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Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 1999

WORRIED FOR FUTURE

September 7, 1999

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To the editor:

Like many others, I was outraged and saddened to learn of the shabby treatment given by the Lawrence school administration to one of its premier educators, Stan Roth. Can it be true that after 40 years of inspired teaching, and despite the supporting testimony of legions of successful former students, this man has been removed from his life's work for expressing a preference for science over religious dogma? Or maybe it wasn't just the evolution vs. creationism thing. Maybe it was Stan's tiresome insistence that students (1) pay attention in class, (2) show respect for the subject and the teacher, (3) prove themselves worthy of good grades, and (4) think, learn and experience things for themselves. How old-fashioned.

I am not one of the many who went on from Stan's tutelage to a career in science, so I cannot point to him as direct inspiration for the direction my life has taken. But I have in front of me as I write this my handwritten journal from our class expedition to Florida and Georgia in the spring of 1975. For a Kansas boy with little opportunity for travel outside his home state, that trip was a major life event.

As I read the journal, I can't help being impressed by the powers of observation and keen interest in natural phenomena that 17-year-old boy had. And then I remember Stan sitting in the front of the bus, eyes simultaneously keeping watch on his juvenile charges and scanning the skies, fields and trees in all directions, and calling everyone's attention to each fascinating detail they would otherwise have missed. He taught me to look closely at things, to listen more than I talk, and to understand that I am not the focus of all creation, but just one "critter" among many. As an attorney, husband, father and human being, those lessons have served me well.

My first reaction to this disappointing news was to join in the demand for Stan's reinstatement. On second thought, I realized that early retirement and the freedom to pursue other interests might compare favorably to laboring under the harsh scrutiny of a "creationist" school board and a principal whose religious calling influences his better judgment. I'm not worried about Stan Roth. Stan is a strong and self-reliant man who has endured greater pain than this in his life. I'm worried about the future of education in my home town.

John S. Clifford,

New Brighton, Minn.

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