Letters to the Editors of Rethinking Schools

Schools Not Bombs

T here is a war being waged in America. It is being waged against the public school classrooms in our urban areas, towns and rural communities. It is an attack by our legislators who are once again attempting to balance the budget on the backs of our children. The administration's unfunded mandate, No Child Left Behind, will leave vast numbers of children behind, particularly those children with the greatest need.

We expect our children to be ready for the next phase of technology, to excel in math and the sciences. But we are given only vinegar and baking soda budgets and aging computers. No one in the business field would ever work under the conditions and physical environment that my colleagues and our students are subjected to. We would never consider sending our soldiers into battle with ancient and inferior equipment [or require them to] pay for their own bullets, but that is what we teachers are expected to do and so much more.

We demand that our public schools be fully funded! We should be building classrooms, not bombs.

- Lise Spangenthal, Tempe, Arizona

I have become energized over the issue of civil rights for children because I learned that children do not have the right to have their parents present when questioned by police. At Oakland High School, the Secret Service questioned two 16-year-olds who supposedly made a comment about "offing the President" during a discussion of whether to go to war in Iraq. The students were questioned at school and nobody called their parents before, during, or after a two-hour interrogation.

There should be laws that require that parents be notified when children are interrogated.

- Jim Mordecai, Oakland, California

Thank You

T hank goodness for Rethinking Schools. In a country full of policymakers and media sources that are concerned with little more than how they can manipulate data to make the most money off schoolchildren, your magazine is a canteen in the desert.

As witness to the usual foolishness: An advertisement in a recent Education Week for a program called Test Ready brags in bold-face type that its test-preparation worksheets now outsell classics like Black Beauty and Charlotte's Web . I'm not sure who this should upset more-conservatives or liberals-but it certainly should anger everyone who cares about children. So, keep up the good work fighting this nonsense, and the rest of us will keep working to make our classrooms and schools places of intelligence, critical thinking, and equality.

- John Scudder, Phoenix, Arizona

T hank you for printing the truth. Living in Texas, the heat's not the only thing to suck the life out of children and teachers.

"Captives of the Script" and "Learning to Read and the 'W Principle'" (Vol. 17, No. 4) revealed the politics, frustrations, and difficulties classroom teachers face with packaged teaching programs. During my pre-service observation days, I saw how the state and district supported low-performing schools, with dark-suited trios moving from classroom to classroom, unnerving teachers with harsh glares. Later the suits would meet to criticize the overly stressed principal: The Sopranos shake down Mr. Rogers.

"Testing Our Sanity" was a painful reminder for this teacher in a Texas Title I school. First-grade teachers spend approximately 30 days a school year individually testing students. Though I went to work for another district that valued literature, during my first year our principal announced we wouldn't do literacy anymore. Instead she implemented "TAAS reading." Students were handed test packets each day to learn how to bubble in answers. Reading became nothing more than testing. After third grade, the children hate reading because reading is testing. Thank you for featuring real teacher work from real classrooms. It's a big help for those of us down here on the fire ant beds. Don't forget the primary grades.

- Wesley Hutchins, Arlington, Texas

Toni Smith

T hanks for the article on this courageous young lady ("Turning Her Back," Vol 17, No. 4). I know from personal experience that it can be hard to stand up for what you believe in, especially when nationalism is at its peak during war times. Please let her know that she is an inspiration and a role model.

- Jamie Hagen-Holt, San Diego, California