Positive Side of Retention
In "Grade Retention: A History of Failure" (Special Topic, September 1998), William Owings and Susan Magliaro reach conclusions that negate the positive aspects of grade retention reported by Karl Alexander, professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. As the authors state, "There is a body of research to guide practice."
Presenting this research, as described in On the Success of Failure by Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Susan Dauber (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), would give readers a different view of retention and would support schools and teachers in their need for guidance to ensure the long-term success and best interests of our "patients."
—Mary Jeanne Munroe, Educational Consultant, Pinetop, Arizona
Religion in Schools
I enjoyed reading ASCD's new book by Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes, Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum. It is an intelligent book that should give educators who are timid about entering into religious discussions in the schools the foundation they need to open up students' minds about the far-reaching role of religious issues in virtually every academic subject.
—Thomas Armstrong, Cloverdale, California
Taking Religion Seriously
I agree with Warren Nord and Charles Haynes when they state in their ASCD-published book Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum (1998) that "public schools must be religiously neutral—neutral among religions and neutral between religion and non-religion" (p. 202).
We teach through example, however, and what Nord and Haynes provide is far from neutral. Look at the index. How many references refer to Christianity as compared with those to all other world religions combined? How many references refer to the Bible as compared with those to the holy books of other world faiths?
In my judgment, a more accurate title would be Taking Christianity Seriously Across the Curriculum. Isn't the book basically a sectarian effort, whatever the authors' original intentions?
—Brant Abrahamson, The Teachers Press, Brookfield, Illinois
Nord and Haynes's reply: Just as a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, so it shouldn't be judged by its index. Readers will find many references to the world's diverse religious traditions in every chapter and in the suggested readings and resources. Indeed, our efforts to be fair have been applauded by others, including the Council on Islamic Education.
The space we devote to the Bible simply reflects its influence in the history that students must learn. We don't privilege Christianity (or Judaism) but do want educators to understand the many contemporary debates about how to study the Bible in history, literature, world religions, and elective Bible courses.
Helping Home Schoolers
I concur with the assessment in "Home Schooling" (Research Link, May 1998) that it is futile to pass judgment on whether home schooling or traditional schooling is better. Andrew Latham's description of the ideologues and pedagogues was right on track. In my experience, individuals make the choice of home schooling for many different reasons. In the Northwest, for example, a growing number of parents are choosing home schooling because they believe that the schools are not safe.
I regret that some public school educators become defensive about home schooling. Instead of finding ways to bridge this instructional methodology, we create obstacles and alienate a group of parents we should assist. If we believe in an educated citizenry, we should care less about the means and more about the ends.
—Mick Martin, Superintendent of Schools, Auburn City Schools, Auburn, Alabama
Children and the Holocaust
"For All the Children Who Were Thrown Away" (April 1998) brought tears and chills. What a wonderful and emotionally wrenching experience this project was for Daniel Brown and his students! Although I have never visited Poland, I could feel Daniel Brown's emotions as he deposited his students' letters at the Auschwitz State Museum.
I wish more of us were as courageous, creative, and caring as he seems to be. His students and community are lucky to be the beneficiaries of his efforts.
—Bonnie Polan, Beverly High School, Beverly, Massachusetts
Dealing with the Holocaust
Daniel Brown, in "For All the Children Who Were Thrown Away" (April 1998), treated the subject of the Holocaust with courage and sensitivity. I appreciate his recognizing that it is as easy to dehumanize the German people as it was to dehumanize the Jewish people. Thanks for not shrinking back on either side.
Katie Buchanan's poem was stunning and remarkable for an 11-year-old. I welcomed the references to good books for my family and me to read.
—Rusty Foerger, Public Information Officer, Edmonton Fire Department, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada