Computers No Substitute for Teachers

No one would deny that a computer is more appealing to students than a textbook or a lecture. But like the phone company ads that promise us ``a revolution is coming,'' ``A Technology Revolution in the Classroom,'' Oct. 17, is short on specifics concerning the ``dramatic changes in pedagogy'' offered by information technology.

The computer is an excellent teacher of rote skills: memorization of vocabulary (I use the computer in this way in my ancient Greek classes), math practice, ear training, etc. It is also used as a replacement for the encyclopedia, the typewriter, and the United States mail. But rote learning is the most primitive of pedagogical functions. What teachers provide, aside from the mysterious ``higher order thinking'' the article mentions, is simply the ability to tell what is unimportant - something no amount of fiber optics will ever do.

I have seen my wife, who teaches at a Friends School near Philadelphia, required to spend close to $2,000 of her own earnings to buy a laptop computer and then be expected to invent ways to use it in the classroom. Computers do not by themselves guarantee more learning. To fault the teachers for not finding ways to use the technology is to put the cart before the horse. I hope that future installments of the series will describe realistically projected uses and speak with actual teachers and students. Christopher Francese, Swarthmore, Pa. Swarthmore College

Respecting Islam's traditions

It really felt like a breath of fresh air reading something about Islam and Muslim women that did not contain a fear of radicals taking over all the controls or the human rights of women being taken away (``The Whimsy of the Wind,'' Oct. 20). While it is true that in a lot of traditional societies women have lost some of their social freedom because the people in charge abuse their power, true Islam believes in equality between men and women.

Certain traditions and customs have grown in many societies with the influence of religion as well as other factors like weather and geography. Wearing a chador or a robe is such a tradition that fulfills the religious requirement of dressing modestly. It is nice to see a little respect shown to these traditions rather than an attempt to judge them by one's own standard. Beyond all the fearful headlines that Islam makes nowadays, a beautiful culture exists. There is still the whimsical wind that blows the robe of a lady for a brief second. Life is still amusing. Junaid Ahmed, Bloomington, Ill.

What about smokers' rights?

In the opinion-page article ``Put Tobacco Regulation Under the FDA,'' Oct. 19, the author writes as if regulation of smoking and tobacco is a debate only for governments, the tobacco industry, the medical profession, and nonsmokers. It's as if we smokers are nonhumans or are so evil or ignorant that our feelings and concerns don't have to be considered.

I hope that my letters to my congressmen opposing the proposed $2-a-pack cigarette tax to finance health-care reform were at least partly responsible for the demise of that unjust and punitive tax. If tobacco industry lobbyists also played a part, I couldn't care less. They don't speak for me. I speak for myself. In spite of the author's attempt to disenfranchise us by rendering us invisible, Congress may finally be getting the message that we smokers are people - and people who vote.

My group health plan does not cover prescription nicotine patches or any smoking cessation programs, both of which are costly. If the author really wants people like me to quit smoking, for the good of all, he could work to get addicted smokers the medical treatment we need. Doesn't that make more sense than taxing us into poverty? Laurie D. Craw, Cave Spring, Ga.

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