BC Seal Boston College Magazine Winter 2001
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BCM welcomes letters from readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and must be signed to be published. Our fax number is (617) 552-2441; our e-mail address is birnbaum@bc.edu.

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TO TEST OR NOT

Re "Keeping Score" (Winter 2001): The Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association (MSSAA), which represents 1,100 high school and junior high school administrators, has registered its opposition to passage of a single test being mandatory for high school graduation.

The MCAS tests are being used in ways never intended. In wealthier communities, the opportunity to claim the highest scores affects real estate values. In poorer communities, the results are being used to claim additional funds from the state budget. In every community, students are being made aware that their performance will affect adults and feel pressured to perform in ways never intended by the legislation.

BARRY CAHILL '69
Franklin, Massachusetts

Editor's note: Mr. Cahill is president of the MSSAA and principal of Ipswich High School.

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From one who is both a college professor and the mother of two children who were in a Delaware public school when statewide testing was implemented: Before testing, my children's school had many teachers and administrators who were more interested in their working conditions than in teaching. That changed dramatically after testing was implemented. Yes, they teach to the test; yes, there are serious problems with the tests; yes, it wouldn't be surprising if there is juggling of the results. But the bottom line is that now student performance matters to the whole school, not just to a few lonely, dedicated teachers.

The reading comprehension of many of my college students is so low they cannot understand their textbooks, and their writing is worse than our non-English-speaking foreign students'. Yet they graduated from high school with good grades.

I applaud the courage of Massachusetts state officials in insisting on testing.

STACIE E. BECK '79
Newark, Delaware

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DOCTORS AND GOD

Similar to Jerome Groopman, M.D. ("Medicine and Mystery," Winter 2001), I am both a medical oncologist, caring for patients with cancer, and a believer. The sad reality is that, despite recent advances, most of the patients whom I care for will ultimately die of their disease. My role is not only to bring to bear all the scientific expertise I can to control their disease for as long as possible, but also, when death is inevitable, to work equally hard to minimize physical and emotional suffering.

Few medical schools or postgraduate training programs incorporate sessions devoted to the issue of spirituality in their formal curricula. How we deal with this issue evolves as a function of our own beliefs, attitudes, and level of comfort. For some physicians, there appears to be a belief that this is not in our job description. I disagree.

Part of my willingness to acknowledge my patients' concerns about faith is probably due to the unobtrusive and skilled manner in which these issues have been dealt with at my institution, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, by the pastoral care department. Whatever an individual's background or beliefs, there is an acknowledgment that this is an appropriate topic to be explored if the patient so desires.

PAUL J. HESKETH, M.D., '74
Westwood, Massachusetts

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WRITING LESSONS

I had the honor of studying with Francis Sweeney, SJ ("Bard Watching," Winter 2001), during my undergraduate years from 1981 to 1983, when I was about the only long-haired man at BC. His article on T. S. Eliot exemplified many of the techniques I recall from his classes: sensual detail, brevity without sacrifice of texture and meter, strong verbs, and respect for the reader.

PETER N. DUNN '83
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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EXTENSION COURSE

Thank you for Charlotte Bruce Harvey's essay on James Skehan, SJ ("Grounded," Winter 2001). I remember facing a very skeptical Fr. Jim on a cold and windy day in November 1967. I was applying for BC's Master of Science in Teaching program. He was very unimpressed with my undergraduate record, but I was accepted. I took a job with the Forest Service and had a wonderful career as a mining geologist. I am retired now and am teaching earth science and geology at a nearby high school--and I still feel I am his student.

ROBERT H. OLDFIELD, MTS '73
Mesa, Arizona


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