To the Editor:
No one argues that there aren’t a number of American public schools providing the educationally enriching moments described by Mike Rose in his Oct. 11, 2006, Commentary “Grand Visions and Possible Lives.” But he does not address the scandalous number of schools where such moments never occur, where children are abused, day in and day out, because they are not educated.
Since Mr. Rose objects to the quality of the language used in our national debate, how would he suggest we handle it? What adjectives and verbs should we marshal to change these children’s educational experience? What actions should we take when even the mounting evidence of the persistent and pernicious achievement gaps that exist in this country doesn’t cause those schools to close, those adults to be held accountable, and those children to be rescued?
He lauds the public school as “a mass public endeavor” that “creates a citizenry.” But why must any children be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a particular ZIP code? Education could be publicly funded, but parents could also be free to choose which schools their children attend.
Those parents whose children enjoy the moments Mr. Rose describes can continue to send them to the schools that provide them. But those parents whose children never encounter such moments should have the right to find similar experiences for them in other venues.
Mr. Rose is trapped in the worldview of education as a public institution, run by the government, that must be given credit for what it does right and be helped to improve what it does wrong. That is precisely what we must change—it is not the institution we must transform, it is the lives of our children.
San Francisco, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2006 edition of Education Week as Not All Public Schools’ Moments Are Noteworthy