I must admit to some confusion after reading the August/September “Perspective” column (“Doing it Right”) on setting standards for scholastic achievement. Though I agree with Ron Wolk’s assertion that setting standards alone will not be enough to foster academic improvement, I think that establishing rigorous standards is essential.
I was particularly perplexed by what I took as Wolk’s disapproval of the proposed standard he quoted from the Seaborg commission’s work. Although I don’t hold a degree beyond a bachelor of science (and that not in physics or any other “hard” science field), I understood what it stated and the underlying concepts of force, vector, and angle. I am concerned that Wolk seems to feel that comprehending such a standard is beyond the reach of not just most high school students but most high school teachers, as well.
We should set high goals and strive to master them, not set a low bar over which all may jump without effort. Standards must also be clearly articulated in the terminology appropriate for the subject, meaning math standards should be expressed in mathematical terms, and, yes, physics standards should be stated in terms familiar to someone with a knowledge of physics. If, as Wolk seems to believe, many educators will be unable to comprehend standards stated in such terms, they have an inadequate grounding in the subject and have no business trying to teach it.
Thank you for your excellent roundup of the opinions offered by columnists and editorial writers following last spring’s tragedies in Oregon, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania (“Schoolyard Shootings,” August/September). When people asked me if I was ready to go back to school this year, I told them, “Yes-I’ve got my helmet and flak jacket.”
I still can’t believe the level of violence in U.S. public schools today. The denial of the problem is what concerns me the most. I am seriously considering moving to Canada. This country is just too accepting of violence at all levels, and I find it extremely frightening.
Daren Marie Smith
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