Education Opinion


January 01, 2003 4 min read

Major Math

I found two inconsistencies in your November/December article “A Test of Will.” First, there is the math problem on Page 25: Unless we’re specifically told that both sentences refer to the same rectangle and the same square, the problem cannot be attempted, much less solved. As teacher Saulio Tuero points out on the next page: “In logic, you have to get used to the thought that if you don’t spell something out, it doesn’t exist.”

Second, regarding Tuero’s retort to a student that he “can only use the girls’ bathroom,” “only” should go after the verb (“use only”) or the noun (“bathroom only”)—unless, of course, Tuero is worried that, instead of using it, the student might paint or barricade the girls’ bathroom. Logic founders on misplaced modifiers.

Richard Handelsman
Lithia Springs High School
Lithia Springs, Georgia

As a Math/Science Institute teacher, I want to thank you for what I believe was a fair article on the mission of the program. The program’s teachers and administrators have put a tremendous amount of personal investment into it. I have taught in the New York City school system for 32 years and have been a member of the staff of M/SI from the beginning. The program and the students make it worthwhile. What a pleasure to be part of a board of education program that really works.

Jerry Correll
Math/Science Institute
New York City, New York

Ironic Evolution

In the November/December interview with author Jonathan Zimmerman [“Historical Proportions”], Zimmerman’s critique of history instruction is valid: If our economic system and our culture are the best, they should be able to withstand criticism and the presentation of alternate ideas.

But there’s an irony in the introduction. It implies that “fundamentalists” pushing open discussion of theories of human origin are somehow contrary to Zimmerman’s theme. In fact,allowing the critical evaluation of a theory like evolution on logical and scientific grounds exactly parallels what Zimmerman is promoting in the teaching of history. If evolution is true, then it ought to be able to withstand the challenge.

Robert C. Boyd
Concordia Lutheran School
Fort Wayne, Indiana

“F” Word

The quote “F=Fantastic” [“Overheard,” November/December] is sickening. It’s unfortunate that students have to attend a school that the state ranks as failing; it’s even worse for teachers to dismiss that fact by wearing “F=Fantastic” T-shirts. I wonder if those same teachers would support having their failing students wear such shirts in their classes.

I can’t say whether this is a push for self-esteem run amok, a dismissal of the state accountability system, or just plain stupidity. There are proven ways to improve student performance; wearing a T-shirt with a slogan that accepts and celebrates failure is not one of them.

Darren S. Miller
Math Teacher
Andrew Carnegie
Middle School
Orangevale, California

Tongue Tied

In the October issue, a short Current Events item [“Speaking Out”] described the situation at a school in Phoenix where teachers feared “disruption” of school culture if English was used exclusively. Their view is diametrically opposed to what a majority of Hispanic parents prefer: that English be taught and used in school so their children will have a competitive advantage in the job market. I teach a beginning art class at a local college, and by the time students get to my class, their preference corresponds with their parents’.

My advice: Teachers should make students’ futures their priority and not be friends who want the Spanish-speaking kids to be comfortable. “School culture” should reflect achievement and learning and future success—not everyday life.

Ron Homann
Springfield, Illinois

Cultural Investment

Wynton Marsalis [“Swing Time,” August/September] effectively demonstrates that learning can be maximized when educators understand the significance of culture.

Observing the inattentiveness of his young audience from Harlem, Marsalis responds, “See how y’all treat me?” This is not an appeal to an assumed linguistic deficiency but rather a pedagogical strategy that acknowledges the students’ culture. African American learners are commonly motivated by a cross-generational sense of honor, respect, and—what is most important—struggle.

Marsalis further expresses this understanding when he recounts an honest narrative of John Coltrane’s complex life while simultaneously providing a historical view of the style, form, and origins of jazz and the vision of its pioneers. This is a teaching methodology that enhances and informs a deeper understanding of culture.

Bryant Matthews
San Francisco, California

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