Instead of placing emphasis on the collapse of the dot-coms and the
subsequent move into teaching by some of their employees ["Reversal of Fortune," May/June],
what we should look at is the conditions all teachers have to work
under. Because of a dearth of qualified teachers in the fields of math
and science, school districts are forced to hire people with absolutely
no teaching or education background, who then, as the article points
out, work under threat of being laid off. The article then discusses
what these individuals have to do to make ends meet as a teacher. These
measures would be nothing new to teachers who chose the profession in
the first place. As a teacher for 34 years, I can't tell you how many
part-time jobs I've had, sometimes two at the same time, and for how
long I lived paycheck to paycheck as I got married and had three
children. This didn't include expenses such as courses to earn
permanent certification or my master's degree, which was the only way
to increase my salary.
The important issues here are why school districts cannot find all the qualified teachers they need, and why they can't provide enough incentives for them to stay. These are not local problems, but ones that are evident throughout the country.
Your article "Dropout Follies" by Ronald A. Wolk [Perspective, May/June] is absolute garbage. While this article is labeled "perspective"—and certainly it's his—it seems to have been written by a person that clearly has not done any reasonable amount of research on the issues confronting public education, nor on the issue of dropouts. I am an outreach consultant for Senate Bill 65 [California's Dropout Prevention and Recovery Act] and have worked in the "trenches," encouraging students to stay in school and continue with their education to achieve their goals. Mr. Wolk needs to wake up, get off his high chair, and come down into reality.
Benito V. Centeno
Dropout Prevention Specialist
I'd like to thank you for bringing attention to educational inequality in the Los Angeles Unified School District ["Access Denied," March/April]. It is vital to understand that my disagreement with my principal was not with the search policies at that time. My concern was the practice and conduct by which the searches were generally done.
It is absolutely possible to protect kids without brutalizing and humiliating them. One of the most effective forms of safety in a school is to have a solid, consistent educational program. At Locke High School, we had one of the highest rates of substitute teachers, short-contract teachers, teachers not certified to teach in the courses they were assigned, new teachers without mentors, and high teacher turnover. Somehow, the LAUSD felt it was more important to punish everyone at Locke than to provide us with staff, support, and materials to create an effective and safe school.
It was the LAUSD's paranoid and aggressive strategy of control that prompted its retaliatory punishment toward me. Overall, LAUSD has given me five different types of discipline, which keep me from being hired at any other public school.
Shades of Truth
Regarding the excerpt "True Colors" [March/April], so many situations that happened to the author's son were similar to what happened to mine in 2nd grade. In our situation, my son became suicidal from constant maltreatment by his teacher. He completely lost his spirit and became a very unhappy child. He thought a lot of it was his fault. But with years of treatment and addressing what he had experienced, we found that she was systematically emotionally abusing him. My son is white, the teacher is black. So I definitely understand the issue of racism that the author speaks of.
But I believe there is a lot to understand about the dynamics of human relationships that are far more complicated than the basis of racism. My son's teacher had had problems in her childhood, and her issues needed to be addressed so that she was not taking out her anger on the children. I do take offense to a statement by the author that "in the black community, there is no such thing as siblings who are too close." That is the same one-sided, presumptuous attitude that she states she has had to deal with. White siblings, even if they are not twins, can be very close as well. This is not exclusive to the black community, and for her to say so is racist. In the same way that black individuals become offended by comments that dictate the nature of their culture, white people do as well. In spite of her seemingly fair account of her experiences, it is obvious that she is also racist. I hope that in her attempt to be fair, she can practice "be thy brother's keeper," whether they are black or white.
Thank you for printing the excerpt of Paula Penn-Nabrit's book. Testimonials such as hers provide educators with an intimate and illuminating glimpse into the real and pervasive problem of institutional racism in education. Public acknowledgements and dialogues surrounding this issue are all too rare.
While we as educators speak often of multiculturalism, the sad fact is that racism, whether individual or institutional, is not typically part of the curriculum. In fact, according to educator Bob Peterson, most American history textbooks make no reference to racism whatsoever, which implies that racism was not and is not a fact of life for all Americans.
We must overcome our fear, discomfort, ignorance, and defensiveness and talk openly with one another about what racism is, how it works, and what it does to people of all pigments. Together, we must explore what we can do to inoculate our children and ourselves against racism while we work to eliminate it altogether. We must also invite students, parents, and community members to be a part of this conversation, and we must listen to what they have to tell us.
Chew on This
The first glaring thing that hit me in the face with the article "Food Fight" [Comment, February] was, Where are the parents? I read and read and waited for this writer to say something like, "And the CARE program is launching a massive ad campaign to educate parents about the dangers of obesity."
I teach math, reading, social science, science, and a thousand things in between. Of course I teach nutrition. But I eat Oreos and coffee for breakfast most mornings. I am not proud of this—it's just a sad fact. My point in even mentioning this is that teachers, while important, are in these little guys' lives for 181 days. We are not there at the dinner table, if one even exists for most kids anymore, when mom is serving up mac-'n'-cheese with a hot dog in a bun smothered with a ketchup chaser. This sounds healthy to the average mom, I bet. It would to me, honestly, were I not a teacher. We teachers get this info shoved down our throats. The general public doesn't. We're paid to remember if eggs are a protein or a dairy product. I know it, I teach it, and then I move on to helping my guys learn to regroup or add a suffix or whatever.
I think the article is right about the need to do something about childhood obesity. I am just frightened of starting another big program that will cost taxpayer money and teacher time when the target needs to be shifted. Children learn what they live. We cannot expect a kid to choose healthy food in the cafeteria when he or she has been raised on American fast food.
Newport Beach, California
Vol. 15, Issue 1, Pages 5-7Published in Print: September 1, 2003, as Letters