Education Opinion


January 01, 1990 7 min read

Horror Stories

The September/October issue of Teacher Magazine says that Joe Clark’s “story was the basis for the film Stand by Me.” In fact, Joe Clark’s story was the basis for the movie Lean on Me. Stand by Me was based on Stephen King’s short story, “The Body.” The two films are unrelated, though both contain elements of horror.

Ruth Wheeler
John Adams High School Cleveland

An Elite Group?

The decision to limit membership in the Holmes Group consortium was made not on “elitist” grounds, as you suggest, [“Rethinking Teacher Education,” September/October 1989] but to create a workable group of institutions capable of bringing their research resources to the problems of teacher education. We take seriously our mission of preparing individuals for both the complexities and demands of a professional career in teaching.

Far from seeing ourselves as “elite,” Holmes members assess our current contributions to the improvement of teaching and schools as inadequate. Nonetheless, we have committed ourselves not only to place teacher education at the center of our schools and colleges of education but to work on this task with the resources of our entire university.

Judith Lanier
President-Chair, The Holmes Group
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Mich.

Editor’s Note: Critics, not Teacher Magazine, characterized the Holmes Group as “elitist.”

Out Of The Old

Your article on teacher David Pribyl’s use of superconductivity in the classroom [“Coming In Out Of The Cold,” November 1989] is a lesson in “Now” education. “Now” is always more relevant, usually more exciting, and often more useful than “Once upon a time.” Now is both what and when our students must encounter, cope with, and master in order to survive. If we could come in out of the “Old” into the now of our students’ lives at all levels, and into the now of the real-world society into which our students are expected to functionally merge, then we might contribute significantly to the reduction and possible elimination of the education deficit. Three cheers for Pribyl.

Will Johnstone
New Mexico Independent Academy
Belen, N.M.

PETA Fans, Pans

As a retired elementary school teacher, I was both thrilled and saddened to learn about PETA’s program for kids and all the other great things happening now for children [“Crusaders In The Classroom,” November 1989]. I’m thrilled that young people now have a support system for their beliefs and feelings about animals. I only regret that I didn’t know about PETA Kids until my last year of teaching and that our educational system has been so slow and stubborn about addressing the very real humane concerns children have.

Children have a natural affinity toward animals. We must nourish their compassion, not destroy it. I have read and shared with my classes PETA’s materials for children and the kids love it. PETA Kids supports what my students always knew was right—animals are not toys, tools, or food, but individuals with feelings and interests of their own. I hope PETA will continue to produce materials for children, not weak products to appease parents.

Kathleen Gibbs
Auburn, Calif.

Many thanks for your insightful article on animal rights. I wish these issues had been raised years ago. When I was in school, I was told that I needed to eat meat in order to be healthy. Then, on a class trip, I was taken to a slaughterhouse and told that hitting a steer on the head with a sledgehammer was normal and necessary. I was told in high school biology that if I refused to pith a frog my grade would be lowered. (I did refuse and it was lowered.) Frogs have undeveloped nervous systems, I was told. They don’t feel pain.

If there had been a few animal rights activists around then, perhaps I wouldn’t have been given such a distorted view of life. The very least we can do for students today is present the entire story.

Kathy Snow
Rockville, Md.

As an ardent conservationist and science teacher I find the article on animal rights most disturbing. The members of PETA in the teaching profession are not unbiased observers, but people giving half-truths. They assign to animals almost human intelligence, emotions, and sensory perceptions. This is a point with which no scientist or theologian would agree.

The students we face in school, especially in the elementary grades, are most vulnerable to our teaching and preaching, and a great deal of what PETA preaches is nothing but pure, unadulterated propaganda. For every position they take, there is one that should be listened to equally, whether it be on the use of animals in circuses and zoos and for research or on the need to manage animals. In science we try to expose students to all the evidence and then let them make their judgments based on fact. I would hope that before PETA is ever invited into a classroom that members of the groups they object to be given the opportunity to present their point of view. Listening to all sides of an issue and then making a judgment is what education is about.

Robert Kitchen
Portsmith (R.I.) High School
Fall River, Mass.

I was very disappointed with your recent article on animal rights. Contrary to the impression it left, humane education as promoted by our organization, the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, and as it is practiced by the vast majority of teachers, focuses primarily on teaching children mainstream principles we as Americans agree upon: proper pet care, the golden rule, protection of endangered wildlife, etc.

As educators, we at NAHEE know the difference between public-interest topics and special-interest topics and we present them accordingly. I hope your article does not dissuade teachers from participating in humane education. By law, it is required teaching in 22 states.

Patty Finch
NAHEE Executive Director
East Haddam, Conn.


I was somewhat taken aback by your article on college recommendations [“College Recommendations,” November 1989]. I have written a number of letters of recommendation for students over the years for admission to institutions of higher education both at the graduate and baccalaureate levels, and for employment. I could never forward such a letter without first letting the person being recommended not only see it, but also decide whether it should be sent. I deeply believe he or she has that right. To do otherwise is, in my opinion, unethical.

Keith Gregg,
Professor Chicago State University

In The Mainstream

Thank you for your insightful look at mainstreaming [“Side by Side,” November 1989]. As a five-year veteran teacher of developmentally handicapped students and a parent of a 7-year-old special needs child, I have seen from two perspectives the positive results of mainstreaming when it is done early and right.

The right approach includes a properly informed and willing regular classroom teacher and set of students, a support person to move with the student when necessary, and a small enough number of students in the regular classroom to give all participants the time and space they need. Administrators who are willing to take risks are also vital to the process. And the most valuable piece of the puzzle is healthy communication.

Our 7-year-old spends one-third of her day with a regular 1st grade class and two thirds in a DH class. This individualized plan allows her to learn in the intensive environment she requires, while providing her with normal peer models and friends from a regular room.

Cora Raver Grimes
Special Education Teacher
Van Wert, Ohio

Your article on mainstreaming and the “regular education initiative” is simply one of the best and most balanced articles I have seen on these complex issues.

I would add only one comment. The vast majority of those considered handicapped—those identified as learning disabled, mentally retarded, and behavior disordered—are often perceived by their teachers and classmates alike as less pleasant and more frustrating to deal with on a day-to-day basis than blind children. Their classroom behaviors are not passive, nor do they evoke sympathy. In fact, they tend to frustrate everyone so much precisely because they do not appear to be dramatically different from their normally achieving and normally behaving peers. They do not look different or use exotic learning tools, or offer an obvious reason, like blindness, to explain why their behavior and learning does not keep pace with everyone else’s.

It is for teachers of these children that the REI will create enormous challenges both because there are literally millions of them, and also because their special educational needs are quite difficult to pin down.

Michael Gerber
Associate Professor, Special Education
University of California
Santa Barbara, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 1990 edition of Teacher as Letters