Let college athletes get paid for endorsements

It’s time to acknowledge that college athletes are a cash cow for many colleges.  That’s certainly true for football and basketball, which is why Florida and four other states are about to allow college athletes to cash in on their names and likenesses (“N.C.A.A. Chief, Pressured by State Laws, Pushes to Let Athletes Cash In,” The New York Times, May 8).

The argument against the change is that athletes are students first and foremost.  As a result, allowing them to profit from their deals would make them pros.  But in the final analysis, they are bringing in millions of dollars for their schools.  Their coaches are not subject to restrictions on cutting deals, so why have a double standard?

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School superintendents’ turnover is no surprise

Richard Carranza in New York City, Austin Beutner in Los Angeles and Janice Jackson in Chicago have recently stepped down in close succession as head of their respective school systems (“Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson to Step Down,” The Wall Street Journal, May 4).  Although the news made headlines in their local papers, it shouldn’t have.

I say that because all three systems, Nos. 1,2,3 respectively, are far too large for anyone to lead. The only way change is ever going to come is if the systems were broken up into more manageable sizes.  Even then reform needs to take place from the bottom up. The latter was the conclusion of the first broad study about the link between superintendents and student achievement by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Enlightened principals, skilled teachers and involved community members are the keys to turning around troubled districts. 

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Context means everything in racial slurs

The latest example of how incendiary the use of the N-word is took place at Rutgers Law School in Newark, N.J.  Even though the slur was quoted strictly from a published court decision by a student, it triggered an uproar among Black students and some law school professors (“Debate Erupts at N.J. Law School After White Student Quotes Racial Slur,” The New York Times, May 4).

I understand how hurtful the word in question is, but that does not mean it should be deleted when quoted as part of a legal ruling.  Let’s not forget that these are future lawyers who are supposed to be trained in the importance of free speech.  If certain words constitute the third rail of what is supposed to be a  legal education, then the entire system is a travesty.

What happens if the word is part of a lawsuit that makes itself to a courtroom? Are jurors forbidden to hear the context in which the word was used?  If so, how can they reach a fair decision?  The obsession with any slur distorts all other factors in education.

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Teach AP history through original sources

I understand why textbooks are used to teach history despite the unavoidable politicking that involves their adoption (“Why my daughter hates (whitewashed) AP history,” Los Angeles Times, May 3).  They’re easy to understand and handy. But when it comes to teaching AP history, that’s another story.

The truth is that history is not always settled.  There are almost always differences of opinions among experts that can only be understood by using primary sources.  I subscribe to The Concord Review, which publishes papers written by high school students around the globe.  I’m amazed at the research that forms the basis for the papers.

Only by going to such primary sources can advanced students get to the truth. Unfortunately, AP students constitute a tiny minority of the overall high school population.  As a result, they will continue to be subjected to only one side of the truth.

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Teaching assistants deserve hefty salary increase

More than seven years ago, graduate students serving as teaching assistants at N.Y.U. became the first to win recognition for their union from a private university.  Although their contract expired last August, they have continued to work until now (“ ‘They’re Trying to Bully Us’ : N.Y.U. Graduates Students Are Back on Strike,” The New York Times, May 1). 

But now they are on strike. Who can blame them?  Despite doing much of the work that universities depend on, the starting pay at N.Y.U. is only $20 an hour.  They’re demanding $32 an hour, down from their original demand of $46 an hour.  I say they’re worth every cent.  The truth is that most professors have little interest in teaching undergrad courses.  As a result, teaching assistants teach many sections and grade all tests and papers.

N.Y.U. and other universities both public and private argue that they are students first and workers second.  That may be correct in theory, but in reality they are indispensable to the functioning of higher education in this country.

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Make community colleges free

Although the tuition for attending community college is quite reasonable, it is still too high for many students from low-income families.  That’s why I believe that community college for students from families making less than $125,000 should be a right (“Joe Biden Wants to Make Community College Free. Can Progressives Push Him Further?” huffpost.com, Apr. 25).

Students who lack the aptitude or interest for a four-year degree would be able to learn a skill that would make them far more employable than high school graduates.  As a result, the proposal deserves serious consideration.

My only concern is that doing so would be a precedent for making a four-year college free as well.  That would be a mistake in light of the number of such graduates who are underemployed.

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Teaching children to feel guilty

Requiring all schools to make Critical Race Theory the centerpiece of the curriculum will teach young children to feel guilty because of the color of their skin (“How L.A.’s Brentwood School Became a Battleground in the Culture Wars, Los Angeles Magazine, Apr. 19).  That may not be the intent, but it will be the result.

The Brentwood School, which is located only a few miles from the Getty Center, is a case in point. A student called it a “toxic racist cesspool for students of color, but an ivory tower for wealthy, white students.”  I have no objection to revising the curriculum to reflect changes in society, but doing so by making students of privilege feel guilty for what they are not responsible for is wrong.

I also question how students can be taught critical thinking if they are shamed for trying to express contrarian views.  That goes for all subjects – not just when race is the issue.

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Poverty is not destiny in education

Reformers would have everyone believe that students from low-income families are doomed to a mediocre education.  If so, then how do they explain that more than 60 percent of students at Brooklyn Tech High School and nearly half the students at Stuyvesant High School live in poverty (“New York’s Selective Public Schools Aren’t Only for the Wealthy,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 20)?

These two schools, along with six others, admit students solely on the basis of their scores on the Specialized High School Admissions Test, as mandated by the Hecht-Calandra law.  As a result, the schools are accused of being elitist, which is a dirty word because it is associated with wealth.  The evidence contradicts that assumption.

I’m not arguing that poverty plays no role in academic achievement.  But students can and do overcome the disadvantages in their backgrounds to succeed.

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Obsession with race afflicts private schools too

Even posh private schools are not immune to viewing every facet of society through the lens of skin color (“Dalton headmaster quits while Brearley dad writes scathing letter,” New York Post, Apr. 17).  The latest example is the Brearley School in New York City, where tuition runs to $54,000 a year.

Angry and appalled that his daughter, who had been a student at the school since kindergarten, was subjected to this indoctrination, Andrew Gutmann fired off a 1,700-word letter taking the administration and Board of Trustees to task.  The school responded that his letter was “deeply offensive and harmful.”

I fail to see how it was when it stated the truth about how the curriculum has devolved.  As for the school’s claim that students felt frightened and intimidated by the letter, I say they need to grow up.  There is nothing in the letter that can upset a student.

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Math instruction proposal will hurt Blacks

Just when I thought I had heard it all, the proposal before the California Department of Education proves me wrong (“Destructive California teacher training seeks to eliminate ‘white supremacy in math’” thebl.com, Apr. 16).  It asserts that finding a correct answer in math is an example of racism and white supremacy. 

This harebrained idea says that math is not objective, but it never provides evidence to support its view.  In short, it’s an ideological proposal that will hurt precisely those students whom it claims to help.  Why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds it is beyond me.

I remember when standard English was attacked for similar reasons.  In its place was Ebonics.  Fortunately, the latter never took hold.  Let’s hope the same fate awaits the math proposal.

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