Letters to the Editor
According to Mary Anne Raywid, my book Privatization and Educational Choice reveals me to be a frustrated, bitter, and disillusioned educational reformer whose publications coerce and manipulate readers ("A 'Reform Plan of Disillusionment,"' Books, Nov. 1, 1989).
I would like to make a few comments on Ms. Raywid's rationale for this bleak assessment.
According to the review, I see teachers as "major villains on the educational scene." In fact, the book repeatedly emphasizes that our major educational problems are problems with the system, not with people.
For example, the book states that "the subordination of the public interest to private interests must be viewed as a systems problem."
And "any differences in conduct between the professions and business," I write, "are due to occupational structure and culture, not personality factors."
Despite my emphasis on systems, Ms. Raywid contends that "few critics have topped Mr. Lieberman in their contempt for educators. Public-school teachers, he says, 'exploit pupils for their own welfare.' They 'support student interests when it is in the teachers' interests to do so, but not otherwise."'
Since Ms. Raywid relies partly on my 1986 book, Beyond Public Education, to divine my views, let me quote from it: "My point is not to characterize public-school teachers as unduly self-seeking. Their pretensions to moral superiority and greater interest in the welfare of children are often insufferable. Still, as a group, they are no more self-seeking than any other in society. ..."
"In any event," the book continues, "the problems of exploitation arise regardless of whether schools are public, private and nonprofit, or private and profitmaking."
Ms. Raywid writes that "one comes away with a feeling of having been coerced and manipulated" because of "the author's particular combination of carefully supported assertions, unsupported stipulations, and omissions."
I plead guilty to making carefully supported assertions, but not to the rest of her indictment.
Regrettably, Ms. Raywid does not cite a single "unsupported stipulation."
The only omission she cites relates to public-school choice: She asserts that my book "ignores all the evidence from places where it is working." Unfortunately, Ms. Raywid apparently does not understand the distinction between ignoring evidence and having a low opinion of it.
At any rate, the evidence, such as it is, is cited extensively. These references include an article by Ms. Raywid endorsing public-school choice as a significant, proven reform.
Ms. Raywid would have shown more candor if she had prefaced her review with the following warning: "If Mr. Lieberman's views on public-school choice are valid, much of what I have written about it is worthless. You should decide for8yourself whether this possibility has affected my review."
I appreciate your decision to have the book reviewed. But I would appreciate it even more if you had selected a reviewer who reviewed the book, not a mangled version of it.
Myron Lieberman Washington, D.C. To the Editor:
Hallelujah! Mary V. Bicouvaris hit the bull's-eye with her Commentary ("Commitment of 'Public' Vital for Education," Oct. 11, 1989).
I have long wondered if others had not considered why American achievement-test scores have declined in recent years, as well as why our students do not produce results comparable to those of other nations.
Ms. Bicouvaris has pointed out the awful truth: The United States is one of the few nations, if not the only one, to attempt the education of all children--and to faithfully report their test scores.
Since this factor is hardly a military secret, one must wonder why it is so rarely mentioned--and why the constant criticisms of our education system are not balanced with such an explanation.
Ms. Bicouvaris is also correct that the American public would not tolerate the methods used by other countries to produce an educated elite, and that it does not appear willing to provide the time and devotion necessary to foster educational excellence in its own children.
Since it is unlikely that American education will be restructured to mirror that of other countries, the solution is twofold: We must accept the fact that public education as we know it will never produce high test averages, and we must dedicate ourselves, on a national level, to providing the best education possible for all citizens.
The media would serve the public interest far better by supporting than by deriding our efforts.
Michael B. Young Principal Bruce Elementary School Bruce, Miss. To the Editor:
Educators in our school district read your report "After Two Tough Years in Rochester, School Reformers Look to the Future" (Oct. 18, 1989) with both insight and identification regarding the challenges and realities of reform.
In our district, exploration of reform began eight years ago; implementation has started in the last three. The lengthy period of study and communitywide discussion established a necessary foundation for action, but it did not reduce the turbulence that change engenders.
Reforms we are enacting include: outcome-based education; site-based management; staff development through teacher involvement in mentoring, peer groups, and coaching; yearlong internships for 5th-year education students; partnerships with teacher-training institutions; and parent involvement in preschool con4ferencing to develop learning plans.
Underlying our reforms is an assumption that education can and must use existing resources more effectively.
We were recently named a National Education Association "learning laboratory."
Our experience is providing information for other would-be reformers.
Although we are a rural-suburban district of 4,000 students, we mirror the dynamics of change in Rochester and confirm that district's experience that change is a fragile, evolutionary, and exhilarating process.
In learning what it takes to transform schools, we all need to help each other.
Betsy Bralts Research and Development Coordinator Chaska Public Schools Chaska, Minn.