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March 1, 1994
Vol. 51
No. 6


A Courageous Issue

The issue on the Christian Fundamentalists (Dec. 1993/Jan. 1994) was all one could expect from a leading professional magazine. The Overview, “Time of Trial for Public Education,” framed the complex and controversial topic. The mix of articles allowed an informed and evenhanded discussion.
“A Song of Inmates” will bring criticism. Although no one defends Eliot Wigginton's deviant behavior, neither should anyone question his qualifications to make his insightful observations. Thank you for an issue that is courageous, humane, and contains no weak material.
—Roger N. Grabinski, Professor, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Praise for Prisoner's Voice

Thank you for Eliot Wigginton's “A Song of Inmates.” It's no surprise that the man who reinvented oral history listened and heard the prisoners' request for books. The article was worth the year's subscription to the magazine.
—Richard Moore, Los Angeles, California

Remember the Pain of Children

From the vantage of an elementary principal's office, intellectual freedoms are less compelling than the daily pain of children who are the victims of abuse. The moral covenant to protect children must take precedence over the rights of free speech. I'd suggest that Educational Leadership direct those individuals who have molested children to look elsewhere for publication.
—John Metcalfe, Mountain View Elementary School, Mountain View, Wyoming

Lapse in Judgment

It was a gross lapse in judgment to publish an article by a convicted child molester. I was also offended by the statement that he had been convicted of one count. As if this somehow minimized his offense and the effect it had on the victim!
—Diane M. Wilson, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Addressing Sexual Harassment

“Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Classroom” by Nan Higginson (November 1993) was excellent. What is impressive is the continued enthusiasm of students over several days to pursue the topic from many perspectives. The involvement of the adults in the school is testimony to their commitment to ensuring a safe harassment-free environment. The author is lucky! I'll share her ideas in the workshops I conduct.
—Pat Yosha, Gender Equity Consultant, Curriculum and Staff Development, Bloomfield, Connecticut

Right-Wing Labels

In “Fundamental Differences?” Alex Molnar refers to the “right-wing extremists, activists, and idealogues.” He should remember that one of the first things one must do in reaching out to others is to stop putting labels on them.
—Bruce Fech, Department of Education, and Formation, Catholic Diocese of Lansing, Lansing, Michigan

The War Metaphor

As a teacher of creative writing, I believe that a society is known by the metaphors it keeps. Perhaps if the Far Right and its critics viewed their differences not as a war to be waged but as a gulf to be bridged, dialogues might sooner lead to some meeting ground.
—Sheila Davis, New York, New York

The Meaning of Tolerance

In “A Tug-of-War Over Tolerance,” Arnold Fege speaks of tolerating various viewpoints. But toleration obscures the real issues. Christians believe that some actions and beliefs are wrong according to absolute standards. They object to having their children taught high respect for views that their standards tell them are wrong.
Fege also uses the term “special interest,” implying that a sort of general interest ought to prevail. What is that general interest? Who gets to define it and guard it? Are we talking abut majority and minority views, or something else?
And while Fege says tolerance is desirable, he also says we must limit our tolerance when it could lead to the creation of intolerant policy. Here is where the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Fege limits his tolerance and Christians limit theirs, and they stand on opposite sides of the fence. And that fence is not tolerance, but the world views and value systems underlying the limits each side applies. That is where the real tug-of-war is happening.
—Ruth Beechick, Education Services, Golden, Colorado

Response: Absolutism Does Not Preempt Toleration

Ruth Beechick's observation that the real tug-of-war is based on underlying value systems is correct. All societies place limits on what they tolerate. Placing limitations on tolerance, however, does not require that one be intolerant. I am arguing that Christians be given the same right as all others in the community to express their views. This seems to me to be in the general interest.
At the same time, religious speech cannot be given a privileged status because it is deeply believed or absolute. Toleration does not require acceptance of viewpoints, but that we allow a variety of people, activities, and ideas to exist without legal or social impediment.
Finally, the tendency to polarize issues of morality forecloses the toleration option. Many school debates are not mostly issues of right and wrong. Neither does it enhance healthy school governance to view every issue as only having two sides.
—Arnold Fege, National PTA, Washington, D.C.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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