Young ob­server

A stringer from the schools

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

IT WAS wholly a plea­sure to re­ceive the nearby let­ter from a young per­son ques­tion­ing our stand on char­ter schools. It is a joy to have young peo­ple not only read­ing the edi­to­rial page, but to have some of them care enough to join the con­ver­sa­tion and toss off a note to the Voices Page. It’s also a joy to know that we are still able to write edi­to­ri­als that cause con­ster­na­tion. The main prob­lem with Amer­i­can edi­to­rial writ­ing is that so many edi­to­ri­als don’t.

We must ad­mit to our young stringer that, yes, edi­to­ri­als here are of­ten opin­ion­ated and par­tial to one side of an ar­gu­ment or an­other. When­ever we get a phone call about our edi­to­ri­als be­ing “bi­ased,” we gladly own up to it. An­other prob­lem with Amer­i­can edi­to­rial writ­ing is that there are so many un­bi­ased edi­to­ri­als out there. The na­tional for­mula goes like this: An edi­to­rial board of 10 or 15 peo­ple get to­gether, hash out the day’s events, then try to come up with a con­sen­sus for the next day’s pa­per. Imag­ine hav­ing to write an opin­ion piece that 10 or 15 peo­ple on a board have to agree with. It’s no won­der so many edi­to­ri­als sound like com­mit­tee re­ports. They are com­mit­tee re­ports!

In this out­fit, we have no edi­to­rial board, and don’t want one. Bet­ter to write the pa­per’s opin­ion for the pub­lisher, and ac­tu­ally say some­thing. Or as an edi­tor named Mencken once de­manded of his writ­ers, take a line.

We’re proud to note that our cor­re­spon­dent seems to un­der­stand all of that nat­u­rally. For his let­ter takes a line. He’ll have no prob­lem be­com­ing an­other mem­ber of the com­men­tariat. Like any good Amer­i­can. If there’s any­thing that Amer­i­cans can agree on, it’s that we can’t agree—and we all like a good ar­gu­ment. We could be out­side talk­ing foot­ball over a bar­be­cue, or stand­ing out­side our church on Sun­day morn­ing dis­cussing the morn­ing’s les­son, but Amer­i­cans will ar­gue.

And the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is some­thing worth ar­gu­ing about. So are char­ter schools, tra­di­tional schools, pri­vate schools and home school­ing. All are needed, as our Val­ued Con­trib­u­tor on the next page men­tions. When it comes to ed­u­cat­ing the young peo­ple of this na­tion, it’s all hands on deck. Or as a pres­i­dent named A. Lin­coln once wired to his gen­er­als be­fore a ma­jor cam­paign: Those not skin­ning can hold a leg.

We must ad­mit we do think char­ters have a place in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, as does our young writer. So maybe we’re not so far apart as some might sug­gest. Our apolo­gies if we’ve ever in­di­cated that there were “no good sto­ries” in the tra­di­tional schools. For that is cer­tainly not the case. As we’ve noted in this col­umn many times over the years.

THE TRA­DI­TION at this news­pa­per is to give our let­ter writ­ers the last word on a sub­ject un­til we’re nudged into the dis­cus­sion again by a more re­cent piece of news. So for all the ar­gu­ments for pub­lic char­ter schools, we’ll re­fer our read­ers to past edi­to­ri­als. And fu­ture ones.

NB: Our schools are as­sign­ing Os­car Wilde. Talk about good sto­ries in school, we’d sug­gest The Pic­ture of Do­rian Gray. Al­though peo­ple through­out the book keep­ing “fling­ing” them­selves into chairs in­stead of just sit­ting, it’s still a fast read. Which is how writ­ers com­pli­ment other writ­ers. As far as the line that the truth is never sim­ple, we’re re­minded of a story that a for­mer edi­to­rial writer for this news­pa­per named Chris Bat­tle once told us:

He was ex­plain­ing to his grand­fa­ther that not all is­sues are black and white, and so­phis­ti­cated young man that he was, in­structed the old man about all the shades of gray, etc. etc. To which the old man, af­ter al­low­ing the young man his opin­ion, gave his own: “There’s al­ways a right and wrong. You just have to find it.”

With all of our thanks and ap­pre­ci­a­tion to our cor­re­spon­dent, we re­main,


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