Education Letter to the Editor


May 01, 1999 9 min read

Mob Rule?

How easy it seems for the middle school in “Mob Squad” [April] to modify its “widespread participation” philosophy when the institution of basketball is at risk. Pity the unfortunate young lady who aspires to excel in cheerleading. She is shamefully sacrificed on the egalitarian altar.

Mark Vinson
Mabank Middle School
Mabank, Texas

I read “Mob Squad” with amazement. We’ve had a “no-cut” policy for the more than 20 years that I’ve been in this district. I thought that was the way it was done across the nation.

Karen Graham
Mountain View Middle School
Newberg, Oregon

Gender Trap

While “Girls Byte Back” [April] illustrates the gender gap in technology, I would like to correct some misunderstandings about this issue and the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation’s research. Overall, the article falls into the trap that many do when looking at the technology gender gap. It’s easy to frame the issue as a “boys vs. girls” battle, but the point of highlighting these gaps should be to help all students succeed, not fight over who is the bigger loser in the system. The article cites statistics on girls and technology from our latest report, Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children , but the report looks at a range of issues and highlights the strengths and weaknesses of girls, as well as boys and other groups of students.

The article also fails to point out an obvious flaw in Judith Kleinfeld, Diane Ravitch, and John Leo’s criticism of our research. Their arguments were based on Kleinfeld’s report, which uses current statistics to refute our report from 1992. That’s like using today’s lower crime rates to say a 6-year-old study on rising incidents of crime created a false alarm.

The Foundation research shows that for all students to succeed, we must address the needs of different groups of students-boys and girls, rich and poor, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians. Our work to eliminate gender bias and stereotype benefits all students.

Maggie Ford
American Association of University Women Educational Foundation
Washington, D.C.

Teaching Tolerance

Thank you for including articles such as “Pride & Prejudice” by David Ruenzel [April]. There can be nothing more important in furthering civil rights for all than educating our teachers. Although I grew up at a time when “sexual orientation” was a non existent term and homosexual wasn’t in the lexicon, I clearly remember the mistreatment of “sissies” and “tomboys,” which most often was given no heed and was occasionally perpetrated by teachers.

I still witness the effects of uncorrected K-12 behavior on many campuses of small universities and colleges. It is difficult to stem the inappropriate behaviors of 18- to 20-year-olds if they have no exposure to enlightened tolerance. Thanks again for bringing this issue to the most influential forum.

J.L. Duncanson
University of Wisconsin at Stout
Menomonie, Wisconsin

Thank you for David Ruenzel’s piece. It is vitally important that discrimination and harassment in schools no longer be tolerated.

Ken Bullock
Norristown, Pennsylvania

A Suspect Story

Your magazine should never have been named Teacher: Anti Teacher would have been a better title. I have never seen so many negative articles about the teaching profession in one spot.

In “Unusual Suspects” [February], you found a few teachers who may have harmed a child. But I worked with a gentleman who was falsely accused. The prosecuting attorney dragged on the investigation for two years. This man’s life was ruined. After two years, the case was dropped. Still, the man left teaching. He said it wasn’t worth it.

There are so many fine things happening in education. Focus on these things. Your magazine is depressing.

Shanny Sevy
Layton, Utah

The Real World

I suggest that those persons who only want to read positive and uplifting articles stick with their union publications. In contrast to those critical of “Unusual Suspects,” I appreciate the openness and honesty that your magazine exhibits. I enjoy reading about real teachers who are having the same problems in their classrooms that I am having in mine, problems that sometimes have no solution. It gives me strength to know that I am not alone. The more I know about the education community surrounding me, the better prepared I will be to make informed decisions concerning my students and myself.

I wish that I lived in a world where all of my students did their homework daily, where some teachers did not take advantage of the students, where some students did not take advantage of their teachers, and where all students were a success. But that is not my world.

Charles O. Hall
Instructor of Mathematics
John F. Kennedy High School
Granada Hills, California

Money Woes

How can a magazine that calls itself Teacher feature an article [“Help Wanted,” April] bemoaning the plight of a principal who has to send his three children to college on a mere $78,000-a-year salary? Unless you plan a follow-up story on the thousands of teachers making $30,000 or less who must put three children through college on their truly meager incomes, consider this letter a request to cancel my subscription.

Christine Carter
Loxahatchee, Florida

Educational Rx

I read with some disquiet Diane Ravitch’s fantasized scenario--or was it a nightmare?--of being diagnosed by educators rather than by doctors. [“What’s Up, Doc?” April.] Surely Ravitch would not prefer an education system in which students find discussions about their progress “incomprehensible"-as she described the terminology bandied about by her doctors when describing the state of her health. It is possible that students and parents find education jargon confounding, but I doubt that anyone is pleased by that. And it is interesting to note that, as Ravitch describes herself in this scene, she is a nonparticipant. Would she deny children involvement in their education?

The complexities of the body, the idiosyncrasies of individuals, the inability to predict results-medicine is, more often than not, a practice of subtlety and nuance. Isn’t that what we want for the education of our children?

Cynthia Levinson
Austin, Texas

I much appreciated the essay by Diane Ravitch. I’d like to imagine what it would be like if medicine was run as education is: Physicians would meet with 20 or so patients at a time. They would call out, “Who hurts here?” They would have patients tutor each other, taking pulse and blood pressure, asking questions and writing down responses, regardless of spelling or whether they understood the terms they used or the responses they got. They would have each patient take a test for ovarian and prostate cancer because, after all, we are all the same. They would send each patient home with the same prescription for medicine, exercise, and nutrition, regardless of the broken arm or the diabetic.

Molly Crocker
Ferndale, Washington

Sad Legacy

Jonathan Schorr didn’t seem clear on his contribution to his former students’ “sad” lives. [“Where Are They Now?,” March.] I would like to attempt to clarify it for him. Jon, by leaving teaching after only three years, you modeled quitting for your students, most of whom would still have been enrolled as seniors. Walk away: That’s your legacy. To the editors: Please make an attempt to seek out those teaching professionals who make a commitment to children and know how to keep it.

Lisa Machado

Dear Mr. Schorr: I have been a teacher in the public schools for 10 years, working primarily in middle schools. I mean, come on. The Sunday night insomnia, the weekends buried in books, the weekly grading of papers, and the Monday morning reprisals of administrators or parents-that’s what it’s all about. Did you offer your students a better way of life? And in doing so were you passing judgment on their conditions? Brother, I’m not going to cry for you. Why? Because it’s what we see on a daily basis. Therea saying, “If you’re not in it, you’re out of it.” Do you honestly think you’re doing anything for those children by sitting behind a desk and giving us the political/sociological spin on the issues? Please, leave that to the administrators and politicians; they’ve had more practice. I will always give students the benefit of the doubt because, even at their worst, they don’t attempt to pontificate on their situation; they’re too busy living it. Maybe you’re the one that needs to go back to school because I’m not buying your story.

Robert Coe

Reporting 101

Could “Defending Mrs. Halas” [March] have been printed if Teacher Magazine’s editor and chairman had not approved? Not a chance. Students who wish to live in the real world need to know that reporters do not have a First Amendment right to publish; the newspaper owners do. Because student papers are school-sponsored, the school board acts as publisher. If students wish to exert their First Amendment rights, let them print their paper by themselves.

Michael Lamb
Klamath Falls, Oregon

As one of the school district’s attorneys in the Jon David, et al. vs. Board of Education of Blue Springs, I read “Defending Mrs. Halas” with interest and dismay. The article was slanted toward the position of the teacher and her students. As defense counsel, I am somewhat biased, but it is my understanding that a good journalist must be fair and unbiased. At no time did the reporter attempt to interview the several administrators and school board members sued by plaintiffs. If he had, he might have found a truly human interest story there. The anguish brought to these people by being called into federal court is indescribable. The board members have worked tirelessly and without pay to create a school system where all children and young adults can learn.

Supervision of school newspapers is required so students learn as much as possible about journalism-including unbiased reporting. The reporter, by only interviewing and talking to the plaintiffs, plaintiffs’ counsel, and the teacher in question (except for a few seconds with me, which was only briefly mentioned), obviously reported only one side of a lengthy and complex legal and factual situation. The story illustrates there is a need for some degree of supervision and review in teaching fair and ethical journalism in the classroom setting. It is too bad that the professional who wrote the Halas story apparently never had the occasion to learn journalism fairness and ethics in a properly supervised newspaper setting. Although the new supervisor’s classes and newspaper staff at Blue Springs South High School are nearly full-contrary to the times before her arrival-there still is room for your reporter.

Julius Oswald
Cochran, Oswald, McDonald, Roam & Moore
Blue Springs, Missouri

Editors’ note: Teacher Magazine Senior Writer David Hill requested an interview with Charles McGraw, superintendent of the Blue Springs schools, but was told that he declined comment because of the pending litigation. Hill also spoke with Dennis Littrell, principal of Blue Springs South High School at the time of most of the incidents described in the story. Though Littrell also declined comment, Hill quoted extensively from testimony that the administrator gave at a court hearing.

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