Education Opinion


January 01, 2000 5 min read


Must the cover of Teacher Magazine be shocking? [“Hard Copy,” November/December] You portrayed one child with hair on end and gritting teeth. Another had one big eye and one little eye-that is kind of gross. Your magazine is published in an oversize format, and when you yell artistically, it’s excessive.

James Hoper
Fitzgerald, Georgia

Keep It Positive

Though I agree with most of what Ronald Wolk says in “Leaders Needed” [November/December], I must take exception with at least one point. I have known coaches who were also great principals and classroom teachers. Why must Wolk resort to bashing a stereotype of coaches that may or may not be true? The so-called joke at the end was in poor taste. In short: Keep it positive.

Jim Slater
Fairview High School
Fairview, Oklahoma

Campaign Blunder

You get an “Incomplete” for omitting three Republican candidates—Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, and Alan Keyes—from your election score card [“Presidential Material,” November/December]. Stand in a corner until you get all the facts and can write a complete story.

Barb Vickroy
Escondido, California

Power Grab?

I read the original feature about high school teacher Ben Schmookler [“War Of Attrition,” August/September 1998] and was interested to see the follow-up [“Schmookler’s Choice,” November/December]. The road that he chose to take is not uncommon or surprising. What I was surprised at was the spin that the writer—and perhaps Schmookler—put on it. Are we to believe that he moved into an administrative job at an elementary school so he could get hugs from kids and find a higher place of service? What about the increased pay, power, and prestige?

Ron Huggins
Wichita, Kansas

Teacher Moms

On-site child care for teachers is a great investment [“Kids At Work,” October]. As an elementary teacher myself, and knowing the important role that parents play in a child’s early years, I wouldn’t put my child in day care. But if such centers were located in the school where I teach, I might. With my son nearby, I would be able to be with him often to eat lunch, play outside, and maybe have him come to my room for special projects.

If school systems were truly thinking about their employees, they would put up the money to start on-site child-care centers.

Kelly Blackstone
Mount Pleasant, Michigan


As an abstinence educator, I felt I had to reply to the “Clippings” [October] discussion of Ms. magazine’s article on sexual education in public schools. The True 2 Me Abstinence initiative encourages youth to abstain from alcohol, drugs, and premarital sex. We do not use “scare tactics” to get our message across, and there are no religious overtones to our work. Since the program was begun here, the teen pregnancy rate has declined.

I’ve committed my life to educating youth on the advantages of an abstinent lifestyle, and your article offended me.

Brenda Evans
Director, Abstinence Education
Chicot County Schools
Eudora, Arkansas

Mickey Mouse Story

Thanks for the excerpt of the Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins book on Disney’s Celebration School [“Nothing to Celebrate,” October]. That school failed because the “pedagogical elites” did not focus on what would help kids succeed. Rather, they focused on what would make their particular school-organizing principle succeed. Sadly, that lack of attention to what is good for kids is the source of much failure in school reform.

Moreover, it is astonishing—after the abject failure of the “open classroom” architecture of the 1970s—that any responsible person would advocate, let alone spend the money, to build a school that completely foreclosed the use of any other organizing principle without massive and expensive remodeling. What were they thinking?

But we know what they were thinking: The “academic heavyweights” had a lot of ego, prestige, and clout. If creation of a new school or “reform” of an old one isn’t focused on what’s good for kids, or if its organizers don’t learn from the past, then we in education will have to constantly and perpetually repeat the mistakes of the past.

Unfortunately, the worst slop-over from Celebration’s failure is the staggering loss of credibility sustained by strategies and methods of otherwise great worth and value, such as collaboration, project-based learning, authentic assessment, and engaged learning. Because of Celebration, the rest of us will be fighting rear-guard action to try to salvage what we can of these otherwise useful methods.

Thom Prentice
Assistant Professor of Education
Southwest Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas

I read your article on Disney’s Celebration School with anger and disappointment. The tone was inflammatory, to say the least. The writers seem to be attacking progressive education rather than laying the blame on Disney’s exploitation of the school, the children, and the town. The authors do not appear to support educationally sound ideas, such as authentic assessment, flexible learning space, integrated curriculum, and myriad other practices that are being implemented with great success by many dedicated teachers.

I agree that the Celebration School may have implemented too much too fast. However, with proper teacher education, good administration, and a community committed to education reform rather than maintaining the status quo, progressive schools can and do succeed. Shame on Disney for using education to sell more of its “American Dream,” and shame on Teacher Magazine for publishing such a slanted piece.

Kris Maguire
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

The article on the Disney experiment was enlightening. I was not aware of the work undertaken by Disney. This direction is desperately needed in education today. Bringing in renowned researchers and practitioners in education and putting their theories to work should be attempted on a much wider scale. It is also a task that the education profession should be doing on its own; we shouldn’t rely on Disney to take the risk.

With education buried in the muck of political criticism, media hype, and the grossly misconceived standards movement, it is not a surprise that Celebration parents would be confused about a creative approach to learning from a new perspective. We need to applaud Disney and those who have stayed with the Celebration project, and we need to support others who take similar creative approaches to education. It is only through these innovations that education will become the stimulating, enlightening, and exciting phenomenon that children need.

Perry Butler
Principal, Idalia Schools
Idalia, Colorado

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) in length. 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.

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2000 edition of Teacher as Letters