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May 01, 2002 4 min read
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Research and the Ideas Marketplace

To the Editor:

Kudos to Kenneth R. Howe for calling on educational experts to “use their scholarly knowledge and methodological expertise to ensure that the issues relevant to the topic of research are addressed rigorously and even-handedly” (“Free Market Free-for-All,” Commentary, April 10, 2002.) All too often, in picking up a report or study, one can guess the conclusion based upon who wrote or published it. Yet, the question is how this ideal can be brought to be.

There is a widespread perception that the editorial boards of education research journals are dominated by liberals. This is likely to be true. Moreover, education researchers, who serve as the peers that review, also are likely to lean to the left. I say this not as an aggrieved conservative; it’s merely an observation based on my experience with education research journals. So, while I cannot speak for Chester E. Finn Jr., I would imagine this is one of the reasons why some education policy people do not think too highly of peer reviewing. Beneath the veneer of the objective peer-review process, there is a structural bias that slants the tables against studies that offend the reigning orthodoxy. True or not, this perception exists.

So what is to be done? Should we force editorial boards to diversify themselves so that they are more representative of the education policy community? Should we guide more right-leaning folks into education research through some sort of special scholarships? Neither of these seems likely to happen. I would be intrigued to hear what Mr. Howe has to say on this.

At present, we are left with something a little more messy but not necessarily inferior: the marketplace of ideas. Mr. Howe is right that those with more power and money are better able to get their voices heard. However, by my estimation, the ranks of the powerful are mighty diverse in their opinions: There are the teachers’ unions, think tanks like the Cato Institute, research groups like the American Educational Research Association, and so forth. As they slug it out, slowly but surely the truth emerges.

Kevin R. Kosar
Lecturer in Public Administration
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
New York University
New York, N.Y.

An Interdisciplinary Idea From a Reader

To the Editor:

Your recent column on the ingenious high school unit using archaeology that was developed at the Webb Schools in Claremont, Calif. (“Dig In,” Take Note, April 3, 2002) is another excellent report on what can certainly be described as interdisciplinary education at its best.

Periodically, you have run other such examples.

My sense is that far too few educational institutions of any variety are involved in similar efforts.

What to do?

For one thing, Education Week might expand its coverage—perhaps create a special section labeled “Interdisciplinary Winners,” and seek out other examples at K-12 levels and beyond.

Gerald D. Levy
President
Education Group
National Executive Services Corps
New York, N.Y.

Silence Isn’t Golden For Gay Students

To the Editor:

After reading your article on the nationwide “Day of Silence” against the harassment of gay students (“High School Students Stay Silent to Protest Mistreatment of Gays,” April 17, 2002), I couldn’t help questioning the mode of protest these students chose. The irony in your headline sums it up: We cannot simply stay silent to stop the mistreatment of gay and lesbian students in schools. We must begin with dialogue, not silence.

I do understand that little is being done to combat the hurtful language prevalent in classrooms across the country, not to mention the homophobic attitudes in schoolyards, at assemblies, and on practice fields; however, silent voices can never and will never be heard.

In education and in the real world, dialogue proves to be more effective than silence in most circumstances. The victims in this protest are the teachers—professionals left to stand before silent classes when they, too, may be struggling for education on the topic.

I propose that we promote a discussion day instead, a way to get students and teachers talking about the injustices facing gay and lesbian students. As educators, we need to hear the voices of the marginalized. We need to hear how we can curtail the rotten language and behavior that runs rampant in our halls and rooms. In this case, silence is not golden. The silent voices have been silent for too long.

Joe Hudelson
Educator
Archbishop Mitty High School
San Jose, Calif.

‘Guided Oral’ Vs. ‘Free Silent’ Reading

To the Editor:

The report of the National Reading Panel does not object to the idea that “students who read better also write better, have larger vocabularies, and better grammar,” Stephen Krashen’s view to the contrary notwithstanding (“‘Free Reading’ Promotes Literacy,” Letters, April 10, 2002.) Nor does this selective recent survey of the latest relevant experimental research findings refute the conclusion that “getting children to read more actually improves reading achievement,” as Mr. Krashen claims.

What the NRP report actually states is that “guided oral reading procedures” are more effective in this regard than is “free, voluntary” silent reading, per se.

Since Mr. Krashen remains “an unrepentant supporter of whole language” reading teaching, it is not surprising that he objects to direct, intensive, systematic, early, and comprehensive (DISEC) instruction of a prearranged hierarchy of discrete reading skills. It is his prerogative to do so. However, his misinterpretation of the NRP’s defense of DISEC instruction must not pass unchallenged.

Patrick Groff
Professor Emeritus of Education
San Diego State University
San Diego, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week as Letters


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