Education Letter to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

October 07, 1987 5 min read

Bravo! As a teacher and former teacher educator, I am impressed with the wisdom of Willis Hawley as he comments on the preparation of teachers (“Preparing Teachers: A Tale of 2 Nations,” Commentary, Sept. 16, 1987). In our strong desire to achieve greater professional status, let us not allow traditional modes of working toward such status to blind us to creative alternatives.

J. Lester Brubaker Smoketown, Pa.

Letters To the Editor:

Willis Hawley’s Commentary on Japan’s exemplary education program begins with the words “Once upon a time,” and proceeds to describe an academic wonderland of highly qualified teachers vying for well-paid positions. As I read that Japanese teachers “enjoyed high prestige because they have performed a role that is seen as essential to the national welfare,” I began to wonder about the relative worth of great teachers.

Unfortunately, in the United States a teacher is not considered equal in value to a medical doctor, a lawyer, or a politician. This is a blatant inconsistency. Without teachers the nation’s youth would not grow up to become doctors, lawyers, or senators.

Have we convinced ourselves that today’s teachers simply “love to teach,” much as the monastics of old taught for the love of God?

I looked about me in the schools and asked, “Why have men fled this profession?” The answer is money. As women take on less traditional roles in the professions, they too will reject the field of teaching for more lucrative positions.

Then who will be left to teach future doctors, lawyers, and politicians? Computers.

Unless we give teaching the status of a profession, and pay its practitioners in accordance with the importance of their role to our nation’s well-being, we will be plugging the next generation of children into electronic learning machines.

The public might relish the thought of nonunion Apples, i.b.m.'s, and their clones delivering the heritage of the ages to little Junior. I considered what the first generation of electronic gadgetry has already given the public: interactive tv, talking toys, and a “couch potato” mentality ... and then I snapped back to reality and began to prepare my next week’s lesson plans.

Rosemarie Dion Reading Teacher San Altos Elementary School Lemon Grove, Calif.

Letters To the Editor:

This is in reference to your article describing the U.S. Education Department’s new regulations under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which replace the 40 federal desegregation-assistance centers with 10 “super centers” (“E.D. Will Consolidate Desegregation Center,’' Sept. 9, 1987).

Your list of the expected recipients of the new grants correctly mentioned “a consortium of higher-education institutions, including New York University and Columbia University,” but failed to mention the third partner in this group, the Consortium for Educational Equity at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

We want to make sure that schools in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands know that we are still funded to provide them with training and technical assistance in issues related to desegregation, equity, and school achievement, as we have been doing for the last 13 years.

Rebecca L. Lubetkin Executive Director Consortium for Educational Equity Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, N.J.

Letters To the Editor:

In the Sept. 16 article “Teachers Dispute Studies’ Counsel on Humanities,” I fear that the social-studies and English educators jumped upon Diane Ravitch and Chester Finn Jr. a little sharply.

Ms. Ravitch and Mr. Finn have not in their recent work or elsewhere advocated a narrow “factual knowledge” approach to schooling. Facts are only part of the story, as Mr. Finn indicated: “You can’t have concepts without facts. You can’t have skills without knowledge.”

The controversy suggests the need for balance between content and skills.

In a study I conducted with 101 second- and third-year elementary teachers (to determine correlations between teachers’ perceptions of their teaching proficiencies and the courses they had taken in the teacher-education years), most of the teachers rated low their proficiencies in teaching social studies. Of the 3,480 student-courses taken in the teachers’ junior, senior, and graduate years, however, just six student-courses were taken in history as electives.

In geography, two of the 101 teachers took one course apiece. This weakness of background in history and geography could well account for the lack of confidence these elementary teachers feel in teaching social studies.

The elementary teachers showed little more interest in literature than they did in social studies in their choice of electives during teacher training. Apart from a required course in children’s literature, only four student-courses in literature were reported out of the total 3,480.

Should there be much question why the study of history, geography, and literature has sunk to such low levels in our schools?

With only a superficial knowledge of these subjects, many students leaving elementary school lack adequate preparation for the study of history, geography, and literature in the higher grades. And if it is granted that students gain lifelong perspectives toward learning and culture in the elementary years, this is, indeed, a sad state of affairs. History, geography, and literature must claim their rightful places among the subjects taught in elementary as well as secondary school.

Merle P. Prater Founder Integrative Educational Systems Ames, Iowa

Letters To the Editor:

It is surprising to discover Diane Ravitch is upset with Lynne Cheney for “unauthorized” use of data drawn from the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress survey of high-school students’ knowledge of history and literature (“Humanities Reports: Unity of Themes, Clash of Authors,” Sept. 16, 1987).

Surprising because, for the past year and a half, Ms. Ravitch has repeatedly announced “results” of this project’s item-analysis phase and has used that incomplete and unreliable information in magazine articles and speeches. It has appeared in the “What Works” publication of the U.S. Education Department and indeed in such numerous and varied places prior to its completion that it is a wonder anyone considers it news at this late stage.

Beyond its trendy but misleading title, What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know? is old news, its conclusions diminished by having been worn thin in too frequent previous public announcements of “outcomes"--of which Ms. Cheney’s is only the latest opportunistic example.

The obvious loser is neither Ms. Cheney nor Ms. Ravitch, but what passes for educationally valid research in the present climate of political agendas for education.

Donald V. Rogan Social Studies Department New Trier High School Winnetka, Ill.

A version of this article appeared in the October 07, 1987 edition of Education Week as Letters To The Editor