Letters to the Editor

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Two recent letters ("Analysis of 'Faddism' Is Faulted," Dec. 13, 1989) challenge Edward A. Wynne's assessment in an earlier issue that education is not a profession.

Notwithstanding indignant assertions by the letter writers and my personal wishes that it were so, 25 years' experience leads me to conclude that what we hope to be--what we claim to be--we are not.

I have had many positive experiences with competent and perceptive teachers in public and private education; with an impressive state education-department staff; with principals who display vision and perspective; with university professors who do know what they are talking about.

Unfortunately, I have also screened prospective English teachers who made multiple errors in grammar on a one-page application; interviewed history teachers who gave little indication of understanding the Puritan legacy; sat through education classes in which not a single worthwhile idea was raised or, worse, in which significant ideas were touched upon but the professor had no notion of their relevance or implications; watched education departments accept less able students filtered out by more demanding departments; and listened to administrators and teachers discuss statistics and research with little knowledge of what they were talking about.

Such experiences are reinforced by negative impressions of broader significance than personal examples: education faculties that refuse to raise entrance requirements because there might be too few students and faculty members might lose their jobs; the "everybody-is-above-average" phenomenon in statewide testing programs; the prevailing tendency to substitute quantity for quality; the inconsistency between the movement toward magnet schools and the espousal of equal educational opportunity for all; and the lack of evidence that the teachers' unions are as interested in the welfare of students as in that of their membership.

Each of these larger groups does make significant contributions to education. But the vested self-interest of adult groups turns the wheels of education more directly than any other factor.

Competent, dedicated teachers and administrators usually do not participate in this political game; others with various ambitions usually do.

Is it any wonder that the public rates its local schools well while rating schools in general poorly? The public knows firsthand the dedicated teachers in the local school, but its view of schools is established by its perception of the educator-turned-politician.

This outlook sustains an environment in which teachers are seen by themselves and others more as drones than as professionals.

Can someone convince me I belong to a profession?

Thomas L. Doyle President Montgomery Catholic High School Montgomery, Ala.

Michael B. Young's letter is regrettably far from the mark ("American Scores Linked To Focus on Educating 'All,"' Nov. 22, 1989).

It certainly used to be true that the United States was one of the rare nations attempting to educate "all children--and to faithfully report their test scores," and4that this might explain relatively low achievement-test scores.

But this claim is no longer true.

In the face of, for example, 90 percent enrollment in 12th grade in Japan, the goal of 80 percent at baccalaureate level in France, and Sweden's commitment to lifelong access to higher education for all, it is the height of self-delusion to persist in the belief that the United States is unique in its commitment to mass education.

In fact, not only has average performance declined here, so has enrollment in post-compulsory years.

And all the while, despite spasmodic gestures, the public and its elected leaders continue to ignore the needs of schooling and remain complacent about educational conditions.

The alternative is not merely to develop an educated elite, as Mr. Young appears to believe.

Nineteenth-century practices are decaying everywhere and being radically reformed.

First, we must learn more about what is going on--both here and abroad--to improve the quality and equality of schooling.

Second, we must seek to get rid of the complacency, superiority, and parochialism that characterize so much educational talk.

Then maybe we can find an informed context for seeking improved achievement.

Max A. Eckstein Teacher Colrain, Mass.

Vol. 09, Issue 19

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