Letters To the Editor

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Calif. Reading Problem: Economics, Not Phonics

To the Editor:

In response to your Sept. 27, 1995, article titled "More Basic-Skills Instruction in California Urged": The problem is not phonics--it's economics.

The announcement of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin alleging that California's dismal reading scores are a result of using a whole-language approach has no evidence to support it. To blame the low reading scores on lack of stress on basic skills and phonics is to delude policymakers and the voting public.

California ranks 40th Superintendent Delaine Eastin alleging that California's dismal reading scores are a result of a using whole-language approach has no evidence to support. To blame the low reading scores on a lack of stress on basic skills and phonics is to delude policymakers and the voting public.

California ranks 40th out of the 50 states in per-pupil expenditure, and 40th out of 41 states tested in reading scores. We rank 50th in class size, libraries, and counselors. Delaine Eastin is in part responsible for this dismal state of affairs. As the chairwoman of the Assembly education committee, she and the legislature concentrated on public relations and refused to adequately fund the schools from 1984 to the present. They accepted as inevitable a no-new-taxes philosophy, and now we have the results.

It is the total failure of the legislature and the governor to fund schools that has produced the miserable test scores, not the language-arts and mathematics frameworks which less than 5 percent of teachers have even read.

Until we begin to look at real, concrete causes of school failure, instead of looking for easy headlines, we will be unable to improve public education.

The recommendations in a recent report to reduce class size in K-3 to 20 and to fund libraries and librarians are precise and useful, but it is irresponsible for educational leaders not to confront the economic crisis directly.

I predict that the legislature will refuse to allocate sufficient monies for significant class-size reductions, just as they did when Ms. Eastin was the chairwoman of the education committee. Real school improvement costs money.

You can drill phonics all day and it won't change the effect of underfunding public education.

Duane Campbell
Professor of Education
California State University
Sacramento, Calif.

Boston 'Pillow Massacre' Implies Poor Programming

To the Editor:

Centralization and bad programming breed the idiocy that caused the so-called Boston Pillow Massacre of 1995 (Take Note, Sept. 13, 1995).

When buildings stay open all summer under the supervision of principals who care and with year-round programs that matter, it is inconceivable that custodians could get away with confiscating so-called hazardous classroom items, like pillows and rugs, that make classrooms special. Shame on you, Boston! Get with it.

Alan Osborn Dann
Woodbridge, Conn.

Focus on Habits of Success Makes Old Idea New Again

To the Editor:

Two Commentaries in your Sept. 20, 1995, issue, "A Dose of Old-Fashioned How-To" and "More Than 'Just the Facts,' Please," focus on the needs of children today that get very little attention. They are so "homely," so common-sensical that in the midst of glamorous education topics such as goals and standards, they get overlooked. Among them is the need for children to learn how to tackle tasks and the need for children to have the time it takes to grow up.

I could not agree more and thank you and the authors for bringing these needs to the attention of your readers.

Children don't learn how to study or how to carve out and use time well without help. It is from their teachers and their parents that they learn the attitudes, the behaviors, the habits it takes to succeed. I call them "MegaSkills". Other people call them by other terms. But by any name, this is the combination of academic and emotional intelligence that all of our children need.It may sound old-fashioned, but as the song says, "Everything old is new again."

Dorothy Rich
Home and School Institute
Washington, D.C.

Bilingual-Education Remark Needs Contextual Preface

To the Editor:

I was quoted out of context in your report on the Center for Equal Opportunity's forum on bilingual education (News in Brief, Washington Section, Sept. 27, 1995). I am quoted as saying: "Let's keep the debate clean. It's not a good start to say we're just maintaining our rice bowl."

My remark was in response to U.S. Rep. Toby Roth, R-Wis., who referred to supporters of bilingual education as "misguided cultural elitists who are motivated by filling their own rice bowls." The terminology is his, not mine.

Stephen Krashen
Professor of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.

'Karate-Chop the Teddy Bear' And Other Teaching Problems

To the Editor:

I couldn't agree more with "Too Smart To Be a Teacher" (Commentary, Sept. 13, 1995). If you don't enjoy your job: resign, retire, retrain, or relocate.

But that sentiment applies to many people in their jobs, doesn't it? What sets teachers apart is that good ones care so much.

Still, I can't imagine why anyone today would be surprised that teachers themselves can't recommend the profession as a career choice. There are problems. For instance:

It isn't that I mind competing with Big Bird, as James Delisle mentions in his Commentary, but I do find it difficult to vie with those Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. "Housekeeping Corner" in my preschool classroom is now a daily stage of terror: Throw the food, kick the plates, jump on the baby, yell at the pretend "mom," karate chop the teddy bear, etc.

I'm convinced it's the time spent in front of the TV viewing inappropriate, unexplained force, and hours on the rock-'em-sock-'em computer games that lead to these deadly dramatic games. While I can't change that, I can interpret it, set limits, and consistently reinforce positive, creative, and well-thought-out interactive play. But it's exhausting!

And, what's a good school when classes are so overcrowded that few teachers can make any significant personal contact with their students? Last year's preschoolers are this year's kindergartners and they're sitting in rooms of 35 to 36 children each in my school. I'm upset at conditions that continue to let this happen. I can't believe my elementary school has over 1,400 students, with closets turned into classrooms and trailers on top of playgrounds. Yet, my situation is not unique today. Rose-colored glasses won't hide this reality.

I'm sad that our culture denigrates teachers, but I understand teachers who can't recommend the profession. "Adequate" teaching abounds, poor teachers transfer, and live on. Legislators, with dollars, intrude on curriculum while business-oriented "experts" tell us what to do. But most compelling for women in my age group is the fact that so many professional choices abound for young ladies today. Fields dominated by men 45 years ago are now available to intelligent, eager young women--and at salaries far greater than "pretty decent."

But if you love children, have a sense of humor, stamina, and a bit of creativity, teaching young children might be right up your alley. I've enjoyed my part in it, even recruiting for my school system. I've had my chance to lead and follow. Now I hope to "get out of the way" and regroup, rebuild, and renew.

Nancy Webster
Miami, Fla.

Why Single Out Women For Fashion Descriptors?

To the Editor:

I was unpleasantly surprised to note the difference in your descriptions of women and men in the story "Curtain Goes Up on the Life of a New School" (Sept. 20, 1995).

I'm not really interested in the hairstyles or clothing of either gender involved in the City on a Hill project that was the article's focus. But the fact that you told me these details only about the women was sexist.

Donna Cassyd
Commission for Sex Equity
Los Angeles Unified School District
Los Angeles, Calif.

Vol. 15, Issue 06

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories