Education Opinion


November 01, 2003 10 min read
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A Separate Peace

As a teacher in a town where 122 people were murdered last year—so many of them young people—I can’t tell you how moved I was by the article about Colman McCarthy and his dedication to teaching peace [“What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?” October]. I am currently developing a curriculum on principles of identity and community to combat the culture of violence that is decimating our students. This article will be used and appreciated for years to come. Somewhere down the line, a life will be saved because you published this inspirational article.

Terry Minton
Oakland, California

What’s So funny about not respecting parents? The article “What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?” concluded with a somewhat odd, if not a little unnerving—at least to this parent—turn of events. After hearing Mr. McCarthy’s views on radical pacifism, a number of teachers expressed the desire to incorporate his ideology into their own classrooms. While apparently admitting that they couldn’t actually do this with parents’ permission, they comforted themselves with the apparent reality that “when you close your classroom door, you’re in charge and there’s a lot you can get away with.” After discovering that a reporter was actually recording all this, they quickly backtracked. I wonder whether attempts by teachers to inculcate young students on the teacher’s pet views, pro or con, re: politics, philosophy, or religion are considered an aberration in the teaching profession, or whether it’s a commonly accepted practice, as long as the teacher advocates the “right thing.”

Mike Burnat
Montgomery, Alabama

I just finished reading your piece extolling the virtues of a teacher who is a traitor. Colman McCarthy is apparently unaware that the Bill of Rights that he carries with him is from the “violent Constitution” that he so abhors. That’s the caliber of teacher that you put on the cover of your magazine? I think you should be ashamed of publishing this story and of using it to encourage more teachers to teach with a political bias against the United States.

Margaret Alkinc
Rutherford, New Jersey

It is unfortunate that the “document that advocates violence” is also the one that gives your publication the right to print stories that attack it. Such is the First Amendment. What is unacceptable about your choice of articles is that you are promoting the views of a man who is effectively launching a “preemptive strike” against our core national values, because he is reaching a very captive, very impressionable audience and not going out of his way to present the alternative. We sure go out of our way to present alternatives to Christianity, American pride, and conservative family values!

While the article is light-hearted and cute, portraying the man as a grandfatherly figure with an amusing worldview, I fear it will inspire other teachers to follow suit. This is disastrous, for our schools are already teaching hatred of American values but devote entire days to the study of the Koran and the Communist Manifesto, tolerance for “alternative lifestyles,” and the wisdom of the United Nations. Please advise me of your publication’s, and your personal, stance on this matter; I am bewildered as to why you felt it was prudent to print such treasonous material.

Lanny Morrow
Ash Grove, Missouri

Your article concerning Mr.McCarthy and his “pacifism” is emblematic of what is wrong with education these days and why the public has lost so much faith in it. He uses his time to proselytize his radical views to a captive audience. He is abusing the public trust and should be removed from the classroom. This abuse is gross, and those parents should sue big time. It has become commonplace for radicals to work their way into the school system and work their ideology into the curriculum. They always want to get at those kids to “reeducate” them out of the common societal values taught at home. Let’s face it—we all know teachers who do this. Often this is the most important reason some people get into teaching. You can’t look at any textbook these days without detecting a heavy dose of the agenda—even false information, as long as it supports the agenda.

These kids should spend more time on the three R’s rather than listen to the drivel dished out by Mr. McCarthy. I suspect that these students have academic problems, and that is why they are at this experimental school in the first place. The fact that your magazine prints such a positive article about someone such as this is beyond my comprehension. How would any of us like it if our child was told at school that we were basically bad people or idiots? This breeds distrust among the public and disrespect for parents and authority in general among the students. This breakdown in discipline is another large problem for public schools these days that members of our own profession are unwittingly helping to create. Some teachers like those bumper stickers that say “Question authority.” Then they wonder why students are rude and misbehave and parents are unsupportive.

Norman Bartlett
Roseville, California

The article titled “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?” must have been a joke, right? Good try, but it wasn’t very funny. Mr. McCarthy’s ideas on education—now that’s funny. Let me get this right: As a teacher, I can expect no feedback from my students, not expect them to attend class, not expect them to do any work, and then allow them to give themselves grades at the end of the semester. This is teaching? I don’t know if a true educator could accept a paycheck with a clear conscience by doing this.

Though I will not be able to test this system at my school (I’d get fired!), when I get home tonight, I’ll try it there. I’ll tell my kids they can stay up as long as they want, eat whatever they want, do whatever they want, and go wherever they want—all in the name of peace, of course. I’ll explain to them that all the rules, training, and morals I’ve expressed to them in the past have been deemed “parenting violence.” For the good of education, please refrain from printing such preposterous articles in the future.

Mike Finnell
Hillsboro, Texas

What’s really funny is the fact that you don’t recognize Colman McCarthy for what he really is: a parasite who is able to pitch his asinine agenda. Do you think a parasitic slug like McCarthy could have had a blossoming in a country like Iraq?

If McCarthy’s claim to fame is [that he] “doesn’t vote, give out grades, or tell students what to think. Instead, he makes them question the answers,” then one has to wonder what the softball questions were in the first place.

Russell Harris
Overland, Missouri

The article on Colman McCarthy was about as disturbing as they come. It’s not so much his pacifist philosophy that bothers me; I am most disgusted by his attempt to negate the United States Constitution. I can accept and admire pacifism, but it has never gained anything for anyone on its own. Martin Luther King was a great pacifist; he advanced the cause of African Americans, but only because of the riots and turmoil that surrounded his work. You can’t take violence totally out of the world. Any system left on its own will move from order to chaos. This is an unavoidable law of nature.

Our Constitution, along with the Declaration of Independence, happens to be one of those historical documents that tend to focus and channel that natural tendency toward chaos so that we do not misuse violence. It also helps make sure that violence, when used, will improve the order in our country and the world. The type of anarchy Mr. McCarthy is teaching will eventually lead to more inevitable, vicious, and cruel violence. This may sound paradoxical, but look at the history of the world and you’ll see it’s true. It’s people like Mr. McCarthy who are fomenting the violence of the future by teaching our youth disproven and damaging theories and political views that indirectly have caused more violence and suffering than justified violence applied in the proper proportion to restore order in the world. And, yes, that justified violence has to be carried out by trained armies under control and not by wild, uncontrolled mobs such as in Russia during the Revolution or here in our country during the civil rights riots that shook us so violently.

I wish he would quit damaging our youth.

Frank Alonso
Orlando, Florida

Snow Job

While I loved “Cold Comfort” [August/September], I couldn’t help but laugh at [Ben Seymour’s] statement that no all-white school would use logical consequences. Ah yes, another new teacher believes he has discovered the “holy grail” of classroom management. Sorry, but logical consequences have been used for centuries. My mother used them in her one-room schoolhouse in the 1930s, and I use them in my small, 99.5 percent white elementary school in the mountains of Virginia.

The stereotyping of any race is a dangerous thing for an educator to do. I would caution our young, enthusiastic teacher to learn that little in education is really new—repackaged and sold for a higher price, maybe, but not really new.

John Alexander
Independence, Virginia

The article about Ben Seymour’s “adventure” with teaching and living on Little Diomede is interesting. Having come to Alaska in 1984, then staying to live and teach in several Bush villages, I enjoyed reading about his “first” impressions of his “Alaskan adventure.”

But, as he is quoted: “He’d stay even longer, if it weren’t for his parents and his girlfriend....” Such a typical comment from the tourist-type teachers I’ve encountered in my 19 years as an Alaskan educator.

Also, Sean Cavanagh’s article failed to state the real costs of living in Bush Alaska. Please do more fact-finding research in the future. The magazine should do a follow-up with teachers who have decided Alaska is the place to live, work, and raise a family.

After 31 years teaching grades kindergarten through 12 in the lower 48, on military bases around the world, and finally here in Alaska, I have retired in Fairbanks. My experiences, not just “adventures,” have given me great learning and memories. I am in hopes Ben Seymour can say the same if he retires from public education.

Brian Koharian
Fairbanks, Alaska

Coach Class

Re: “Forget the Gipper,” by Keith Manos [Comment, August/September]: Shocked? No. Surprised? Hardly. Disappointed? You betcha! I respected my many coaches, and I still do. (I’m 55.) Do I like them? Some I do and some I don’t, but all are worthy of respect by virtue of their position, character, ability to coach, personal achievements and, by God, just because they are human beings. Sometimes we won, sometimes we didn’t. But every time, I was a better person and climbed further because of a coach. They made me better than I really am, and I will always honor them for that.

I coached elementary school chess for four years— for free. After spending more time on discipline, dealing with parents who picked their kid up two hours late or used it as child care, etc., than I did on actually teaching the game, I quit. Overall, the experience was negative enough that I am glad I let it go. A friend of mine stopped coaching high school soccer for the same reason.

The saddest thing is that people who drive coaches out will not have the reserves of courage and moral strength that they will need. When I face fear, whether in freezing, 35-foot seas in the North Atlantic or a diagnosis of heart disease, I have a toughness that carries me through—in large part because of my coaches.

Christopher Walter
Pembroke, Virginia

It’s too bad Mr. Manos has such a poor perception of the coaching profession. If you let parents and players push you around, then you should find something else to do with your time.

When I read through the article a second time, I could see that the author is looking at the glass half-empty. How does he explain coaching legends such as Warren Wolf (football coach 1958- current) of Brick, New Jersey, and Mr. Dick Katte (basketball coach 1960- current) of Denver Christian High School? Both of these gentlemen are in their 70s, have coached for decades, and have more than 1,000 wins between them. Why haven’t parents or players run them out of town? I think I have an answer. Coaches’ expectations and attitudes determine player desire and commitment. There are numerous coaches still thriving despite complainers and whiners. Communication and personal commitment will never die unless a coach gives up his or her principles and quits. Mr. Manos, try to look at the coaches that are making a difference instead of giving power to pouting parents and players.

Hal Tremper
Littleton, Colorado

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. All submissions should include an address and phone number. Send letters to tm@epe.org, or mail them to Teacher Magazine, 6935 Arlington Road, Bethesda, MD 20814.


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