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September 22, 1982 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-22

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0

OPINION

-4

Page 4
ei 3itrbiganu wEaliij
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Wednesday, September 22, 1982

The Michigan Daily

9

Vol. XCIII, No. 12

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
NFLJ stke: Whn o res?

PLUG YOUR ears. Cover your eyes.
Lock your doors. You can't
cape it. It's everywhere you turn.
The horror? The NFL players' strike.
Yes, the strike has struck terror into
the hearts of millions of Americans-
th those who can't live without foot-
6all and those who don't give a damn.
It's sheer misery for the fans. The
strike practically ruins half the week-
Monday night, Thursday night, and
Sunday, to be specific. Except for the
occasional collegiate football fix, NFL
jpnkies across the country face the
agony of a slow, painful withdrawal.
: But the suffering is immeasurably
greater for those who abhor the game
and find the hoopla surrounding it
bleyond any sane person's grasp. After
Xl, the prospect of having football clog
ip the airwaves four or five times a
week is bad enough. Hearing about the
football strike every night on the six
O'clock news, however, is sort of like a
wing hell.
So the nation sits and waits for relief.
Another shoc
T SEEMS some folks in the Reagan
administration have made "an
finest mistake." They authorized-
Xcidentally, of course-the shipment
of 2,500 high-voltage shock batons to
yuth Africa.
; The batons, which are used like cat-
tWprods to deliver a 3,500-volt shock to
anyon"in their way, will go into the
liands of South African police units.
The prods will undoubtedly come in
l1indy for officers trying to control
,unruly" crowds showing
disagreement with the government's
policies of racist suppression. But,
,Iministration officials insist, the
shipment was all a mistake.
For those who would criticize the
administration's handling of the mat-
ter, they will point out that, due to their
quick thinking earlier this month, they
were able to block the shipment of
some 500 of the batons to Korea. Why
they allowed the shipment to South
Africa, while blocking the one to
Kiorea, is crossed off to "ad-
ministrative inadvertence."
Even by the Reagan State Depar-
tment's admission, such tools of con-
trol should not have been sent to either

V V lI A.J%uL4L%PI
Who will come out the winner in the
strike?
Who knows? Sure, the owners get a
whopping amount of money the
players never see. But it's hard to get
too choked up about the strike when the
average player's salary runs $83,000 a
year, or when bargaining is
deadlocked over whether an additional
$1.6 billion for the players is spread out
over the next four years or the next
five years.
Will the management cough up more
of its multi-million-dollar profits? Will
the players get their fair share of those
tempting television revenues? Will
tomorrow night's games between the
Falcons and the Chiefs be canceled.?
Who cares?
Will the costs of the strike be passed
on to the fans in the form of higher
ticket prices.?
You bet.
With stakes that high, the strike's
real loser is bound to be up in the stan-
ds, not out on the field.
king 'mistake'
country, both having rather em-
barrassing human rights records. But,
alas, the Reagan officials who OK'd
the sale to South Africa neglected to
ask the diplomats at the State Depar-
tment before giving the go-ahead. And
now that the prods have been shipped,
these same officials point out, it's too
late to do anything about it.
Clearly, sending the batons to South
African police, who will use them to
disperse protesting blacks, is not a
smart political move. It is particularly
dumb when it comes as the Reagan
administration is trying to dispel
charges that it is insensitive to
violations of human rights in "frien-
dly," pro-Western countries. The fact
that South Africa has few real com-
petitors for the title of the world's most
morally corrupt regime doesn't help
Washington officials trying to cut their
losses on this one. Maybe that's why
administration aides are now
acknowledging that the sale's approval
was a "mistake," and are trying to ex-
plain it as merely an oversight.
For those on the other end of the
American-built prods, that may be a
hard explanation to accept.

Stewart
E'ASKETRALL STRIKE
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How to save public e
Break up the school

By Denis Doyle

Two major education trends which gained
force in the late 1970s now are firmly in place:
Public schools are in serious trouble, and
private schools are flourishing.
As public school enrollments continue to
decline, private enrollments increase. As
revenues for public schools decrease, private
school tuitions increase and more parents are
willing to pay higher fees. As public schools
continue to fail minority children, evidence
mounts that minority children, too, perform
better in private schools.
DO THESE trends mean that the days of
public schools are numbered? Will tuition tax
credits or education vouchers be enacted and
reinforce the movement to private schools?
Public school officials are nervous about the
future because they have much to be nervous
about. But thoughtful public school suppor-
ters should treat vouchers and tax credits as a
stalking horse, not a genuine threat. Indeed,
public school advocates have the ability to
bury the issue of public aid to private
schools-not by opposing it, but by improving
public schools.
Public school people will only increase their
distress if they simply wring their hands and
complain that private schools have all the
breaks: Private schools can admit who they
like; they can fire or hire teachers as they see
fit; they cantsuspend or exclude unruly or
hard-to-educate children.
What these complaints add up to is that
private schools have standards for student
and teacher behavior, and that they act on
these standards. Public school ad-
ministrators ought to be wary of admitting
their inability to do likewise.
TO FRAME the problem properly,
however, it is necessary to approach it from a
different angle. Assume that our public of-
ficials and our public institutions reflect our
social desires and priorities. Assume that
representative democracy works. Is there
really a constituency in this society for low
test scores, poor school performance, and
discipline problems? Of course not. The
present set of dismal circumstances
represents public policy run amuck.
Teachers, students, and taxpayers still
believe that schools are places for children to
learn; that the unruly and undisciplined
should not interfere with the education of the
motivated and serious; that standards should
be set and met.
The true roots of the problem are revealed
in those urban school districts where it is
most acute. Such districts often are
bureaucratic monopolies, as unresponsive

and remote as industrial cartels. Parents who
choose private schools do so because they
have lost faith in the capacity of public
schools to deliver what they want. They
believe in choice, diversity, and respon-
siveness. They believe that different students
and different schools should be matched.
They do not believe in the "one best system"
of standardized schools to which children are
assigned by bureaucratic edict or accidents of
geography.
Ten years of Gallup Polls reveal a con-
sistent and powerful finding: The citizens
most unhappy about public school quality are
not intellectuals, or reformers, or radicals,
but big city northern blacks. In 1980, 37 per-
cent of this group gave public schools a "D"
.or an "F" rating: by contrast, only 9 percent
of residents of towns in the 20,500-50,000
population range gave schools low marks.
INNER-CITY minorities, after all, have the
most riding on school quality. Historically ex-
cluded from good neighborhoods and good
jobs, quality education offers them their one
real hope of advancement.
What this suggests for public schools is that
they can learn something from private
schools. Above all, private schools are
uniformly small and non-bureaucratic, as
public schools once were. Just as public
schools were consolidated into massive un-
wieldy districts over the past half century,
producing ever larger and more bureaucratic
systems, so now they can be "decon-
solidated." Real control should exist at the
building level, and the district-wide superin-
tendent and staff should serve the school,
rather than the reverse. The key actors in the
education enterprise are principals and
teachers, and they should be encouraged to
reassume their professional responsibilities.
An end to the arbitrary geographic
assignment of pupils is a necessary first step
Open enrollment and genuine parent choice
would make public schools voluntary
associations, places where teachers and
students are more responsive to one another.
In voluntary schools, teachers and students
would recognize reciprocal obligations as
well as rights.
THE GREAT variety of approaches among
private schools attests to the truth of a simple
observation: Teachers, students, and parents
differ greatly. A good school for one student
or teacher is not necessarily good for another.
If there were one best way to educate, a
public school monopoly might make sense.
But there are as many ways to educate as
there are many different kinds of people. The

y;
'ducati on:
'districts.
response to public school monopoly need not
be private schools; through deconsolidation,
it might lead instead to curricular differen-
tiation and enrollment without reference to
traditional political and geographic barriers.
An effort to develop a comprehensive plan
for competitive public schools already is un-
der way in California, directed by the:
Sacramento-based Sequoia Institute. Sequoia
is exploring legal and structural alternatives
to the existing system, including the
possibility of an initiative that would permit'
the public to vote for school district decon-
solidation, or a voucher system restricted to
public schools.

HATS CUR OFt-R-Ok yEAN? TK TO
LELAVE ITh I YEAH!

AT THE other end of the country, New:
York's district superintendent for Spanish.
Harlem, Anthony Alvarado, has eliminated
the neighborhood assignment of students.:
Beginning this fall, Harlem students are
choosing which schoolnthey will attend.
Alvarado makes no bones about the likely,,.
consequences: "If a school isn't good enough
it won't attract students. Students should not-
be forced to go to a school that they and their
parents do not think is as good as other'
schools."
Together, deconsolidation and student
choice could revolutionize our public
educational system. No longer confined to
schools by geography or bureaucratic fiat,
students and their families could enroll in in-
stitutions that appear to satisfy their interests
and meet their priorities. Teachers, as well,
could select schools consistent with their own
interests, abilities and talents.
School systems administered at the in-
dividual building level can offer more than
good education. They can become focal points
for the entire community-seedbeds of citizen
participation and democracy. In turn, the op-
portunity to choose carefully among schools
becomes an important responsibility: It
requires students and their families to ac-
tively commit themselves to a course of ac-
tion.
Public schools can indeed regain their
natural constituency-and recapture their
historic sense of mission-if they are willing
to dissolve the monopoly of which they are a
part. Monopolies in any sphere are not only
hostile to consumer interests; they eventually
suffocate themselves.

Doyle, director
policy studies for the
prise Institute, wrote
Pacific News Service.

of educational
American Enter-
this article for

Wasserman

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