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Giving Education the Old High School Try

January 10, 2002

Re C. Sheldon Thorne's Jan. 5 letter: I have been teaching government for 35 years and never has a student told me that the Constitution was ''a racist document written by rich white men.'' I've been teaching history for the same period and have never had a student say the westward movement was ''a genocidal march driven by capitalist greed and a patriarchy intent upon raping the land, slaughtering natives and exploiting minorities and women.'' (Indeed, I've never heard words like ''genocidal'' and ''patriarchy'' from a student.)

To suggest to teenagers that America is imperfect, much less ''rotten to the core,'' is enough to arouse them out of their usual somnolence, prepared to fight. But after 20 years of teaching English, I will grant that most are ''unable to write a coherent paragraph.'' Yet if Prof. Thorne asks them plaintively whether they have ever been taught the glories of American history, its government or the English language, they will look at him solemnly and say, ''Nooooooooooo!''

But I keep trying.

Robert A. Fruge

Cathedral City

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