February 1994

This Issue
Vol. 05, Issue 05

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With five years of empirical classroom observation behind me, I know the honor system works. But I hadn't thought much about why until I saw Mel Gibson's movie The Man Without a Face.

In the character of Justin McCloud, Gibson appears before a child-welfare bureaucrat. A lawyer asks why he hasn't verified something a boy has told him. Gibson replies that a teacher can't teach trust unless he first trusts his student. Even the lawyer can't argue with that.

February 1.

The Discovery Channel airs "The Infinite Voyage: The Search for Ancient Americans,'' a one-hour program that follows America's first immigrants as they traveled eastward from Siberia to Alaska during the Ice Age. The show begins at 9 a.m. (EST) and is part of the channel's Assignment Discovery series.

In Thomas French's extraordinarily evocative book South of Heaven, which documents a year the author spent at Largo High School near St. Petersburg, Fla., the students evidence a hollowness, a spooky lack of emotion. With no knowledge of the past and little hope for the future, these teenagers act, if they act at all, on the impulse of the moment. The most alienated exchange Adolph Hitler salutes, talk offhandedly of their impending deaths, and pass hours in a kind of semiconscious daze. The more "normal'' kids--those who supposedly occupy the mainstream--drink to stupefaction and vomit after meals. High school, French writes, "has become a place where an alarming number of students resist taking part in any assignment that requires them to pay attention for longer than the length of the latest video from Paula Abdul or the Hammer.''

(See story on artificial intelligence, page 14.)

Three of the terminals were operated by software programs:

Following is a list of multicultural resources that may be of interest to teachers and students.

East Africa.

Baltimore Union Seeks To End For-Profit Schools

Seeking to end Baltimore's experiment in school privatization, the teachers' union there is challenging the legality of the city's arrangement with Education Alternatives Inc., the for-profit firm that now manages nearly a dozen of its public schools.

It's a Wednesday morning in mid-October at Denver's Abraham Lincoln High School, and Isaac Acosta is feeling sick again. The 15-yearold freshman has come to Lincoln's comprehensive health clinic to discuss his ailment with Kay McCann, the school nurse. Acosta walks into McCann's tiny office clutching a notebook and an American Civics textbook; he doesn't look well.

The future of any society is ultimately shaped by its children. The skills, the habits of mind, and the values they acquire as they grow will mold not only their lives as individuals but also the larger life of the community. That is why teaching is such a noble calling. As Christa McAuliffe said: "I touch the future. I teach.'' Yet society does not treat young people very well. Too many live in poverty; too many are unloved; too many are unchallenged.

In our most blighted inner cities and poorest rural areas, teenagers commonly grow up without ever seeing a physician. Disease, drug and alcohol abuse, and teenage pregnancy are rampant. In our cover story about a school-based health clinic, beginning on page 18, a physician says, "About 25 to 30 percent of my female patients have been abused, usually sexually, usually in an incestuous way, when they were young.'' He adds: "Teenagers should be the healthiest segment of the population, medically. But, in fact, they are the unhealthiest.''


Industrialist Hugh Loebner, whose family owns Crown Industries, has offered a prize of $100,000 to the designer of a software program that can fool a panel of judges into thinking it is human.

As editor of Teacher Magazine and Education Week, I was invited, along with seven other media representatives, to put the 1993 Loebner entrants to the test. Each of us held separate 10minute keyboard conversations on specific topics with eight remote computer terminals. At least two of the remote terminals were manned by human beings, and at least two were connected to software programs. Our challenge as judges was to determine whether we were communicating with people or machines.


Marlowe characterizes the meetings and "interrogations'' that followed as a "public crucifixion.'' Subjected to anger and harassment not only from administrators but also from some teachers, Marlowe says she needed someone outside her milieu to talk to.

It was then that a colleague and friend told her about a crisis hot line for educators. Marlowe called the number and spoke with a volunteer who was able to provide some much-needed support. The volunteer told Marlowe that she was not alone, that her experience was similar to those of hundreds of other educators across the country. "She helped me not to take it so personally,'' Marlowe says. "I understood the monster I was dealing with.... Censorship is a traumatic experience. Just to know people had been through it has been real helpful.''

In 1985, social psychologist Jeff Howard and a colleague wrote a cover story for The New Republic that they expected would outrage many of their peers in the black community. The article, "Rumors of Inferiority: Barriers to Black Success in America,'' examined the explosive topic of why some black adults and students were shunning or evading academic competition.

Eliot Wigginton

As a proud gay teacher, I am writing to express my concern about Debra Viadero's statement in "Fall From Grace'' [January] that "there had been rumors that [Eliot] Wigginton was homosexual and that he liked young men.'' If the reverse were true, and Wigginton victimized girls, would you have then said, "There were rumors that Wigginton was heterosexual and that he liked young girls''?

DEADLINES

Following is a list of application deadlines for grants, fellowships, and honors available to individuals. Asterisks (

  • ) denote new entries.
Sitting in the hall's red plush seats and admiring its gold-leaf adorned balconies, one can easily imagine being back in the 19th century. But this moment of reverie is quickly interrupted by the clamor of young voices, which drowns out the sound of the musicians warming up, save for the booming timpani.

"Hey, I know that kid!''

Natchitoches and the smaller community of Many are surrounded by forests and sustained by timber companies that harvest them. Toledo Bend Reservoir, which snakes 76 miles between Many and the Texas border to the west, is a popular fishing spot that teems with tourists in the summertime.

Many residents of Natchitoches who don't work in the timber industry are employed by the local paper mill or the chicken processing plant on the outskirts of town. Some local young people commute to the offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, other residents have come to the quaint little town to retire. Natchitoches is where the movie Steel Magnolias was filmed, and the place exudes a peaceful, Southern charm.

Teaching is not a profession that values or encourages leadership within its ranks.
The note slipped silently from my hand to a prominent spot on his desk.