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May 01, 2000 5 min read
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Eyes Wide Open?

Your article “Let It Be” [April] aptly opens with the phrase “If any place seems like a perfect spawning ground for a revolution” and goes on to describe the progressive education at the San Francisco Community School. I like writer David Ruenzel’s choice of words, but for a different reason. The school’s primary teaching goal clearly is not a broad, well-rounded education that fosters an informed and analytical citizenry. Instead, it serves as an indoctrination center that molds young, pliable minds into single-issue political activists. And, of course, the children’s nine-week, single-topic projects reflect the pet issues favored by the school’s teachers.

I am an advocate for free-market education and honor the rights of parents and teachers. But I sincerely hope parents have selected this school with their eyes wide open. It was Lenin who said, “Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

Jeanne Donovan
Mother
Fort Worth, Texas

A Dim View

What veteran teacher would subscribe to a magazine such as yours? On pages 17 [“Help Wanted”] and 59 [“Why New Teachers Quit”] of your April issue, you state that the best and/or smartest teachers leave the classroom after five years. What you’re saying, in essence, is that veteran teachers, the people most likely to buy and read your magazine, are the profession’s dim leftovers.

I am a veteran teacher who is at least smart enough to wonder how a company that wants to sell magazines to teachers is dumb enough to insult them so deeply. Perhaps you are run by ex-teachers? Count me out as a future reader. Your articles were too challenging for my intellect anyway.

Dan Nagle
Normal, Illinois

Buried Alive

“Is Progressive Education Dead” [April]? Where have you been? The funeral was back in the 1980s, when Reagan was president. What you are seeing today are the efforts of concerned parents and educators to drive a stake through its flabby, liberal heart to keep it from rising from the grave to doom yet another generation of American children.

David Taggart
St. Mary’s Road
Magnet Elementary
Columbus, Georgia

Who are you? I mean, who are you, really?

Obviously, you are a group with an agenda. I guess you call it “education reform.” I would term it “the gospel according to Teacher Magazine and its benefactors.” Your writing is proselytizing politicking at its worst. You (the editors) make some educators out to be snake-oil-salesmen bozos while comparing others to George Washington, Jesus, and William Bennett—heroes on white horses come to bury the heretics once and for all.

Do I need to reveal which side you are on? Your writings are so transparently biased that I will not take the time to write a commentary with the proper citations and references. You and your followers are not interested.

John Sullivan
Glen Gardner, New Jersey

The Experts Speak

Editor’s Note: In our February issue, writer David Ruenzel, a former teacher, argues in “Gold Star Junkies” that extrinsic motivations—candy for a correct answer, time out for hitting—don’t work. In fact, they may diminish a child’s interest in learning and/or encourage a student to become “covertly disobedient,” he writes. Reacting to these claims, one 5th grade teacher—John Schmotzer at Turner Elementary School in Turner, Oregon—went to the source, his students, to see if they agreed with Ruenzel’s assessment. Most of them, he told us, laughed out loud, then wrote letters to Teacher Magazine, sections of which are printed below:

Now, I’m a kid and let me tell you, awards DO work! In our class, we have a system called points or class money. This money is awarded for good behavior, or getting assignments turned in, and is taken away for doing the opposite.
—Lee

We don’t have a natural desire to learn, unless it’s about candy.
—Emily

You said students don’t have a desire to work, but they do when you let them do what they want to do—not when teachers tell them to do something. . . . The reason I am writing this to you is because you don’t know about kids. I know because I am a kid.
—Alyssa Valencia

When children are born they don’t know what’s right and wrong. So kids are already secretly disobedient. Well, when kids get rewards, we know if we do the right things again we will get another reward. . . . If you give your child rewards for doing the right thing, you can have a peaceful house.
—Sara Rush

You said that rewards don’t motivate students. Our class said you were crazy. . . . So, please, next time think before you write, or check with an expert like me!
—Tommy Coleman

I also don’t know any kids who like to come to school. We don’t mind learning some things, but most of us prefer recess.
—Alyssa Huck

Rewards do work; they make us want to get whatever it is done.
—Alex Heenan

[The claim that rewards don’t motivate students] is wrong because we like to get rewards, so we try to get more.
—Jayson Boaz

Time Is Money

It is my opinion that the data in your “Salaries: Us Vs. Them” chart [March], which compares the earnings of teachers and other college-educated workers, is seriously flawed. The comparison is apples and oranges, because the chart uses annual salaries instead of monthly or even daily wages.

Take Tennessee, for example, and assume its teachers work 10 months out of the year. If a teacher with a bachelor’s degree makes $29,176 a year, and you divide that by 10, that’s $2,917.60 a month; $46,740 divided by 12 equals $3,895 a month for other workers, which is a difference of about $980. And if you consider teachers’ vacation days and holidays, the difference would be even less.

I dare you to run the comparisons for each state based on the number of days worked and see how small the difference is. Some teachers deserve more pay, but your chart paints a false picture to justify raises. Rule number one: Never trust salary comparisons when a union like the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers has had anything to do with it.

Bernard Bull
Professor of Education
Jefferson City, Tennessee

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 totmletter@epe.org.

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


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