Teachers: promote open discussion, not agendas

As a recently retired public school teacher, I'd like to weigh in on your June 10 article, "Reading, writing, and ... war?" Students learn to think best when they are presented with all sides of an issue and are encouraged to consider openly all possibilities. This can happen best if the teacher avoids expressing his own opinions.

The teacher should be a facilitator of the processes of exploration and discussion. I have seen many teachers, filled with political zeal, trying to impart their own political positions to their students. This is an abuse of the trusted position of teacher. The uniqueness of the relationship between student and teacher trumps any First Amendment rights the teacher may claim. If I want to discuss my position on the Iraq war with a fellow citizen on the street, she may walk away if she disagrees or she may engage in a fierce debate with me.

Not so with students. As the teacher's captive audience, they must sit and listen. Also, because they may perceive - rightly or wrongly - that dissenting positions may jeopardize their grades, they are not likely to challenge the teacher's position.

The public school classroom is not a free speech forum for the teacher, but it certainly should be for the student.
Robert McArthur
Austin, Texas

As a high school senior in 1970-71, I listened as the issues of Vietnam were debated in our history and English classes. Several teachers argued openly for their personal beliefs. When these actions were coupled with the emotions roiling through the nation at large, the result was a palpable schism within the school, among both the student body and the faculty, that severely damaged relationships and stifled education. The country is still recovering from the schisms of that period, which involved everything from national military strategy to judicial activism.

That our system of governance, Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the dynamism of Americans allow for discussion and dissent is absolutely essential to our freedom and our country's strength. But teenagers, susceptible to peer pressure, are at the mercy of their educators and should be taught with care and professionalism.
Don Fraser
Purcellville, Va.

How much to credit Reagan?

Regarding Dinesh D'Souza's June 7 Opinion "A child of the 'Reagan revolution' grateful for inheritance": By all accounts, communism was untenable and unsustainable. D'Souza says, "Early in his presidency Reagan repeatedly said that the death of Soviet communism was imminent." If this is the case, how then can we credit him with defeating it? I'm certain "optimism" alone wasn't the mechanism.
Sanjai Tripathi
Corvallis, Ore.

I wish D'Souza had not sullied what could have been an interesting insider's view by criticizing the good works and words of Roosevelt and Kennedy. After 9/11, our country has regained an appreciation for selfless public service as well as the importance and limitations of government. I work at a college, and I can tell you that both the spirit of service and entrepreneurial vigor are alive and well in our young Americans. How sad to believe that success and concern for society are mutually exclusive!
Leah Gallant-McFall
Elsah, Ill.

Honoring heritage of French support

Regarding your June 9 editorial "French Ties and Freedom Fries:" I do appreciate your article. It makes a lot of sense and the great majority of the French people, deeply hurt by last year's French bashing, would applaud.
Alain Faupin

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