Limited Facts

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Dear Editor: I was disappointed in Ms. Enoch’s article in the March/April issue of Western Friend, “My Quest to Change the Education System.” I am a Quaker, who has served on local public school boards for over twenty-five years. Some of what she reported is misleading at best.

She starts off by saying, “A normal school day in a traditional public school is full of many issues that go against Quaker values.” Based on my experience, there is no such thing as a “normal school day” in a public school. She reports on her own experience (which she admits is limited) and a survey of 200 children that she conducted. We cannot tell whether these children are economically and racially reflective of the community. We don’t learn how many are from public schools or private ones. And she doesn’t say whether these students are only from the Denver area. Every school district, every school, and every classroom is unique. So her generalities give the wrong impression of public schools.

When she makes statements about “ineffective use of textbooks,” “students unconsciously taught to hate certain subjects,” “students losing their love of learning,” and “ineffective use of homework,” she doesn’t say whether she is speaking of her own experience or talking about the nation as a whole.

None of her observations match what I saw when I visited schools in districts where I was priviledged to serve on their boards. I felt particularly offended by her statement about “students unconsciously taught to hate certain subjects.” I do not believe that anyone teaches children to hate certain subjects. I find this to be a ridiculous statement with no substantiation.

A number of times, Ms. Enoch uses less than a majority percentage in her survey to make a point. For example, she says 43.2% of those who took the survey said they are not enjoying the use of textbooks; 38.3% felt discouraged or less smart if they got a bad grade; and 32% said that they did not think quizzes or tests are a good way to assess knowledge. Based on these statements, I would assume that the majority of students in these surveys do enjoy their textbooks, don’t feel discouraged by a bad grade, and do think that quizzes are good ways to assess knowledge.

There is one statistic Ms. Enochs failed to mention. The vast majority of parents, when surveyed, report that the schools their own children attend are wonderful. In the school district where I worked, 90% of the parents reported this view.

Teachers are constantly trying to improve their teaching skills and techniques by attending classes themselves. They work in a profession that requires them to pay for their own work expenses, only pays them for part of the year, and does not pay them what they are worth.

I wish Ms. Enochs had met with some teachers and perhaps some board members to get their perspectives. I feel she has done a great disservice by presenting limited facts.

– Gary Miller, Sacramento Friends Meeting (PYM)