Letters
May 2001

Reed welcomes letters from readers concerning the contents of the magazine or the college. Letters must be signed and may be edited for clarity and space. Our email address is reed.magazine@reed.edu or send mail to Reed Magazine, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd. Portland, OR 97202.

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The Doyle Owl in the fifties
from David Lapham '60

Is Success For All a success?
from Io McNaughton '90

The real fallout of World Bank policies
from John E. Peck '88

 

Letter graphic

 

THE DOYLE OWL IN THE FIFTIES
From David Lapham '60

In the summer of 1950 I had been a Reed student for two years. I was living in a two-room apartment with Gary Snyder. As I was moving out, Don Berry, who had been waiting for space at 1414 SE Lambert Street, moved in. I had been offered the heating plant job at Reed: starting it in the morning, shutting it off at night, keeping proper temperature, and heating the swimming pool with the underwater pipe. The job came with a sleeping space. I was living frugally on the GI Bill and was happy to have it. I was supposed to sleep upstairs at the gym. The previous occupant of the job had stayed in a small loft room in the heating plant itself, but that space had been condemned. I took a look at the little room in the heating plant, anyway. There in the top bunk was the Doyle Owl. How long it had been there and how long it remained there I do not know. I never mentioned the Doyle Owl to anyone. I was a history major and felt that such things should be left to people in physics and chemistry. As a side note: I was pleased to find that the heating plant had a large sandstone grinding wheel. I used it to sharpen woodcarving and engraving tools for Lloyd Reynolds and his students. (I had learned this in pattern shop at Benson High School). The wheel may still be there.
I hope it is.

[ Ed. Note. Don Berry '51 died this past February; his obituary can be found in Class Notes. The grinding wheel left Reed for parts unknown many years ago.]   top


 

IS SUCCESS FOR ALL A SUCCESS?
From Io McNaughton '90

How ironic that the very same program that drove me away from the teaching profession was invented by two Reedlings.

Slavin and Madden's Success For All has indeed been a lifesaver for many troubled schools, but not because of any particular characteristic of the program itself. Instead, the program's success has to do with elements that could be repeated using any combination of teaching practices. Success For All works because of three things: leveling, consistency, and articulation.

As your article stated, all children in Success For All schools are placed in reading classes according to their skill level, rather than their chronological age (this practice is known as leveling). Give any good teacher a group of 10­15 children whose skills are about the same for an hour and a half every morning, and the likelihood that their reading skills will improve is extremely high.

Of course, no school would be able to undertake the project of leveling without a high degree of commitment from school personnel, which brings us to the second point: consistency. In a Success For All school, everyone's on the same page. They're teaching the same way, using the same terms, having the same expectations of the kids. In this kind of environment, kids can move right to the work of learning to read without having to learn about their teacher's management system (or personality, for that matter). This saves a lot of time and structures the kids' learning very effectively.

Thirdly, Success For All is articulated over the grades. There's no overlap or redundancy from level to level. The program takes kids from kindergarten to fifth grade, and everybody knows exactly where they are and where they're going.

The most enthusiastic proselytizers of SFA are invariably teachers who didn't know anything about best practices in the teaching of reading or cooperative learning before coming across the program. And in my experience, SFA is driving the most thoughtful, experienced, creative teachers away from the schools that need them most. Success For All is an easy way out for districts that don't want to train and pay their teachers to use their own smarts and initiative to develop their own reading programs.

By the way, Mr. Slavin, don't be so quick to compare your reading program to the "structured enjoyment" of Disneyland. Remember that the employees are throwing up and passing out inside their Goofy suits, and that the children are being told what and how to imagine.   top


 

THE REAL FALLOUT OF WORLD BANK POLICIES
From John E. Peck '88

I was rather dismayed to read Marlaine Lockheed's take on the recent protest in Washington, D.C. ("End Note," November 2000), especially since I was among those "well-meaning (but) poorly informed" demonstrators below her ninth-floor window! I guess my B.A. in economics from Reed College and my own (albeit brief) experience as a subcontracted World Bank researcher in Zimbabwe didn't serve me very well. More disturbing is the thought that current World Bank employees like Ms. Lockheed were either not allowed or felt too intimidated to engage in actual one-on-one dialogue with the taxpaying citizens to whom their agency is democratically accountable. The "global village idiot" comes from media spindoctor fancy—courtesy of Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and other corporate "free trade" apologists—not grassroots activist reality.

In case anyone is curious about the real educational fallout of the World Bank/IMF policies in the developing world, let me offer the case study of Zimbabwe—though the same could be said about any country now facing onerous "cost recovery" demands for provision of essential social services. Under the 1990 World Bank/IMF economic structural adjustment program, Zimbabwe was forced to reinstate fees for previously free public schooling. This meant a 20 percent decline in female elementary school enrollment almost overnight, as poor families were forced to choose which child (most often male) would go to school. Since minimum wage legislation and union organizing rights were also undermined (leading to a 60 percent decline in real income), desperate parents were compelled to send their dropout daughters into the labor pool--mostly as migrant farm laborers, sweatshop workers, and prostitutes. The latter "survival strategy," of course, fueled Zimbabwe's current HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Undeterred, in 1998 the World Bank/IMF went on to propose privatizing portions of Zimbabwe's higher educational system (while cutting financial aid), in lockstep with the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). I will never forget watching the Zimbabwean minister of education, clearly dumbfounded, appearing on national television to declare that education was no longer a right, just a "privilege." A student walkout ensued, and the military shut down the university. At one peaceful rally I attended on March 9, riot police (trained and armed in part by the U.S.) went berserk, attacking students and their supporters, sending hundreds to the hospital. I would like to think that human development is at the heart of the WTO/ World Bank/IMF's global agenda, but I have yet to see any compelling evidence of such. My suspicions are raised even further when neoliberal technocrats resort to making decisions for the entire planet in secret and under guard. top

 

Reed Magazine

May 2001
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