Letters to the Editor

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Letters to the Editor The New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association is dead wrong to oppose the Epsom, N.H., plan to grant a local tax abatement to parents of children in private or parochial schools ["A New Twist To School Choice,'' March]. Their argument that the move would divert funding from public to private schools is wrongheaded. If the plan is blocked, it will be the public schools that pay the price. In my home district of Port Chester, N.Y., nearly 40 percent of the students in grades K-8 attend parochial schools. Rising costs and a bad economy have brought these schools to the brink of collapse. If they close, the number of children in public schools would nearly double. School taxes would have to rise sharply in order to cover the cost of educating these new public school students. Public school teachers would be the losers, as class sizes increased and pay increases were postponed. If my town were to pass a tax abatement program like the one in New Hampshire, the district's public school teachers would benefit more than anyone else. In many places, the poor salary of the Catholic school teacher subsidizes the higher salary of the local public school teacher. Paul Zaccagnino Mount St. Michael Academy Bronx, N.Y. I read with interest your article on parental involvement ["Power Sharing,'' February]. As both a high school principal and superintendent of schools, I have successfully shared power by involving parents and students on key decisionmaking committees. Parents have served on committees to develop new policy, set curriculum agendas, and hire principals. Many educators fear they will be criticized if they let parents into the hallowed halls. My experience is just the opposite. Parents who are involved in meaningful ways have become strong advocates and positive ambassadors for their schools. Parents don't want to destroy their schools, they want to improve them. Karl Martin Superintendent of Schools Eastern Lebanon County School District Myerstown, Pa. When I read your recent issue, I could not pull myself away from the short article by Diane Volk ["Motivated,'' March]. The first thought that ran through my head was: "I hope my education students don't read this.'' I did not want those new teachers-intraining to know of the frustration and despair Volk describes so well. But my second thought was different. I wanted them to appreciate their new profession and to accept the challenges it offers. I hope they remember my suggestion--when you find yourself knee-deep in fertilizer, look around; there is sure to be a flower nearby. Martha Grindler Assistant Professor Early Childhood Education and Reading Georgia Southern University Statesboro, Ga. Jim Burke is worried that today's "poets of song have nothing to say'' ["Rock Of Ages,'' March], and yet he seems unwilling to listen. Lux Interior of the Cramps seems to be speaking directly to Burke when he sings: What I respect You just can't see. Marcia Pheley Lee Elementary School Long Beach, Calif. Your recent article on "Getting Published'' [March] was quite interesting, but you made an omission in the resource box, "Before You Write.'' A company called Dustbooks publishes, in my opinion, the best listing of small presses. The latest copy, The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses, lists more than 4,000 small presses. The book costs $25 and can be ordered from Dustbooks, P.O. Box 100, Paradise, CA 95969. Michael Brownstein John Farren Elementary School Chicago Your article on writing and students' pain ["Writing Their Wrongs,'' February] caught my attention. I am a school liaison assigned to the Yuma, Ariz., schools by the State Department of Economic Security's Administration for Children, Youth, and Families. I find journal writing is helpful when working with children suffering from child abuse or neglect. I would love to hear from readers who hold positions similar to mine or who have had experience working with school liaisons. I can be reached at: Child Protective Services, 214 S. Third Ave., Yuma, AZ 85364. Claire Charna School Liaison Yuma, Ariz. There seemed to be a contradiction in your article on Jim Minstrell ["Teacher, Researcher,'' February]. On the one hand, comprehensive tests are described as part of the "usual way'' of teaching, which Minstrell has abandoned. On the other hand, the article notes that Minstrell's students are tested "at the end of each unit, the end of the semester, and the end of the year.'' How are Minstrell's tests different? Christopher Harper Oakland, Calif. Editor's Note: Minstrell says that his tests are "conceptually oriented,'' unlike traditional exams, which he calls "memorization based.'' His tests, for example, might ask students to make a prediction and discuss why they believe the prediction is correct, rather than asking students for one right answer based on memorized material from a textbook. Your article on stress ["Stressed Out,'' January] provided an incisive, lucid depiction of the strains placed on teachers. It's a huge task to manage a classroom, teach, handle discipline problems, deal with parents, and adhere to administrative policies. Each teacher responds differently to these sources of stress. Your article provided many helpful hints on how to identify and relieve them. Ben Johnson Substitute Teacher St. Louis Park, Minn. If Maria Balmut Ward's views on evolution ["Letters,'' January] are indicative of the kind of science being taught in schools today, it is no wonder many Americans remain abysmally ignorant about human origins. Evolution is not "only a theory.'' It is the scientific principle--backed by overwhelming evidence--that forms the crux of the modern biological sciences. Creationism, by contrast, is a religious belief with no serious scientific support. If students exposed to both accept creationism, it is probably because biased teachers have promoted the pseudoscience as part of a fundamentalist religious crusade. Our children must be prepared to function in a highly competitive world of increasing complexity. Ancient myths masquerading as science won't help them. G. Robert Boston Silver Spring, Md. I was astonished at Maria Balmut Ward's letter. She seems to equate "theory'' with opinion. A scientific theory is a hypothesis built on observations of facts. The hypothesis attempts to explain those facts in a coherent, inclusive manner and in a way that allows predictions made from the hypothesis to be verified. The assertions of creationism are not scientific theory. They are not subject to change with new evidence. I have taught biology and comparative religion at the college level. Creationism and evolution are not two sides of an issue, as Ward asserted. To link them, as she does, helps nothing and confuses much. Douglas Buchanan Park Forest, Ill. Jeffrey Wells' article ["Jumping Through Hoops,'' November/December] cut to the core of educational ills. I am a bilingual educator in the California community college system. Last year, because of a new law, I had to update my credential, even though I had been issued a "lifetime'' credential by the state. I entered a nightmarish bureaucracy riddled with inefficiency. I paid $389 to take a six-unit course called Vocational Educational Instruction, although I only teach English as a second language. The class, which was a complete waste of time, was mobbed because of the new law; we all felt cheated. Last April, I filed my application for another lifetime credential, coughing up $40 dollars for the application fee. In August, I was informed that part of my application was lost and that unless I sent in the missing material in 10 days, I would have to begin the entire process again. Wells is absolutely right: The system does little to encourage people to enter education. And once you do enter, it does little to make you want to stay. Stephen Gervasi San Francisco

Vol. 02, Issue 08, Page 1-24

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