Letters to the Editor:

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

I guess I would resent Edmund Janko's pejorative metaphor--"Blue Smoke and Mirrors" [Commentary, Oct. 5]--to explain the success of private schools if it were not so tired.

No responsible private school would attribute its success to magic, just common sense. The vignette of the red tape that a public school must go through to rid itself of this kind of student made outrageous but familiar reading. No school should have to put up with this.

Why don't administrators like Mr. Janko and leaders of teachers' unions rechannel some of their venom toward the due-process legislation that has caused this disciplinary chaos in the public schools? Instead, they act as if the responses (private schools) to these problems7lwere the causes.

Also, his article seems to imply that this magical success is due to the elimination of discipline problems. I think research will show that parents are more concerned about academic output; they are often willing to ignore the hall problems if the classroom results are relatively unaffected.

But even such common-sense educational practices as achievement-grouped classes are under attack, forcing all but the most talented teachers (a diminishing group) to "aim for the middle" thus failing both to challenge the bright and provide remedial help for the struggling. Except in cases where grouping results in disparate racial composition, this lack of grouping cannot be blamed on the courts.

If by the end of this decade these fundamental changes do not begin to take place, public schools will indeed be places only for those unable to afford alternatives--tax credits/vouchers or not.

Kenneth M. Weinig Headmaster The Independence School Newark, Del.

To the Editor:

After reading the "The Magical Success of Private Schools," I had the feeling that Mr. Janko is somewhat cynical about Catholic education. To say that schools expel students as a way of making themselves look good and the nearby public school look bad is to give very little credit for good will to those who administer these schools.

It struck me that "St. Cuthbert's" had put up with Alphonse for three years. If they were anything like his fourth that should say something for the Catholic school.

It could be that there are certain students who do not belong in school! Perhaps there should be an3other option for dear Al!

Please don't blame the Catholic school system for the fact that there are no viable options for some students. Considering the cost per-pupil expenditure in public schools there might be some special program or support services not available to Catholic schools which could help Al. If I as a Catholic-school principal had over $3,000 per student instead of $800, I would be glad to give Al a chance in my school.

I do not think that many Catholic school principals are dumping students. In my case it costs me a loss of tuition in hard times. I also know that we do not blame the public schools because of their failures with students like Al.

Mr. Janko might be interested to know that a public school adminis-trator called to ask me to accept a student they could not deal with. He was truant over 20 times and he felt we could perhaps check on him more easily in our small school. We accepted him and he was later expelled by us for truancy. Who to blame?

Brother Robert B. McNamara, C.F.C. Principal Blessed Sacrament High School New Rochelle, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I understand that your editorial page takes no position. However, I think publishing material like Edmund Janko's article does no one a service. I could tell a number of horror stories about John Q. Public School Jr., who came to our school and continually stumbled over his problems. Sometimes we have straightened them out and sometimes we haven't.

The issue in today's marketplace is really quality of all education. The problem of "quality of education" cannot be addressed by ideological diatribes. I've seen much in the press of public vs. private that misses the issue totally. The issue has to be, "How can we provide the best possible education for all of our children in one of the richest countries in the world?"

There is no doubt in most people's6minds that the educational establishment in the next 20 years is going to have to be restructured and that the fabric of the new educational structure inevitably will look dif-ferent than it does now. To cloud the issues with paper tigers such as public vs. private, black vs. white, rich vs. poor serves only to shroud us all in our own "blue smoke and mirrors." Please let us have clarity of thought. Let's have it focus on the development of the educational quality to which each child and teacher basically aspires.

Leslie I. Larsen, Jr. Headmaster The Bush School Seattle, Wash.

To the Editor:

"The Magical Success of Private Schools: It's Mostly Blue Smoke and Mirrors" strikes me as an extraordinarily poorly conceived put-down of private schooling. To present fictional characters and situations using semi-humorous names and incidents and to suggest that this scenario represents either the problem faced by public schools or some secret advantage which accrues to private schools is ridiculous.

It might be of interest to your readers to know that working with students who don't "fit" in a particular school situation can be as much a responsibility of private schools as public schools. Quite aside from religious considerations, children are often enrolled in private schools because they cannot or do not work well in a public-school setting--too little attention, too many distractions, lack of academic challenge, disabilities of one kind or another, disruptive behavior--I have seen them all.

Frequently these students and/or their parents have been counseled by public school teachers and principals to seek a private-school situation which may reduce or eliminate a problem which the student has encountered in the public school.

Private schools do not use or need blue smoke or mirrors to accomplish their task. Their "secret" is teachers who work hard, set and insist on high standards, and care deeply about children in their charge. Not surprisingly, the very same secret works just as well in public schools.

Educational "free choice" is often advocated by those who support tuition tax credits or voucher plans. Is it unreasonable to suggest that more--if not all--families should be in a position to exercise the right to enroll their children in a private school if, for some reason, the public-school system that they are obliged to support through tax payments is not able to meet their individual needs?

Frederic W.T. Rhinelander St. John's Parish School Olney, Md.

Vol. 01, Issue 08

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories