Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Thank you for the nice article on the Anaheim, Calif., meeting and our Nobel panel ("Nobel Laureate Seeks To Turn Science Curriculum on Its Head,'' April 13, 1994).
I would like to explain a bit about the pyramid [the pyramidal model of science education with a strong foundation in physics and mathematics] because I apparently did not express myself clearly enough. I did not intend to appear to challenge my colleagues on the value of their discipline--on the contrary, I believe that all high schools should (and I believe will eventually) have a three-year science requirement. Chicago is on the verge of imposing this.
My point was an objective one: The chemistry teacher can do a far better job of teaching chemistry if the students enter with an understanding of atoms. Otherwise, much time is taken up in chemistry teaching the essential physics; Coulomb's law, how an atom holds together, what its properties are, etc.
Similarly, for the past 50 years, the revolution in biology is that it is now molecular: DNA, RNA, genetic structures, cell biology, nucleic acids--these are the ingredients of modern biology, and for the entering students to bring an understanding of molecules (chemistry) enables the biology teacher to start teaching biology. The physics course has to be downgraded, since it is taken so early.
Of course, a fourth science year could be Advanced Placement physics, chemistry, biology, or earth science, all of which profit from the three-year sequence.
I would not push this if I didn't believe that the three-year science requirement is important and, in fact, it is one of the factors in the program of science-education reform. Another reason is my belief that it will generate lots of discussion and good ideas.
Leon M. Lederman
Fermi National Accelerator
To the Editor:
Concerning your story on the Detwiler Foundation's "Computers for Schools'' program ("California Project To Refurbish One Million Computers for Schools,'' April 27, 1994): I'm certain that this is an effort by a well-meaning businessman and is supported by other well-meaning people. But that isn't the point. The real issue is what is this effort doing for our schools and to the public's perception of schools and businesses.
First, I'm troubled by the widespread belief that schools need this kind of charity; that they are unable to afford what, for the business world, is a necessity. But, then, I do live in post-Proposition 13 California.
I can certainly see what business gets out of such a gift. While they may not get a tax credit, since the equipment was already written off, businesses do get to empty their storerooms and reduce what gets thrown into the landfill. They certainly get public credit for the gift, building community good will. And they can say, with pride, that they are helping the schools. Not necessarily the schools that these executives send their children to, but those poor public schools, "the ones that need our help.''
And what do schools get out of it? Schools get equipment that won't run the new software that they are buying for the machines they purchased with their own limited resources. They get equipment that cannot run the software that businesses currently use, so meeting expectations of a productive, information-rich, technology-skilled workforce is even farther away. Often the schools can't even get teachers and students to use the equipment, since training and software are not part of the gift.
Why should business be helping set a dual standard--where the real world has powerful technology while the schools have to limp along on castoffs; where the homes and schools of the business executives giving the gifts have the latest in multimedia computers and software, while the have-nots still can't catch up.
Admittedly, some high schools can use the donations to create a computer lab to teach word processing and spread-sheet skills that can be transferred to a world where Windows has become the norm. There can be some good to come out of this program.
What else can businesses do to help schools gain access to technology? First, if the already-depreciated computers are so valuable, why not sell them on the open market and give the money to the schools, designated for the computer equipment that schools want to buy.
Businesses can invite teachers and school administrators to their computer-applications training programs. Oh, the training is held during business hours? Consider paying for a substitute teacher. Businesses don't ask their people to use their own time to improve desired skills; why require teachers to do it?
Large businesses buy new computers by the truckload. Why not buy a baker's dozen and give the 13th to a school? Schools need the same equipment business does, if their products, graduates, are going to be useful for business.
Most business-training facilities are rarely used at night. How about offering them and a volunteer trainer for computer lessons for educators, students, and parents?
Could the design staff from some company help the district's curriculum team develop great-looking materials for classrooms? And teach them how to do it themselves?
How about lending schools an editor to work on grant proposals, so schools can get more appropriate equipment from foundations or state and local government programs?
Businesses can really help school and district technology programs by offering some management-information-systems people to set up an advisory service and assisting schools trying to install networks; help them with the difficult task of figuring out what can be done in an old building.
There are lots of things that can be done to help California's schools and the nation's schools. Many of these and other exciting ideas are in practice in California and around the nation. Outmoded equipment is only a modest benefit; taking advantage of the time and skills of company employees is an even better opportunity. If business wants to provide charity to education, give something that really helps the schools.
Rockman et al.
San Francisco, Calif.
To the Editor:
I read with interest and a feeling of support Stephen Arons's criticisms of the national curriculum which is embedded in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act ("The Threat to Freedom in Goals 2000: Conflicts Over 'Official Knowledge' Loom,'' Commentary, April 6, 1994). It is indeed naÃive to believe that any such proposal can be placed in the political arena without becoming, after politicians have done their posturing and rain dancing around it, severely distorted. Disturbing too is the top-down, authoritarian model, which Mr. Arons takes issue with on the grounds that such a design is inconsistent with democratic principles.
Although the criticisms are apt, the solution Mr. Arons offers is not. He proposes a subsidized continuing-education program, in which teachers would, over a 10-year period, take two summer programs in a consortium anchored by a college or university. Course offerings would be up to the institution, but would focus on substance or pedagogy.
Having taught in three colleges of education and two public school districts over the course of four decades in education, I would challenge the assumption that college education-department members know more about the practice of pedagogy than teachers in elementary and secondary schools. I would argue further that the theorizing that professors specialize in is often of little use to people in the trenches, even though it makes for learned disquisitions in the serene atmosphere of the seminar room.
I grant that there may be more to the Arons reform proposal than space allowed for. But, on the surface, it appears to be another top-down model, with the top, in this case, college professors, not without their own political agendas, albeit narrower than those of Congress.
Henry B. Maloney
Head of the English Department
Seaholm High School
To The Editor:
Your article on the change in procedures for establishing the academic eligibility of college athletes ("New Rules in Play for College-Sports Eligibility, '' April 13, 1994) recalled for me our confusion when Nazareth Regional High School first heard of these changes. I was not at all surprised to read that "the transition has been difficult.''
We heard later rather than sooner. We heard from a group with whom we had no prior experience and to whom we felt we had questionable responsibility. We heard without any cited authorization from the several governance entities to which a school such as ours might look for guidance (the National Catholic Educational Association, our state education department, our local diocesan education office).
I will guess that we were not alone in puzzling over the simultaneously held desires to: a) do best by our student athletes, and b) respond only within properly sanctioned channels.
I also harbor the notion that somewhere lurking amid this confusion is the more important question of defining the proper relationship between academics and interscholastic athletics.
Nazareth Regional High School
Catholic High Schools Athletic Association
Diocese of Brooklyn
To the Editor:
I thoroughly enjoyed the Commentary "Real-World Science,'' by Lawrence Dean, in your March 23, 1994, issue. Although Mr. Dean and I have been working with young people for approximately the same number of years and teach within 20 miles of each other, we have never met. I admire and envy his ability to find challenging summer work in his field and to pave the way for bright students to follow in his footsteps.
Definitely, all students need to be encouraged. Statistics show that the student dropout rate is anywhere from 18 percent to 48 percent. Sadly, 50 percent of new teachers drop out of the profession within the first five years. Certainly, challenging summer work is important for students, but how much more would be given back if new teachers could participate in summer programs as well and share their enthusiasm with future students?
This is meant in no way to take issue with Mr. Dean's work, as he may well be involving young teachers in his program. I would simply like to encourage all of us as experienced educators to nurture, mentor, and coach all promising young teachers. In my estimation, new-teacher mentoring needs to be a top priority for us all.
San Domenico Middle School
San Anselmo, Calif.
To the Editor:
I know you don't ordinarily publish poetry, but I thought you might make an exception for the enclosed, since it was inspired by one of your recent news items.
A private language school accused of teaching improper English
grammar to its mostly Spanish-speaking students, both youths and
adults, has settled a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Dan Morales of
Texas. Instructional materials from Instituto Bilingue Internacional,
which operated in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, included grammatically
incorrect phrases such as "I love you much,'' and "I tell you good
--Education Week, March 16, 1994
I Tell You Good Words (A Grammatically Incorrect Love Poem)
I tell you good words.
Trust. What you say you will do, do that. Promises are for keeping.
Dignity. Hold high your head. Carry yourself tall. With a sense of pride live your life.
Caring. Make dry the tears of those who cry. Those who suffer, heal their wounds.
Learning. All the books you can find, read. All the teachers you learn from, respect.
Love. Love her who shares your bed. As for your children, more than you love yourself, love them. And tell them the good words,
I love you much.
Allan A. Glatthorn
East Carolina University
Vol. 13, Issue 33