To the editor:
Ms. Mac Donald would rid CUNY of Marxists and professors of gender studies. But harsh cuts have little to do with the elimination of courses one might not like; in reality, such cuts create chaos.
Barbara Probst Solomon
To the editor:
First, a reality check. Our colleges are staffed, currently, with approximately 5,300 full-time and about 8,000 adjunct facultyserving 200,000 students. A generation ago, that number of students encountered double the number of full-timers. This hardly can be characterized as a bureaucratic boondoggle.
Second, following nearly a decade of budget cuts, about 70 percent of students now attend as part-timers at some point in their careers. Thousands of our students come from families with annual incomes of around $15,000. Sixty percent are women and the majority of them are parents; nearly as many are minorities from miserably equipped inner-city schools. Approximately 23,000 are on welfare.
CUNY graduates match every national profile for two-and four-year students, a fact Ms. Mac Donald ignores. She should look at where these graduates get hired, and at what kind of income they enjoy. CUNY still turns out more Ph.D.s than any Ivy League school in the country.
To attack students who take eight years for a baccalaureate degree is to attack people who are heroes of their own lives. And if a young, privileged, intelligent woman cannot understand that, she is patently uneducable. Her mean-spirited critique leads most CUNY readers to conclude that she is more interested in exclusion than serious discussion.
In the last decades that she so trivializes, a middle class made up of African-Americans and Hispanics has emerged for the first time in U.S. history. In these same years, a significant proportion of working-class "white ethnics" entered CUNY. The alumni of these decades help form New York's various professional cadresincluding over half of the black and Hispanic caucuses of the State Legislature. Ms. Mac Donald is trouncing a social transformation and branding its beneficiaries as substandard. Most people would consider this to be racist.
Sandi E. Cooper Chair
Heather Mac Donald responds:
The closest she comes to asserting that all is academically sound at CUNY is to invoke the earnings of its graduatesanother irrelevancy. At what cost was that boost achievedmeasured in numbers of students who dropped out, in the expense of remediation, and in lost opportunity for greater excellence?
Undoubtedly, nothing will convince Professor Cooper that I am not a white supremacist, but I can assure her that the entry of "white ethnics" to CUNY changes my view of open admissions not a whit. But since we're throwing around the epithet "racist" so freely, I would use it for Professor Cooper's implication that blacks and Hispanics can enter CUNY only if it waives the requirement that they know how to read and write.
I am delighted to learn from Professor Solomon that students in City's graduate writing program are well-versed in the classics. City's undergraduate priorities, however, are not so clear. While the undergraduate English program this spring offered 20 literature courses (including courses in black English and contemporary Latino literature), the black studies department offered 32 courses on such topics as Malcolm X and black revolution. Add to that 11 offerings in women's studies, and you have over twice the offerings of the already multicultural English department. Would I like to eliminate such identity-based trivialities? You bet. Would doing so constitute "harsh cuts"? Only if identity scholarship has become the core mission of City.
To the editor:
For example, public school choice and charter-type public schools are widespread in New York Citywith support from the United Federation of Teachersfrom East Harlem's District 4 to our high schools, which represent the largest choice program in the nation.
Mr. Stern is wrong about the union's padding payrolls. It was UFT monitoring that helped move education dollars from district and central offices into classrooms, where they belong. And it was our contract that finally stopped principals from using valuable teacher time for administrative tasks so they could spend more time on professional activities.
His cost analysis is deeply flawed: the most successful suburban school districts in New York State spend almost double the city's $8,500 per student. City teachers earn considerably less than their colleagues in neighboring suburbsand far less than they deserve.
Vouchers are another matter. Numerous school systems around the world seem to do better than oursand not one credits that success to vouchers for private schools, and every one has a strong teacher union. What accounts for the success of schools in Japan, Germany, and elsewhere? High academic standards, orderly classrooms, a clear curriculum, well-prepared teachers, student accountability, and parental backing at home. These are the proven ingredients of schools that work, whether they are public or parochial schools, urban or suburban, here or abroad. Unfortunately, for decades American public schools demanded too little of students. Now that many school systems are raising standards, students are starting to do better.
Moreover, the UFT's contract flexibility allows schools to waive work rules that block educational strategies they want to try; it supports extra pay for objectively determined merit, such as earning national board certification and additional academic achievements, not just seniority; and it invites schools to form personnel committees to hire staff based on qualifications. Seniority is not the only factor in hiring. Service requirements for teachers who want to transfer are virtually gone. No teacher has a "lifetime job guarantee." Tenure ensures only a fair hearing before dismissal. And the UFT helped turn dozens of low-performing schools around by backing changes in leadership and staff, strengthening instructional programs, and providing staff development.
Inner-city parents want what all parents want for their childrenthe best education possible. But even a generous voucher program would help just a handful of inner-city children. Only the public schools hold out hope for all our 1.1 million youngsters.
Sol Stern responds:
Unfortunately for the city's kids, it's pure union propaganda. Let's count the ways. School autonomy and charter schools: more than a decade after the creation of the so-called new-vision schools in New York City, the UFT does not even recognize many of them as independent schools with their own union chapters. If the union wanted charter schools with real autonomy, New York State would have long since had such schools. Incompetent teachers: the "due process" procedures for removing incompetent teachers remain so convoluted that school boards throughout the state have mostly given up. Only a handful of the state's 100,000 public school teachers get dismissed for incompetence in a given year: out of the 154 disciplinary cases opened in 1994-95, for instance, only six ended with dismissal by 1997.
Merit pay: the contention that giving teachers more money for taking courses is a form of merit pay is laughable. Taking a useless ed-school course does not make a better classroom teacher (See "Why Johnny's Teacher Can't Teach," page 14). These extra courses just fatten the coffers of the ed schools and the UFT (which also offers them). Seniority: of course, seniority is "not the only factor in hiring." I never said it was. But the city's principals must often hire teachers they don't wantand whom the school's parents don't wantmerely because they've got greater seniority; also, principals frequently have to "bump" excellent young teachers solely because they lack seniority.
Weingarten doesn't think that $8,500 per pupil is enough. But how do the Catholic schools manage to do a better job with less than half that amount? All the more successful countries she mentions spend far less on education than New York does. True, these countries have strong teacher unions. But they also allow families to send their children to religious schools at public expense. In other words, they have, in effect, a voucher system.
The Real Welfare Problem
To the editor:
Ms. Mac Donald doesn't mention the relationship between a welfare system that makes single parenthood a requirement of eligibility and the breakdown of the two-parent family. It was the author's ideological forebears who spawned a system based on the notion of the "deserving poor"a single mom and her childrenso it is no wonder she seeks to expurgate it. Nor does she discuss the need for expanding education in family planning. Instead, she assumes teenage pregnancy results from the knowledge that welfare will cover the tab. But facts get in the way of her assumptions. Western European nations with more generous public assistance benefits than New York have lower rates of adolescent pregnancy.
The author dismisses the notion that there is any relationship between jobs and marriage, and implies that there are plenty of jobs for anyone who wants one. But last year New York had net employment growth of 54,000, enough jobs for just a fraction of those in the city's workfare program.
One of Ms. Mac Donald's remedies for deterring out-of-wedlock births is to give preference to two-parent families seeking public assistance. But this is simplistic. Her desire to stigmatize single parents is apparently more important to her than the quality of the family's life together. She wants two-parent families, without complications, so let's just keep distress in the family, behind closed doors.
Ms. Mac Donald's central premise is that the poor must take responsibility for their own lives. Certainly, taking responsibility is part of the process for many in the effort to break long-term poverty. So, too, is ensuring that people have access to education, child care, and job training.
Emily Menlo Marks
Heather Mac Donald responds:
The claim that more sex education will reduce teen pregnancy is absurd (See "Sex Ed's Dead End," page 46). Teens already know all they need to know about sex and contraception; what they don't know is how to redirect themselves to more positive activities. Schools should relentlessly focus students' attention on academic pursuits rather than wasting time on condom courses.
Europe does have far more extensive welfare programs than the United States, largely targeted at the middle class. These programs subsidize idleness generally, not illegitimacy in particular, and so have produced the expected economic stagnation. That the European family has only recently started to disintegrate is testimony to Europe's more traditional family values. But the disintegration, now that it has begun, is proceeding rapidly.
I didn't dismiss possible connections between the marriage rate and the job rate, but rather the notion that the fertility rate should be independent of both. Ms. Marks refuses to explain why women should feel free to have children at the state's expense with no breadwinner in sight.
Domestic abuse has become an excuse for illegitimacy. While there are obviously cases where a wife must leave her husband, they don't begin to explain the massive out-of-wedlock birthrate. If a man is so unsuited to domestic responsibilities, why is the woman having his child? Ms. Marks's letter confirms what I said about her originally: she regards unwed single parenting as a given, with marriage a mere option when conditions permit. To end illegitimacy, social service providers, along with the rest of society, need to state unequivocally that having a child out of wedlock is irresponsible and immoral. Ms. Marks does not seem ready to do so.
To the editor:
It is important to correct the mistaken impression that this chess program in a public school was paid for in any way by public money, since that school has been traditionally starved for funds. For example, this public intermediate school with the highest reading scores in the city has no auditorium, no regular gymnasium, anduntil HEAF marshaled the necessary private fundsnot even any outdoor playground.
Mott Hall today has a fine record of high school admissions, but virtually no one from Mott Hall had ever gained admission to Stuyvesant High School until HEAF began its test-preparation program; today nearly a dozen students a year routinely enter there, and many dozens more move into Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and other top schools. HEAF's Support Net then follows them into such colleges as Yale and Columbia.
Mott Hall's remarkable principal, Miriam Acosta-Sing, and her wonderful staff are producing miracles.
To the editor:
To the editor:
Edward R. Potter
Jonathan Foreman responds: