Courant cartoonist Bob Englehart wrote this blog bombshell the other day:
Sure, we hear of an occasional winner come out of the ghetto. Movie stars, athletes, business people, we know their stories, but they are the very rare exception. For the most part, losers raise losers. Somehow we’ve got to get to these families and teach them how to respect education. Till then, nothing will change.
Most folks, including me, would strongly disagree with the veteran cartoonist’s offensive, ignorant characterization about “most” residents of “the ghetto.” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano correctly notes as much in a letter to the editor today. But is it possible also that there’s too much we are not talking about when we talk about fixing schools? Tenure is easy. Ugly stereotypes aren’t.
There’s a larger discussion here about personal responsibility, inequality, schools and government programs worth having if we really want to talk about school reform. It’s not just about school programs. It’s about how we pay for public education, school district boundary lines and yes, whether enough parents are doing their jobs.
The resulting exchange reflects a deeper debate about school reform: Can schools do the job even if parents aren’t? Does a racial double standard apply to how officials look at urban schools? Do schools use parenting or racial preconceptions as an excuse not to do their job? Do parents use schools as an excuse not to do their job? Do the kids get sold out of a good education when policymakers and pundits believe they can’t learn? Do they get sold out of needed support when the challenges of poverty are downplayed?
Englehart has apologized.
Update: Take a look at McEnroe’s post, which raises all the important points, particularly about the decision to remove Englehart’s words. Meanwhile, @ct1rick asks me whether all opinion is immune from accountability. Good question — no, but once you start editing a cartoonist or a columnist, where does that stop?
It’s time for a more enlightened, honest discussion. Declaring that losers are the problem isn’t the way to begin this important conversation.