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Don't Blame Pepsi For School Culture

To the Editor:

If essayist Joseph Bauers believes our public school woes are due to soda machines in the hallway and the "leadership vacuum" that finds the dollars irresistible, I am afraid his naivete is the root cause of his bitterness after 32 years of teaching ("The Carbonated Curriculum," Commentary, April 17, 2002.)

Here in north-central Montana, every gym I walk into has a banner from the Montana Power Co. and the 3 Rivers Telephone Cooperative. In exchange for hanging these banners on the gym walls, schools receive two checks that go directly to student scholarships. In my district, our "selling out" to Pepsi has also resulted in yearly student scholarships and the opportunity to supplement our athletic program.

I cannot speak for Champaign, Ill., Mr. Bauers' home, but for some districts in the Big Sky State, and specifically in the Valier, Mont., schools, budgets will be frozen for the next five years as our enrollments decline and our costs continue to escalate. We have made cuts in programs and personnel with no relief in sight.

I make no apology for "taking the money," and would challenge Mr. Bauers to do the following: (1) Take a lesson in school finance, and (2) examine the many other factors that have contributed to the changing culture of our schools. Believe me, it is not due to having a Pepsi!

Josh Middleton
Valier, Mont.

'Facilitated Play' Is Also Academic

To the Editor:

As a seasoned early-childhood educator, I was disturbed by a comment made in the article "Study: Full-Day Kindergarten Boosts Academic Performance," (April 17, 2002). Toward the end of the article, there is brief mention that the study of Philadelphia schoolchildren who attended full-day kindergartens does not determine how their teachers used the extra time in a full-day program. It then says that other researchers have pointed to the fact that some full-day classes offer "a double dose of playtime, while others increase the time children spend learning academic material."

The implication is that "playtime" and "academic" don't mix. Yet early-childhood professionals are fully aware that well-designed and facilitated playtime can be very academic. The National Association for the Education of Young Children bases its publications on sound research that supports the importance of play in young children's educational experiences.

It saddens me that some would erroneously suggest that play and academics are separate in the learning and development of kindergarten children. Now that public education as a whole is embracing the critical and unique period of early childhood, I hope you might consider more frequent and regular reporting on how we can get early-childhood education right.

Berma Matteson
Hurley Elementary School
Hurley, N.M.

Pupil Punishments That Still Persist

To the Editor:

In "Beating and Starving Them ... And Other Ways of Teaching," (Commentary, March 27, 2002) Daniel Born makes some excellent points about trying to teach reading and writing while also offering up assignments in those subjects as forms of punishment.

However, he mistakenly thinks that starving children has disappeared as a form of punishment in schools. Unfortunately, although it may not be officially sanctioned, I have heard numerous stories of children who have been deprived of lunch or snack for various infractions.

Meredith Warshaw
Newton, Mass.

Vol. 21, Issue 34, Page 34

Published in Print: May 8, 2002, as Letters

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