Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

March 21, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

First, let me thank Louisa C. Spencer for volunteering her time to tutor children in New York City schools (“Two Views of District 2: Progressivism’s Hidden Failure,” Commentary, Feb. 28, 2001). We need more folks who are willing to assist our work in making public schools the best they can be.

To the Editor:

First, let me thank Louisa C. Spencer for volunteering her time to tutor children in New York City schools (“Two Views of District 2: Progressivism’s Hidden Failure,” Commentary, Feb. 28, 2001). We need more folks who are willing to assist our work in making public schools the best they can be.

But let me also say that I am concerned that Ms. Spencer seems to think her volunteer status gives her the knowledge and authority to critique the school in which she works. Everyone who’s gone to school seems to think they have expertise about schooling. They don’t. This can be seen in Ms. Spencer’s arguments against progressive/constructivist approaches to literacy education. They lack evidence, other than the vague references she provides to “rigorous experimental research.” And I wonder what the ellipses she inserts in her long quotation from Howard Gardner’s work would reveal if the excerpt had been quoted in its entirety.

I am much more troubled, however, by the language she uses to describe the children she is supposedly helping: “deprived,” “disadvantaged,” and “underprivileged.” This language reveals much about what she knows and does not know and what she believes:

•All of these words blame students for who they are.

•None of them value what students know and can do.

•None shows any knowledge and awareness of critical and/or political understandings of educating.

•All hide an invidious comparison to the dominant (read white, middle-class) cultural model of school and learning.

•None gives evidence of taking any responsibility for creating school contexts that are characterized by institutional racism and classism.

Before anyone takes on the role of critic, they would be wise to educate themselves to better understand not only what is going on in schools, but why.

Nancy Lester

Associate Professor

Literacy Education

Medgar Evers College

City University of New York

Brooklyn, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Louisa C. Spencer, whose Commentary criticized the so-called “progressive” educational policies of Manhattan’s District 2, was identified as a member of Learning Leaders, a citywide school volunteer organization in New York City. Ms. Spencer is a volunteer, not a member of our board of directors.

There are 9,500 Learning Leaders volunteers throughout the city, and it is a fair bet that each one of them has a distinct opinion about which educational strategies work best. We respect Ms. Spencer’s right to express her views, but wish to note that they are not those of our organization, and that there are many volunteers in District 2 who would strongly disagree.

Carol Kellermann

Executive Director

Learning Leaders

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 2001 edition of Education Week as Letters

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 13, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: February 21, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read