Education Opinion


April 01, 1999 5 min read

The Basics

I am one of those people Emmet Rosenfeld mentions in “Parse This!” (March) who would like to see a return to the formalized teaching of grammar. When parents, employers, and others rise up against the kind of holistic writing instruction he espouses, they are not concerned about an occasional confusion between “its” and “it’s.” They are concerned about the inability of people who have been raised on a small ration of grammar to write a basic sentence, spell the most common words, and express any kind of thought in a coherent manner.

It seems that Rosenfeld received the instruction he needed to become a good writer. Though his commitment to helping students become creative writers is commendable, shouldn’t he recognize their right to become proficient writers as well?

Natalie Kramer
Rockville, Maryland

Abuse Of Power

Thank you for your coverage of Impact II’s National Teacher Policy Institute (“Power Play,” March). However, the headline and tough-guy poses of Carol Horn and Kristi Thomas may have been misleading to readers. Rather than taking teachers out of the classroom, we are trying to bring policy closer to the classroom. The NTPI fellows’ focus this year is on teacher research--conducting research in their own schools and classrooms to examine the direct link between policymaking and student learning. In fact, the fellows could not do their work if they were not in the classroom.

Ellen Meyers
National Teacher Policy Institute
New York City


I was puzzled when I picked up the February issue. The sensationalist headline (“Unusual Suspects”) and pictures were a disgrace to a normally informative magazine. Surely this article could have been presented in a more professional manner.

Gail Norris
Weatherford, Texas

It is nice to read a magazine about teachers and teaching that is neutral and focused. I would like to comment on “The Accused” (February). My brother was falsely accused of sexual contact by a student. One thing our family learned through this trauma is that newspapers have no standard for truth. They printed all the falsehoods and rumors as though they were true, and they never ran any sort of apology.

Well, it took the jury less than an hour to return a “not guilty” verdict. But the damage was done. My brother’s reputation is ruined. Yes, false accusations do occur, and teachers are destroyed. I know; we have been there.

Larry Smith
Jacksonville, Oregon

Excellent issue on several subjects. The “Unusual Suspects” article is long overdue. Most female teachers who “cross the line” never even get a reprimand. I noted in the lunchroom today that several women were uncomfortable even acknowledging the article. I think the publication of this often-swept-under-the-rug problem will cause some teachers to be more professional with their students.

B.J. Wagener
Santa Maria, California


I’ve just read Chris Ellsasser’s “Behind Closed Doors” (February) and can honestly say that I’ve never read a more self-congratulatory piece of drivel in my life. Ellsasser apparently believes himself to be the inventor and sole practitioner of the student-centered classroom. I feel compelled to inform you that many of us had already embraced a student-friendly teaching style before we got your call to arms. We encourage dialogue and journal writing and recognize that we teach children, not subjects. Why, I even sit cross-legged on my desk on the days that I’m not wearing a skirt. Of course, I feel much better about it now, having been validated by you. I’d caution you, however, against leaving your door open: You won’t learn much from us because you know it all already.

Deborah Teitelbaum
Oak Park, Illinois

Teaching Real Life

Three articles in the February issue--“Home Work,”“Falling Short,” and “Live And Learn”--paint a black-and-white picture of today’s education system. Schools today teach discipline and the necessary academic tools to survive, but a broader focus is needed. Faced with a dramatically evolving economic landscape, students these days must develop focus, responsibility, a sense of teamwork, and a strong work ethic to attain a successful career. Homework requirements should be a real-life canvas in which students participate in activities such as community service, internships, jobs, clubs, sports, and seminars. Students should be required to apply all their academic skills to non academic experiences. Such work would help create a more appealing and accurate view of the big picture after school.

Roy Jeffries
New Rochelle, New York

Doctor Dollar

Ronald Wolk must be trying to be provocative in his “Perspective” (“One By One”) column (February). His claim that the medical system “treats everyone as an individual” and is committed to the success of each patient is a new one on me. I can’t imagine that public education will ever be funded at the level of medical care. My district’s insurance premium for me is more than what the state of California pays per pupil for education-and that’s before I use any medical services.

Change would require “radical reorganization,” as Wolk suggests. But it would also require far more money than Americans are willing to pay to individualize education for each student.

Wendy Holm
Del Norte County High School
Crescent City, California

Size Matters

Your January article, “One Size Does Not Fit All,” left out a vital argument for reduced class size--teacher stress. How can we expect to attract top teachers to a job guaranteed to provide stress and frustration? I can control and teach a class of 30 students, but the job takes its toll. A large class is expecting too much of the lone manager.

Pat Pekarsky
Rockton, Illinois


I enjoyed “Top Dollar Teachers” (January). It is nice to know that some states besides California are rewarding and retaining teachers who have passed a national exam. But offering teachers “bonuses” of $2,000 to $3,000 is not enough. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Army paid bonuses of $2,000 to $5,000 to men with high school diplomas who signed up for one of its combat arms. Many teachers live for many years on the edge of financial ruin to pay off high student loan bills. They need help.

George Hoss
Belmont, California

Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Articles for the “Comment” section fall under two general headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run approximately 1,000 to 1,750 words (four to five double-spaced pages). All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to Teacher Magazine, 6935 Arlington Road, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814. Letters also may be sent to tmletter@epe.org.