Gauging the value of school boards

In reply to Chester Finn's rejection of local school boards as reported in "School boards: Democratic ideal or a troubled anachronism?" (Oct. 21), I would say, as a longtime board member and researcher of board behavior, that without school boards there would be taxation without representation, management without governance, implementation without accountability, politicization without public good, and polarization without any remedy but greater coercion.

In short, eliminating the institution of the local board would be a cure worse than the disease, a nostrum for nothing, a panacea only for those who dislike the disorderliness of democracy, but not for civics and citizenship.

With all their faults and alleged meddling, school boards are an essential and vital institution that helps keep education society-centered rather than state-centered, thereby reinforcing republican democracy, individual supremacy, cultural diversity, problem-solving creativity, civic commitment and voluntary cooperation, and reciprocity of the public-private relationship or social contract.
T. Allen Lambert
Albany, N.Y.Education Administration & Policy Studies, State University of New York, Albany

School boards tend to become dependent on the superintendents they hire. And quite naturally. It would not be all that different to elect the pharmacist down the street, the housewife next door, or the retail clerk from the mall to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The educational jargon, the mandates, and the curriculum issues are so far beyond the experience and competence of even the most knowledgeable "civilian" school-board members that they have to rely on the superintendent and his underlings to explain the issues. School boards are an anachronism. They make no sense today. It would be far better to let educators run schools and let parents - who certainly are experts on their own children - pick the schools that best suit their children's needs.
Tom Shuford
Lenoir, N.C.Retired public school teacher

Is US painting or building a rosier Iraq?

In "Progress exceeds prognostication in Iraq" (Oct. 20 Opinion), Karl Zinsmeister cynically notes that prewar concerns about casualties and destabilization never came to pass, but fails to mention that we invaded without sufficient troops, allies, or a postwar plan. Nor does he mention unpleasantries like the epidemic of shootings, homicides, kidnappings and sexual assaults, which are occurring at levels unknown before the war. Women cannot safely leave their homes after dark; a member of the Iraqi Governing Council has been assassinated; the UN withdrew after its envoy was murdered in a devastating suicide bombing. And US soldiers are killed and wounded almost daily.

Mr. Zinsmeister seems unaware that we didn't invade Iraq to rebuild its schools and reform its media; we were told Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat and that he was working in partnership with Al Qaeda. His rosy portrait seems like a calculated PR salvo in the Bush administration's latest spin.
Frank Campagna

Karl Zinsmeister's article is a breath of fresh air amid the gloom, doom, and persistent negativity of the general media. Traditionally, it seems, the media ignores or plays down all the good that is happening in our world. One day, history will record that the currently detrimental criticism of President Bush was wrong, since it was he who turned the tide for the better in the Middle East.
Ruth Lowry
Marshfield, Vt.

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