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6 Tlu ".my Tar Heel-Wednesday, Octubt.i
Georce Shadeoui, Editor
Dinita James, Managing Editor
Brad Kutro', AssiKiate Editor
. Thomas Jessiman, Associate Editor
Karen Rowley, News Editor
Pam Keuey, University Editor
Martha Waggonex, City Editor
Jim Hummel, Sute and National Editor
Bill Fields, Sports Editor
Maxk Musrell, Features Editor
Tom Moose, Arts Editor
Scott Siiaipe, Photography Editor
Melanie Sill, Weekender Editor
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88th year of editorial freedom
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The steady, steep decline of scores on the Scholastic Aptitude
Test the standardized test of verbal and mathematical ability taken
by more than a million high school students each year has continued
unchecked for nearly two decades. During the last 17 years, the
average verbal score has dropped from 478 to 424 of a possible 800
points, and the average math score has dropped from 502 to 466. In
North Carolina, however, this year's scores actually went up, although
they remained well below the national average. The statewide
improvement to 393 verbal and 429 math may give educators a way to
figure out why nationwide SAT scores are slumping.
A variety of reasons for the consistently poorer scores have been
suggested and ruled out over the years. It appeared that the average
score dropped during the early 1970s because more average and below
average students began taking the test, which was formerly taken
mostly by the college-bound elite. .
That theory might explain the sharp drops of the early 1970s, but
recent scores have continued to worsen while the group taking the test
has remained demographically stable.
A more plausible explanation, and one that might also account for
the increase in North Carolina student's scores, links the decline in
scores to the national de-emphasis of basic math and English courses
in the last 20 years. The peak SAT scores came in 1963 and 1964, when
the Cold War and fear of superior Soviet technology had accelerated
the educational process in American high schools. Curricula,
particularly in mathematics and the sciences, were made stricter and
students were pressured to excel.
Since then, high schools have begun 'to offer a broader range of
Courses and to place less importance on classes that are basic, and
sometimes boring. While too many educational ills have been blamed
on an attitude of "permissiveness" in many schools, such an attitude
is manifest in sundry new policies that have come into favor. Grade
inflation is one; another is the policy of "social promotion," which is
based on the premise that it is less damaging to send a student,
unprepared, on to the next grade than to hold him back and label him
a slow learner. It is also now widely believed among students and
teachers that homework is unduly burdensome, and ought to .be
avoided at every opportunity. Fortunately, many schools are now
reconsidering these policies. 7
It can be argued that broader curricula and more flexible academic
policies have made education more useful to students in the 70s and
80s, but it is clear that they have done little to sharpen the basic skills
in English and math that the SAT tests. In the 17 years since scores
peaked in 1963, high school education has become more uniform and
thus less valuable. High school has become, for many, less something
to excel in than a way station to be endured on the way to college or a
job. While we have benefited from keeping more students in high
school, we have lost, in some measure, the proficiency once possessed
by those who got out.
It is thus encouraging that North Carolina scores are improving in
the face of national decline. The trend seems directly linked to the
increased teaching of basic math and verbal skills to prepare students
for the state's own competency test, which must be passed if a student
is to graduate from high school. The competency test gauges the same
type of abilities as the SAT, and the state has made an unforeseen gain
nationally by tightening its own standards.
Only a few states have competency tests, but North Carolina can
attest that they are useful tools in improving, as well as gauging,
' students' abilities. It would be gratifying if North Carolina, so long a
state with poor schools, would begin to reverse the nation's trend
toward poorer public education.
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It is good (for us baseball fans) that on the weekend of the World
Series, Fall Break comes. Those of us who haven't looked at a
television for more than five minutes at a time during the past two
months welcome it. We have papers to write and tests to take and
stories to ctlit, but all of that will wait. There are problems in the
world, lots of them. But for at least a little while, they'll have to wait,
We shall go to the mountains this weekend and watch the leaves
turn. We shall go to Boston and rejoice in the trip. We shall walk upon
the empty beach and think of the ocean's vastness. And we'll put our
feet up on a table, eat a sandwich' and watch a baseball game. That's
what fall breaks are for. We may even try to catch up on schoolwork,
but we probably won't.
By WILLIAM DURHAM
It was a dark, dank section of Wilson Library.
Cobwebs dripped from the moldy books, and rats
scuttled in the corners. I was midway through the
Inferno when my desk lamp sputtered and went
When I could see again I was sitting on a dirt
patch in a forest. Nearby I saw a smoking hole in
the ground. As I walked over to it a little hairy
fellow crawled out and greeted me. (
"Hello there. My name's Fred. Welcome to
Section Four of Hell, the section reserved for
fanatics." He stuck his finger in his ear. "For a
pound of flesh I can take you on a tour." He
winked and leered. "It's cheap at the price."
"It sounds pretty interesting." I searched my
pockets. "But all I can offer is a Bic pen and a piece
"That's all right. Just follow me," he cackled as
he started back down the hole, high-pitched giggles
floating up behind him. I followed, clutching my
Bic pen and bubble gum.
We seemed to climb forever into the smoke and
fumes. There were sounds out in the darkness
gurglings and grunting and screams.
Finally we reached the bottom of the ladder.
Fumes swirled about us, and slime grew on the
dripping walls. "This way," Fred wheezed,
stepping into the darkness.
He led me over to a hand rail, next to which was a
sign reading, "Danger: fanatics ahead. Do not
abandon your grasp on reality. Do not feed the
We trudged on through a thick, green slime.
Suddenly there was a roaring, and Fred said,
"Quick, give me your bubble gum. I mustthrow a
sop to the terrible guardian of the underworld." I
instantly handed over my treasure, and Fred threw
it into the darkness. There was a snuffling and a
subdued scuffling and then all was quiet.
"That beast guards the way to the fanatics,"
Fred explained, scampering ahead. "If you don't .
pay him, he chews off your hair and turns you into
a hari krishna."
As we rounded a corner I suddenly heard loud
groans and wails. "These are the nature fiends,"
Fred said. "They're the ones who eat natural chips
and shrink at the mention of refined sugar." He
snickered. "Their punishfnent is truly ingenious."
As we'drew nearer I could see dozens of people,
off to the left of the path. They all were wearing
loudly colored clothes and were wallowing in a
gooey substance. Ail were bald.
Fred laughed evilly. "These poor people are
doomed to wear lavender polyester forever. The
only food they can have is fried, and they must sit in
a mixture of canned tomato paste and diesel fuel."
As we walked by the poor wretches we could hear
them plaintively wailing, "Sprouts, please give us
some sprouts." Others were crying for lettuce. One
fellow was dazedly muttering something about
incomplete amino acids. All w;re unhappy.
"Look up at the ceiling," chortled Fred, poking
me in the ribs. I did so, and was rendered speechless
by the cruelty of the torture: For from the ceiling
hung hiking boots, flannel shirts, hand-tooled leather
goods and large salads to go.
"Here, have a french fry' Fred sneered, tossing
a thick, pale, greasy piece of potato at one fellow.
The poor guy screamed as it touched his body.
"Let's go on," Fred said, scuttling ahead. "If
you liked that, you'll love this part. These tortures
are of my own personal design." He twisted his ear,
skipping around on the path delightedly.
Up ahead I could hear more moans and wails. We
tetters to the editor
iiie Baily inr irlcol
As-.Ltsnl Mas!2!R2 Editors: Edwins Ralston, John Roystcr, Amy Sharp
E&tori2l Assbtants: Buddy Burniskc, Lynn Casey, William Durham
News Dcik: Melody Adams, Laurie Bradiher, Beth Burrcl!, Cindy Cranford, Kerry
DcRochi, Amy Edwards, Anna File, Eric Frederick, Virginia Fridy, Bcih Graybcal, Lisa
Goldfarb, Pamela Johnson, Lorrie Howard, Katherine Long, Darlcne O'Brian, Karen
Pace, Carol Pearcc, FeschcJ, Valeric VanCorden and Edith Wooten; James Alexander,
assistant Weekender editor.
News: Mclodce Alves, Mark Ancona, Ted Avery, Stephanie Dircher, RoAnn Bishop, Jeff
Bowers, Linda Bruwn, Laura Carter, Elizabeth Dank!, Kerry DcRochi, Angie Dorrr.an,
Lee Dunbar, Natalie Eason, Scott Green, Debbie Goodson, Karen Haywood, Charles
Iferndon, Dchorth Hr&ch, Lucy Hood, David Jarrctt, Dale Jenkins, Keith King, Karen
Koines ay, Katherine Lent, Dean Uwman. Diane Upton, Susan Mauncy, Elaine
McClatchey, Mike McEaiUnJ. Rachel Perry, B.'.l Pcschcl, Kathy Pitman, Tim Preston,
Anne Proper, Amy Pruh. Jonathan Rich. Rochcl'.e Riley, Beverly Shcrard, Cetsi
S.mnions. Frances li.Ua, Ann S:r.a!:oo4. Jon Tafcott. Lindey TaSor. Dai4 Tei-ue.
Frank Wells, No;a Wilkinson and Frank Zanj
S;-f;ftj: David Poo!e, antant editor; Clifton Barnes, Norman Cannada, John Drescher,
h hn Fi- h, CI.:? Karr.rs, Gary Mar;urrs. Geoffrey Mvxk, Scott Petersen, Linda Robertson
and Mark Ta'oe.
iVatum: Rkhard Brown, Teresa Curry, Loui Cunter, Martie llayworth. Susan Hudson,
Kirt.heily Klrrr.an. Su'.an Pructt Luce. Shaioyn Marshall, Joe Morris, Ann Peters, Kevin
Rivks, Jonathan Snt. Diane Veto. Gr.-i WaKh.
Am: Bob Royalty, assistant cltcr; PUGaiancs, John Hamilton, Jordan ilawley, Connie
Mcms, Rob Monath, Tim Pope. Uuri Elliot!, Donna Whitaker.
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Sift it-g ari Tuta Ven le, a .J reprc.er:!ative$, Wsrrrn Allrn,
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approached an iron gate, which Fred opened,
saying, "This pit is reserved for the hyperpious,
As we stepped through the gate, I could see
groups of stern-faced, conservatively dressed people
strapped to chairs in front of movie screens i the
grimaces on their faces were horrible.
"They're being forced to, turn the other cheek,"
Fred explained. "They have to watch scenes of
people sinning and then say, 'I forgive.' That's
something they had trouble doing during their
He took my arm and pulled me along. "Over
here is one of my favorites," he giggled. "These are .
the television evangelists." He winked at me.
"You'll love them."
We entered a large warehouse where men with
diamond stickpins were endorsing Social Security
checks for the underprivileged and saying, ."Bless
you, my son." y J
"This is awful," I gasped, overcome by the
expressions of anguish these Christian gentlemen
had on their noble visages. They were obviously
tormented by charitable deeds they . were being
forced to accomplish.
Next I was led to a large room that resembled a
bank. In it were several people behind teller gates
handing out money. They were acutely unhappy,
gnashing their teeth and trembling with suppressed
rage. Behind them were little winged beasts with
"These are the radical student communists,"
snickered Fred. "They're forced to dress in
conservative three-piece suits, speak politely and
give money to the chairmen of multinational
corporations. Whenever the urge to spew their shrill
Marxist flatulence overcomes them, they're poked
in the back by those little demons and have to
Near us, one of the gentlemen in line was
speaking to his friend. "We're expanding into
another Third-World nation next week. I can't wait -to
begin oppressing the masses."
The teller, a short fellow with red hair, turned
bright red and started screeching, "You capitalist
pigs and the materialistic, imperialist aggression of
the ruling class will " Then one of the demons
swooped down and swatted him and he squealed,
"I love Exxon, thank you, sir."
Fred wheezed merrily and we moved on. "This
last section is reserved for the overly aggressive
feminists. These women were, angry angry
indeed." He chuckled. "They were so angry that
they blew a gasket, and now they're here."
We walked on. "This is the neuter room," Fred
said. "Notice f.hat these people are all wearing
potato sacks with shaved heads. Nothing here has a
As I watched, one of the small people ran over to
a large bagged figure and wailed, "Mommy,
Mommy, Brother stepped on my finger."
The bagged figure grabbed the little girl by the
neck and intoned in a deep voice, "If I've told you
once, I've told you a thousand times, I'm not
your 'Mommy;' I'm your parental unit. Number
17 is not your 'brother;' he is your sibling
Fred led me away toward a door marked "exit."
behind me I could hear the bagged figure continue
her lecture. Then the door shut behind me, and I
was facing a large, gaping hole in the turf.
"This is the end of the tour," Fred said, and
without warning pushed me in. I spun around and
around, and then stopped with a thump in my hard
wooden chair in the library.
William Durham, a junior English major, ' is
editorial assistant for The Daily Tar Heel.
The question of whether to group children in public schools
by ability has been an issue for years across the nation. Now
the issue has moved locally to Carrboro, where the halting of
ability-grouped classes at Carrboro Elementary School has
prompted new debate on the merits and drawbacks of
grouping pupils by ability.
School board members have objected to the grouping cf
students, saying the policy does not conform to the board's
philosophy. Local educators have said they should have the
flexibility to group . students by achievement w hen other
teaching methods have proven to be less effective. The
educators will bring the board a policy to consider later this
In an ability-grouped system, students are given tests to
determine their ability levels in different areas. Generally,
students are divided into three groups, according to
achievement and ability;
There are a number of advantages to this system. Teacher
effectiveness is heightened. Instead of trying to reach a broad
spectrum of abilities, efforts
can be more concentrated.
Any person who has tried to , c f , . . '
teach a class composed of oiuaenis learn
vastly different students with more. . . because they
are not lost in the
intelligence shuffle. '
vastly different abilities
knows it is impossible to
educate them all. If a teacher
challenges the high-level
students, the low-level
students cannot keep pace, and they eventually become
frustrated. If the teacher tries to help the low-ability students,
the high-level students are not challenged and eventually
become bored. If a teacher takes a middle-of-the-road
approach, he loses the attention of both upper- and lower
Besides aiding teachers, ability-grouped classes help those
who need help the most: young students. Ability grouping
helps students to learn more because they are not lost in the
intelligence shuffle. The student's peers are similar to him, and
the student can learn more material on his own level. Young
students like division by ability; they can learn at their own
pace and not be concerned with the social implications of
Ability-grouped classes do, however, have their drawbacks.
Educators have determined that the interaction between
different levels of students has a positive effect on low
achievement students. Without higher achievers as models,
low-ability students become stuck in a rut where they never
There is a workable solution to this problem. To ensure a
certain amount of interaction between all students, the amount
of time spent in ability-grouped classes should be Jimited. At
Carrboro Elementary, students spent about two hours a day
in ability-grouped classes and the rest in a regular classroom
Another problem in the grouping system is that groups may
become racially identifiable. Social class differences often
correspond with achievement differences. Since race and social
class often are interrelated, certain achievement levels may be
dominated by one race. j
At Carrboro Elementary, this was not a problem, because
the groups were not racially identifiable. Guidelines, however,
should be established by the school board to ensure that each
race has its approximate percentage of representation in each
division of students. Actual flexibility on the percentage of
race representation is a matter to be decided by j the school
Presently the school board has no established policy on
ability-grouped classes. It has only a "philosophy," which
should be clarified and more clearly stated as policy. The
board should realize the advantages cf ability grouping and
adopt the philosophy in cases where teachers desire to use its
advantages. At the same time, the board should establish
protective safeguards so the system cannot be abused. The
board's decision on whether to adopt an ability grouping
philosophy will have a direct effect on the quality cf education
its students will receive.
John Drescher, a junior journalism major from Raleigh, is
staff columnist for The Daily Tar Heel. He b a tutor at
Carrboro elementary school.
oqtq inte rrup t pe rjo irm ance
To the editor:
On Oct. 4 my husband and I drove
from Fayetteville to see the matinee
performance of Da.
The play began slightly after 4 p.m.
However, because people were noisily
milling around in the lobby, we could
scarcely hear anything.
Latecomers were traipsing down the
aisles to their seats as late as 4:27 p.m.,
and two souls were actually seated at 5
Where is the standard policy of no
seating once the performance has
I was appalled, angered and very
much annoyed at the rudeness of this
Another point: A shade was left
partially raised allowing the afternoon
sunlight to ruin the lighting design.
I realize the policy of the "Broadway
On Tour" series is not to refund ticket
money; however, if the remainder of the
.series is conducted In this ilipshod
manner, I am going to demand a full
ArtsEntertair.rr.er.t Ed It or
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