I thought Howard Good's essay "Say What?" [January] was right on target. Last year, I retired as a special education teacher. I ended my career somewhat prematurely because I was a little tired of dealing with the increased paperwork, bureaucracy, and jargon. I, too, hope that real reform can take place without additional ridiculous labels and jargon.
Title I And Jobs
I am writing regarding Mary Walter's letter ["Title I Undone," February] citing the problems in her school's Title I program. Walter, who teaches in a regular classroom, said that when her ideas for improving reading skills helped boost achievement scores and moved children out of Title I, a colleague complained, saying, "You're putting people out of a job."
The goal of any remediation program should be to raise students' academic performance, and if that ultimately means the displacement of teachers hired for those purposes, then I would say that the program is highly successful and effective. The goal of Title I is not to give any one person a job.
Title I Coordinator
Thank you for your article on New Technology High School ["Is This The Future Of Education In America?" January]. I appreciated your focus on student dedication and cooperation, teachers' high standards and caring, and the beneficial effects of the school's small size. These are the elements that some reporters have missed beneath the glitz of "sexy" computer hardware.
Please, however, correct an error. When you described the activities in the American studies room, you attributed the plan for the day's activities to me. My colleague Sandra Mings-Lamar and I integrate our U.S. History and American literature curricula, and she was primarily responsible for the lesson plan described. Please give her credit for a lesson plan that was well-conceived and well-executed.
New Technology High School
I find it necessary to cancel my subscription. Until recently, you seemed to have forgotten or avoided issues involving bilingual education. "English Spoken Here" [January] finally addressed the subject, but it was so one-sided that I could barely believe it was printed. It was very evident that the author and your staff feel that bilingual education does not work.
Bilingual education, even with its inconsistencies, is a very viable and futuristic way of teaching. Children do learn English, but they improve their native language at the same time. The goal for bilingual education is for students to exit the program fully bilingual. That cannot be said for immersion programs.
Through this article, all you have done is encourage myths and misconceptions.
Rebecca Tellez Pombo
Why are our children depressed? ["Drug Therapy," January.] Many children today arrive home each day to an empty house. When the parents arrive, they are too tired from their commutes and their jobs to listen to their children, help with homework, or read a bedtime story. Recently, I heard a psychologist tell parents to spend 15 minutes with each child, one-on-one, a few days a week. The parents responded that they didn't have 15 minutes to give each child. No wonder more than 600,000 children are on anti-depressants.
I have talked to parents whose children are on Prozac, and they say that their children's behavior while they are on the drug gets totally out of hand. Some children have been asked to leave private schools because of the problem. Doctors, however, have instructed the children to continue taking the drug. Most of the time, parents disregard their gut feelings and follow these directions.
As a special education teacher, I also have worked with children taking Ritalin. It has been my experience that the drug does not help most children. Many take up to four doses each day, cannot fall asleep at night, and then spend the school day yawning.
Parents should research the foods their children are ingesting and learn about essential fatty acids. They should also look into homeopathic remedies or those prescribed by applied kinesiologists. There are alternatives to drugs.
Tinley Park, Illinois
The profile of National Education Association President Bob Chase ["In The Line Of Fire," November/December 1997] accurately explained why many union-oriented NEA members object to Chase's "New Unionism" initiatives. As a president of an NEA affiliate in an industrialized state, I believe that Chase's proposals do not go far enough. We must either advance to a true professional organization or retreat to a more pure unionism. New Unionism is a halfway measure, too tentative to succeed.
Chase asserts, "It is our job to improve [poor] teachers, or, that failing, to get them out of the classroom." He would be correct if it had been our job to put them in the classroom. But that hasn't been our job; we have no say in determining who teaches. That is management's power.
Under such conditions, unions have learned to defend all members equally, the good and the bad. That is the traditional role of unions. We stick together, or we hang separately. This attitude has pervaded my involvement in my local association for 23 years. Chase's initiatives would force me to change my role, to take on added responsibility for evaluating and documenting failing teachers—a responsibility traditionally assumed by the employer, the school administration.
Chase, however, would have me take on administrative responsibilities without assuming any administrative power. This is illogical; indeed, it's akin to asking a kindergartner to clean up a mess made by another child. Any 5-year-old would resist such a chore. So do I.
Yet an opportunity exists for the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers to change the status quo in a meaningful way. Perhaps the movement for national teacher certification could be expanded and dominated by the NEA and AFT so that certification—essentially, the decision about who can become a teacher—would be controlled by the profession itself. In this way, teachers would have a professional organization and a self-controlled membership, similar to organizations for lawyers and doctors.
Only after they are given some control over who is hired as a teacher should unions share the responsibility for removing those who fail to meet our own standards. Chase's New Unionism goes halfway toward professionalism. I have been an NEA "traditionalist," but I am willing to consider a change to a true professional organization. I am also willing to remain a unionist as I have been for 23 years. But I am not willing to be half-professional, half-unionist.
Quincy Education Association
Regards to Lowell Monke on his excellent article, "The Web And The Plow" [October 1997], and his thoughtful ideas about putting the computer in its proper place as a tool for teaching. The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke reminded us that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Monke reminds us that we need to question the claims of all "magical" new offerings from the technology industry—a reminder that hasn't come too soon and can't be stressed too strongly.
Teacher Magazine welcomes the comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited. Comment articles should run about 1,000 to 1,250 words (four to five double-spaced pages). All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to: Teacher Magazine, 6935 Arlington Road, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814. Letters also may be sent to [email protected], essays to [email protected].