Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 12, 1979 · Page 12
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Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page 12

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Tuesday, June 12, 1979
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Minneapolis Tribune Vienna: symbol of compromise Established 1867 CharlM W. Bailey Editor Wallac Allen Associate Editor Frank Wright Managing Editor Leonard Insklp Editorial Editor Donald R. Dwlght Publisher 12A Tuesday, June 12, 1979 What are the schools accountable for? Minneapolis schools should put less emphasis on "selling a budget" and focus first on "the quality of the product." So suggests a citizen committee established by the school board to help it develop a five-year plan. Similar themes are prominent in a task-force report from the Urban Coalition, which asks that the schools be more rigorously evaluated. Both groups yearn for a style of school management which sets goals clearly, measures performance precisely and accepts accountability for achieving its" own objectives. Such calls for running the schools by a model of rational planning are neither new nor inappropriate. They are especially important in a time of retrenchment when educators are challenged to improve the quality of their product even as each year they are told to do so with fewer resources. Hpw to go about it? Clearly it would help if the schools and the community could reach agreement on what constitutes quality. One reason such agreement comes hard is the tendency in schools to make measurements of one thing serve as the basis for judgments about quite another. It's a process akin to praising an omelet because the cook is tall, or looking at your wrist-watch to check the weekend weather. Misapplied measurements and off-target evaluations are more troublesome in education than with watches and o"melets. Two examples spring out from the recent reports to the Minneapolis School Board. Both concern ways of making judgments about teachers. The dominant way now counts teachers' seniority and college credits as the crucial factors for pay and placement. Practically speaking, Minneapolis assumes that these two measurements tell which are the best teachers and where individuals will work most effectively. But for all their importance, the citizen groups argue, seniority and training are not adequate as a quality test of what happens in classrooms. We agree. Evaluations of classroom teachers should obviously consider how the teachers actually teach. Without some such measurement, rational planning of cuts and transfers becomes impossible and good education is bound to suffer. But education might suffer even more if measurements proposed by the Urban Coalition were made the rule for judgments about teachers. The coalition wants "student achievement as the primary criterion" for evaluating an educator's work. That sounds simple: Good workers are known by their products. The trouble is that children are not just products, and tests of a pupil's progress properly measure the student's achievement, not the teacher's. The connection between good teaching and good learning is a connection between two different responsibilities. It would scarcely strengthen either side of the relationship to make teachers accountable for learners' work. Education is not carpentry. Schools should be held accountable for things schools can control. Those include skillful teaching and continuous teacher training; creative use of time, space, materials and activities; a meaty curriculum; accurate assessment of each student's progress; clear reporting to parents and families. In short, schools are accountable for the school learning environment. That goes far beyond mechanical measures of seniority and tenure; it falls far short of taking all the credit or blame for student performance. Sensitively measuring the items in between is the challenge to schools for their own evaluation. Where there's smoke, she's fired Should an employer, especially a government agency, fire an employee whose only offense is to seek enforcement of a law? The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union thinks not and so do we. The MCLU has filed a suit in federal court on behalf of a woman fired from her job in the Anoka County Social Services Department. The reason for the firing, according to the suit: The woman had repeatedly complained about unrestricted smoking and poor ventilation in her office, alleging a violation of the state Clean Indoor Air Act. The suit contends that she was warned by a supervisor that her rjierit raise might be denied if she persisted in seeking compliance with the law. And two months filler after her work had been favorably evaluat ed and she had been recommended for a merit raise she was fired. Perhaps there was another, job-related reason for her firing. An assistant county attorney says his understanding is that the firing was based on "specific evaluations of her job performance." But what of the favorable evaluation, and the merit-raise recommendation? As a citizen, the woman has the right to seek enforcement of a law. As an employee, she has the right to speak out about working conditions without fear of retaliation. The lawsuit will determine whether those rights were violated. The MCLU was right to file it. $ Letters from readers Friedman's tenure Even if some of the allegations printed in the May 24 Tribune article concerning law professor Jane Friedman were true, she is not the first professor who has had a personality conflict with some students, or who has failed to cover an entire textbook in a quarter, or who has canceled classes before the end of the year. The student response to Friedman has been vicious and out of proportion. The response is indicative of student response during the past several years to other minority and women faculty members who have been driven out of the school by bru-t&l student reaction. Women and minority faculty often have a perceived vulnerability, which derives from their differentness and which students capitalize on. This is compounded by a lack of institutional .support for faculty who represent diverse backgrounds and alternative interests. In addition, Al Linck, assistant vice president for academic affairs, was (Juoted as saying that 55 signatures on a petition regarding tenure are rare. We would like to point out that a month ago we submitted a petition with nearly 300 signatures (almost half the school) urging that, contrary to the faculty vote, Prof. Marcia Gelpe be granted tenure. In comparison, the student response to Friedman is insignificant. Susan Stacey and Kathy Kusz, co-convenors, University of Minnesota Law School Women's Caucus, Minneapolis. Editor's note: Jane Friedman resigned her position at the university law school June 7 after learning that the university administration did not plan to recommend her for tenure. Senior citizens' aid That Judge Aisop ruled as those of us concerned expected on medical-assistance eligibility requirements for Minnesota's elderly citizens is indeed newsworthy and deserving of page-one coverage. Underplayed, however, was the action taken by the Legislature to provide a solution for those elderly couples who, otherwise, have been forced into divorce or poverty by often inflexibly enforced regulations. As Sen. Bob Lewis, the original author of the legislation in the Senate, aptly stated, this bill was a humane effort to allow medical-assistance recipients, especially those elderly couples separated by the need of one spouse for nursing-home care, to retain a measure of independence and dignity. Lewis's bill, which I carried after his death, eventually passed both bodies unanimously. The original bill as introduced in both bodies would have allowed $7,500 in liquid assets for each individual. Those limits would have assisted those who have worked and saved in order to stretch their meager retirement incomes, only to be faced with the costs of nursing-home care often exceeding $1,000 per month. The spouse remaining in the home no longer has the security of any savings, nor the measure of comfort that the pension supplement will buy. Too often, the emotional Impact of being required to spend the family's inflation-eroded savings at so rapid a rate has meant that the non-institutionalized spouse ends up in a nursing home as well. In addition, our bill exempted the value of the couple's homestead and car from consideration. Although the conference-committee agreement, required in order to have this Important bill heard on the House floor, diluted the content more than I wanted, I am pleased that we were able to provide some measure of humane assistance to Minnesota's senior citizens. Sen. Franklin J. Knoll, Minneapolis. SCOOPS Financing campaigns The Tribune is to be praised for Its May 31 editorial in support of public financing for congressional campaigns. It is difficult for citizens to understand why in a time of high taxes and inflation money should be spent to fund political campaigns. A major current source of campaign financing is contributions from political action committees (PACs). Corporations, labor unions and a wide variety of business and professional groups have created PACs to donate money to candidates. These groups do not contribute to campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts. They give because they hope their contributions will provide them with access to members of Congress. PACs give heavily to incumbents, to members of the leadership and to congresspeople who serve on committees or subcommittees that handle legislation of particular interest to them. Just recently it was reported that a PAC set up by the builder of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has contributed to the campaigns of members of the committees that are investigating the accident at Three Mile Island. Permitting PACs to finance campaigns costs us money both in terms of higher taxes and increased inflation. These costs are hidden In a morass of legislation designed to benefit special interests. Ellen G. Sampson, St. Paul, executive director, Common Cause, Minnesota. Correction A letter-writer's name was spelled incorrectly on Saturday. The correct name is Bob Clarkson (not Clarksa). I SUPPOSE MORE ARAW ARE (i iffAl iiit HQUPAYINS HERE MOW THAN AAlRIC4HS. i YOU RE mi iv By James Reston New York Times Service Washington There's a tendency here to write off the Carter-Brezhnev meeting in Vienna as another one of those theatrical diplomatic performances and meaningless compromises. But Vienna itself is a reminder that sometimes patient negotiations do have some meaning. Austria is a free country today because of a series of U.S.-Soviet compromises neither side liked. It lost its empire in World War I. It lost its Independence to Germany in Hitler's preparations for World War II. It was promised its Independence by the United States and the Soviet Union in the Moscow conference of 1943 another East-West meeting that was regarded with skepticism and cynicism. It was liberated by U.S. and Soviet forces In 1945, divided into zones of military occupation by the Soviets and the Allies, and finally regained its freedom under another U.S.-Soviet compromise in the State Treaty of 1955. This has some relevance to the signing of the U.S.-Soviet Second Strategic Arms Agreement in Vienna. Neither side is going to get what it wants in the SALT II treaty, but, as in the Austrian State Treaty, both are agreeing to pull back a bit from fixed positions. That's about all anybody can expect. Nobody is pretending that it will end the arms race. President Carter, on his way to Vienna, made a down pay-. ment on an MX missile system that will cost from $30 billion to $50 billion. But as Franklin Roosevelt did at Yalta with Stalin, Harry Truman did at Potsdam and Dwlght Eisenhower did in approving the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, Carter as he also has done with Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat in the Middle East Is meeting with Brezhnev to keep talking instead of fighting. In each of these U.S.-Soviet conferences during and after World War II, it was easy to demonstrate and it was demonstrated with violent rhetoric and with impressive logic that the compromises were flawed and even dangerous. The Soviets, it was said, could not be trusted, which they proved by breaking their promises. But there have been times, as in the freedom and neutralization of Austria, when they have kept them. Still, there are dangers in these summit meetings with the Soviet Union. The last one in Vienna, between President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev, was a failure almost a disaster. Kennedy went there shortly after his spectacular blunders at the Bay of Pigs, and was savaged by Khrushchev. I had an hour alone with Kennedy immediately after his last meeting Correction Rep. Ted Weiss, in an article on this page Monday, incorrectly Identified one of the principal sponsors of the 1957 Price-Anderson Act. The sponsor was the late Sen. Clinton Anderson of New Mexico, not Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois. with Khrushchev in Vienna. Khrushchev had assumed, Kennedy . said, that any American president who invaded Cuba without adequate preparation was inexperienced, and any president who then didn't use force to see the invasion through was weak. Kennedy admitted Khru-s shchev's logic on both points. But now, Kennedy added, we have a problem. We have to demonstrate to the Russians that we have the will, and the power to defend our national interests. Shortly thereafter, he Increased the defense budget, sent another division to Europe and increased our small contingent of observers and advisers in Vietnam to over 16,000. I have always believed, on the basis of that private conversation, that this particular summit was an event of historic significance, leading to Khrushchev's decision to send nuclear weapons to Cuba and to Kennedy's decision to confront Khrushchev by increasing our commitment in Vietnam. Kennedy dealt with Khrushchev's mlsjudgment by forcing him to turn back his nuclear weapons for Cuba or risk the possibility of war. Khrushchev turned them back, but the American commitment to Vietnam went on. The Kennedy people have always denied that there was any connection between Khrushchev's threats In Vienna and Kennedy's decision to confront the Communist threat to South Vietnam. But I know what I heard from Kennedy in Vienna 17 years ago, and have re flected on the accidents of summit meetings ever since. Yet when he came home from Vienna. Kennedy made a speech about Khrushchev that may be relevant to Carter's meeting with Brezhnev. "Neither of us tried to please the other," Kennedy said, "to agree merely to be agreeable, to say what the other wanted to hear.... We have wholly different views of right and wrong, of what Is an internal affair and what is aggression; and above all, we have a wholly different concept of where the world is and where it is going. ... But both of us were in Vienna, I think, because we realized that each nation has the power to Inflict enormous damage upon the other, that a war could and should be avoided If at all possible, since it would settle no dispute, and prove no doctrine. ..." All this Is still obvious today, and Vienna stands as a symbol of the possibility of compromise. It is still a spectacularly beautiful city, and it lies in a strategic geographical position. As a result of agonizing compromises, which satisfied nobody, Austria is no longer the flashpoint of conflict between East and West, but a bridge between the two a free and neutral nation, headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and even of OPEC. Carter and Brezhnev didn't agree to meet in Vienna just by accident. Graduation is merely a comma in life By Ellen Goodman Boston All of this commencing must have gone to my head, like ceremonial wine. Watching the parades of graduates filing across the stages In front of cameras, I suddenly had the image of an academic assembly line. I saw a million students on a conveyor belt, each in an identical cap and gown, receiving the finishing touches: a fresh set of initials, a certificate of approval, a curriculum vitae to call his or her own. Once stamped by the college of their origin, I was sure that each of these newly minted alumni was labeled for life. Their obituaries, half a century away, would undoubtedly describe them as graduates. The speakers, too, seemed to huve caught the commencement fever. They spoke as though the ceremony were launching new battleships made out of the new gray matter. They broke their vintage bottles across the brows of the assembled and allowed their favorite thoughts to bubble over, With a sense of urgency, they poured last-minute knowledge Into the ears of their students, trying to catch them while they were still hot, still thinking, still Incomplete. by Dong Saeyd rr's getting so crowpep that at lOWOH'S TOP PISCO, TUEY'Rf PACING SHEIK TO SHEIK I am not going to bah-humbug college educations, like the father in "Goodbye, Columbus" who complained about his son: "Four years of college and he can't load a truck." But I think it is ridiculous to regard universities as adolescence-finishing factories that produce sanded, lacquered adults all ready to perform. It is not only ridiculous, it is terrifying. We attribute such a large place In our lives to a mere four years that commencement is more Infused with the fear of leaving than the excitement of beginning, or the sense of continuity. We tell students that they are done when they feel half-baked. College is hardly the Peak Experience or the academic end, and as one unfinished product, I say that with a sigh of relief. In the 19fi0s, I went to one of the Seven Sister schools where they educated women like their brothers. It was, I am told, a first-rate education, and I think I missed it. I showed, on paper, a modest profit in the business of learning. Like many 18-year-olds in my class, I had been well educated In one thing: living up to expectations. So I digested history and regurgitated a thesis. Today, 16 years later, I carry a cum after my name like a dangling participle. But I didn't think until I was 30 and long past my required reading. You can take that as depressing or reassuring, but I am grateful that college didn't finish me. Of course, I grew up between 18 and 22 when college was In loco parentis. But I also grew up between 22 and 26 and between 30 and 39. At 18, I went through the absolutely unique experience of living away from home. But at 22 I had the equally new experience of a first job and at 27 a first child. I am now, for the one and only time in my life, 38. We give our Imprimatur of Importance to the four college years, as though they have a special place in the continuum of our lives. As though they are set In boldface. We regard college as an exclamation point at the end of childhood, when it is merely a comma. Last week, Nora Ephron told the seniors of Wellesley that those people who say college was the best time of their lives didn't lead very happy lives. Maybe so. Maybe, too, their memories carefully edited out the bad, under the social pressure to make this a magnificent quartet. I realize now (hat most of my friends enjoyed college one term and got through It another. Some weeks we felt euphoric and other weeks lonely. It wasn't the best of times, it wasn't the worst. It was just time, that Mix-master of feelings. We hadn't learned that this was normal. We thought that depression was unusual and loneliness a fault, and that everyone else was having his best years. You see, our thinking was as unfinished as raw pine furniture. Commencement is an end and a beginning and all that. But maybe it doesn't merit a thunderous clap. The line between childhood and adulthood doesn't look like a stream of men and women In caps and gowns. It lurches and gropes and learns on toward some higher degree. In the end, the degree isn't a manufacturer's guarantee that the work is done. Rather, it is a chit toward continuing education. Ellen Goodman Is a Boston Clohe columnist whose columns are syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Ill temper The growth of wisdom may be gauged accurately by the decline of ill temper. Friedrlch Nietzsche fl

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