Public or private schools: Does it make a difference?

Your May 10 article, "Public schools: Do they outperform private ones?" reviews a study that contradicts not only conventional wisdom, but discards all of the other statistical evidence like the proverbial baby with the bath water.

A large body of research from the Department of Education, the College Board, and the Educational Records Bureau, among many other research organizations, confirms that private-school students outperform public-school students by almost every measure, even when controlling for socioeconomic status.

But this narrow view fails to take into account the very different goals of public and private schools. The Lubienski study does a disservice to families and schools by implying that public schools are better overall for students than private schools are.

The real question is not which is better, public or private. The best school is the one that uniquely meets the needs of the individual child.
Patrick F. Bassett
President, National Association of Independent Schools

Looking beyond our own security issues

Regarding your May 19 editorial "Africa Can't Be a World Apart" about the lack of aid for African nations compared to the internaitonal aid provided for Asian nations for tsunami relief: No one should be surprised at America's lackluster response to the widespread genocide and starvation in sub-Saharan Africa. If a country or region is of no strategic importance to us - militarily or economically - it does not register on the radars of our government, press, or citizenry.

The people in that part of Africa are all desperately poor. Since they're neither potential terrorists nor potential customers, we are all too happy to keep them out of sight and put them out of mind.
Robert J. Inlow
Charlottesville, VA

Wal-Mart: What's the real bargain?

Regarding the May 16 article "Who profits from rock-bottom pricing?": As an economist with interests in Wal-Mart, I appreciated your story about the ethics of Wal-Mart's business model. You wisely noted that poor shoppers get more for their dollars at Wal-Mart, but that many of the poor employees end up receiving fewer dollars because Wal-Mart lowers the bar in terms of wages and benefits.

Two other influences on the poor are worth mentioning. First of all, Wal-Mart's ambitious price squeezing suppresses wages for manufacturers, farmers, wholesalers, distributors, and the like.

Second, low prices lead to overconsumption, resource depletion, and excessive pollution, and the lion's share of the burden falls on our beloved poor, whose homes tend to be the closest to the bellowing smokestacks that keep pace with our consumption.

Also, those earning low wages often must rely on taxpayer-funded healthcare among other forms of assistance.

In the end, Wal-Mart turns out to be no bargain.
David Anderson
Danville, Ky.

Unmentioned in the Wal-Mart piece was the continued shifting of manufacturing to communist China, facilitated by Wal-Mart's drive for cheaper and cheaper prices. As the Chinese economy heats up, it demands more imported oil, directly impacting our gasoline prices.

And then just what will happen when the Chinese government elects to retake Taiwan?

Do we then support our long time ally or go to war with the country making our children's toys and our patio sets?
Kevin Fitzpatrick
Florissant, Mo.

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