Dreaming of education that teaches how to learn

Robert Klose's Sept. 5 Home Forum essay, "At last, I put my daydreaming to good use," about how his daydreaming about the life of a river led to a major research project struck a deep chord with me as an elementary school teacher. He highlights a major flaw in the traditional educational model. Many schools and teachers provide instruction within a narrow, rigid curriculum, rarely, if ever, letting students follow their own lines of inquiry. When students are given opportunities to choose what they study, they are eager to understand how to go about it. Teachers are then in the best position to nurture the most important skill of all - how to learn.

Many teachers do understand and encourage the natural enthusiasm for learning that kids bring to school. Unfortunately, these teachers are put more and more in the position of having to leave out the student-directed explorations and projects in order to spend more time practicing for the state-mandated standardized tests that are used to assess schools.

Mr. Klose's story should serve as a wake-up call to schools, teachers, and parents. Beware of a focus on state-mandated "standards." Instead, take the time to make sure students have some choice about what to study and guide them to discover the appropriate skills to do it. "Daydreams" can be the base for the skills they will need to grow as scholars. The end result - creative presentations and projects - will be substantive assessments of the depth of their skills and knowledge.
Christina Lego
Auburn, N.Y.

Solutions for elder driving

Regarding the Sept. 3 Opinion "Needed: aging-driver policy": So what are we elder drivers supposed to do just because we are living beyond an arbitrarily assigned time? Public transportation as such is not the answer because, admittedly, even in the best of physical and mental health we may not be able to mount the steps of a city bus or manage the lack of seats in a local rail system. Where elder transit is available, will it take us to the supermarket and pick us up again? Can we afford the mounting cost? Or, as so many of us more fortunate ones do, do we rely on our children to take us places while setting their own lives on hold? As always, economics is the bottom line. It's easy to criticize, not so easy to offer viable solutions. Maybe we could even keep on driving if roads added side lanes just for seniors.
Rhona Gerber
North Penn, Pa.

In Europe, everyone must take a medical exam to get or renew his or her driver's license. For drivers under 45, this is done every 10 years; from 45 to 69, every five years; over 70, every two years. I think the United States would be wise to establish similar requirements.
Henry Bentsen
New York

Braille production in prisons

I read the Sept. 5 article "As prisoners age, should they go free?" with great interest. One statement made in the story, however, is incorrect. Men's Prison is not "one of the only shops in the country that translates school textbooks into Braille." In fact, there are at least 26 prisons in the United States currently operating Braille production facilities.

The inmates are not only learning valuable job skills - they are helping many blind students across the country get the educational materials they need to succeed.
Nancy Lacewell
Louisville, Ky.
Director of Government and Community Affairs American Printing House for the Blind

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