Richard Cohen's column {"Johnny's Miserable SATs," op-ed, Sept. 4} pronouncing this generation of young people (and their parents) "dumb," a judgment based solely on his glance at low SAT scores, adds another layer of density to the jungle of junk and noise that prevents young people from getting the decent education they need and deserve.

To proclaim the multitudes "dumb" based on one test score used in isolation is not only injudicious but injurious and inaccurate. To use a test score or any number without providing any background explaining what that number represents disserves readers.

To use an SAT score alone to pronounce young people "unready for college" is to deny continued learning to millions of young people who can and do succeed in college, graduate school and their life's work.

While I would never call Richard Cohen "dumb" (or "insensitive") because he failed to do his homework for this article, I would suggest he do some reading on what SATs measure, the limitations of their validity, and the use and misuse of test scores. This preparation might assist him in addressing more wisely our nation's critical education issues. DAVI WALDERS Chevy Chase

Just as Richard Cohen is sick of hearing explanations that account for so many of our youngsters' poor SAT scores, I'm sick of hearing that the SATs are representative of a person's intellectual capacity and ability.

Back in 1985, I scored just a tad over the current miserable average. However, I got into a respected university in this very city and graduated with a BA in international service in four years with a total grade point average of 3.2 (B+). Next year I'm applying to graduate school, and I don't plan on letting the Graduate Record Exam discourage me.

I speak three languages, read and write religiously and don't appreciate being called dumb by the College Board, Richard Cohen or anyone else, just because I scored miserably on those miserable SATs. NINA SFEIR Washington

Richard Cohen hit the nail squarely on the head in "Johnny's Miserable SATs." Since 1960 per-capita spending on education has more than doubled in real terms, while the kids are less and less educated. The SATs are only one measure of that.

Much of the increased cost has been educational featherbedding. According to a recent magazine article by the former budget director of the New York City school system, that city spends more per pupil on its thousands of central office administrators than on its classroom teachers.

It's time to junk the frills. Teach the kids to read, however long it takes. Teach them classic English literature, science, math, history, geography and the Bible.

The educators have been telling us for 30 years now that they know more than we do. Well, the results are in. It's time to go back to what works. What works is parental involvement. In households where the parents insist the kids do their homework, and give them the tools to do it, the kids usually do well.

We should encourage parent's involvement by giving them vouchers and forcing them to choose which schools they want for their children. That would give parents responsibility for the results and invigorate the schools at the same time.


Whoa! Richard Cohen's op-ed article, ''Johnny's Miserable SATs,'' is yet another example of pure, unadulterated kid bashing. Why not flog the parents who find the pursuit of mammon infinitely more challenging and rewarding than raising a child?

Mr. Cohen's syllogism is simple: All children are reflections of their parents. Parents are dumb. Therefore, their children are dumb too.

My question for Mr. Cohen is, how did parents get dumb in the first place?

Ours is a society that is placing less and less emphasis on developing nurturing relationships among people. If Mr. Cohen walks to work, then he has seen the scores of homeless people who now seem to be a permanent part of the Washington landscape. Our inability to fix the problem of whether and what our kids learn has an uncanny parallel to our inability to eradicate homelessness or to address any major domestic problem, for that matter. We will fix our problems when we will our problems fixed.

JOHN E. RANKIN III Silver Spring