Letters to the Editor
Wayne State University
Editor's Note: We thank Professor Brown for his good humor and apologize to him and to the many grammarians who wrote to us. The ungrammatical "who'' appeared because of a typo made while entering his original and correct letter into our computer system.
I read your article on the research in Tennessee ["Smaller Is Definitely Better,'' December 1989] with excitement, but without surprise. Like other teachers, I know that reduction in class size is essential. What we have not known is that the size of the class must be drastically reduced.
In most classes, a child acts up because he is acting out the pain of a dysfunctional home life or he is seeking attention. Being in a smaller class reduces the need for such acting up, because the teacher has time for everyone. Moreover, in a smaller class the children do not set each other off. If one child misbehaves, the others do not feel the need to join in, because their need for the teacher's attention is being met. In a large class, the child most likely to fall through the cracks is the apathetic student, the one who causes no trouble, who does little work.
I hope state and national education officials see this article. They need to learn that investment in education must be significant, and that it will pay for itself.
Thanks for an interesting article on animal rights ["Crusaders In The Classroom,'' November 1989]. Like tens of millions of others, I went through 12 years of public school without ever hearing a word about our fellow animals--except for what I saw on the posters that the Meat and Dairy Council provided or what the National Rifle Association brought in about the "conservation'' of wildlife. Imagine my shock when I found out 20 years after graduation that much of what I had learned had been very biased, such as "we need meat to stay alive,'' "hunting is necessary to thin the herds,'' "you take animals apart to see how they work.''
I felt that I had been betrayed by the school system, which had never shown us both sides of these issues. The animal rights community is to be commended for bringing a fresh, new, and honest viewpoint into the classrooms.
I applaud your effort to bring mainstreaming once again to the forefront of our hearts and minds ["Side By Side,'' November 1989]. In almost two of Olivia's lifetimes, not much has been done to put into effect the Education For All Handicapped Children Act. Luckily for Olivia and her family, she is in a progressive, caring school district. Takoma Park Elementary should be highly commended for taking the time and effort to see that Olivia's education was given the necessary planning, preparation, and support.
As an "almost teacher'' majoring in early-childhood education, I am very aware of the need for more and better teacher preparation for working with special children who have been mainstreamed. We are taught about the education-for-the-handicapped law, but little or nothing is done to prepare us to implement it. The possibility of our ever having to "deal with'' a handicapped child in our regular classroom is made to seem very remote. It makes me wonder if the government ever plans to put this law into practice, or if it was simply passed to relieve political pressure from special educators and advocates.
I hope to have the chance, as Olivia's teacher did, to experience the joy of seeing what this piece of legislation was meant to accomplish in the lives of the special children for which it was intended. All children are special, and all of them have special needs. It is time we realized why the special education field, the early education field, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act are around in the first place--for Olivia and children like her everywhere.
Central Missouri State University
If only undergraduate education majors spent "four years studying classroom management, student motivation, learning theories,'' etc. ["Looking For A Short Cut,'' December 1989], the "dogs, drunks, and derelicts'' attracted to alternative-certification programs would be no threat to our jobs. In reality, teaching-methods classes are a common teachers' room joke. Until undergraduates spend real time with the real issues, from the public school budget process to parentteacher relations, new teachers will continue to be only marginally more qualified than all those "career changers'' we fear so much.
Central Aroostook High School
Mars Hill, Me.
The criticisms of alternative-certification routes by some advocates of college-based training, particularly David Imig and Arthur Wise, are not responsible. Five years ago, these individuals predicted that New Jersey's alternate route would attract few applicants or only persons of low quality who, if they did get hired, would wash out in a few months on the job.
We now know that these predictions were incorrect. In five years, New Jersey's alternate route has more than doubled the state's supply of new teachers while dramatically increasing the quality of the candidate pool. It has increased competition for jobs. The attrition rates of our first-year alternate-route teachers have been four times lower than those of traditionally prepared beginning teachers. The program has the support and active participation of every major educational group in New Jersey. In short, the program has helped bring to public school teaching many professional characteristics that the field previously lacked.
New Jersey's alternate route is clearly not a training "short cut.'' Our alternate-route teachers must complete the same course work and practical experiences that are required in college training programs. However, they do so in a format that combines theoretical "learning'' with supervised on-the-job "doing.'' Professionalism does not derive solely from the number of education credits required.
Commissioner of Education
State of New Jersey