Editor: In the June issue, there are two items which have to do with educational "reform." One is the "The state of the State" column by Michael D. Klemens. The other is the second of two articles on school reform by Donald Sevener. And finally, the cover illustration shows a flower labeled, "Second Wave Reforms," upsetting the educational bureaucracy.
Klemens' column contains the following sentence, "The committee would have the state monitor schools for both reform and improvement, with emphasis on improvement." The Sevener article quotes a Pekin teacher as saying, "I don't know where state officials get their ideas for reform, but I wonder: How much do they talk to kids?" My question to both Klemens and Sevener is, "If we're really going to improve the quality of the educational product in Illinois, why don't we talk to the buyers of the product, the parents, and let them have some influence on product design?" There is nothing to equal the therapeutic valve of letting the consumer rate the product.
Nowhere in our state, except perhaps the prison system, is the product designed and implemented with so much disdain for the funders of the product. In my opinion, there is simply no way that the school establishment in Illinois can be reformed from within. The fastest and most inexpensive way to bring daylight to the far corners of our educational system is to let the parents have considerably more to say about the product than they do now.
As Patrick Henry would say, "If advocating some kind of a voucher system be treason, let the General Assembly simply make the most of it."
David E. Connor
Editor: We cannot and must not measure educational progress solely by academic achievement (June articles on education); we also must consider whether our schools are helping young people develop those moral and spiritual qualities of mind and character needed to become virtuous human beings, good citizens and neighbors and productive members of society.
In this regard, public education has been a glaring failure. For example, during a two-week period in Chicago's public schools, three students were shot, two were stabbed and one teacher was raped. It is an alarming fact that, as 1978, 1984 and 1988 U.S. government studies revealed, crime, disorder, violence, vandalism, gang warfare, drug pushing and allegations of sexual abuse seem to permeate this nation's public schools.
Certainly a nexus exists between the lack of character education and the crime, violence and disorder. Consequently, if our schools are to achieve true progress — that is, moral and spiritual as well as intellectual progress — our fami-
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lies, churches, schools, social organizations and the business community need to reemphasize the teaching, learning and practice of good manners and good morals.
To be sure, some inevitably ask, "Whose morality should be taught in the schools?" According to a 1989 report by the American Jewish Committee and a 1990 joint statement by Catholic and Jewish religious leaders, the public schools can and should teach moral values like courtesy and kindness, honesty and decency, moral courage, integrity, racial harmony, fair play, team work, good sportsmanship, self-respect and respect for others; these values are universally esteemed and indispensable to the survival of a civilized society.
In Illinois, moral education is required by state law, which says: "Every public school teacher shall teach the pupils honesty, kindness, justice and moral courage for the purpose of lessening crime and raising the standard of good citizenship."
Character education has been enormously successful throughout the United States. For example, SanMarcos (Calif.) Junior High School has implemented a character education program and, as a result, drug incidents declined from 12 to 1 per year; drop-outs decreased from 10 percent to 2 percent; pregnancies among students dropped from 147 to 19; and the number of straight-A students doubled.
Haven Bradford Gow
Religion, diet and public aid
Editor: On December 12, 1990, a new state statute was enacted that amends the Illinois Public Aid Code to provide for additional payments by the state to nursing and intermediate care facilities that maintain kosher food service operations.
The statute. Public Act 86-1464, provides for "a rate structure accommodation"— a state subsidy—"for fully kosher kitchen and food service operations, rabbinically approved or certified on an annual basis, if 60 percent or more of the residents in the facility request kosher foods or food products prepared in accordance with Jewish religious dietary requirements for religious purposes in a fully kosher facility."
Public Act 86-1464 is clearly unconstitutional. It violates both the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution. Moreover, it results in excessive state entanglement with religion.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, in an August 17, 1990, letter to Gov. James R. Thompson urging him to veto the proposed legislation, wrote in part: "Article I, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution guards against state subsidies of (and preference for) religion by
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stating that: 'No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship against his consent, nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship'. HB 3755 (now Public Act 86-1464) violates both clauses in this sentence by: 1) forcing taxpayers to support a particular 'ministry,' i.e., Judaism, and 2) giving preference to the practitioners of Judaism over members of other faiths and to nonadherents."
The ACLU further wrote, "It is difficult to conceive of any secular purpose for legislation that selects one of many religions with dietary laws and affords it special treatment ... . Of course, Jews who follow kosher dietary laws are not the only persons whose faiths dictate particular methods of food preparation or other dietary restrictions. By selecting one religion for special treatment, the state also invites suits by other religious groups claiming a violation of constitutional equal protection guarantees, and demanding that this benefit be extended to them as well."
Gov. Thompson decided to approach the bill, introduced by Sen. Arthur L. Berman (D-2, Chicago) during the 1990 election campaign, with an amendatory veto that did not change its substance but delayed final action until November 8. The re-enrolled bill subsequently passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and was filed as Public Act 86-1464 on December 12, 1990.
Few would doubt that the legislation is well-intended and that nursing and intermediate care facilities are in need of an increase, but the principle is overriding: To guarantee freedom of religion for all citizens, the state must never become involved with religion. Illinois citizens and taxpayers who are committed to the separation of church and state should challenge and work toward setting aside Public Act 86-1464.
Term limits for 'turned off voter
Editor: I don't know what kitchen Charles N. Wheeler III has been in, but where I watch political deals being cooked up, it's not only the sink that's broke. It's also the stove, the refrigerator, the garbage disposal, the dishwasher, the can opener, the blender and everything else ("Politics," June 1991).
Unfortunately there's nobody to call to fix things. That's why term limits are so appealing, and that's why they're worth a try. Term limits can't be any worse than what we've got now.
An Oklahoma legislator recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that, after 10 years of service, she voluntarily gave up her seat because she had watched herself grow less critical, more cynical and less able to resist the pressures of lobbyists as a 10-year veteran than as a rookie.
Closer to home, I regularly write my elected officials at all levels to express my views on critical issues like the S & L bailout, obscene Cook County property taxes and wasteful expenditures. Some never answer. Some send canned replies that don't respond to my questions. Only a few find time to address the issues I've raised.
As for "throwing the rascals out" at the polls, I know more and more outraged voters who have begun to vote against all incumbents out of pure frustration.
I don't know what the answers are either. Maybe campaign spending limits would help. Maybe term limits would help. Maybe both would be better than either. But I do know this:
Something has to be done to restore confidence in the political and governmental processes.
Reverse meanings of 'moot'
Editor: Your magazine is most informative and I look forward to each issue; however, there is a point of irritation which often arises from the misuse of the English language by some of your contributors.
An example: the "Politics" column in the July 1991 issue written by Charles N. Wheeler III. In the second to last paragraph he speaks of the fact that the Illinois legislature opted to keep the voting age at 21 in the state charter of 1971. Then he says, "but by the time the new state charter took effect, the issue was moot:" [underlining mine] "A federal constitutional amendment was in place guaranteeing 18-year-olds [sic] the right to vote."
I can only assume that Mr. Wheeler meant to imply that the voting age limit was a dead issue because of the new federal law. If so, he is mistaken as to the meaning of the word "moot," which my dictionary defines as "debatable," and which is used in parliamentary procedure to advise which subject is open for discussion.
Of course, I have seen a more contrived misusage. A columnist in one of our local papers referred to a question in a similar fashion, and stated that, "it was mooted."
Arthur Scholbe Cahokia
Editor's Note: See Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, second definition of moot as an adjective: "deprived of practical significance: made abstract or purely academic."
Readers: Your comments on articles and columns are welcome. Please keep letters brief (250 words); we reserve the right to excerpt them so that as many as space allows can be published. Send your letter to:
Caroline Gherardini, Editor
8/ August & September 1991/Illinois Issues