Thanks for the Apology
I was one of your readers who protested some of the columns written by Gary Stager. Therefore, I understandably was attracted to your editor's letter in the November 2004 issue ("Mea Culpa"). Only rarely do I find editors with the courage and mortification you displayed in your remarks. Therefore, I applaud you highly, not only for your response to readers who find Mr. Stager's remarks to be belligerently inaccurate, but also for your promise to tone them down.
Professor of Education Emeritus
San Diego State University
Keep Gary Stager, Lose the Apologies
Joe Hanson has invited readers to share their thoughts about Gary Stager's two columns ("Kerry's Educational Plan," August 2004, and "Direct Instruction," October 2004).
Here goes: Stager is absolutely right about the ignorance of politicians about education; the dangers of extrinsic rewards and vouchers; the mindlessness and heartlessness of the Direct Instruction approach; and the well-documented cozy relationship between the Bush family and McGraw-Hill, the publishers of many Direct Instruction materials and tests mandated by No Child Left Behind.
Stager concludes there is a war on public education. He is not alone in these views. A number of recent books by well-respected educators have documented the highjacking of curricula in the service of corporate profits, the suppression of voices of opposition, and the failings of Direct Instruction programs. For those interested, two of these books are: Why is Corporate America Bashing our Public Schools? (Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian) and Education, Inc: Turning Education into a Business (Patrick Shannon and Alfie Kohn). Educators, as well as the general public, need to hear from both sides.
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
Please save your apologies about running two recent columns by Gary Stager. Mr. Stager reflected the disappointment of many of us who longed for a clear choice on Election Day.
What we got from the presidential candidates was a lot of nit-picking about whether or not the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind law was adequately funded or not. Perhaps if John Kerry had had the courage to challenge the shallow high-stakes testing reforms that are sucking the last bit of joy out of public education and the teaching profession, he would have been swept into office by millions of thankful parents and educators.
You shouldn't be embarrassed but proud to feature the work of a columnist who is so clearly tuned in to the views of a frustrated electorate.
The Coordinator of Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing
I'm deeply disturbed by your recent "Mea Culpa." In this piece, you advance the idea that Stager's opinions about "educational matters" are appropriate for publication, but his questions about "the motives of elected officials or candidates" are inappropriate.
At any time, but this year in particular, presidential politics is all about "educational matters" and the candidates themselves ask the voters to evaluate their opponents' and their own motives. Campaigners demand that we look at the record, assess their policies, and, most of all, judge them on their "motives."
Since I doubt you actually believe national politics is not an "educational matter," I have to conclude your embarrassment results more from Stager's criticism of Mr. Bush's policies and the motives that appear to undergird them.
Is District Administration going to a closed room full of "appropriate" cheerleaders for Bush's policies? If not, then you owe Mr. Stager and your readers a "mea maxima culpa."
District Director of Technology Services
Tolland (CT) Public Schools
What kind of bubble do you live in? Education is not now and never has been neutral. How can you write, "We at District Administration value the open exchange of ideas about improving public education." And then contradict that by condemning one of your own columnists for speaking his mind on an extremely important topic. Don't district administrators keep up with what is happening to education under the Bush regime?
I'm very worried that my cash-strapped district is going to end up with one of those tedious Direct Instruction programs that cost so much money and bore students and teachers to death. I'm eternally grateful to people like Gary Stager for bravely standing up and protesting "phony science-based" programs.
We need more, not less, of this kind of discussion.
Nancy S. Elkins
A parent from an embattled district
Letters can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, title and district (including state). We reserve the right to edit all letters.