To the Editor:
I am surprised at the lack of response to the Commentary suggesting that public schools seek privately endowed chairs for teachers (“Old Idea, New Setting: Endowed Chairs for Schools,” Oct. 10, 1990).
Taxpayers who cannot or will not fund resources needed for adequate schools seem increasingly willing to hand the responsibility to private interests. Failing to cite any important problems in doing so, the Commentary’s authors, George P. White and Nicholas H. Morgan, favor the expediency of corporate participation and call it a “logical” step.
When big business contributes to schools, strings are likely to be attached. In sources such as Sheila Harty’s Hucksters in the Classroom and the Consumers Union’s recent report on commercial incursions into schools, corporate self-interest and disrespect for veracious discourse are shown clearly. Using the endowed chair for “marketing clout” to attract parents from neighboring areas is a tactic that could distract parents from examining more rational indicators of a school’s quality.
The single response (Letters, Nov. 14, 1990) came from a district where such a chair is being funded by a private foundation whose name is not readily associated with commercial exploitation, environmental degradation, or international cultural in4sensitivity. But chairs endowed by large corporations and some corporate foundations would become commercial and ideological springboards, as teachers and schools are subtly encouraged to identify themselves with the products of their benefactors. Witness the ever-expanding commercial hyperbole corporations now squeeze from their donations to public broadcasting.
The authors call their idea a “new form of public charity.” But recall Christopher Whittle’s insistence that the TV equipment his company has placed in schools to carry “Channel One” is not charity. Corporate involvement may be logical to those who buy the argument that education is responsible for the decline of our international stature and domestic spirit. To others who believe those ills to be a function of the excesses of consumptionism, short-term profits, and decreased competition, corporate schemes for funding education bear strict scrutiny.
Lawrence M. Hoffman
Ohio State University
To the Editor:
It is obvious that David G. Myers needed to do more extensive current research on gifted education before embarrassing himself by writing such a dated Commentary (“Don’t All Children Have Gifts?” Commentary, Jan. 16, 1991).
First of all, giftedness is defined as 5 percent receiving student-based services and up to 20 percent receiving curriculum-based services, with all students receiving the higher-order thinking skills.
Secondly, the “labeling” of students has gone on for years, not only in this country, but in countries known as educational leaders based on their test scores. Labels can be a positive if we understand that one label doesn’t fit all; a student may be hearing-impaired and gifted, or learning-disabled in one area and gifted in another.
Gifted education does not have to segregate learners. Gifted students should be reacting with other gifted learners six hours a week as the current research indicates. This gives an opening for other students to take on the role of leader in the class that these students usually play.
Working in groups is healthy, but we are not being fair to our leaders if we always put them in a group because they are the leader. It is time to put all the leaders in a group and identify new roles for them.
It is also time we allow children to open doors and reach for learning that is of interest to them. This is when they will believe in themselves, because the reward for this type of learning will be fullfillment.
Paraphrasing Piaget, we only see what we know. It is time to look beyond what is known to higher thinking skills. It is time to personalize programs with children for children at all levels.
Marcia A. Kentner
Coordinator Gifted and Talented Program
Wasioja Education District
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor