Education Opinion


December 04, 2002 4 min read
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Dare to Pass on Seeds of ‘Wisdom’

The Roman poet Horace challenges us, for the good of humanity, to “dare to be wise.” And in his recent Commentary, Robert J. Sternberg makes a strong case that we must begin this process by educating our young people for wisdom (“Teaching for Wisdom in Our Schools,” Commentary, Nov. 13, 2002).

We believe in giving students a balanced education, one that teaches to the whole child—intellectually, physically, socially, emotionally, and morally. True learning occurs when knowledgeable and intelligent students take that one step beyond and use the information they attain in a meaningful way. This transfer of knowledge into productive use, when initiated at a young age, creates a kind of patterning for life. Hence, the seeds of wisdom are planted.

We piloted the Teaching for Wisdom program in 8th grade U.S. history classes at our middle school in Saddle Brook, N.J., during the spring 2002 semester. After receiving training provided by Yale University’s PACE Center in New Haven, Conn., we were excited to use the strategies suggested to make our students think and act “wisely.” The students learned to look at moments in history through a kaleidoscope of viewpoints. They practiced walking in the shoes of others; they questioned wise elders, quite often their grandparents or local senior citizens. And some of them gradually began not to simply think and talk wisely, but to make wise decisions and take actions for the good of the class.

We hope to employ the theory of the Teaching for Wisdom program in other academic arenas this year. Wisdom is not something to be taught in isolation, but rather should be infused throughout the curriculum.

It is a challenge to teach our students to be wise, and it is a challenge to find exemplary, wise role models. We need wise leaders in government, wise doctors, wise teachers, wise parents, and many others to serve as models of wise behavior: to act for the good of humanity.

Who will accept the challenge of Horace and dare to be wise?

Marilyn Hamot Ryan
Coordinator of Gifted Programming
Susan Sommer
Middle School Teacher
Saddle Brook School District
Saddle Brook, N.J.

Counting Students in ‘A Small World’

To the Editor:

Your article “A Small World,” (On Assignment, Nov. 13, 2002) must have contained a typographical error. You describe the plight of Martinsville, Va., whose schools have been affected by the region’s loss of manufacturing jobs and the decline in enrollment that has entailed. Apparently, there are 8,371 students enrolled this fall, which has led, you say, to “cutting 54 staff positions this school year, including 36 teachers, out of 1,432 total employees.”

If this is not a typographical error, then you have misplaced the emphasis of your article. Rather than bewailing Martinsville’s budgetary woes, you might well have wondered at the ludicrous ratio between the number of students and the number of adults the town employs to educate them.

Gisèle Huff
San Francisco, Calif.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The figure in the article for the total number of Henry County, Va., school employees is correct.

Technology Needs More School Study

To the Editor:

The story of technology in our schools is like a fragmented jigsaw puzzle; failure to see the whole picture costs us dearly (“Technological Progress: An Oxymoron?,” Commentary, Nov. 6, 2002).

Companies see the situation very clearly, and drive the “computers-in-school movement momentum” Dennis L. Evans describes in his essay. Teachers, administrators, and school board members cannot compete with their salesmanship, and are pressured to keep up with “technological progress.” Nobody studies the evidence.

The Kansas City, Mo., schools, for example, invested early and heavily, creating a technology- rich, state-of-the-art high school more than a decade ago. The goal was to raise academic achievement and inspire interest among students. That never happened.

Your recent report on research in California (“Internet Access Has No Impact on Test Scores, Study Says,” Sept. 4, 2002) has particularly powerful evidence. Two University of Chicago economists studied the impact of the federal E-rate program on schools there, finding that while it does succeed in increasing Internet access, it doesn’t necessarily have an impact on student achievement.

Likewise, your Nov. 6, 2002, article “U.S. Lagging in Graduation Rate, Report Says” has information showing that, when compared with 30 other industrialized countries, our graduation rates are troubling. The final paragraph contains this nugget: “American students have the best access to computers at school among the countries studied. In the United States, the ratio is five students to every computer, while the average student-to- computer ratio for OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries is 13-to-1.” There is, apparently, no correlation between classroom computer access and graduation rates.

Scarce education resources are directed away from traditional programs and towards computers, software, and continuous maintenance. Yet, as Mr. Evans says in his essay, “there is little room or patience for any reflection or discussion regarding a possible downside.” What a scary truth.

Betty Raskoff Kazmin
Board of Education Member
Willard, Ohio

Poor Taste Is Seen in Photo Selection

To the Editor:

Your Nov. 13, 2002, cover photograph [in the print edition] of a small Minnesota girl holding aloft a “We Love Norm” sign was in extremely poor taste after the tragic deaths of Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, campaign aides, and plane crew shortly before the Nov. 5 election (“Schools to See Big Windfalls From State Ballot Measures”).

A “cute” photograph such as this one is not at all amusing in light of such a loss.

Nathalie Yafet
Hillside, N.J.

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 2002 edition of Education Week as Letters


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