My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My New York Times Letter: 8-22-09

So, I know I've pushed hard on what I think could be better about the Amherst public schools (and I share the superintendent's belief that our schools are NOT living up to their potential), but after reading an article in the New York Times (8-18-09) on people paying $450 an hour for coaching on getting their children into private school in New York City, I was moved to write a letter to the paper praising the joys of public education, which appeared in today's issue. And for those who are still waiting -- my blog posting on Tuesday's SC meeting will appear tomorrow (Sunday) -- it's been a busy week, hence the delay!

To the Editor:

As a mother of three who lives in a small New England college town, I am writing to express my appreciation for the column.

I sometimes regret that my children miss out on the excitement of New York City living — museums, theater, music, restaurants. But learning about what will undoubtedly be a very successful business (charging parents $450 an hour for advice on getting their child into kindergarten) gives me a new appreciation for the joys of small-town living — like enrolling my children in our local public schools without having to take a standardized test or interview with the principal.

Catherine Sanderson
Amherst, Mass., Aug. 18, 2009

The writer is a professor of psychology at Amherst College and a member of the school board in Amherst.


annfmcl said...

Wow, Catherine! Isn't that your second published letter to the NYT within the last year or so? Impressive!--Ann McLaughlin

abbie said...

Are you sure it's your kids that miss out on "museums, theater, music, restaurants?" My kid would run as fast as she could to avoid those activities...

Yet another example of diversity.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Ann - yes, indeed ... and both were relevant to my SC service (the first was on how we should stand up during meetings to make them shorter!). I guess my SC service is having all sorts of unintended benefits.

Abbie - well, after spending hours upon hours with my kids at the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) and the ballet (New York), I would have to say my kids enjoy at least some of these immensely (maybe the restaurant thing is just me?!?).

Anonymous said...

Museums,theatre, music, restaurants?? You speak a foreign language to the average family here in Amherst....I mean really--this is a fine example of the class difference--the extreme gap in the classes growing ever wider...
All that aside congratulations for being published in the New York Times.

Ed said...

$450/hour to advise parents how to get their kids into kindergarten? Maybe this Maine boy is from a different reality, but there are parents who PAY this? That is at least twice what people where I am from pay their *lawyers* to keep them out of jail!

It also speaks volumes to the need of a public school system that has a place for excellence. My guess is that the NY City Public schools don't - and that these private schools become a necessity, not option.

But as to the question about what Ed would do about the South Amherst problem (although it isn't just there) and the parents-from-hell whose children fail in our schools -- yes, I know a sarcastic question, but I will answer it seriously:

Maybe it is time for parents to be advised how to get their kids into kindergarten. Not at $450/hour but for free as a public outreach sponsored by the churches or the social clubs or the school or (heaven forbid) the housing authority. Maybe as a 501(c)3, whatever...

In their own way, these single mothers (and face it, THAT is part of the problem) care about their children and probably have never been told that "you shouldn't write on the walls because your children will emulate it" or "a man who loves you doesn't make you store his guns & drugs for him - exposing you to criminal charges."

Or even the most basic: "don't smoke dope in front of your kids - if you have to do it, smoke it in the bathroom and don't let them see you doing it."

I still can't fathom what someone could do for $450/hour that functional YUPPIE parents couldn't do themselves, but I can think a lot of things that a functional adult could do for the parents who are not "poor" (let me be clear here, poverty is not the cause) but are disfunctional/dysfunctional.

And you really need to do this at kindergarten if not earlier. And I am a fairly socially and conservative person saying this - the problem truly is that bad...

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:23: have you noticed that the Amherst Museum of Natural History, Amherst's Mead Art Museum and the Smith College Art Musuem are all free? I am sure there are more free local museums -- and the Jones Library has a pile of free passes to many more Massachusetts museums. Amherst alone has 6 museums or historic houses.

Is this a class gap? Or a parenting gap?

Time to get a bit organized, pile the kids into the car, on the bus or ride bikes and see something interesting, new and enriching for everyone in your family.