FORGIVENESS AND COMPASSION

IN WRITING "THE PRODIGAL MOTHER" [August 29], Rachel Simon shows enormous courage. By detailing the stoniness that can fill the hearts and minds of those hurt by others, she shows how cold, angry feelings permeate every facet of one's being to dictate ways of living. Forgiveness is "something you give because you need to for your own sake," she writes. No more profound statement has ever been made about finding relief from those deep hurts, the self-inflicted as well as those from others, that a human being suffers.

Perhaps now that she has forgiven her mother for not always considering her children first, she will recognize the twin of the profound gift that forgiveness is. The other gift is compassion. Like forgiveness, it works forwards and backwards.

VIRGINIA PAUKER

Washington

GOING FOR THE GOLD STAR

I WAS VERY IMPRESSED BY JAY MATHews's "Grade Expectations" [Class Struggle, September 5]. As an educator (a former professor of education and high school principal), I am usually appalled at what the popular press writes about schools and schooling. Most journalists have a wide range of misperceptions about what goes on in the majority of schools and no concept of the many excellent ideas that scholars and visionary practitioners are proposing for the realistic improvement of the educational system.

Mathews has made a cogent case for people to take a more discerning look at their schools.

JAMES W. KEEFE

Reston

AS A FORMER GRADE-GRUBBER through-

out school, I can remember contemplating a change of schools when I didn't win the spelling bee in sixth grade. As difficult as it is for me to imagine a life without grades, I agree that the benefits are potentially enormous. Anything that draws students' attention to actual learning rather than memorizing or preparing for immediate results encourages a more satisfying experience in the long run.

As a veteran of the International Baccalaureate program (in Clarke County High School in Berryville, Va.), I can attest that such programs are a step in the right direction. Working with my classmates toward a common, long-term goal ended up being a good experience. We learned one another's weaknesses and strengths and pooled our resources to gain the most from the experience. In the end we knew how to write 14-page papers, give extemporaneous French oral presentations, and write on-the-spot essays about the Cuban missile crisis. We developed a greater sense of how to study and learn -- something that certainly made my freshman year of college a whole lot easier.

I'm now in my sophomore year at American University (with junior standing, thanks to my IB credits). My test scores are more the result of an interest in the material and enjoyment from being in an environment where I feel constantly stimulated by new ideas, rather than a need for a gold star at the top of my paper.

RACHEL BEAMER

Washington

THE PRICE OF FEAR

"TRUTH" IS PERHAPS ALWAYS A BIT subjective. But it is certainly broader than Alison Buckholtz's article on her relationship with an Arab Israeli ["Arabic Lessons," September 5]. Her sweetheart, Habib, confronted stringent Israeli security procedures; a person of integrity, he was nonetheless looked down upon in his own country. I am sorry he suffered this. I hope the day will come when things will be better. Being better, however, means many things. Stringent security and attitudes of mistrust have not simply come out of thin air. If Habib has had to endure them, this is infinitely better than loss of innocent life. Habib would hope to be judged for himself, of course, and not what other Arabs may or may not have done. Such fine-tuning doesn't work in a security system.

ARLENE KUSHNER

Rockville

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