Speaking out for ethics

Part 2 of the Monitor's ``National Issues Forum'' - ``Freedom of speech,'' Nov. 24 - offered a balanced overview of the different attitudes toward the right of free speech, especially as it pertains to the public schools. One point worth elaborating is the responsibility of a public school to accommodate the variety of concerns and values present in the community.

It would be helpful if the criteria used to select classroom textbooks would be made public.

The real issue isn't about the selection of reading material, but about the actual or at least perceived values being promoted by a teacher. There has to be some lesson or value which is perceived in a work for it to be deemed worth reading.

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It might be of more value if parents or other concerned citizens took the time to interview teachers and school administrators to find what attitudes they think should be taught to students.

The carrying out of such a policy of subjecting school personnel, or at least those who hire them, to a public examination of their values might very well open a ``Pandora's box.'' However, the importance of asking educators to explicitly articulate their values or standards shouldn't be written off.

The question is: Will the public schools be permitted to merely reflect and pass on the ever more impoverished ethical standards of society, or will efforts be made to use the schools to positively shape the future of this country? Marcus A. Pollard Emmitsburg, Md.

Fantasy vs. reality I applaud Diane Manuel's article ``Enduring fantasy,'' in the Nov. 6 pullout section on children's books.

The controversy between proponents of ``realism'' versus ``fantasy'' has continued for about two centuries. The resolution is found in the fact that children need both.

Confirmed readers usually find and indulge both, but teachers and parents should remember that children seldom follow sensibly (from the adult viewpoint) balanced reading diets. They often glut to satiety in one genre before moving on to another.

The same principle may be observed with regard to quality versus ``trash'' reading. There is some evidence that children who read both spontaneously develop discrimination, taste, and sensibility more rapidly than children who are permitted only the ``best'' material.

Mrs. Manuel does a service in accenting the uses of fantasy in a time when we have been getting heavy emphasis on realism, some of it beyond the grasp of the children to which it is addressed. Dale Harris Prof. Emeritus of Psychology Penn State University State College, Pa.

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