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Funding for US Education

The Opinion page article "Battling Parental Complacency," March 1, reveals more about the complacency of pedants than of parents. The author makes no attempt to substantiate such statements as "education is a low priority among many American parents," or "parents are finding it difficult to encourage their children to spend more time on homework."

One of the problems with making sweeping generalizations based on quantitative studies is finding causes. No cause can be attributed to the number of hours a week students spend on homework. The cause could be the lack of assigned homework as much as the lack of parental supervision. The author also believes that part-time work is unnecessary in most cases and that all parents who allow their children to work part time should be penalized with higher taxes. Yet, most teenagers work out of necessity - es pecially the college bound. The author's worst assumption is that it is possible to change values through tax penalties or credits. How often do we fine, or tax, or fire incompetent teachers or administrators? Let us examine the complacent professionals before we excoriate the amateurs. A. Neiswonger, Alameda, Calif.

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Congratulations on an excellent education article. I am a resident of a small town in Connecticut, which habitually underfunds education and is near last in per-student educational funding. There is widespread parental reluctance to acknowledge and accept responsibility for education. We leave the decision in the hands of a few who pursue a shortsighted effort to minimize taxes and social responsibility via a reduced investment in education. Parents must become involved in the education process. It is th e largest determinant of the nation's standard of living and ability to compete. James A. Byran, Bethel, Conn.

Perhaps the authors of the Opinion page article "Overdue Wake-Up Call for Higher Education," March 1, should "come down the mountain every once in a while." Over the years the number of administrators and their staff have more than quadrupled, while the number of faculty and students have decreased. At my university, the salary budget for the office of the recently created associate vice president for multicultural affairs is half the salary budget of the entire School of Architecture.

The dramatic increase in the ratio of administration to faculty and students seems to be "institutional restructuring" on a grand scale; the reason for the increase has been a response to the demands for "accountability" recommended by the authors. Ironically, the cost of assessment is requiring the closing of the very programs being assessed. In the present financial crisis, the first order of business here is to cut administrative costs by at least 30 percent. David A. Hanser, Stillwater, Okla. Assoc. Professor, School of Architecture, Oklahoma State University

The authors identify the target but then miss the mark on the issues of higher education. Thinking "about higher education as a whole" is exactly what is called for. However, it is not so much the academy as the designers of public policy who need a perspective that encompasses all of post-secondary educational options. By sustaining the popular view that a degree is the single avenue to achievement, colleges and universities have become victims of their own success.

Desperately required are other pathways; the technikums in Europe, for example, or well founded apprenticeship programs, that open real opportunities for young people. William Toombs, State College, Pa.

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