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To the Editor:

I second almost everything Dr. Gerald S. Coles writes in his letter rebutting claims that attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D., is of biological origin ("Attention-Deficit Research: 'Leaps of Faith,' Not Logic,'' Letters, May 19, 1993). But why does he find it necessary to criticize the use of the term "disorder'' in referring to the symptom clusters making up this condition?

A.D.H. (with or without the second d) exists; that it may be most parsimoniously explained as a function of psychological, or environmental, factors, regardless of the contribution or even mere association of biological variables, does not affect its status as a disorder. Does Dr. Coles know something I ought to find out before testifying in an upcoming court case on behalf of a patient in whose diagnosis of A.D.H.D. by others I concur?

I, too, see no reason to ascribe biological origins to this patient's disorder. If perhaps most authorities, excepting Dr. Coles (and, putting customary modesty aside, myself) do regard the A.D.H.D. diagnosis as biological in origin, that does not preclude us dissenters from recognizing it as a disorder, does it? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (D.S.M.-III-R) nowhere requires this assumption. That others may insist on the assumption is a wholly gratuitous "leap of faith'' that they may have to live with, but Dr. Coles and I do not.

By the way, I have ordered Dr. Coles's book, The Learning Mystique: A Critical Look at "Learning Disabilities.'' I suspect he has written the book I've always wanted to--except for the quotes around the learning-disabled condition. (I am afraid to say disorder, at least until I read the book.)

John M. Throne
Senior Scientist
Institute of Life Span Studies
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kan.

To the Editor:

Your readers ought not to be misled by Lee Mitgang's lengthy and ingenuous letter in your June 2, 1993, issue ("'Setting the Record Straight' on Carnegie Data for Study of Choice,'' Letters), which seeks to repudiate points I made in an interview in the May 5, 1993, issue ("Monograph's Author Critiques Carnegie Study on Choice,'' Focus On).

Owing to space limitations, what I had to say in summarizing a monograph with 11 sections, 75 footnotes, and extensive bibliography was reduced in your publication to under 500 words. Mr. Mitgang knows very well (though your readers who have not read it could not) that the points I made briefly in the interview are elucidated fully in the monograph (Carnegie received a copy) and nullify his attempted criticisms.

To give a few examples:

1) Mr. Mitgang asserts that Carnegie's contention that one-third of Arizona parents chose schools for academic reasons is a direct reference to an Arizona March 1992 survey. This is true as far as it goes. What it leaves out, and what my monograph demonstrates, is that the figure is meaningless because 37 percent of those included in the poll did not respond meaningfully. The true percentage of those who chose schools for academic reasons, therefore, was over 60 percent, and the author of the Arizona report, Richard Gallagher, explicitly confirmed this interpretation. It is interesting that Mr. Mitgang persists in citing this statistic, in that, under fire after including it in its widely publicized draft report, Carnegie dropped the chart in question altogether in its final report.

2) Mr. Mitgang claims that the Carnegie report had already gone to print when Arizona's new and dramatically increased numbers for participation in schools of choice were published. The Arizona report was published in October 1992. The Carnegie final report was published in December of that year, and it included dozens of changes from its draft report released in October, such as that cited above, not to mention a whole new chapter, "Seeking Common Ground,'' which my monograph applauded. It could also have included the accurate numbers for Arizona, up 35 percent from the previous year.

3) As to Minnesota, Joe Nathan of the Humphrey Institute has already published an extensive analysis of Carnegie's shortcomings in that state. He found 64 errors in the chapter on statewide choice (including Minnesota) alone, the most significant being that the true number of students participating in choice programs in Minnesota was five to seven times greater than Carnegie concedes.

Although the information was left out of the interview, my monograph did say that Carnegie noted a U.S. Education Department survey that found 55 percent of Minnesota choice parents cited learning climate as the reason for switching schools and went on to say that "the Carnegie report simply dismisses the [department's] data by citing many unnamed 'Minnesota school administrators [who] disagree.''' If Carnegie wants to come forward with a list of these administrators that is statistically significant and contradicts the Education Department survey, we will welcome the data.

4) Mr. Mitgang argues that the eccentrically worded Carnegie poll questions are superior to those several dozen others with different wording that have yielded radically more favorable responses to choice. These are described and analyzed in detail in the monograph, and polling experts are cited to contradict Carnegie's position.

5) Mr. Mitgang also claims that Carnegie referred to a representative spectrum of research on the link between choice and improved academic performance and found none. This claim is repudiated in the monograph, in which nearly a dozen studies demonstrating the link are cited. Importantly, the co-author (Lauren Sosniak) of a paper cited by Carnegie as disproving such a link specifically repudiates Carnegie's interpretation. Furthermore, and most unfortunately, the monograph documents instances where the Carnegie report was not only guilty of errors of omission and interpretation but even quoted one official as making a statement that he vehemently denies.

I will not go on ad nauseam. Like Mr. Mitgang, I share a desire to see every school become a school worth choosing and take no pleasure in being implicitly identified by him as a "warring camp.''

I can only recommend to those readers who would like to judge for themselves that they obtain a copy of the monograph, "Beyond Partisan Politics,'' free of charge from the Center for Social Thought, 37 West 20th St., Suite 902, New York, N.Y. 10011; (212) 255-4210.

James MacGuire
Senior Fellow
Center for Social Thought
New York, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Buried in Bruno Manno's piece, "Clinton's 100 Days in Education'' (Commentary, May 12, 1993), is the snide criticism of President Clinton for returning, after 12 years of Reagan-Bush deviance, to the time-tested American policy of confining tax support to public schools.

What Mr. Manno wants, apparently, is tax support for private, predominantly sectarian schools not under meaningful public control, which are not required to play by the same democratic rules as our public schools.

We should be thankful that we at last have a President who values public education and our constitutional principle of separation of church and state, who refuses to be seduced by the siren song of those who would wreck public education, balkanize our society along religious and other lines, and cater to the undemocratic demands of selfish sectarian special interests.

Edd Doerr
Executive Director
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.

To the Editor:

As one who has served for more than 20 years in a categorical program serving migrant students, I am amazed that taxpayers and others who have an interest in the effectiveness of schools have not realized that our resources are being squandered because of the "time locked'' attitude of the educational system. This time-locked mentality dictates that no matter how many more so-called supplementary, federal, state, or local funds are directed to the schools, these funds are generally to be expended between 8 A.M. and 3 P.M. on a Monday-through-Friday basis.

Although many of these funds are labeled as "supplementary,'' educators insist upon investing the funds during the same time frame that has already been paid for, thereby providing sometimes different rather than additional services to the target students.

Aside from the wasteful practice of layering resources during the same time period and supplanting services, the student is cheated by not receiving more time to excel by experiencing different activities which are "above and beyond'' the basic services.

Frank S. Ludovina
San Diego, Calif.

To the Editor:

Misconceptions regarding the so-called/misnamed "Mastery Learning'' fiasco in Chicago, mentioned in a letter by Jeannette Veatch, require a response ("Touting Mastery Learning Ignores Failures of the Past,'' Letters, April 14, 1993).

As a consultant to the Chicago public schools at the time, I was amazed that something so blatantly a piece of insider graft could be foisted on the unfortunate children of Chicago. The name "Mastery Learning'' was attached to a set of locally organized reading materials and sold to the schools by insiders/employees/officials. Anyone knowing anything about the mastery-learning principles would spot the fraud immediately. The mastery-learning group at the University of Chicago disavowed any connection with the project. This example of commercial exploitation of the name of an educational movement was reported in Education Week at the time of the controversy.

In the future, some clarity may be gained by identifying this regrettable canard as the "Chicago pseudo-mastery-learning masquerade'' and avoiding its use in discussions of true implementations of mastery learning. Professor Veatch's personal and professional opinions aside, discussions of mastery learning should be necessarily limited to true examples of mastery learning.

In this case, the rose was not a rose--it was more like skunk cabbage.

Lyelle L. Palmer
Professor and Chairman
Department of Special Education
Winona State University
Winona, Minn.

Vol. 12, Issue 38

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