What do we actually expect from public education?

Letters to the Editor

October 19, 2010 — In his article “NYC student testing scandal: roots and reverberations” (Commentary, October 12th), Craig Gurian quotes Bob Dylan and asks:

“If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
who tied them and why and where must I have been?”

We tie our own hands. Bondage is self-inflicted. The problem is that we fail to recognize it as such. Too scared to look deep into the mirror, we tend to blame others. Politicians and administrators say, “If only we could get rid of tenure, our schools would be so much better”. Teachers say, “Standardized testing impedes real learning.” If only it was so simple.

I agree with Mr. Gurian. Before we point our fingers we must decide what we expect from public education. But who are the decision makers? The “wealthy and successful business executives” who want an educated work force? The politicians who claim our schools should ensure that the United States of America maintains its economic superiority? What is the role of parents who have their own set of dreams and expectations for their children? What about the involvement of developmental psychologists who understand the cognitive and emotional needs of children? What about the teachers who know the strengths and challenges of every student in their class? And when do we start listening to the children — their wants and needs?

All these stakeholders must be included in the discussion and each one must first look into the mirror, stop blaming others, and listen. Our kids are depending on us to reframe the debate.

Barbara C. Goodman (Arlington, Massachusetts)

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