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To the Editor:

Reading "Charting a Course for Reform'' ("From Risk to Renewal,'' Special Report, Feb. 10, 1993) made me think of the infamous dog that didn't bark. There were some silent growls but no bark!

I suggest all of the reforms are doomed to failure if they confine their goal to a purely secular approach. The alchemists have not yet succeeded in compartmentalizing human beings, dratted things, who still have this pesky "spirit'' to them. Any education worthy of being called education must deal with the whole person--body, mind, and spirit.

It is not a topic the editors considered in their lengthy review, nor is it a popular subject in public debate, except for some easily dismissed "fundamentalists'' or sectarian fanatics. It was certainly not considered in the Nation at Risk report.

That 1983 document was prepared by folks well within the system. To them it seems there is no question education is preparation for the workplace, hence, the "mediocrity'' and danger to our economic well-being the report speaks of is just that--future workers not being able to compete in the information age.

Our schools can't achieve anything but the most superficial without some underlying philosophy of life and man's place in the scheme of things. Aristotle pointed out that the worst human being is not the evil individual who lacks knowledge. However evil this person may be, he is too stupid to do much harm.

The person who concerned Aristotle more was the "astute rascal,'' the individual who had all the practical knowledge but who lacked the moral character to seek the right ends. But the selection of right ends is precisely what American education seeks to avoid. It opens a debate no one wants. But avoiding a problem never solves it.

Ninety percent of American schools are state-run. If 90 percent of our churches or organs of the press were state-run, we would recognize the danger.

Robert S. Marlowe
Executive Director
Council for Educational
Freedom in America Inc.
Upper Marlboro, Md.

To the Editor:

In your Feb. 22, 1993, issue, Joseph Oravitz, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, responded in a letter to my summary of all the available research on the academic effects of teacher strikes ("Do Teacher Strikes 'Hurt' Students?'' Commentary, Dec. 16, 1992).

First, he found fault with "such limited data'' and criticized me for "[not] providing further proof or facts.'' Yet, my basis was approximately 23 studies since 1969, with the most comprehensive and sophisticated being in recent years in Pennsylvania. In contrast, he does not provide any other research findings or analyses.

Instead, he provides his perception of "the real world'' based on his "personal involvement with some 650 teacher strikes in Pennsylvania over the past 22 years.'' One cannot help but wonder at the objectivity of that perception.

Finally, he proceeds to posit hypotheses about "time on task,'' perceptions of teachers, and the legislative process. His contentions are filled with assumptions, marked by the repeated term "if.''

If Mr. Oravitz' perceptions are indeed reality, then why is his unequivocal and emphatic "yes,'' in answer to the question of whether teacher strikes hurt students, not confirmed in study after study, including those in Pennsylvania?

The quality, quantity, and relative consistency of these studies suggest to me a cautious and qualified answer. To Joseph Oravitz, whom I know and respect, they seem to suggest a summary judgment, dismissing the findings because they do not "validate'' his arguments.

The difference between us, which is akin to 90 but not 180 degrees, is literally, our positions. As the executive director of the leading organization in our state opposed to teacher strikes, Mr. Oravitz is, and must be, an advocate. As an arbitrator and professor, my stake is in having as much neutrality and objectivity as I can muster, much like a judge, if not expert witness. His real argument is not with me, but with the advocates of his opposite organizations.

I would urge readers to read my full, published review of the research, which is cited in my Commentary, then to consider the arguments of Mr. Oravitz and those of his opponents. You be the jury.

Perry A. Zirkel
Lehigh University
Bethlehem, Pa.

Vol. 12, Issue 27

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