Parents have no duty to support schools that fail I...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 17, 2000

Parents have no duty to support schools that fail

I read Jane Murphy's eloquent essay on public vs. private education with deeply mixed feelings ("Improve the city, send your kids to its schools," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 10).

As the parent of a public school student I, too, believe in public schools that strengthen and sustain neighborhoods. That's something private schools usually can't do, given their far-flung support.

I also believe that, in an ideal world, children who are black or white, rich or poor, would be greatly enriched by attending public school together.

Only a tiny handful of city schools meet both these attractive criteria -- and parents should consider seeking them out.

However, on the whole, the Baltimore City public school system has failed parents miserably. Baltimore does not recruit or pay for the best teachers or principals, and does not invest adequately in buildings or materials.

So it isn't quite fair to blame middle-class flight from city schools on parents who value self-interest over civic duty.

Who could blame parents for choosing excellence over mediocrity (or worse) if they are able? The school system's problems are too deep and complex to be solved by conscientious parents alone.

While I would like all parents to keep an open mind about public education, until our school system clearly demonstrates it has something really good to offer, I would not expect many parents to return to it.

Amy Bernstein

Baltimore

Jane Murphy's column, "Improve the city, send your kids to its schools" was long on philosophy and good intentions, but short on reality and common sense.

Baltimore public schools, like most inner-city public are short on funds, low on morale, have low expectations of their students and can be dangerous.

Parents won't put their children in that environment if they don't have to. If a parent can afford a private school, where the system holds itself and its students accountable, that is where the child will be.

Until the public schools raise standards for everyone, especially students, they will continue their downward spiral.

Eric Daughtry

Baltimore

By any measure, Baltimore City public schools are a total disaster. What parent would sacrifice his or her children to such schools, in the name of "civic duty," as Jane Murphy suggests?

Professor Murphy admits that some of her four children attend private schools. Mayor Martin O'Malley's kids attend private schools also.

In fact, almost all Baltimore parents who can afford to do so send their kids to private schools, because their children's lives are too precious to risk for "civic improvement."

If the Murphys and O'Malleys won't subject their children to Baltimore's public schools, why do "civic improvers" expect others to put their kids through schools that are complete failures?

Michael Holden

Chestertown

New leader won't fix a broken school system

The city is about to begin searching (again) for someone to lead our public school system. Are we looking for a hero -- a knight in shining armor who makes the world right?

Why ignore the fact that our system may be the problem?

The city schools hire intelligent, experienced people, but expect them to operate within an antiquated, ineffective system. Let's figure out what's wrong with the schools by asking: Why do we do what we do? Why do we do it the way we do?

Investigating the answers involves questioning the rules and assumptions that drive schools' work processes.

Teacher workshops, computers in classrooms, school-based governance and alternative schools are piecemeal fixes that cannot have a positive impact without consideration of how they interact with each other.

We need to recognize the complexities of current issues surrounding education as a social system that interacts with other social systems in a changing society.

James L. Minter

Baltimore

O'Malley was wrong; but so was The Sun . . .

I strongly agree with The Sun on the mayor's removal of Edward Brody from the school board ("O'Malley's pettiness shines through again," editorial, Jan. 5).

Mr. O'Malley's action was indeed unfortunate. However, the inflammatory tone and choice of words in that editorial was even more unfortunate.

The Sun's aim was presumably to change the mayor's approach, but the result will likely be that the mayor will be less willing to listen to recommendations The Sun makes in the future.

That will be to the city's detriment, because The Sun has a strong record of research and good recommendations for the benefit of Baltimore.

P. David Wilson

Baltimore

. . . or was the editorial just mean and petty?

Mayor Martin O'Malley's Jan. 6 response to The Sun's editorial "O'Malley's pettiness shines through again" (Jan. 5) was an appropriate answer to a silly accusation.

Apparently, The Sun feels that Mr. O'Malley is the first mayor in Baltimore's history to rid his administration of a political adversary.

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