Education Letter to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

March 01, 1989 2 min read

If only we would fire our superintendents, disband our local school boards, develop a national curriculum, and recognize that most schools don’t have enough professionals who care to change or “have what it takes,” we could soon get on with the business of educational reform.

Or so Chester E. Finn Jr. seems to be saying (“Questioning ‘Cliches’ of Education Reform,” Commentary, Jan. 25, 1989).

He grants that there are some vexing problems: a growing underclass and the need for better testing procedures, for example.

But we need not fear, for Mr. Finn would have us apply an expanded dose of the classics and bring the machinations of politics to bear on issues of educational reform.

That such an otherwise thoughtful critic as Mr. Finn would reduce the complex prob4lems facing American education to such predictable bromides suggests that it is his own beliefs that may more accurately be portrayed as cliches.

George E. Taylor Superintendent Quakertown Community School District Quakertown, Pa.

Chester E. Finn Jr.'s Commentary, “Questioning ‘Cliches’ of Education Reform,” ironically is laden with its own cliches.

The following examples are drawn from his essay:

“Holding individual schools to account for their performance is a good idea";

“The education system, we’ve learned, is not self-correcting";

“Some means are required to find out whether students have actually learned what the education system sought to teach them. Or else there is no accountability";

“Yes, a few needed changes will demand still more money.”

Unlike the cliches that Mr. Finn isolates in his essay, this small sample generates little controversy and little insight, which brings me to my central point: Perhaps a cliche would not be a cliche if there weren’t some truth to it.

I know, I know, that’s a cliche. Still, readers would do well to go back to Mr. Finn’s essay and question whether his intention was to debunk a litany of cliches or simply detonate principled views not conforming with his vision of the educational universe.

Peter S. Hlebowitsh Assistant Professor of Education Long Island University Brookville, N.Y. To the Editor:

I was amused by your recent item on “Dismantling the U.S. Education Department--Yes and No,” which identified the Heritage Foundation as “a source of dismantling idea” (“Assessing Reagan’s Legacy: Gains and Losses?,” Commentary, Jan. 18, 1989).

For the record, let me quote from the Heritage Foundation’s policy blueprint, Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration:

“The Department of Education can be reduced in size and budget and its relation to state and local education authorities can become supportive rather than interventionist. ... In principle, the Department of Education should be abolished as a Cabinet department. But the authors of this report take the position that the status of the agency as a Cabinet department is less critical to a new administration than the overhaul of federal education policy.”

Nowhere does the report--generally regarded as the bible of the Reagan Administration--suggest dismantling the department.

Perhaps the editors of Education Week need a course in remedial reading?

Herb B. Berkowitz Vice President The Heritage Foundation Washington, D.C. Editor’s note: Interested readers will find detailed reports on the Reagan Administration’s plans and the Heritage Foundation’s role in Volume I of Education Week, Sept. 7, Sept. 28, and Oct. 5, 1981.

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 1989 edition of Education Week as Letters To The Editor