesbians and gays are no more likely to be pedophiles than heterosexuals.

With these facts in mind, the myth perpetuated by Viadero is invalidated. Lesbian and gay teachers cannot influence their students' sexual orientation and do not endanger them. There is no evidence that a teacher's sexual orientation affects his or her ability to teach.

Daniel Dromm
Teacher
P.S. 199Q, District 24
Co-chair, Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee
Sunnyside, N.Y.

We Can Change

My November/December Teacher Magazine came today. Although I haven't read all of it yet, the letters and one or two headlines really encourage this old optimist. Not that I agree with everything in every letter; that would scare me. But the letters were so reasonable and to the point. Good readers, good writers, good choices.

But the quote boxes on pages 36 and 37, by Marian Finney and Simon Hole, made me sit up and head for the keyboard. The idea that we have to change our way of thinking and see in an entirely different way, throwing out our cherished assumptions, ought to be seriously discussed at length in every legislature, every boardroom, every classroom, every home. Although it sounds simple and easy, it isn't. For one thing, most of us are not even aware of most of our assumptions. We rarely get that deep when arguing our positions. And discarding an assumption held from childhood is more serious and more difficult than sending that old, comfortable sweater to the ragbag. But we do one (the sweater), and we can do the other.

Of course, it's easier when "everybody'' is doing it. Or maybe not even everybody, just enough of us. Are we smart enough to learn from some monkeys? Here is a brief excerpt from The Hundredth Monkey (Vision Books, 1982), by Ken Keyes Jr.:

In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkeys liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant.

An 18-month-old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way, and they taught their mothers, too.... Between 1952 and 1958, all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable.

Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes.

Then something startling took place.... Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning, there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let's further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes.

Then it happened.

By that evening, almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them.

The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough.

But notice. The most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then spontaneously jumped over the sea. Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyamo began washing their sweet potatoes!

Keyes borrowed the story from Lifetide, by Lyall Watson, and used it as a lesson and warning about nuclear power, but it applies to other ways of living and learning, as well.

Take the Vietnam War. At the beginning, few people thought about it at all. Anyone who asked why we were there was considered to be unpatriotic. Later, when a few draft-age men asked the question, they were called not only unpatriotic but cowards, too. Then other young people asked, and they taught their parents. When a critical number of people asked the question and agreed on the answer, the survivors came home.

We can think of other examples from the past, but what about the future? Would it work for gun control? Pollution? Unemployment? Crime? Well, what about school reform? It seems almost a truism, that when a certain number of people in a small community, even in a neighborhood, want a better school, they have it.

When we want good schools, we will have them. Robert Johnson
Lamoni, Iowa

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.

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