In The Press
A confluence of social changes--from a rising divorce rate and a growing number of women entering the workplace to the sexual revolution and the predominance of television--has created a new relationship between adults and children in America. The nation has moved away from an ''Age of Protection," in which children are treated as innocents, to an "Age of Preparation," in which children are forced to face the realities of the adult world, argues Mary Winn in the May 8 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
In an article entitled "The Loss of Childhood" (an excerpt from her book Children Without Childhood, which will be published this month by Pantheon Books), Ms. Winn writes that parents have ceased to "differentiate children's needs from those of adults" at a time when "a highly complicated civilization cannot afford to shorten the period of nurture and protection for its immature members."
Children, she says, need a kind of guidance, protection, supervision that they cannot find in a society where they are treated as "psychological equals" of adults.
"Now, the child is enlisted as an accomplice in his own upbringing. And everywhere parents are explicating the texts of themselves, pleading for children to agree, to forgive, to understand, instead of simply telling them what to do," Ms. Winn writes.
Some parents believe that to "protect" children is to "impoverish'' them, but this assumes that children "have the same capacity as adults to assimilate and utilize knowledge and experience," Ms. Winn notes.
She cites Annie Hermann, former educational director of New York's Child Development Center, who said: "We rather feel it is helping to promote equality and democracy to treat children as equal, and for this reason we feel obliged to share all our knowledge with them. But it's like feeding a 2-day-old child a delicious steak, justifying our action by saying that we love to eat steak and therefore it's only fair to give it to our child. The trouble is that the child has no teeth and cannot eat the steak. He chokes on it."
"There is a private-school system in this country that educates a great percentage of our leaders, and black people must have access to it," says Judith Berry Griffin. "That is what abc is all about, providing these students with access to this network--and that in no way denigrates the public-school system."
Ms. Griffin and A Better Chance Inc., the nonprofit scholarship organization she has headed since February 1982, are the subjects of a lengthy article in the June issue of Ebony magazine. From its beginnings some 20 years ago with a handful of member schools, the piece recounts, abc has grown into a $2.5-million-per-year operation with the participation of 150 of the nation's most prestigious public and private schools. More than 5,000 minority students have received aid through the organization--and nearly all have gone on to attend college, according to the report.
A decade ago, notes a second feature in the same edition of Ebony, there were no black women employed as superintendents of schools anywhere in the U.S. Now there are 15--including Floretta Dukes McKenzie of Washington, D.C., Ruth B. Love of Chicago, Donnis H. Thompson of Hawaii, and Constance Clayton of Philadelphia.
"Superwomen of Public Education," a photo feature, profiles these four, along with counterparts from smaller school systems from California to Alabama to New York State. "Black women are the least represented in superintendencies of public-school systems in the country," observes Shirli Vioni, chief of the Pleasantville, N.J., schools. "Those in superintendencies generally have paid a lot of dues and had to step on every rung of the ladder to get there."
"During the Middle Ages everybody was middle aged. ... Middle Evil society was made up of monks, lords and surfs. ... In the 1400 hundreds most English were perpendicular. ... Finally, Europe caught the Black Death. The bubonic plague is a social disease."
With that sample of poor writing by college students, Leon Botstein begins an assessment of the troubles of elementary and secondary education--and makes nine proposals that he says will go a long way toward eliminating them.
Mr. Botstein, the president of Bard College and Simon's Rock, writes in the June 5 The New York Times Magazine that the American education system's deficiencies----of which poor writing is but one--extend to the most prestigious institutions.
He quotes the director of a Dartmouth College writing clinic: "Very few freshmen can write their own language without serious errors (not to mention confused thought)."
Only fundamental change can bring about the improvements that are necessary, Mr. Botstein says. Among his proposals: Pay teachers more money, require teachers to be regularly recertified in their subject areas, abolish departments and schools of education, involve industry and higher education in the schools, enroll students in school at age 4, buy more demanding textbooks, and use volunteers in the classroom more extensively.
Such ideas are not new, but Mr. Botstein also offers others that are. He proposes exempting teachers from the federal income tax to increase their take-home pay. He also says the profession's prestige can be improved by including elementary and secondary teachers in the professional groups now filled with college faculty members, and by giving teachers more time to do outside research and writing.
Mr. Botstein says his ideas would not cost schools much extra money. But he also notes that some of the proposals--such as abolishing undergraduate teacher-training programs--have been mentioned many times before but never acted on.
"Mr. Allen announced to his 4th-grade class that they would be responsible for planning the program for Parents' Night in May. Even though their show was still two months away, everyone agreed to form the committee immediately. ..."
In what month did the children begin planning?
The correct answer is "C."
Each Monday since last month, the Boston Globe has published basic-skills examinations in mathematics and reading for parents to administer to their children.
The question above appeared as part of the reading-comprehension section of the test for 4th-graders, published last week. The Globe says students who answer 75 percent of the questions correctly are performing above grade level.
The tests--which cover the elementary-school grades--were developed by teachers and administrators in the Waltham School District near Boston.
Vol. 02, Issue 38