Education in America would change drastically if teachers were treated less like tawdry magicians and more like professionals. William Raspberry acknowledges that different learning styles exist among children of African and Hispanic cultures but says that a good teacher will simply accommodate these learning styles by trying "different approaches" when giving a lesson {"Learning and Lost Culture," op-ed, Sept. 9}.

Teaching is not so simple as Mr. Raspberry would have you believe. His superficial treatment of "smart teachers" who "try different approaches" reveals a larger issue. We need motivated teachers to address the problems of the modern-day classroom instead of concerned journalists offering patchwork perspectives.

Research in psychology, anthropology, linguistics and education shows that people of different cultures do have different ways of processing information. This is not just another way to say that "students come to school with different attitudes and expectations," as Mr. Raspberry suspects.

Anyone the least bit familiar with teaching methodology realizes that "trying a different approach" is not simply a matter of waving a magic wand and rewording an explanation; it means doing extra research, reworking lessons and finding appropriate materials. Teachers need strategic approaches to "foreign" learning styles to adjust to growing cultural diversity in the public schools, and this is accomplished through professional training and study.

We need to attract great numbers of intelligent, motivated people to the classroom to tackle complex issues such as culture and learning styles. As it stands, public school teachers are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated by society -- hardly an appealing choice for talented career seekers.

If teachers were as highly regarded (and paid) as lawyers or doctors, an astounding display of talent would appear at our schools' doors.


Three cheers for William Raspberry's exposure of the problems with ethnocentric education {"Euro, Afro and Other Eccentric 'Centrics,' " op-ed, Sept. 10}. Ethnocentric education breeds alienation, fear and intolerance, stigmatizes children as isolated members of one ethnic or racial group and encourages racial and ethnic stereotyping.

As a practical matter, there would be no end to ethnocentric approaches. Multicultural schools would have to have Afrocentric, Hispanocentric, Asiacentric, Eurocentric and who knows what-other-centric curricula. Schools would become towers of Babel. The enthnocentric educational philosophy is one step backward to the "separate but equal" doctrine rejected by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

JAMES H. McGREW Washington

William Raspberry's advocacy of a multicultural, pluralist education is a well-intentioned one and needs to be applauded. Yes, an educational curriculum covering every facet of American culture, covering every ethnic subcultural group, would be wonderful. No, it would not be wise to have a thoroughly ethnocentric education.

However, practically no school system puts into practice Mr. Raspberry's ideal of multicultural education. Eurocentricity is the rule, particularly in history and foreign language curricula; in American history classes, for example, we learn nothing of African Americans, save that at one time they were slaves and that in the 1960s they fought for civil rights. Did African Americans contribute nothing else? The staple languages are French and Spanish, as they have been for centuries in the school systems. Cannot we entertain the idea of adding to the curriculum Chinese or Arabic or Swahili?

Mr. Raspberry's dismissal of Molefi Kete Asante's proposal for change in education seems to imply that no changes are needed; by arguing against an extremist's point of view, Mr. Raspberry believes that he has covered all the ground in the argument for curriculum change.

Mr. Raspberry implies that Molefi Asante's views are popularly held ''by advocates of new teaching approaches for African-American children,'' when in reality, it is the minority viewpoint in this community. The opinion held by most advocates is that new courses need to be added to, not replace, the present curriculum. This would help teach children something of their origins other than: ''Your ancestors were slaves.''

Mr. Raspberry also argues, erroneously, that because ''culturally relevant'' science and mathematics are unnecessary to a child's education, truly relevant histories and languages are also unnecessary.

If an education is to be truly multicultural, it must introduce more aspects of American culture; it must teach something other than the Eurocentric experience.

TOSHI YANO Washington