Mark Goodman Executive Director Student Press Law Center Washington, D.C.
I heartily agree with the recommendations of Diane Ravitch for teaching civil liberties to our students (“The Rushdie Affair: Lessons for Educators,” Commentary, March 8, 1989).
But I would add that we can no longer ignore the lessons our schools teach by example when they censor student expression.
In 1988, the Student Press Law Center received over 500 calls from student journalists across the nation who were asking for legal advice and assistance.
The vast majority of those students described constant censorship by school officials of stories about aids, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, or other issues of vital importance to young people, and of any effort to criticize school policies or officials.
Many educators have sat idly by for years while a growing number of school administrators made themselves into little Ayatollahs.
We can teach students the history of our Constitution and Bill of Rights until we are blue in the face, but they see the hypocrisy when we aren’t willing to practice what we preach.
If we expect them to be outraged with the Ayatollah Khomeini, we must teach them to be outraged with the tyranny against free expression they experience every day.
Joan D. Abrams Executive Vice President Whither Corporation Short Hills, N.J.
Diane Ravitch’s Commentary presented a compelling argument for using the present to teach about the past.
As I read her eloquent words, however, I was disappointed that she didn’t touch on one aspect of the sorry affair that should give us educators some comfort: It seems the written word holds more power than our TV pop-digest programs would have us believe.
As the sides line up, both those who would burn the book and those who would see it freely traded in every country agree on one point--that writing packs a profound wallop in its ability to engage people’s minds.
That’s another lesson our students would do well to learn.
A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 1989 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor