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[Susan notes: Here are six letters in response to a column by Bob Herbert about out-of-control classrooms. The one I don't understand is blaming teacher competence--or lack thereof--on salaries. No one seems to suggest that parent income has anything to do with the situation.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Bob Herbert ("Failing Teachers," column, Oct. 24) suggests that teachers deserve much of the blame for the chaotic, dangerous environment of most inner-city schools.

Public school teachers are ordinary human beings. Most earn less than the median income for college graduates. It is unreasonable to expect them to have the social skills of television talk show hosts.

Millions of teenagers, disproportionately in inner-city schools, cannot be educated and violently interfere with the education of teenagers who can be. These teenagers should be permanently expelled, so that teachers can teach and students can learn.


Wilmington, Del., Oct. 24, 2003

To the Editor:

There is an underclass of young people that is separate and unequal. It includes millions of high school dropouts, Bob Herbert's "back of the classroom" students who live behind learning fire walls (column, Oct. 24). They will graduate to one or more of the destructive life choices.

In contrast is the fortunate class, which includes the millions who prepare for college boards, enjoy parental and financial support, await university acceptance and graduate to a menu of prosperous lifestyles.

The root cause of the failure is not teachers, boards of education, superintendents or unions. The failure for the underclass is the K-12, "one size fits all" education structure.


Jersey City, Oct. 24, 2003

To the Editor:

My family moved from a small town in Pennsylvania to the Bronx in 1963, when I was 13. My experience at J.H.S. 125 was much the way Bob Herbert describes some New York City classrooms today (column, Oct. 24). There were boys in black leather jackets in the back of most classrooms who loudly played cards and dice, smoking cigarettes and pot. The teacher never acknowledged them.

I was afraid to go to school. I routinely did not attend the most out-of-control classes, but passed anyway.

It is sad to think that education is still allowed to remain at this low level.


Wesley Hills, N.Y., Oct. 24, 2003

To the Editor:

Re "Failing Teachers," by Bob Herbert (column, Oct. 24): I taught for five successful but hellish years in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, from 1965 to 1970. I put the blame squarely on the parents and the students. When you disciplined the students, you would rarely get support from the parents. You would rarely even be able to contact the parents.

Teaching is impossible if the students have no parent to reinforce what they learn in the classroom.


Malvern, Pa., Oct. 24, 2003

To the Editor:

Re "Failing Teachers," by Bob Herbert (column, Oct. 24):

As a Teach for America neophyte trained in the Bronx, I had expected to meet the rumored incompetent and uncaring instructors, but instead found dedicated educators committed to closing the achievement gap.

Rather than worry about bad teachers, we should focus on fostering an environment favorable for learning, with small classes and adequate resources, well-managed districts and meaningful curriculums, greater student accountability and fewer credentialing hurdles.

The "real truth" is that teachers fail mostly because they have been failed. I am surprised that most teachers continue to care as much as they do given the wretched conditions for teaching.


San Francisco, Oct. 24, 2003

multiple authors

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