[Susan notes: I offer these letters in outrage, as an example of what the New York Times prints. Not one mention of the deepest problem of troubled schools: the economic problems of the poor.]
Published in New York Times
Regarding the state of education in the United States, Bob Herbert writes, "I respectfully suggest that we may be looking at a crisis here" ("Left Behind, Way Behind," column, Aug. 29). As a highly qualified teacher of English at the high school level, I agree.
But this crisis we see in our schools has its roots in American homes increasingly devoid of books and printed material, where children turn exclusively to television, computers and electronic games for entertainment - and see the adults around them doing the same. Instant-gratification technology has, for many students, replaced the task - and the thrill - of reading.
One cannot develop solid writing skills without first being a decent reader; underdevelopment of these skills translates to low scores in standardized testing across racial and economic lines, and in all subject areas.
Education begins in a home where reading is intrinsically valuable and necessary; where recognition of the hard work associated with education and doing well in school are top priorities; and where parents join schools in having high expectations for their children's success.
Without this initial foundation and continued support at home, a teacher's hands are tied at school.
Jo Ann Price
To the Editor:
The ills of American education described by Bob Herbert are just a repetition of the sad song that educators, policy makers and parents have been singing for over half a century. Strangely absent from the proposed cures is the subject of improving the job of the teacher.
No education reform is ever going to take hold unless teaching, a cultural relic of the 19th century, is reinvented to professionalize its practice. This means creating a real career ladder for teachers, encouraging teaching in teams instead of in isolation, improving teacher preparation and induction, and introducing a system of gateways to higher levels of learning and earning within teaching.
Until teaching becomes a profession and teachers are held to the same standards as those in other professions, we will all remain captives of a dysfunctional system in which everyone is left behind.
Katherine C. Boles
The writers are lecturers at, respectively, Brandeis University and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and are co-authors of a book about teaching.
To the Editor:
In "Left Behind, Way Behind," Bob Herbert is simply telling us an uncomfortable truth that every parent with school-age children is aware of: public schools aren't doing their job.
Potential solutions to the public school problem can be found in high-quality secular private schools. Public schools are burdened by intrusive governmental regulation governing curriculum, standardized testing and teacher standards (or lack thereof), the sometimes pernicious influence of teachers' unions and the often deleterious effect of extremists who can exert undue and inappropriate control over the academic curriculum. Most of the top private schools have none of these burdens.
Private schools do, however, have one critical element that many public schools lack: money. Until public schools start to operate and to educate children in a manner more akin to that of private schools, the public schools will continue to fail.