Education in the US: Private vs. Public

I must take a moment to commend the Monitor for the very important editorial, "Saving Public Education" (June 16). It was my public-education experience, not my private-education experience, that helped me understand the role of America's public-education system as having the greater responsibility of maintaining itself as the backbone of our democratic system. It works toward creating an inclusive common sense of American community and identity.

It is the charge of public education to provide a comprehensive curriculum that goes beyond "basics." Well-educated and trained teachers whose pay reflects the importance of their role in our children's lives, safe and well-maintained facilities, and cooperative, meaningful communication between all the stakeholders - this must be the norm.

Any effort that disregards and undermines these primary objectives compromises the competence of future American workers.

Americans already have a choice regarding education - to preserve public education and work toward substantive reform or not. Anything less than a renewed commitment to public education is a disgrace to the ideals and principles on which America was founded.

Bonnie O'Neill App

North Olmsted, Ohio

Why is the school voucher debate so polarized? I'm not an education authority except that I am educated, I am a parent, I am an employer, and I've used private, public, and home-schooling methods. I disagreed with most of the editorial "Saving Public Education."

First, do you really think public education is healthy in much of the nation? My experience in Spokane, Wash., says it is hardly excellent. Vouchers are seen as a threat because public education isn't competitive. Second, in my experience as a parent, public schooling educated my child less and spent much more doing it. Our public-school system didn't compare well to private institutions.

I agree with the ideal of the melting pot and a common experience in education. But it seems we are being asked to settle for less in a public education so that all our children can share the same opportunity. Isn't this the flaw in communism and socialism that failed its adherents?

The debate is too polarized. Vouchers are taken as a threat, a spoiling of the coffers, a violation of the very basis of our society's glue. But depending on how a specific law is crafted, voucher provisions can free money to the schools. A tax credit for my kids might only mean that 1/6th of my total public-school taxes come back to me. And the competitive nature of vouchers may be constructive. Do we think a monopoly of children's education is the optimum arrangement?

Steve Heinje

Spokane, Wash.

Holding world court

Both your editorial "Global Rules that Work" (June 17) and the article "World Court for War Criminals" (June 17), leave an impression that a way around US insistence on veto control of an international criminal court may be found in the Singapore Compromise. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council lose veto control under that compromise, however, which allows the Council to postpone or halt a case by a majority vote.

As a veteran, I am insulted by the US Defense Department's opposition to strengthening international law on the basis of an infinitesimal threat from an international criminal court to GIs. Who's deciding the Clinton administration's foreign policy, anyway? It's not supposed to be our court. The US should participate in real international law and support the Singapore proposal. Everyone's sons and daughters will be safer with an independent court.

David S. Eldredge

Lansdowne, Pa.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

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