Suffer the Little Puffins
To perpetuate Tony Kushner’s Puffin Prize, fondness for funny fowl and tilt toward alliteration, he might endow a Distinguished Dodo lectureship. Congratulations on being a creative citizen! [“On Puffins and Presidents,” Jan. 30].
New England’s PB: Beats Leaf-Peeping!
I read Gabriel Hetland’s “Grassroots Democracy in Venezuela” [Jan. 30] with a sense of déjà vu. Here in New England, we’ve been practicing participatory budgeting (PB) for nearly 400 years. We call it “town meeting.” In most New England towns, residents assemble once a year to vote on the budget—everything from cemetery care and streetlights to asphalt, senior housing and snow removal. So the true origin of PB is up here in the Northeast. It is ironic that Milwaukee, Chicago and Oakland, among other cities discussed by Hetland, must learn about PB from Venezuela rather than from US states and towns. I encourage those in the US PB movement to save the intercontinental airfare and head to New England in the spring. Town meeting is more entertaining than the autumn leaves, and we could sure use the tourist revenue!
Schools for the Poor Are Poor Schools
There is no doubt that President Obama made a serious mistake when he chose Arne Duncan over Linda Darling-Hammond to be his education secretary. Unlike Duncan, who arrived late to the conclusion that No Child Left Behind is a “broken” law, Darling-Hammond always knew it and correctly analyzes its failures in “Redlining Our Schools” [Jan. 30].
Except for the stipulation that teachers must be highly prepared and qualified, there is little to salvage from the disastrous NCLB. Congress would be wise to take Darling-Hammond’s suggestions, unless it is committed to the deconstruction and privatization of our public schools. That would indeed be an American tragedy.
GLORIA C. ENDRES
Hooray for Linda Darling-Hammond blowing the whistle on the Obama administration’s misguided policies to turn around “failing schools.” The proposition that schools that educate only children from very poor families can be transformed by firing the principal and most of the teachers aims at the wrong target.
That said, progressives err in acting like they know how to solve the problem of deep poverty. Of course we need a stronger safety net and more effective jobs and housing programs, as Darling-Hammond notes. But stick to the issue: what to do with “poverty only” schools. Concentrated poverty is the problem. Public schools are the only institutions certain to touch the lives of very poor children. So, stop with the jobs and housing suggestions and focus on what needs to change with educational policies and practices.