If, indeed, "teaching is alchemy, the phase of the moon, and whether
or not Johnny had breakfast," as Emmet Rosenfeld so poetically and
pathetically asserts ["Misfire," January], then not
only do we not need Praxis or any other test, we also do not need any
sort of college prep for teachers. In fact, if Rosenfeld is correct,
then any derelict hanging out at the 7-Eleven could be a fine teacher,
and we oughtta hire 'em. Trouble is, getting rid of Praxis and college
prep for teachers suggests we should have no instruction, testing, and
certification for other professionals—such as doctors, lawyers,
cosmetologists, engineers, and plumbers.
Assistant Professor of Education
Southwest Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas
David Ruenzel's central critique of Susan Ohanian's One Size Fits Few is dead wrong ["Out Of Order," November/December]. Policy wonks and educrats riding the standards bandwagon always promote their pet standards (and other "accountability tools") as "a guarantee of educational equity." Ruenzel might want to attend a few in-service sessions for classroom teachers if he doesn't believe that's how standards are being marketed.
Ohanian's book is a poignant and laugh-out-loud satirical skewering of the standards industry. Ruenzel is wrong: Classroom teachers won't recognize Ohanian's tone as "spiteful." They'll see it as realistic.
St. Paul, Minnesota
After hearing Susan Ohanian speak, I also felt that she was a bit rabid. The thought of some sinister illuminati turning my students into cheap corporate fodder seemed slightly paranoid.
However, within a month of hearing her talk, a representative of the New York Department of Education visited my school. Unprompted, he declared that the major impetus behind the standards movement came from the business community. My jaw dropped. In just a few words, he corroborated everything Ohanian had said—without perceiving how ethically vacuous his statement was. David Ruenzel is flat-out wrong when he pans Ohanian's "generalization" as not even being "halfway true."
Alternative High School
Stanley, New York
Bravo to "Leaders Needed" [November/December]. As a recent graduate of a master's in administration program, I heartily agree with the assessment that good principals need to have been good teachers first. Having taught for nine years, I know that I have much more to learn about teaching. I hope that I will continue to learn and improve my teaching skills even after I become a principal.
Also, I believe that the stereotype of the "coach turned principal" needs to be left in the 20th century. Unfortunately, in Alabama, the "good ol' boy" network is still at work, and that may prevent the best candidates from getting the job.
I read "Unforgiven" [November/December] last night and reread it again over lunch, and my message to Meghan Mullan is stop blaming yourself. If you don't make a change when you are sure you have had enough, then you do yourself and everyone whose lives you touch a serious disservice.
I get angry and frustrated every day that I teach, but I make it my business to direct that anger and frustration in positive ways that help myself, my teaching, my mentoring, my students, and my colleagues. That does not mean that I am perfect or an angel or never suffer the loss of patience. I continue to seek new ways to convert that negative energy. Hindsight is a wonderfully educating tool. Mullan should use hers to learn and push on.
Gallup, New Mexico
I found "Unforgiven" to be one of the best teacher testimonials I can remember. It is a colorful glimpse into what the most troubling teaching experiences can be like. I wish the piece were read by all the people who forget that problems in education come from problems in society. Great work.
Edgar Allen Beem tells of his attempts to protect teens from drunk driving ["Prom Poppa," October]. He says that his "protective parenting" collided with his school district's "zero tolerance" policy. That's very true. As a school board member, he has a moral obligation to support and promote his school district's policy.
Yet Beem circumvented his school system's safeguards inappropriately. He says he wanted to prevent drunk driving. But drunk driving isn't the only negative effect of youth drinking. The relationship between alcohol and crime is well-documented: Someone who is drinking is far more likely to be involved—as a victim or as a perpetrator—in sexual assault, fights, homicide, suicide, or some other mishap. Someone at the party that Beem and his friend attended could have passed out or suffered alcohol poisoning, needing immediate medical attention.
Beem argues, "Prohibition didn't work with adults. Why do we think it will work for teenagers?" This spurious argument has been around for a long time, and it doesn't hold water. Teenagers are not adults, and they don't have all the rights and privileges of adulthood. It is illegal and inappropriate to sanction the use of alcohol or other drugs by teens. As adults, we have the responsibility to protect our children's health and safety. Beem should rethink his position.
New City, New York
Agent Of Change
I suggest that Ronald Wolk read the rest of the August/September issue. His editorial ["Who Will Lead?"] indicates that he has not done so.
He begins with the quote, "Teachers should be in the vanguard, advocating change." The rest of the issue, and articles in many past issues of Teacher Magazine, shows this to be wrong and dangerous. The article "Chicago Blues" contains three sets of comments from teachers with the disclaimer "not his/her real name." I wonder why?
"Get a grip, Mr. Wolk, dude!" If a teacher tries to change the system, the system extracts revenge in some form or another. Here in Alaska, the tenure system was changed from three years to four due to "village politics." I have advocated change and know firsthand what the system will do to an "advocate of change."
Fort Yukon, Alaska
Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Articles for the "Comment" section fall under two general headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run approximately 1,000 to 1,750 words (four to five double-spaced pages) in length. 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].
Vol. 11, Issue 5, Pages 8, 62Published in Print: February 1, 2000, as Letters