Education Opinion

Letters to the Editor

April 01, 1993 4 min read

Rising Star

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think an article would be written about me that captures my true essence. David Hill’s article [“Overnight Sensation,” March] is superb. I was overwhelmed when I first saw and then read it. You’ve also excited my school.

“Overnight Sensation” is a most appropriate title. I just finished making a series of math videos, and now I’m about to work on a video project for Gateways Educational Corp. Your article for me is icing on the cake. I couldn’t be more proud.

Kay Toliver
East Harlem Tech Middle School
New York City

I want to congratulate you for your article on Kay Toliver. I have spent quite a bit of time with Toliver and her students, and I was very pleased to see that you were able to capture and communicate the spirit and methods of this remarkable teacher.

Dave Hendry
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education
Los Angeles

I really found inspiration in your recent profile of Kay Toliver. Her teaching milieu is a good example of what Philip Manna pleads for in “A Tea Party,” which appeared in the same issue of your magazine: that schools should govern themselves, reflecting a collective belief about what makes for a good education. Writer David Ruenzel makes the same point ably in his article “Good Intentions”: “Teachers must strive to reclaim their own classrooms from the tyranny of textbooks and the paradigm of basic skills.”

Keep the good stuff coming.

Elaine Silny-Bacsa
Richmond Elementary School
Perrine, Fla.

Seeing Change

Why is it that so many reporters of the educational reform movement are myopic when it comes to seeing change? David Ruenzel, author of “Good Intentions” [March], seems to believe that the Chicago school he observed has really done little to restructure itself or the lives of its students. How does he fail to see the change in self-respect, respect for authority, and respect for the text? These changes are revolutionary in an area where none of those concerns would ordinarily find expression or support. Some reform must begin with the simple step of establishing order and discipline in an environment of chaos and anarchy just to enable the seeds of learning to be planted.

And what is this strange prejudice that manifests itself as to conventional teaching, as if it were somehow pernicious? Ruenzel apparently does not accept as valuable that students are learning to work within time constraints, are anxious to please their teachers by being on target with correct responses, and are learning how to take tests and survive in a world that does use a variety of instruments to measure ability. I suspect that if Ruenzel did not have his own hidden agenda to push, he might have found the conditions at Dyett Middle School dramatic and hopeful indeed.

Rodger Burnich
Stratford, Conn.

David Ruenzel’s article about the Dyett School in Chicago struck resonant chords here. My impression of many reform restructuring ventures is that they either ignore classrooms or save them for the last piece to be tinkered with. It did not surprise me that he found what he did in Chicago.

The work of Foxfire focuses on classrooms, wherever and whatever kind, regardless of whether there is a “school reform” under way. Several restructuring initiatives, including the Coalition of Essential Schools at Brown University, the Center for School Renewal at the University of Washington, and the Program for School Improvement at the University of Georgia, have developed collaborations with us to try to provide that classroom focus in their work with teachers.

A Foxfire network was formed in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn about three years ago. It has gradually begun to attract teachers from Chicago. Ruenzel would see something very different if he visited “Foxfired” classrooms in Glen Ellyn. This is not a covert ploy for publicity. We have more offers, overtures, and invitations than we can now manage.

Milton Smith
Foxfire Teacher Outreach
Rabun Gap, Ga.

New Zealand

I just saw the February issue of Teacher Magazine, and I think Elizabeth Schulz did a wonderful job of conveying in a truly accessible manner just what teaching and learning in New Zealand primary schools are all about [“A Long Way To Go”].

When I was briefly in the United States late last year, I picked up several issues of Teacher Magazine and found it by far the most attractive and pertinent of the education- focused publications.

Rosslyn Noonan
National Secretary
New Zealand Educational Institute
Wellington, New Zealand


Thank you for printing the letter from Pamela Everly of Henderson, Nev., [February] about the November/December cover story, “Christian Soldier.”

I agree with her that the root of our values as a nation began from the faith of those who risked their lives to carry out the task that God asked them to undertake. One only has to visit the monument at Plymouth, Mass., to realize what they endured for the blessings we enjoy today. If we deny that reality, the blessings will move to more worthy nations, as surely as they have been granted to us.

I share Everly’s hope that you will be more editorially responsible and not become a political forum for anyone with a point of view.

Francis Buckingham
Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appeared in the October 17, 1984 edition of Education Week as Letters