Letters to the Editors 21.3

Illustrator: P.S. Mueller

Illustration: P.S. Mueller

Violence Against Women

Thank you for including the article in Rethinking Schools entitled, “Why Aren’t We Shocked?” [Bob Herbert, Volume 21, No. 2]. I am a first-year teacher who recently completed a Master in Teaching program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. As a cohort, we subscribed to Rethinking Schools and other critical writings, including works by bell hooks. During discussions of her book Teaching Community, sexist and degrading views toward women by both students and faculty came to light.

It occurred to me and several others in my group that although we had discussed, dissected, and critically looked at the role that race, gender, ability, class, religion, nationalism, militarism, and sexuality played in and outside of the classroom, we never explicitly looked at the role of violence directed at women.

I recalled being sexually assaulted during my junior year in high school and having to go to school the next day and sit near the boy who assaulted me, and having to pretend it never happened.

In my first year of teaching, I have already had a parent call to tell me that her daughter was sexually assaulted at a very young age and struggles in many situations to this day because of that experience. Thus far, the only training I have been given to work with children who have been sexually assaulted is to report suspected abuse to the “proper authorities.” While I understand that this is extremely important, what about those children (like myself) who hide and pretend that the abuse isn’t happening?

Just as we teach with the knowledge that not all the children in our classrooms are white, upper-class, Christian males, we must teach with the knowledge that every one of the young women (and men) in our classrooms are harmed by the often silenced but deadly specter of violence against women in this country. In addition, it is imperative that we speak out loudly against the kind of images, phrases, comments, and yes, even T-shirts, that perpetuate the idea that violence against girls and women is to be expected and not worthy of outrage.

— Katie Baydo-Reed
4th grade teacher, Olympia, Wash.

Military Promises, Lies

I was both saddened and relieved to see the article “Promises, Promises: What students need to know to make good decisions about military service” [Volume 20, No. 4]. Having been in a military family the past few years, I know personally some of the struggles that military life can impose and the shortcomings of the military promises.

Like the article mentioned, potential enlistees are offered cash bonuses, job training, college education, choice of duty station, and the delusion that they can leave the military after their 4 years of service. What they are leaving out, as the article mentioned, is that the bonuses have strings attached, as does the college money; the choice of duty station is your choice as long as the desert (Iraq) is your ideal destination.

The job training you receive, for instance, is questionable. How many civilian jobs are there for tankers, helicopter pilots, and trained killers? The military trains soldiers to fight and kill to protect our country; that is a soldier’s job. Unless the mafia is hiring, you might be out of luck and unemployed.

Personally, I feel the biggest lie is the failure to explain how the Iraq experience will affect your life and the lives of those around you. They don’t tell you how your family will be affected if you don’t come back alive. They don’t tell you about the countless hours they will spend waiting for a phone call or letter saying you’re OK. They don’t talk about the grief of watching friends bury husbands/wives and along with them, the hopes and dreams of their once bright future. They don’t talk about the divorce rate for military families due to the stress of both deployment/redeployment. They don’t talk about the nightmares and ongoing therapy, the countless men and women who are learning to live with artificial limbs.

When our children/students are old enough to hear the “benefits” of the military experience, they are also ready to hear the truth about the military. We as parents, guardians, and teachers owe them that much.

— Brenda Holland

Ruby Payne

Thank you for taking an in-depth look at Ruby Payne, a so-called expert who is doing more harm than good [Anita Bohn, “A Framework for Understanding Ruby Payne;” Paul Gorski, “Savage Unrealities,” Volume 21, No. 2]. Many administrators from my district had gone to a Ruby Payne presentation and I cringed every time they referenced it. One woman in particular began to quote this line anytime anyone mentioned a student’s difficulty with reading: “Ruby Payne says that people in poverty don’t appreciate print.”

I was shocked and outraged by this stereotypical statement masquerading as the truth. I had thought that Ruby Payne must have been misquoted or misunderstood. However, your critique made me realize it was not a statement being misquoted but a stereotype being delivered as fact to place blame on students and their environment to hide our lack of understanding.

I am bringing your article to work and giving a copy to the administrators who quote Payne the most.

— Subini Eggen

Remembering Eric Rofes

I read Jeff Sapp’s beautiful piece remembering Eric Rofes in Rethinking Schools [Volume 21, No. 1]. I thank Sapp for distilling this person I’d never heard of, with such clarity, goodness and beauty.

It is a moving and substantive gift to Rofes’s memory, made even stronger by Sapp’s use of quotes from Adrienne Rich.

— Patryc Wiggins
Founder/President, The Guild Institute
Guild, NH