Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: Good letters expressing a variety of viewpoints.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published

To the editor

Re "In Middle Class, Signs of Anxiety on School Efforts" (front page, Dec. 27):

What is taking place in New York City reveals the absurdity of the argument that competition is the key to providing a quality education for all children. In fact, it has only worsened the problem by pitting parent against parent for the few schools they perceive as desirable.

Even if a total open educational marketplace were to become a reality in the form of vouchers and complete freedom of choice, little would change.

Creating new schools to meet the ensuing demand is not like opening a new outlet in a corporate chain. This is particularly the case in Manhattan, where the cost of acquiring buildings for conversion into classrooms is prohibitive.

Rather than persist in the delusion that the business model is the panacea for schools if only it were given a chance, it's time to carry out unprecedented changes in how public education is delivered.

Collaboration rather than competition, beginning in preschool, is a promising place to begin because it offers the possibility of equity and excellence.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Dec. 27, 2005

The writer was a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and a lecturer in the U.C.L.A. Graduate School of Education.

To the Editor:

While it is important to debate testing requirements, class size and the importance of parental involvement, the forgotten part of a good education is the quality of the students themselves. Children learn from interactions with peers as much as from their teachers and parents.

I have three children in public schools, one entering middle school next year. On tours of prospective schools, I always focus on the students. Are they respectful to one another? Are they horsing around during their group assignments or working conscientiously? How would my son behave in this classroom?

Middle schoolers work in groups. The best students in a class become leaders and set an example for the others. They don't have to be the smartest or the most "gifted." They do have to be thoughtful, tactful and considerate.

These wonderful students must be nurtured for the whole class to flourish. The consequences of alienating them would be devastating.

Roger Westerman

Brooklyn, Dec. 27, 2005

To the Editor:

"I'm sympathetic to the need to accommodate the middle class," says Prof. Joseph Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College, "but the bottom line is that the people who get shortchanged the most are people who have no options."

As a middle-class New Yorker with a school-age child, I'd like to know what, exactly, are my options? Send my child to private school at a cost of $20,000 or more a year? Move to an affordable suburb?

If I've missed any, I invite Professor Viteritti to let me know at his earliest convenience.

Dave Alpert

New York, Dec. 27, 2005

To the Editor:

The changes that concern middle-class parents do an equal disservice to all children. Are there any parents who would opt for 12 years of drill and test prep for their children over an education that fosters excitement, creativity and love of learning?

There is nothing inherent in being poor or a member of a minority group that means children from these backgrounds won't benefit from the enriched curriculums and teaching methods used in "gifted" programs and the 200 top schools that were exempted from the uniform curriculum.

What many of these children do need is a chance to catch up to students who come in with more middle-class experiences that prepare them to learn in a school environment. Tracking and segregating the better-prepared students into gifted classes only widens the gap.

Children learn differently and have different needs in the classroom. Standardized curriculums teach to the lowest common denominator, while individualizing education requires talented, professional teachers and small classes.

The city, the state and the federal government are unwilling to make the investment that would allow all children to receive the education they deserve.

Ellen Bilofsky

Brooklyn, Dec. 27, 2005

To the Editor:

Although the Bloomberg administration has made great progress in improving New York City's public education, it has done little to soothe the anxiety caused by the decades-old middle-school "choice" program.

If city fourth graders do not do well on standard tests, they may not get into their "choice" of public middle school and are often labeled poor performers, a label that can determine a student's academic future.

If this seems as if we are judging our youth too early, it's because we are. And the thought of sending a 10-year-old off to school in the predawn alone on a subway to a distant "choice" middle school would give any city parent reason to consider the suburbs.

Thomas S. Goodkind

New York, Dec. 27, 2005

The writer is a member of Community Board 1 and the P.S. 89 P.T.A.

multiple authors

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.