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Travel Time

I had the pleasure of visiting New Zealand’s schools in July 1992. Sharing that experience with writer Elizabeth Schulz made the trip even more fun, exciting, and powerful. It’s difficult to put into words the feelings that soared through me when I took my first look at the article. There was my photograph beneath the bigger-than-life title: “A Long Way To Go” [February]. Halfway around the world is indeed a long way to go, and it was well worth it.

To avert a misunderstanding in the name of whole language, I would like to clarify a statement made in the article. Referring to the schedule of my school day, the statement read, “it takes about 20 minutes for her students to settle down between tasks.” My intent was to convey the message that approximately 20 minutes during an entire school day is lost unpacking; “traveling” to and from gym, music, and library; and packing to go home.

Ellen Silverman
Dix Hills, N.Y.

A Place Called Home

Thank you for the article about the Guterson family and home-schooling [“Teach Your Children,” February]. I also chose schooling at home for our two children, not on religious grounds but because I don’t agree with age segregation, overcrowded classes, lock-step learning, or the notion that learning must take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in a building called school.

As a parent, I have been learning with my children since their births. Together we are discovering the meaning and values of our lives and learning our place in the world.

You can’t read an article about homeschooling without the topic of socialization coming up. Do institutions socialize individuals or do families socialize? I believe the latter if you define socialization as the ability to care for others and feel valued by them.

Most researchers say that the lecture is the lowest form of learning. I’ve always believed a person learns with his or her entire body and our insistence on stilling the body and filling the brain will only serve to frustrate our innate learning drive.

I feel we send our children out into the world ill-prepared to cope. We make huge assumptions about schools as caregivers and custodians. We hand our children over and become strangers to them. My children and I will eventually grow apart and choose different paths, as many families do. But we will have known a place called home, a place you leave when you’re ready.

Barbara Alward
Atascadero, Calif.

The article on the Gutersons and homeschooling is disgusting. Why would educators committed to schools want to read about this family that scorns our efforts?

Please give us articles about teachers who operate in schools.

Miriam Shapiro
Evanston, Ill.

Real-World Problem

David Ruenzel’s article about how a school uses real-world problems to teach [“A Course Of Action,” January] was interesting and important.

I know one real-world problem that could have significant lessons for students: car ownership. Since kids look forward to owning a car, why not investigate whether owning a car is cost effective? A class could look into the costs of buying, maintaining, and licensing a car. They could even factor in the cost of traffic fines.

This topic may not demand higher-order thinking, but it does require research outside the textbook and classroom. Moreover, it is of real importance to students’ immediate future.

We all see too many teenagers who sell their lives to their cars. Working to meet the expenses of car ownership leaves limited study time. It is sad to see kids with good minds drop out of high school because they have to work to pay for their cars.

Mary Khan
Morgan Hill, Calif.

Special Education

I was pleased to open my January 1993 issue and find the article “All Together Now.” As an educational therapist for infants and toddlers with multiple disabilities, I have found your magazine to be a valuable resource, yet it often overlooks issues and trends in special education. We are a large group of teachers and often quite vocal.

Please do not forget us. We are as diverse as the children we serve, and we are working toward the same goals as our regular education counterparts. We strive to enable our students to function to their fullest potential and to acquire the skills needed to achieve in our society.

Debbie Bruns
Educational therapist John A. Coleman School
New York Foundling Hospital
New York City

Teach Tolerance

I take strong exception to the January article “Blessed Are The Peacemakers,” where it states, “During a heated clash between Hasidic Jews and African Americans, Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29year-old Australian rabbinical student, was stabbed to death.” This sentence erroneously suggests that the conflict in Crown Heights was two-sided, that Rosenbaum was involved in an altercation that led to his death. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The events of August 19, 20, and 21, 1991, were no less than a full-scale riot by certain African Americans against Jews. The riots resulted in the deaths of three people: Rosenbaum, who was returning from a day of scholarly research; a woman, a survivor of the Holocaust, who lived near the scene of the auto accident and committed suicide because she could not leave her apartment due to rioters on the street; and Anthony Grasiozo, a 62-year-old Italian American who had a long white beard and was mistaken for a Hasidic Jew, who was shot. Grasiozo’s murderer, like Rosenbaum’s, was acquitted of all charges, despite overwhelming evidence, by a predominantly African-American jury.

Your publication displays audacity in equating the auto accident involving Gavin Cato with the premeditated and intentional lawlessness of some blacks against law-abiding citizens. Tragically, there are 55,000 traffic deaths in the United States each year. Imagine the implication of a riot following each one. A case in point is the 1989 death of 5-year-old Shmuel Ouki, a child visiting Crown Heights from France, who was hit by the auto of an unlicensed African American. No riot followed his death.

As a member of the Lubavitch community and a public school teacher, I have found that the vast majority of New Yorkers are deeply concerned about the events of the riot of August 1991 and its aftermath. Most citizens were shocked and outraged by the ineptness of city officials in handling the civil disturbances and even more by the continued battering of the Hasidic community by government officials.

Children learn respect and multicultural tolerance by being taught that they are accountable for their actions and that they are always under the watchful eye of God. Also, they must be shown that criminal behavior is unacceptable and will be dealt with in a serious and meaningful way.

Amy Jacobson
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Athletes First

I had the opportunity to read the article on the effects of Title IX on the coaching of women’s athletics [“Sidelined,” October]. Granted, as the article states, there have been abuses of the title’s intent by biased administrators and opportunistic male coaches. But successful and rewarding women’s athletic programs are suffering because of the new political correctness.

Talented and caring male coaches of women’s programs are being displaced on a regular basis. Being displaced by someone of equal ability can be discomforting enough for any coach, male or female. But for someone to use equal-rights laws as leverage to attain a position for which he or she is obviously not qualified is an injustice—unjust not only to the displaced coach but also to the student athletes. When a winning program is sacrificed to the politically correct yet technically inept opportunist, Title IX becomes a bitter pill for all but the politically correct.

As administrators, teachers, and coaches, our interest should be in the creation of a level playing field for all of our student athletes. Yes, we have to be cognizant of male and female role models and battle discrimination. But we should never do this at the expense of our student athletes.

Bruce Ludwig
Chino Valley, Ariz.

Public School Talk

We were interested, but not surprised, to read of the successful use of the discussion method at Phillips Exeter Academy [“Table Talk,” September]. Teachers who are concerned with the cultivation of their students’ intellectual powers, especially their capacity to think independently about the most important concerns of human life, know that lecturing students is not a fruitful approach. Teachers cannot impart these abilities; they must oversee their development in students by interacting with them over difficult and complex texts.

The article points out how infrequently such discussions take place in public schools, which don’t have the resources, both human and financial, of elite private institutions. I am happy to report, however, that such discussions do in fact take place at a number of public middle and high schools through the Touchstones Project. This project trains teachers to lead discussions using specially selected texts. As writer David Ruenzel notes, it is difficult to conduct discussion classes in the public school setting— where large classes and testdriven curricula are the norm. However, the results achieved by dedicated teachers who have been given training and the proper materials are sometimes remarkable. Students for whom school has been drudgery come alive. In spite of the surroundings, real learning takes place.

We don’t know if it is possible, as Theodore Sizer urges, to humanly restructure schools. But we do know that the human desire to know and share knowledge can be nurtured even in the most hostile circumstances.

Nicholas Maistrellis
The Touchstones Project
Annapolis, Md.

Vol. 04, Issue 06, Pages 6-8

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