How many Rs in education?

The article ``Programs Target Student Violence,'' July 18, rightly raises the issue of whether building mediation and other skills takes valuable time away from education's academic mission.

If, as the director of an agency that organizes mediation programs opines, conflict resolution is the fourth ``R,'' is health education the fifth, driver education the sixth, citizenship the seventh, household economics the eighth, computer skills the ninth, multicultural exposure the 10th, etc?

Fragmentation of public education by this proliferation of ``Rs'' degrades the educational process in several ways: Each curriculum module must assume a lowest common denominator of prior knowledge, resulting in inefficient duplication of effort; students do not understand, learn, and remember as well when material is presented in isolated chunks as when it is incorporated into larger fields of knowledge.

Students come to think of knowledge as divided into many unrelated subjects and never learn to make the connections across artificial academic boundaries necessary for creative thought. The new ``Rs'' should be integrated with the old, not presented as separate modules like those described in the article. Eric Klieber, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published, and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ``Readers Write,'' and can be sent by Internet E-mail (200 word maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115

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