Letters to the Editor
Michelle A. Mendez Contributions Assistant International Paper Company Foundation Purchase, N.Y. To the Editor:
In his recent Commentary ("Blue-Ribbon Panels Lack 'Moral Authority'," Feb. 22, 1989), Jonathan P. Sher dismisses businesses--and a long list of other participants in the school-reform debate--as having little to offer education.
As Mr. Sher states, it is indeed naive to view the current reform movement as a cure-all for public education's ills.
But this does not mean that corporate assistance to schools is merely a fad that will go the way of cod-liver oil and granola.
The author focuses on the recent rash of corporate activity, which has occured mainly in inner-city schools where educators themselves have had little success, to affirm that such efforts are doomed to fail.
He accuses the business world of making "token gestures" to take advantage of the publicity generated by the school-reform crusade.
But many businesses are genuinely committed to precollegiate education--and have been for some time.
International Paper, for example, has supported public schools for more than 30 years in communities across the nation where it operates major facilities.
During this time, we have not only "become familiar" with these schools, but have established solid relationships with them and gained some understanding of the challenges they face.
The International Paper Com4pany Foundation has awarded over $14 million to projects developed by teachers and administrators in the districts that participate in its Education and Community Resources program.
The program encourages schools to tap local resources, including those at International Paper, to enhance project activities, and the company encourages employees to volunteer in community schools. Several other corporations operate similar programs.
As critics correctly point out, one of the major problems with business-education partnerships is that business leaders sometimes attempt to set the agenda for reform.
But many businesses seek only to collaborate with educators in assisting the public-education system. Though business leaders may not be qualified to take the lead, they can be powerful allies as advocates and financiers of measures developed with educators.
Corporations are also invaluable sources of role models, mentors, equipment, and services.
Instead of attacking corporate leaders and other members of "blue-ribbon panels" on reform, educators should teach these newcomers more about the problems the schools face.
To be effective, the partnerships of reform's "third wave" must involve entire communities, including government and social-service agencies, colleges, civic leaders,8parents, and businesses.
As a result of the current crisis, these groups are eager to provide whatever assistance they can to the schools. It is educators' duty to grasp this golden opportunity.
Richard A. Gibboney Associate Professor of Education University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pa.
Three cheers for Jonathan P. Sher's luminous Commentary.
His essay is rare in educational discourse because it combines clarity with insight in a field where blandness and recipes for educational sweet cake are preferred for the most intractable problems.
I am worried, however, by his bringing in such unrecipe-like4subjects as "moral authority."
Heavens! How can a school system that has not yet discovered mind deal with something as fuzzy and old hat as moral authority?
I suggest that Mr. Sher do penance for his outburst by writing something more uplifting--and if he can buttress his comments with 100 selected studies from education research, so much the better.