Education Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

August 01, 1990 6 min read

Kathy Malnar’s letter (“Critique of Bilingual Education Is ‘Biased and Politically Influenced,”’ June 6, 1990), in which she writes that I have “apparently not had any real opportunity to experience bilingual education in practice, nor has she reviewed the related literature,” is such a flagrant misrepresentation that it deserves a smart and snappy reply.

My book, Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education, not only describes my 15 years of personal experiences as a bilingual teacher and program director but also details the research and lecturing I have done in this field in the United States and abroad.

It is obvious that Ms. Malnar has not even opened the book she so easily condemns as “political,” much less read any part of it.

I will, of course, accept critical remarks based on what I have actually written, but a superficial commentary based on total ignorance of the text is not to be tolerated.

Rosalie Pedalino Porter Amherst, Mass.

To the Editor:

In your summary of concerns expressed by educators as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Board of Education of the Westside Community Schools v. Mergens decision (“Effects of Decision on Extracurriculars Raise Thorny Issues,” June 13, 1990), you pose the question: “What happens when anti-abortion, neo-Nazi, gay rights, or other controversial groups seek access to school facilities along with students who wish to study the Bible?”

Since the article quotes no other source linking these constituencies under the term “controversial groups,” one can only assume that the phrasing is yours.

If anti-abortion groups are considered “controversial” in the same sense as “neo-Nazis,” then we must assume that pro-abortion groups are considered to be within the mainstream educational philosophy of all public-school districts affected by the ruling.

Perhaps you have revealed your own bias rather than the concerns of the nation’s public-school educators.

George V. Corwell Associate Director for Education New Jersey Catholic Conference Trenton, N.J. To the Editor:

The rapid transition to a market system in education urged by John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe (“‘Open Market’ of Schools Needed, New Book Argues,” June 6, 1990) will spare us many otherwise wasted years.

There may be a lesson for the United States in the experience of the Eastern European nations as they attempt to transform their socialist economies into dynamic, free-market systems.

A growing consensus in the Soviet Union, for example, favors a rapid transition to a market system because of the failure of the cautious, piecemeal approach of the past two years.

President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s personal economic advisor now urges immediate abolition of most regulatory ministries, the creation of a stock market to sell off state-owned industries, and the elimination of price controls on most items--in other words, a decisive break with central planning and state
monopoly ownership.

Likewise, in American education, there is an emerging consensus that free parental choice among schools--a market system--will improve schools’ performance.

The lesson from the Soviet Union is that half measures will not work. A tentative approach condemns our children to years more of the crippling effects of a centrally planned, protected monopoly system.

Tom Shuford Teacher Bayville School Bayville, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I was pleased to read your report on recent research about low-birth-weight babies (“Gains From Early Intervention Shown in Study of Low-Birth-Weight Babies,” June 13, 1990).

Longitudinal studies concerning the effects not only of early intervention but also of this strategy combined with a transdisciplinary approach are desperately needed.

The transdisciplinary approach enables professionals such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, special-education teachers, and behavior analysts to help meet infants’ special needs.

Behavior analysts make it possible for therapists to do their job by remediating the environment. Therapists learn to reinforce appropriate behaviors, ignore inappropriate ones, and shape new behaviors.

Constance Dena Saxe Datahr Rehabilitation Institute Brookfield, Conn.

To the Editor:

I disagree with Ray Hofmann’s letter regarding retention (“Grade Retention Seen Important to Maintaining School Standards,” June 6, 1990).

A school’s “standards” should not override a child’s psychological and emotional welfare.

The child’s background should be considered. A youngster living in a single-parent home or in poverty can be emotionally damaged if held back. Such a child may well feel worthless.

This negative image can be and has been a cause of the violent behavior frequently displayed by children today.

As a single parent of two boys, I speak with firsthand knowledge. My older child was held back in kindergarten and now has no self-esteem. At times, he wishes he had never been born. He has also demonstrated semiviolent behavior in school.

To help him regain what was stripped from him by people who “knew what was best” for him, he is receiving counseling, is in special education, and has a Christian support group

If a child can do the work even though he doesn’t meet the teacher’s standards, he should be moved ahead. There are preferable alternatives to retention for helping a child learn what is required, such as parental instruction or summer school.

Teachers know early enough when a child is in trouble and should be able to recommend an alternative before it is too late.

For the protection of our children--our future--schools must make an effort to keep up with current cultural problems.

Sue Matteson Syracuse, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Not all private schools ignore the federal government’s mandate to have anti-drug policies and programs, as your article “PrivateSchools Said Free From Anti-Drug Mandate” might seem to suggest (June 20, 1990).

The John Dewey Academy, a residential, college-preparatory high school, is drug-free.

Its drug policies are explicit. Candidates for employment as faculty members or admission as students sign a pledge to remain abstinent from all psychoactive substances, including alcohol and nicotine.

It is important to note that there are no unions to protect private-school teachers from making this commitment.

Family members and friends are confronted about their use of mood-altering drugs. Students are not permitted to communicate or associate with those who use such substances.

When the academy applied for “drug-free school” recognition from the U.S. Education Department, it claimed to be the only drug-free school in the United States.

A representative sent by the Education Department to verify the statements contained in the application affirmed, “Before arriving, I doubted if it is possible for any school to be drug-free. Given everything I have read, seen, and heard, I believe the Academy is drug-free.”

The Education Department rejected the application, despite the fact that students and faculty members have voluntarily agreed to take unannounced urine tests given by the government.

One of the reasons given for the rejection was that there was no drug-education program.

Given the government’s mandate, the recognition program is ill conceived and hypocritical.

Schools that attributed a decrease in drug abuse to education and intervention efforts won the drug-free-school competition.

The U.S. Justice Department, in contrast, would incarcerate adolescents who violate drug laws.

Thomas Edward Bratter President John Dewey Academy Great Barrington, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the August 01, 1990 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor