The Value of Teachers in Public Education
I read the Opinion page article "Our Abandoned Teachers," Aug. 31, with interest. I suggest you do something radical and interview real teachers who go to school every day - teachers who are consistently barraged with media reports that they are the dumbest of college graduates.
I taught at a secondary level for 23 years. My second through fifth years, I taught in a school with cement floors, little playground space, no heat in the rooms, and few textbooks. But the students expected me to be wonderful, and the parents expected the students to be prepared for college. I knocked myself out for them, and now, at the 25th reunion I continue to hear appreciative reports of my influence in their lives.
Then years later, I taught in a San Francisco Bay-area public high school. We had clean, well-lighted, well-heated rooms and appropriate books and materials. Students attended class as they felt like it; parents were uninvolved. No matter how dedicated I was, nothing would happen if the students expected poor quality in public schools. So I quit, got a PhD, and now I teach graduate school. Since many professors lecture rather than teach, I often hear appreciative remarks about my teaching skills. I'm rea lly a public high school teacher, but at that level I'm invisible because no one expects quality. Why is the United States unable to recognize quality in public school teachers and let them know they are valued? Peggy Alter, Berkeley, Calif. Higher education
I appreciate the Learning page article "Academia on the Whipping Post," Aug. 31, reviewing the book "Imposters in the Temple," which so clearly put that book into the current fashionable bashing of higher education. When commentators write about the use of teaching assistants rather than professors to teach undergraduates, it is easy to forget that those teaching assistants are college graduates, often with masters degrees and advanced doctoral work. It may be that universities could do more to teach the ir newest instructors more about teaching, but the use of teaching assistants to provide more individual and sympathetic instruction is not always a bad thing.
Furthermore, the effort to activate trustees seems like another attempt at making universities into business corporations; higher education is not a business, and students are not widgets. Trying to force higher education into a business mold will benefit neither business or education. Virginia Davis Nordin, Lexington, Ky. War on drugs
I was disappointed to see, as one of the few direct references to the drug war, the Opinion page article "We Can't Surrender in the War on Drugs," Sept. 4. The author invokes the same stale, tired rationalizations we've heard for years for a policy that daily proves itself more and more disastrous. He repeatedly invokes metaphors of war and takes it for granted that we ought to fight each other over drug use.
It is also worth noting that the author stands to gain professionally from the policies he advocates. In contrast, disinterested thinkers around the nation are pointing out the futility and destructiveness of the drug war, particularly as it is responsible for a perverted economy in the inner cities that cannot help but be a powerful lure into criminality. John deLaubenfels, Deluth, Ga.