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To the Editor:

The March 16, 1994, issue contained three essays, each of considerable length, which in some way discussed crime or undesirable behavior and proposed ways to curb both.

Here are just a few of the prescriptions offered to reduce such behavior: curfews, effective consequences, teaching nonaggressive responses, restricting access to the tools of harm, correcting conditions of life, personalized instruction, student involvement in making decisions, and training in the development of interpersonal skills.

The proposed solutions seem to me more like the medical problem in which prescriptions are made for symptoms rather than causes. It is also interesting to note that a small item in the "In the Press'' section of the same issue comes much closer to a prescription aimed at the etiology of crime and undesirable behavior. It dares to mention the word "morality'' and the need to teach children (and adults) the difference between right and wrong.

While the publication referred to (The Responsive Community, winter edition) seems to infer that children should cooperatively determine what is right and wrong (existentialism has long proved itself immoral), at least raising the issue of morality and treating causes instead of symptoms is a step in the right direction.

Bruce K. Alcorn
Director of Certification
Ball State University
Muncie, Ind.

To The Editor:

The article on the takeover of the Jersey City, N.J., schools explores some of the community backdrop to that event ("Anatomy of a Takeover,'' March 2, 1994). I believe that in assessing the takeover of schools, the role of the larger community and its institutions has been underestimated.

In Jersey City as in Paterson, N.J., the schools are not the only institutions that could be prime for intervention. If there were takeover laws for libraries or recreation programs or other city services, other interventions might be made.

The inability of people of good will to intervene in the schools for reform is part of a larger picture of community collusion. Seizing the schools in Jersey City and in Paterson disturbed a patronage machine that reverberates through political bodies in those cities to this day. Ask who the critics of takeover are. You will find politicians and political activists whose agendas are power and control of city resources, not the needs of children. Ask the critics what involvement they had in schools prior to the takeover. You will find inaction or narrow agendas.

Takeover of the schools will only be effective if we can activate coalitions that work to reform other city institutions as well. Schools serve only a portion of our city children's needs. Health-care, child-care, housing, recreation, and juvenile-justice systems must work to reform themselves as well. Until public institutions are enabled to act together, with children's needs placed first, we will be unable to assure high-quality education and a better quality of life for children. And that means the creation of the political will to invest in our future through policies that are good for children and their families.

School takeover is a part of the solution, but it is not the cure.

Irene L. Sterling
Executive Director
Paterson Education Fund
Paterson, N.J.

To the Editor:

Juliette N. Lester's excellent Commentary on the importance of early career guidance includes information and recommendations very similar to those in a report Public/Private Ventures prepared for the U.S. Labor Department. The report, "Finding One's Way: Career Guidance for Disadvantaged Youth,'' by Keith Allum, was published by the department last year and may be of interest to readers of Ms. Lester's Commentary who would like additional information on this vital topic. The report is available for $5 from Public/Private Ventures, 2005 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19103.

Natalie Jaffe
Director of Publications
Public/Private Ventures
Philadelphia, Pa.

To the Editor:

I want to take issue with Juliette Lester's Commentary ("Charting Career Paths--Early,'' Commentary, March 23, 1994). While I don't disagree with what she says, I want to chide her for leaving out what I consider to be the most serious obstacle to the "relevance of what they're [students] learning in school to what they will need in the workplace. ...''

Yes, Ms. Lester does mention that we have to help students explore their own interests and aptitudes, but her problem is the problem that the counseling profession appears to be having--and has had for half a century. That problem is one of identity. Were counselors, then and now, any more than pseudo-psychologists? In my three years of graduate study, I doubt that I was exposed to any more than three courses that were strictly involved with the workplace. But I was forced to take a plethora of courses that had to do with human behavior.

Ms. Lester mentions the need of counselors and teachers (why couple them?) to help their students get to chosen careers. But I emphasize for her and those who think that it can be done in a school setting that most counselors have not been properly trained to counsel for careers in the work world. Their training has mostly been in institutions of learning and for academic settings. Most would-be counselors think of themselves as psychologists, for example, vocational psychologists, counseling psychologists, etc. Their training speaks for itself. Even their profession takes the wrong tack. Counselors are being dragged kicking and screaming into a certification program through a procedure that has limited validity and which is as much an examination for psychologists as counselors.

All of this has led to disillusion and disappointment on the part of students who earnestly seek counselors' advice and help but get instead a good dose of treatment and little information about jobs, their prospects, and, in general, the world of work.

The counselor, if he or she hopes to survive as an identifiable professional, must develop the certain skills that help in making students aware of their interests and aptitudes so that they can make the appropriate use of what they have in the career-development process. I suggest that training be restructured and in a radical way. Yes, the future counselor needs exposure to psychometrics, interviewing, and counseling techniques. But he or she needs a much greater and intensified exposure to the world of work.

Training needs to be focused on a lengthy practicum--in the workplace--which will give the counselor an understanding of what work in this society means and how any one person enters and continues in it.

Melville J. Appell
Washington, D.C.

Vol. 13, Issue 29

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