A stringer from the schools
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,