David S. Broder's June 23 op-ed, "Split Over Schools; Parents and Teachers Disagree on Reforms," was discouraging. I have been teaching in the South Bronx for two years. My school is surrounded by housing projects and homeless shelters, and all my students receive free breakfast and lunch. I do not know of a teacher in my school who is not there to educate children.
The most recent trend in my field, however, is not to educate children but to test them silly. So much time is spent on test preparation that the children who are working below grade level do not get the instruction they need to catch up. Further, as any teacher in an urban public school can attest, the curriculum and instruction style increasingly have less to do with teachers and more to do with mandates.
Perhaps educators are more skeptical of reforms, as Mr. Broder alleged, because they are in the trenches, trying to make learning happen. I teach poor urban children who are expected to succeed at tests based largely on a suburban middle-class experience. Commentators may scoff at that notion, but children will spend twice as long reading a passage that includes words they don't know, even something as simple as "pasture."
Let Mr. Broder step into an overcrowded classroom and keep up with mandated programs while maintaining bulletin boards and paperwork and dealing with piles of minutiae. If not all his students subsequently functioned on grade level, would it be because he didn't care?
White Plains, N.Y.
Steven Johnson is dead wrong ["The 'Bad' Guy; Steven Johnson Thinks Video Games and Violent TV Are Good for the Brain," Style, June 21].
If he spent a day in a classroom in any elementary school in this country, he would see bright children whose attention can't be held for more than a few minutes. These students are not stupid or uninterested in school or learning. Many have caring, supportive parents and good teachers. They also have short attention spans because they spend so much time on TV and video games.
No matter how good the content of a TV show or a video game, its information is delivered quickly and in short chunks. Children do not get daily practice in puzzling over an idea; they get daily practice in quick solves.
Also, dialogue on TV is not equivalent to the vocabulary and nuance of the written word, and watching a show does not require the same active attention that reading a book does.
I am not advocating a ban on TV and video games for children; everyone is entitled to some fun. But let's not kid ourselves that this type of entertainment is advantageous to learning.
Let the children play videos and watch TV, then sit with them and play cards or chess, or let them read a good book.
The writer is director of tutoring for Northern Virginia at the Kingsbury Center.