2000-06-03 / Columnists

School Scope

by Howard Schwach

One of the correspondents to last week’s paper, apparently deeply disturbed at what I wrote the week before, asked a questions that needs to be answered.

He asked, in effect, to what end I write my column.

That question bothered me because I thought that everybody who reads this column on a regular basis (as I suspect the correspondent does) knows why I write it each week. So, I gave the question some thought and I have to say, that the end to which I write the column today is the same that it was when I began writing it more than a dozen years ago. That end is "truth."

I have always believed in the importance of the media, that the people had the right to know the truth about what was going on in the institutions that deeply affect their lives – politics, education, community affairs.

Now, having said that, I have to admit that it is my truth. I once worked with a great writer who told me "don’t give me the facts, give me the truth." There are, I guess, lots of truths, especially in the education game. What you see in this column is mine, my opinion based on the evidence before my eyes and what I glean from sources all over the district. Those sources include parents, teachers, union people, administrators and even district office personnel.

I put it all together and push it through the prism of my 28 years of experience in all levels of education. What comes out the other end is what you get.

If you have been reading this column long enough, you first saw the "truth" about the school board that was suspended and eventually saw two of its members indicted. You learned the truth of the board’s policy of hiring cronies and passing over minorities and those who did not attend their $100 a plate dinners. One of the board members, along with a current district leader, went to all of the Irish bars, asking them to pull their advertising from The Wave if the paper did not fire me. That is how much the truth hurt.

If you have been reading this column long enough, you first saw the "truth" about a principal who failed to report a case of child abuse shortly before the child was beaten badly enough to spend time in the hospital.

If you have been reading this column long enough, you read a prediction of what was going to happen to the "School of Champions" long before it happened.

If you have been reading this column long enough, then you read about Dr. Hall’s "SWAT" team made up of district office personnel who swept through a school and then left, leaving destroyed careers behind them. You also knew, from reading this column, of Hall’s policy of controlling information by forbidding district office personnel to speak with school board members of the public without clearing it with her first.

If you have been reading this column long enough, you know probably more than you care to about my feelings on parochial school education in relation to what democracy needs to live and breathe free.

If you have been reading this column long enough, you know that I have been called racist, a fool, a jive white turkey and many other things.

Ideas can be racist. Opinions can be racist. The truth cannot be racist because is it what it is – the truth. There are many, however, who cannot accept the truth or who believe that their interests will be hurt by the truth. They often write. I seldom answer. They have as much right to call me those things as I do to write the things that anger them. That is what freedom of the press and free speech is all about.

When I wrote that public school education was preferable to parochial school education, I got hundreds of letters calling for me to do everything from resign to go to you-know-where. There was even one priest who preached a Sunday sermon calling for me to be excommunicated from the community.

If you have been reading this column long enough, you got a teacher’s perspective on the PS 114 controversies (plural – it seemed as if there was one each year), on the K-8 question, on standardized testing, on rezoning and many other issues.

What you got is my "truth," my studied opinion on a number of subjects that are vital to you and to the life of the community. That is what you will continue to get.

The worst thing that can happen to a columnist is to be ignored.

I have been writing this column on a regular basis for more than a dozen years. I have been vilified, sometimes by co-workers, sometimes by friends, occasionally by family members, often by enemies.

There is an old newspaper axiom that says that people who agree with you never let you know, while people who disagree with you write reams.

That fact is as operative on The Wave as it is on the New York Times.

Reading what I have just written, it is obvious that it has become a sort of polemic, a reason-de-etre for what I have been doing this past dozen years as well as an answer to the correspondent who asked to what end I write this column.

Reflecting on that, I have decided to let it stand. I reckon that I am entitled to one short polemic column in a line of more than 500 columns that I have written for The Wave.

I cannot ask that you agree. I cannot worry if you disagree. All I can ask is that you don’t ignore what I write. That would be the unkindest cut of all.


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