Regarding your Aug. 26 article "As standards rise, too few teachers": An important point has been missed. These very standards are one of the reasons teachers leave the profession. A standards-based, test-driven curriculum may be touted as "rigorous." But in fact, it requires teachers and students to turn off their own ideas, no matter how inspiring, and march through the school year in lock-step fashion. Worksheets, rote memorization, and multiple-choice tests prepare kids to do better on standardized tests.
If you graduate from college, or abandon another profession, with the intent of showing children the rewards of alert curiosity, rigorous debate, and an unbounded pursuit of knowledge ... don't become a teacher.
Your article, "As standards rise, too few teachers," is a fine report on the difficulty of finding and keeping quality teachers. Some of the immediate causes for teacher dissatisfaction include: increasing paperwork, discipline problems, lack of administrative support, central-office micromanagement of curriculum, high-stakes testing, rigid pay scales, aggressive parents, and an environment that stifles innovation.
The root cause of the problem is that compulsory education without choices guarantees the apathy and resistance of many students and their families. And because compulsory education without choices doesn't work very well, it invites micromanagement from the administration and thus, a stressful teaching experience for teachers.
I encourage you to look more deeply into teacher shortages. Schools are organized like factories, with no time for mentoring or passing on of craft knowledge during normal working hours.
To suggest that a paper-and-pencil content test coupled with a provision of federal law will solve this growing problem is an illusion created by those who will benefit from promoting the illusion as a solution.
If you really want answers, go to accomplished teachers and ask them what will work.
Harwich Port, Mass.
Regarding Godfrey Sperling's Aug. 27 column, "Bush's quiet green light on Iraq": It is absolutely wrong to assume there is a green light for President Bush to attack Iraq. There is no reason to assume that Americans consent to this somewhat baffling obsession. Many question openly how the idea of a war with Iraq can gain so much momentum when the American people have been told so little.
Anything less than the jejune vision of an instant, bloodless, and complete installation of a Western-style democracy that is implied by advocates of war would be met with political backlash.
The responsible voices that have served the interests of the United States in the past were not separated from public sentiment. The intelligence behind those voices also understood a basic democratic axiom: War requires more than a tacit green light.
Peter A. DeLong
In "Bush's quiet green light on Iraq" Godfrey Sperling considers the lack of public discourse on the president's policy toward Iraq to be a green light for action. It's more likely that in this case the public's lack of awareness means we're approaching an intersection where the traffic signals are out of order. When we approach a malfunctioning stoplight, our first instinct should be to slow down and use all due caution.
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