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An Academic Issue

As a veteran teacher who has spent 20 years teaching middle school health, I was appalled by the item "Academic Shift'' in the Current Events section of your February issue. The article, which reported that students today are taking more "academic'' courses than students a generation ago, was a slap in the face to many excellent teachers who have constantly had to defend their "subject'' or job.

I have read about "academic subjects vs. nonacademic subjects'' since I was an undergraduate in college. Somewhere along the line, someone forgot to tell you that courses in health, home economics, physical education, and industrial technology are academic. Most students will use the knowledge they learn in these courses on a daily basis and certainly more often than what they learn in those courses the article calls "academic subjects.''

This is what I tell my students: "My class may not be the most important class you'll ever take. However, if you are the smartest or the richest person in the world but don't have good health, you don't have anything.''

According to my latest readings, more than 50 percent of the jobs available in the U.S. work force are health-related. But there are not enough qualified people to fill the positions, nor are there enough college students in health-related fields to keep up with the demand.

I believe all subjects are academic and will benefit all students at some time or another.

Rodney King
Teacher
Clark-Pleasant Middle School
Whiteland, Ind.

A Different Story

In your article about the case of a young student whose family filed a lawsuit against Bonita School District 16 in Arizona ["Current Events,'' February], misinformation was presented as fact. The family alleged, and you stated, that "teachers'' presented "derogatory awards'' to a "disabled student'' at a "school ceremony.'' All of the words and phrases in quotation marks were in dispute from the outset and have been found to be untrue.

The situation arose when one teacher planned an end-of-theyear English class activity following a unit on different types of humor--e.g., puns, irony, figurative language, etc. The teacher had a commercial software product called "Certificate Maker,'' and she thought it would be a fun activity to share the humor of some of the certificates with the class, which included her own son and the son of the governing board president. Both students received some of the same certificates that were given to all of the students in the class, including several receiving special education services. None of the students had been identified as severely disabled or having numerous disabilities.

The only people present during that particular class were the teacher and her 5th and 6th grade students. There was no assembly, no public humiliation planned by a school faculty, no attempts to single out any one student for jeering or ridicule.

We have lived with misinformation about this case for the past year and a half, and we are ready to put it all to rest. It is a shame that the incident was interpreted as it was; building it up into something ugly certainly did not serve the student in question nor the caring faculty in this school district.

A young teacher has learned a lesson the hard way. She tried very hard from the beginning to put things right with the family and was refused. Yes, she and her administrator apologized for any unintentional harm. The insurance company agreed to the settlement. There was no adjudication of guilt nor any intended in the final agreement, which had begun as a claim for $250,100 and ended with a payment of $40,600--$600 of which was a last-minute request from the family for a bike.

I believe that the majority of teachers are caring, well-qualified people who want to do good things for children. But beware of the relaxed moment of fun and joy with a class. It is almost impossible to transfer the context of that joyful moment to the outside world, which will sometimes see what it wants to see and believe what it wants to believe.

Mary Lou Gammon
Superintendent
Bonita School District 16
Willcox, Ariz.

Belated Thanks

I would like to congratulate you on the wonderful article on Kay Toliver in your March 1993 issue.

I missed the issue at the time, but I recently found an ad for ordering back issues, and I ordered that one just to read about this wonderful teacher. Reading the article, I felt such pride as a teacher and especially as another African-American teacher.

I am writing this letter reluctantly. But because I was so happy to see Ms. Toliver, an African-American role model, featured on the cover and detailed so beautifully in the article, I felt the need to respond; the teaching field needs to attract more minority teachers. This article will do much to make that happen. And also to that end, I have just received a grant to develop a program to attract more capable minority students to the wonderful field of teaching.

Theresa Winfrey Greenwood
Muncie, Ind.

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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