Education Opinion


February 01, 2001 6 min read
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Mind Matters

Congratulations on your excellent cover article on Mel Levine [“All Children Great And Small,” January]. Because we at Manzano Day School have participated in Schools Attuned for eight years and have been a national training site for the past two summers, we are well aware of the program’s power to influence the ways teachers teach and students learn.

How disappointing, then, that you chose not only to retail inaccurate criticisms but to make the most egregious of these, that Dr. Levine’s work is a “warmed-over version of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences,” a callout in your article. Whereas Gardner’s theory helps students build certain mental muscles, Levine’s delves far more deeply into the causes and cures of learning dysfunctions. His theory is at once more complex, more detailed, and more relevant to the ways in which students learn in each of Gardner’s areas. No one who has actually studied Dr. Levine’s work could possibly perceive it as anything but a distinctive and revealing insight into the minds of learners and a profound asset to teachers.

Dr. Richard Barbieri
Head, Manzano Day School
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dollars And Sense

I want to commend you for the wonderful article “Alternative Answers” [January]. You have summed up the problem: We can’t keep pouring tax dollars into schools and just hope they get better. I wish you the best in your crusade, and I will continue reading.

Jon Van Wagoner
Reading Teacher
Eastmont Middle School
Sandy, Utah

Spin Doctors

The broad spectrum of topics covered in Teacher Magazine’s November/December special issue, “Politics and Education,” impressed me. My positive impression of this publication was overshadowed, however, by the obvious political slant toward the liberal left. How sad that publications such as yours can’t offer objective reports on important topics. Not all educators are liberal democrats. Keep politics and “the spin machine” out of education. Please!

David Bottom
Argenta-Oreana School District
Argenta, Illinois

As I read “Guess Who’s Coming To School” [November/December] and observed the photos of the presidential candidates, I noticed that five pictures were of Gore and one was of Bush. Was this done on purpose? I was offended by your lack of fair representation. It was too obvious not to have been noticed.

S. Awrens
Eugene, Oregon

Food For Thought

As a parent, an educator, and a taxpayer, I am sympathetic to the idea that children have a greater capacity to learn when they have regular and good nutrition [“Free For All,” November/December]. I would like to see the responsibility for providing regular and good nutrition placed back where it belongs—with all parents. There are no excuses—poverty, both parents employed, too busy, too lazy—for not caring for our own children’s basic needs.

Polly Whiteside
Lakewood, Colorado

The claim that “kids often pass on the free meals because they’re ashamed of taking handouts,” which was attributed to food service workers, is ridiculous. Schools are forbidden from allowing children to know whether their breakfast is being paid for, subsidized, or provided free. Thus, if a school is even close to being in compliance with the program, there is no way for a child to know if the meal is a “handout.”

Despite the obsession some people have with the economic status of children and how it relates to performance in school, most small children are generally unaware of or unconcerned with such matters. To claim that they choose not to eat because of a stigma, which cannot legally exist to begin with, is simply inane. It appears that the author is simply making up justifications for expanding the federal free meal program to all people.

Robert Pratt
Lubbock, Texas

Innocence Lost

Maine Educators Against Fingerprinting is pleased to have gained a little national notice [“I Am Not A Crook,” November/ December] in its effort to roll back the tide of mass fingerprinting of the innocent. Your portrayal of Carl Chase, one of 59 Maine teachers who have publicly declared their refusal to submit to criminal-background checks, was respectful and evenhanded. MEAF would like to clarify one point, however: Its members are not quitting their jobs. More accurately, Maine officials are refusing to recertify us because we refuse to submit to the requirement inherent in the background checks—that we prove our innocence despite any cause for suspicion.

Bernie Huebner
Maine Educators Against
Waterville, Maine

Get A Job

I am disappointed that Teacher Magazine would feature on the October cover a 20- year-old with no job, college degree, or driver’s license [“Portrait Of The Reformer As A Young Man”]. Bill Wetzel believes he’s qualified to lead a student revolution? It is easy to preach reform through anarchy. We are always looking for teachers with superior intellect, and I encourage Wetzel to obtain a teaching certificate and show us how it should be done.

Dan Gordon
Warrensburg, Missouri

Bill Wetzel needs to get a job. He probably doesn’t really understand what goes on in most families of moderate means. From everything I gathered in the article, he has a very comfortable lifestyle, including an intact family. School for a great majority of my students is the only stable part of their otherwise less-than-perfect lives. If Bill Wetzel starts his own school—educating students in the style he thinks proper, with all the additional problems that are associated with education—and has great success, then he might be more believable. Sounds like his crusade is an excuse to avoid adult life.

Gretel Bayly
Algonac, Michigan

At first, I thought Bill Wetzel was another spoiled American taking potshots at educators. Isn’t it easy to criticize? As a teacher, I am disheartened when parents say their children aren’t entertained or motivated by their teachers. It is unnerving to think the job of an educator is slowly being reduced to that of an entertainer.

But when I continued reading, I realized that Wetzel’s concern for student boredom was not his bottom line. I agree that true learning occurs only when students feel ownership of their work. But does Wetzel have any idea what constraints we teachers work under to help our students achieve high scores on standardized tests?

I’m glad he is entering the political arena because that’s where the power is and where things need to change. We need funding that will support a variety of charter schools that can test realistic and useful assessment tools.

Finally, I am so grateful that Wetzel’s vision for a “new” school is one founded on community. If all schools had the attributes of a true community, there would be respectful, responsible, honest, and caring people at every post. Meanwhile, I hope Wetzel does more to unite us than divide us with his crusade.

Winnie Needham
Berkeley Hall School
Los Angeles

I cannot decide if Bill Wetzel is attempting to work out deep-seated animosities toward authority and his parents, or if he truly has a credible crusade. I admit that he must be smart. He has gotten his parents to pay for his gadding about as a dilettante intellectual while, at the same time, denigrating the social construction that affords him a comfortable lifestyle. He seems to be stuck in high school, unable to get beyond throwing “spit wads” at the principal. Education indeed is a dynamic creature constantly in need of correction, but Wetzel is like a fat politician who enjoys running a war from a distance more than setting an example with his life.

Conrad Detering
Kaltag, Alaska


“Homecoming” [January] incorrectly located Marshall University in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The school is in Huntington, West Virginia.

Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Articles for the “Comment” section fall under two general headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run approximately 1,000 to 1,750 words (four to five double-spaced pages) in length. All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to Teacher Magazine, 6935 Arlington Road, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814. Letters also may be sent to tmletter@epe.org.

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 2001 edition of Teacher Magazine as Letters


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