As a teacher of sometimes reluctant learners, I have been following the series of letters on to-whole-language or not-to-whole-language with interest.
Schools, as in politics and business, seem to look for trends and latch on to them. This tends to result in a continual swaying between one currently "correct" philosophy to another.
Keeping up with the swing of the pendulum can be difficult enough for teachers, but the average parent is not kept informed with the kind of in-service education teachers receive. There definitely seems to be an adversarial relationship developing between teachers and parents. We teach your children. We want them to succeed.
Whole language encourages reading a whole piece of writing and does not ignore phonics.
One of the biggest misconceptions about whole language is that it is synonymous with "look-say." Whole language incorporates phonics as a strategy.
A strict phonics program teaches word recognition in isolation. A successful reader who loves reading understands the meaning of the words being unlocked, not just individual definitions of words, but words in the context of a story.
Irony, satire, humor and suspense, things we enjoy as adult readers, can be enjoyed by children, too, if they get the chance to read and discuss the whole piece of writing.
Unlocking pronunciation is only part of reading and is especially helpful when a child is reading aloud in class in front of their peers. But is reading aloud a lifelong learning skill? How many adults are called upon to read aloud?
A lifelong learner will read for enjoyment. They won't do work sheets on phonics. If you think your child is missing out on the fun you had as a student in school and should have more out-of-context work sheets to be a lifelong learner, visit your child's school.
Don't rely on the nostalgic memories of the "good ole days" that you recall fondly from your childhood. Have a conference with your child's teacher. Talk to your child about school. Read in front of your child. Be a role model for reading.
If you do this there is no way your child will get to the third grade and not be able to read, either with whole language or phonics.
The world has changed. And it will continue to change by the time my current sixth grade, class of 2001, graduates.
Schools struggle to teach for the future. Kids need to think and solve problems more than ever. They need real life applications for their learning and need to have school made relevant to them. Parents and teachers need to work together to help our children thrive in this world.
The shocking response to the president's call to the people to stand up against hate by the not inconsequential lunatic fringe of the media and the National Rifle Association confirms the absolute necessity for civilized people to heed his call immediately and resolutely.
I shun political labels, and those who do label would find it exceedingly difficult to label me.
In my opinion the most dangerous and pernicious group is the American Civil Liberties Union because it provides an aura of respectability to the vicious, barbaric hate mongering and crimes of the uncouth, uncultured and uncivilized elements that abound in our society.
The ACLU notwithstanding, no one has absolute rights. A person's rights cease when they become detrimental to others, and no individual or group can insolently arrogate unto itself the authority to judge whether they are or are not detrimental.
In addition, it is high time that the electorate purge the Congress of the NRA panderers who disgrace the Senate and the House of Representatives. Someone once said that it is easy for evil to thrive; all that is necessary is for the good people to remain silent and do nothing.
So let us heed the president's call.
Rabbi Manuel M. Poliakoff
As an alumnus of Calvert Hall College High School, I feel compelled to respond to John Phelan's May 23 letter to the editor, "Sinking Fast," questioning the administration's (specifically Brother William Johnson's) handling of students involved in the publication of an underground newspaper.
Mr. Phelan is apparently not aware of the "Area 54" publication's entire content as he takes his First Amendment stance. The articles, with their free use of expletives, would not be permitted in The Sun or any other newspaper.
The article regarding abortion was one of many issues on which Brother William (along with the administration) based his action -- an action which has been supported by those with links to the school, as well as those without.
Calvert Hall student regulations are very specific regarding a student's conduct both in and outside of school.
In a time when many people look for ways to excuse their actions, the administration of Calvert Hall has chosen to make students accountable for their actions. Many parents (past and present) are very grateful for the self-discipline, guidance and leadership provided by the entire faculty in developing their sons into young men.
Calvert Hall has twice been named an exemplary school by the U.S. Department of Education.
Calvert Hall is currently celebrating its 150th year. The alumni, over 10,000 strong, include leaders in the fields of medicine, law, finance, sports, etc.
There are families with third and fourth generations attending "The Hall." Year after year, applications for admission far exceed the available space.
This being the case, I suggest Mr. Phelan do more than base his opinion on one brief, one-sided newspaper article. Calvert Hall is a fine institution with an excellent reputation and is in no risk of "sinking fast."
Thomas E. Malstrom
The writer is a 1984 graduate of Calvert Hall College.
Helms Bill Could Spark World Trade War
Mark Matthews of The Sun's Washington bureau presented a chilling scenario on May 22 of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and his addiction to re-election.
Quite aware of the street price to win his 1996 race, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been pawing around the 'hood looking for an easy-moneyed fix.
He hooked up with the Cuban-American gang on Miami turf and now sports the colors of a tribe dedicated to snuffing out the regime of Fidel Castro at any cost. It's like another action film in the genre of "Pulp Fiction."
This time, though, after some clowning around and a couple of opening guffaws, the viewer bolts straight up and realizes, "Hey, this is for real!" The players, not actors, include the good old U.S.A., Cuba and 40 other nations set for a turf war.
If the proposal by Mr. Helms before Congress becomes law, that U.S.-imposed economic embargo becomes a blockade. Hence, any country that trades with Cuba violates the laws of the United States.
Well, the 14-member Rio Group of nations has condemned Mr. Helms' bill as violating national sovereignty.
Canada and Mexico have also joined the fray. They contend that the extra-territorial reach of the bill violates the spirit of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and the World Trade Organization.
Canada says that forcing trade partners to squeeze Cuba initiates a secondary boycott, such as Arab pressure on third countries to isolate Israel. The U.S. has traditionally opposed such action.
According to the Helms bill, breakfast cereal, for example, manufactured in Ontario wouldn't be allowed entry into U.S. markets if it contained any Cuban sugar whatsoever.
Canadian officials maintain that these trade hostilities over Cuba could erase nearly $1 billion of bilateral trade and the thousands of jobs it generates.
The Toronto Globe and Mail observes that the passage of this bill would throw Canadian executives into the same prohibited category as political militants and convicted felons.
And, even scarier, Mexican ambassador Jesus Silva-Herzog says the Helms measure is attempting to regulate what Mexico can and cannot do. He warns of almost certain retaliation.
The Canadians, Mexicans and the Latin American countries of the Rio Group are joined in this tag-team match by the European Union as well. But the U.S. is in the ring alone. No other country supports our policy on this one.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas said, "This measure does not hurt the government against which it is aimed but the people."
Oh yeah, the people: the 11 million frustrated, helpless Cubans in a banana republic with no bananas.
They are victims in this turf war being proposed by Helms to, one, get on the payroll of the Cuban American National Foundation and, two, satisfy the gang's desire for revenge.
E. Thomas Maxwell Jr.