June 2012 Issue
May 21, 2012

Letters: How 'thorough' is thorough?

Source: NYSUT United

State Education Commissioner John B. King says that "it's fairly routine to have the occasional typos despite THOROUGH review by test publishing staff [AND] department staff [AND] panels of New York state educators."

If that's true, why didn't even ONE of these legions of proofreaders spot either of the math questions with the wrong number of correct answer choices? If state law allows Mr. King to accept gifts, I'm willing to buy him a dictionary so he can learn that the word "thorough" means "exhaustively complete, painstakingly accurate."

To be fair, I am willing to defend the two math test questions which, instead of offering one (and only one) correct answer among the multiple choices, offered either two correct answers or no correct answer. Mathematically, these two bad questions actually had — ON AVERAGE — the correct number (one) of correct answers among the multiple choices. They were just not evenly distributed between the two questionable questions. (I hope that's clear.)

Richard Siegelman | Plainview

District skirts classroom role

I'm appalled to learn from the Trumansburg Free Press (April 18, page 1), that in the Trumansburg Central School District, a "middle-school teacher, who currently leads a home and career class, plans to retire, and the full-time position may not be filled. Instead, a teacher's assistant would pick up the home and career course duties."

It would seem questionable at the very least, from a union point of view, to ask a T.A. to replace a retiring full-time teacher in a course. If this is OK, then what keeps school districts from replacing other teachers with T.A.s? Is this a new trend?

Nancy Kane | Brooktondale

Editor's note: Delegates to NYSUT's Representative Assembly addressed this very issue and approved a resolution objecting to the practice. (See related story.)

Optional exams devalue topics

I just finished reading the State Education Department's proposal to make the Regents Global History and Geography exams optional. The policy, if adopted, would take effect for the 2013-14 school year.

What a travesty! There's a reason why every golden age in human history has focused on liberal arts, well-rounded individuals, and the study of art, music, history and literature — IT WORKS! It produces brilliant, thoughtful, creative human beings. That, in turn, produces the scientific, technological, and cultural advances that have lifted human beings out of the darkness.

Our state government, the Democratic Party in particular, is trying to turn us into Communist China. No local control, no independent thinking, no freedom of expression, and no common sense. We will be a nation of programmers and nano-technicians who will do exactly what they are told.

Horace Mann, who basically founded the U.S. public education system, knew that civics, the teaching of government and history, was essential to maintaining educated, thoughtful voters. The foundation of our entire political system rests on the decisions voters make at the polls.

Do we really want to produce a generation of voters who have no philosophical understanding of liberty, equality, representation, separation of powers, checks and balances, judicial review, and due process — or how they evolved? In this global economy, don't our kids need to have a better understanding of the world and its various cultures? How does making Global Studies optional (and cutting foreign language programs everywhere by labeling them non-essential) give our kids a better understanding of the world and its various cultures?

It's shameful, and confirms what I have felt all year — public education is being driven off a cliff. I wonder if history, art and music are optional at the private school the commissioner sends his own children to. By this very proposal, SED and the commissioner prove the old English adage that Americans have "no sense of history" is absolutely correct.

Alessandro Mancini | Fonda

Thankful for support

Your magazine has an amazing shelf-life! Just today I took a call from a reader who said she saw our contact information in a "very old issue" of NYSUT United. We are particularly happy to reach so many education professionals who can make a real difference for children and teens who stutter. We thank you for your wonderful support.

Jane Fraser | The Stuttering Foundation, Memphis, Tenn.