To the Editor:
I write to correct a misquotation in your otherwise accurate and balanced article on the Core Knowledge initiative in elementary schools (“Embracing Hirsch’s Concepts, Florida School Aims To Instill ‘Core Knowledge’ in Students,” Focus On, Nov. 20, 1991).
The article quotes my introduction to What Your First Grader Needs to Know as saying that our public education is the “least fair in the world.” That would be an exaggeration. The sentence actually states that our public education is the “least fair in the developed world"--an important qualification.
A report by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, Science Achievement in Seventeen Countries (1988), shows that 30 percent of American public elementary schools offer sub-par educational opportunities to students. This compares with 1 percent of sub-par schools in Sweden, Japan, and Norway; 2 percent in Finland; 5 percent in Korea; 6 percent in Canada; 8 percent in Australia, and so on.
However, we do perform better on the fairness criterion than do Singapore, with 32 percent, or the Philippines, with 87 percent of schools below par. Our elementary system is also fairer than that of Italy, a developed nation in its northern regions, which has 37 percent of its schools ranked below the minimal standard.
Anyone interested in fuller data and discussion pertaining to the fairness issue and to other matters regarding the Core Knowledge initiative can write to the Core Knowledge Foundation, 2012-B Morton Drive, Charlottesville, Va. 22901.
E.D. Hirsch Jr.
To the Editor:
I am one of those teachers in one of four Pennsylvania districts currently staging a so-called selective strike. However, the conduct of our strike is much different from those described in your recent article on proposed alterations to state laws governing strikes (“Measure To Limit Pa. Teachers’ Right To Strike Advances,” Oct. 30, 1991).
After eight months of minimal discussion across the table, and after carefully considering our options-working without a contract, not working until a contract was agreed upon, or working selectively--we chose the latter because we believed it would minimize the disruption of our students’ education.
We chose to advise the superintendent the day prior to a full work stoppage and have struck a total of four days, each time calling attention to the school board’s unwillingness or inability to discuss proposals at the table. Recently, the board proposed fact-finding, we proposed binding arbitration, and now both sides are proceeding with fact-finding.
In the meantime, classes and activities have proceeded with little, if any, interruption. This is important to the school, community, and especially those students whose college opportunities depend on senior-year performance.
We believe the “in and out” strike gives all parties time to react and settle the controversy without losing large numbers of school days. Ultimately, we believe, this type of strike will result in less damage to the relationship between board and employees and less long-term damage within the community.
No teacher ever wants to strike. But then, no teacher believes classes of more than 30 pupils each benefit students either, or that they should pay for continuing education, or that their compensation should be less than their peers’ in a nearby district. These are issues typical of those settled in almost 90 percent of all open contracts between 1974 and 1989, and are the issues important to us.
Act 195, the legislation giving teachers and other public employees in Pennsylvania the right to strike, has worked well in our state. If the proposed measures to modify it result in contract resolution before the beginning of each school year, all parties will benefit.
Carole A. Briggs Brookville Area Education
To the Editor:
The Media Column of your Oct. 30, 1991, issue contained a short item on Whittle Communications’ bringing American and Soviet teenagers together by satellite. You indicated that this had “never been done before, at least on this level.”
I am not sure what “on this level” means, but in February and March of 2988, Old Dominion University did a three-part “U.S./U.S.S.R. Youth Summit” series. The first two programs presented life in the Soviet Union, including habits, customs, food, music, clothes, and interests of the Soviet students. The third program was a live, two-way video interchange (Space Bridge) between students in the United States and the U.S.S.R..
These programs were carried by 160 PBS stations reaching 10 million American viewers. The final program was simultaneously aired by one of the U.S.S.R.'s two television networks to 150 million Soviets (a first).
Fifty six U.S. students from 45 states participated at Old Dominion, others had telephone access during the program. The students in attendance at the U.S.S.R. site were chosen as a result of an essay contest. Vladimir Posner of the Soviet Union and Stuart Loory of Cable News Network were hosts for the final program.
I am in no way suggesting that Whittle’s program will not be an excellent one, but these earlier Space Bridge programs were extremely well planned and received. I think those at Old Dominion University who conceived them, particularly Anne Raymond Savage, associate vice president for academic affairs, academic television and distance education, and her staff, should be recognized for their work.
J.C. Phillips Director
Department of Information
Technology Commonwealth of Virginia
A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 1991 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor