Everybody Loves Sex Ed
To the editor:
Ms. Shalit ignores overwhelming evidence that parents and professional organizations believe young people benefit from sexuality education. More than 80 percent of parents support sexuality education. More than 115 of the country's major national organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Council of Churches, and the YWCA of the USA, endorse sexuality education for all children. Those who want the facts should visit our website: www.siecus.org.
Debra W. Haffner
Wendy Shalit responds:
The only thing Ms. Haffner has to say in SIECUS's defense is that parents and various organizations believe that young people benefit from sex education. Not according to the material on her own website. Look under the "SIECUS Publications" icon and click on the box entitled "But Does it Work?" But the point of my article, which Ms. Haffner doesn't address, is that sex education hasn't been good for those receiving it. Talking about these intimate subjects in kindergartenas SIECUS advocateserodes children's natural embarrassment and, in the long run, has only made kids more vulnerable to disease and heartbreak. Frankly, if I were the president of SIECUS, I would be appalled, too.
Enraged, Indignant, Incensed
To the editor:
Teachers College, an institution that prepares hundreds of teachers to teach in schools all over the world, is bravely tackling its moral responsibility to help all teachers to become aware of their potential clients: students with a wide range of learning styles, needs, interests, talents, not to mention those whose first language may not be English and who represent different ethnicities, nationalities, origins, and religions. This knowledge serves to help teachers to know their students and teach them well. All good teachers, regardless of ethnicity, race, or religion, are engaged in a delicate relationship with their students that involves building cultural, intellectual, and emotional doorways that they and their students walk back and forth through all day, every day.
To the Editor:
In the past year, we have added requirements to ensure that students receive even broader exposure to the arts and sciences, demonstrate effective writing, and pass a series of academic benchmarks in order to continue in the teacher-education program.
Hunter's education students are superbly prepared for teaching. In January 1998, our students scored an average of 83 on the Liberal Arts and Sciences test required for New York State Teacher Certificationseven points higher than the statewide average. On the teaching skills test, Hunter students averaged 91eight points higher than students from all other institutions. We believe that our pride in our education program is justified.
Heather Mac Donald responds:
Good teachers intuitively treat their students as individuals. Columbia's obsession with difference is not about individuals, however, but about institutionalizing certain group identities to use as a bludgeon against society. And while an awareness of student individuality is helpful, it is no substitute for giving students a core of common knowledge.
Dr. Henning-Piedmonte is right about one thing, however: race is not the only difference Teachers College obsesses about. The college requires its social studies candidates, for example, to study the "needs" of gay and lesbian students, though surely a firm grasp of history would serve a prospective history teacher better than knowing the academy's latest take on homosexual politics.
Hunter College's liberal arts and sciences requirement is indeed an improvement over many undergraduate education programs. Unfortunately, Hunter has by no means repudiated the most egregious ed school malpracticeswitness the widespread assignment of illiterate Marxist ideologue Donald Macedo and other merchants of multiculturalism. Hunter's math program embraces the new anti-drilling, anti-memorization dogma that is producing math illiterates. If Dean Scott truly wants to produce educated graduates, he should eliminate political propaganda and focus exclusively on core knowledge and authoritative teaching methods.
Teaching American History
To the Editor:
I take no great pleasure in pointing this out to the readers of City Journal, since the John M. Olin Foundation provided a small grant some years ago to underwrite the author's research expenses. This support was approved after a review of early volumes in the series, which we judged to be clear and fair-minded narratives on the settlement of the American continent and the origins and development of our institutions. With respect to those volumes that guide young readers from the origins of our country down through World War II, Mr. Stern's praise is well justified.
Like many writers, however, Ms. Hakim appears to have lost her intellectual balance when she came to write about contemporary American history. Her discussions of the events and personalities of this period run along conventional liberal lines.
The final volume, in particular, contains an openly ideological attack on President Ronald Reagan and his policies. Ms. Hakim recycles every canard raised by Reagan's opponents. For her, the 1980s were a decade in which "the rich got very rich, and the poor got much poorer." She ignores Reagan's success in bringing down inflation and federal taxes and in setting in motion economic growth that continues to this day. Nor does she give him any credit for ending the Cold War, other than to call him a "flexible negotiator."
By contrast, Ms. Hakim's appraisal of Bill Clinton reads like an advertisement from the Democratic National Committee: "There was something appropriate about the American people picking a leader who had been born in a town named Hope. And it was fitting that Bill Clinton had a big smile and a confident manner to go with that beautifully named hometown." Mr. Clinton "wanted to help Americans pursue happiness" in a nation where (quoting his inaugural address) "everyone has a place at the table and not a single child is left behind."
Plainly, the fair-mindedness of Ms. Hakim's early volumes was discarded as she approached the end of her narrative. It is unfortunate that such gross distortions mar the final volumes of an otherwise valuable series.
To the editor:
We believe that the United States is a great country that represents the ideals of humanity and provides opportunities for all. At Newcomers, however, we don't believe in a dominant culture in which newly arrived immigrants must be dominated, lose their ideals, and accept the past as something that cannot be changed.
You condescendingly note about our school that "Some 1,000 students with limited English skills are trying to get up to speed in the English language while they begin taking some regular academic subjects, an admirable goal." This is an example of a dominant-culture mentality.
In addition to a strong ESL program, we offer regents classes to students, including advance placement classes, and we have won academic and cultural awards throughout the city. We are also a successful participant in the American Social History Project sponsored by the graduate center of CUNY.
We believe that "Diversity Is Our Strength." There is no ambivalence in our commitment to the democratic values embedded in the United States.
Sol Stern responds:
To the editor:
In fact, violent juvenile crime has decreased 17.8 percent in the city since 1994. And New York State already has tough sentencing provisions for juvenile offenders. Youths 13 to 15 years old who commit certain violent acts are tried as adults automatically. Further, New York is one of only three states in which a child at age 16 is considered an adult for all offenses, is tried in adult court, and is sentenced to adult prison. More, research has not found that trying youths as adults and sentencing them to adult prison reduces juvenile crime or lowers recidivism rates. Last, since juvenile crime triples after school between the hours of 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM, it's incredible that New York has reduced spending on youth development and delinquency prevention programs by 20 percent since 1990.
Peter Reinharz responds:
Ms. Locker also notes that juvenile crime is down in New York. Perhaps it is. But the reduction has nothing to do with the policies Ms. Locker advocates. These practices were entrenched during the huge increase in youth crime during the late 1980s and early 1990s. If Ms. Locker is correct and spending has decreased along with the juvenile crime rate, then her argument for more social services is self-defeating. Rather than looking to social services to deal with violent thugs, credit must be given to the policing policies of the Giuliani administration.
Finally, Ms. Locker asserts that we need to do more between the hours of 3 pm and 8 pm when the bulk of juvenile crime occurs. But there already are dozens of after-school programs in every school district. Parents and other relatives ought to be the first line of defense to crime, and her call for more after-school child care only serves to abdicate parental responsibility.