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[Susan notes: Here you get a variety of views on retention and social promotion. The best one points out that is a Hobson's choice.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Public Schools, Minus the Public," by Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten (Op-Ed, March 18):

On one side of the New York City schools battle, we have a Republican mayor with few allies on the City Council or the State Legislature, pushing a dubious policy on social promotion.

In the opposing corner, we have the powerful teachers' unions and their supporters, who have basically dictated education policy for nearly half a century and see an opportunity to pounce on the awkward display of power by the mayor when he dismissed members of an advisory board.

Question: Who is protecting the interests of more than a million students whose futures depend on a sound education?


Montclair, N.J., March 18, 2004

To the Editor:

In "Public Schools, Minus the Public" (Op-Ed, March 18), Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten lament the weakening of "democratic governance" in the New York City public school system.

But democracy has the potential to become dominated by special-interest groups pursuing their own interest rather than that of the public.

One special-interest group responsible for the deplorable quality of most of New York City's public schools is clearly the teachers' union, represented by Ms. Weingarten.

When democracy deteriorates like that, a system of benevolent dictatorship may become preferable. Thus, as a father of two likely future New York City public school students, I say: Go, Mr. Mayor!


New York, March 18, 2004

To the Editor:

Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten (Op-Ed, March 18) are right to criticize the corporate model used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to address educational problems.

When you have a top-down structure, dialogue and discussion are inevitably removed from the process.

This increases the distance of the decision makers from classroom teachers and the needs of students.

Teaching and learning are not served with this model.


New York, March 18, 2004

The writer is a high school teacher.

To the Editor:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's decision to have third graders in the New York City public schools either pass the test or be retained in third grade is an example of a true Hobson's choice in which neither alternative is acceptable ("Keeping Pupils in Third Grade, but Then What?" front page, March 17).

The real choice is to take seriously a commitment to provide high-quality early care and education, to assist families in learning how to help their children succeed, to monitor every child's educational progress with meaningful assessments and to offer assistance to teachers so they can become better problem solvers and providers of individualized instruction.

The mayor's actions may be politically expedient, but research and practice have shown repeatedly that retention leads to an increased sense of failure for children, teachers and families.


Chicago, March 17, 2004

The writer is president of Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development.

multiple authors

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