Public school supporters should walk their talk

"Don't automatically assume that private schools are superior."

Published May 30, 2000 7:57PM (EDT)

Making martyrs of our kids

I would agree with the writer, who dismisses the notion that parents who choose private school don't get to address the crises in public schooling.

However, we should not neglect for a second another part of this story: that the withdrawal of a large percentage of the middle class from public schools has deprived the public system of an army of advocates it desperately needs.

I live in the neighborhood Louis Freedberg writes about in his accompanying story on Wilson High School. In my D.C. ward, Ward 3, 65 percent of all school-age children attend private school. It is my belief that the schools would not be allowed to lurch forward in their current, troubled state if those highly educated, voting, civically engaged Ward 3 parents had more of a stake in the future of the schools.

That old saw, "I won't make a martyr out of my kid," allows white, middle and upper-middle class parents off the hook too easily. If more of their kids attended public schools, it wouldn't be considered "martyrdom" to do so.

-- R. A. Suarez

I feel like Foote Sweeney entirely misses the point. The reason public officials who send their children to private school are outed by the press is to highlight political hypocrisy. Perhaps the official has effectively abandoned the improvement of public schools as a policy issue, or talks a lot about the importance of public education while at the same time refusing to do what's necessary to fix our schools. Pointing out that a politician sends his kids to private school and comparing this personal decision with the politician's voting record is an effective way, I believe, for the public to learn who really does care about public schools, and who's just paying lip service.

Furthermore, asking politicians to explain why they say one thing and do another is a great way to force these people to stop making empty feel-good speeches and start talking frankly about what's wrong with schools and why.

-- Ameer Youssef

In "Making martyrs of our kids," Foote Sweeney looks down from her lofty perch and delivers this gem: "In fact, parents with kids in public school hardly have time for basic issues of survival." Huh? Basic survival? Of course parents of public-school students could never think about such issues in a manner as nuanced and contemplative as Foote Sweeney. Thank God we have her to dole out this Solomonic wisdom as we spend our days foraging for roots and berries, after we send our kids off for their Ebonics lessons.

It is the arrogance of such people which leads them to the notion that poor people cannot be trusted with the education of their children, and only people with more time on their hands like Foote Sweeney are in a position to do so. Unfortunately these decisions are leading to an increasingly illiterate, apathetic generation.

-- Scott D. Cosenza

My children attend a public school that is not in a particularly wealthy area and they are thriving. In fact, I don't think that they could do any better in a private school. My son goes into the sixth grade in September, at a magnet school, in the top one percent of the nation according to assessment tests. He was reading on a college level at the end of fourth grade. My daughter was singled out for gifted and talented classes in first grade. I guess that I could pay $15,000 per year, per child for private school, but what would be the point? A lot depends on the ability of the individual student.

A friend of mine worked at a Quaker school in an affluent neighborhood for several years. She taught basic Web design to fifth graders. When I told her that my son was designing his own Web page, she lent me a CD that she used in class. I gave it to him thinking that he would be blown away by it. After a couple of hours, I asked him if he was learning anything from it. His reply? "It's kind of basic, Dad. Let me show you what I've already done in HTML." And he proceeded to show me his page, which blew me away.

So please don't automatically assume that private schools are superior to public schools. If you school shop wisely, it is possible to find a high quality public education. A lot of people who think that they are buying the best education that money can buy are getting scammed. Public schools take everybody too, not just the lucky select few.

-- David Rupkey

In this emotionally charged issue of school choice, many times the reasons for sending children to private schools are overlooked. I happen to live in an excellent school district. Yet I choose to send my children to private school for religious reasons. This does not automatically mean I have to forfeit my right to have my say in the public school system. I still care about what goes on, and have just as much right as my neighbors to participate in decisions.

-- S. Kramp

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Today's letters:

Sound and fury By Arthur Allen

Sharps & Flats By Seth Mnookin

By Letters to the Editor

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