Letters to the Editor 10/1

September 29, 2000|By John Cohen

Letters to the Editor 10/1

A candidate's case against kindergarten that lasts all day long

Examining all-day kindergarten. State officials are trying to determine if funding full-day kindergarten is a smart choice. Parents and educators disagree about its worth. (The Wichita Eagle 8/21/00) "Kindergarten all day? Bellevue wants to widen its program." (The Seattle Times - "Today's Top Story" 3/3/97).

The one question that comes from both articles is, "How are we going to pay for this?" The one solution comes from the Seattle Times, "The state pays for only a half day of kindergarten which lasts for about two hours and 40 minutes. Schools that offer full-day kindergarten - six hours - have to make up extra cost by charging tuition, usually about $200 a month."

I wonder who is being charged for the $200? In Lake Washington district, Washington State, is picking up the tab for all-day kindergarten for 115 students who meet the financial guidelines for receiving a free or reduced-price lunch. An additional 413 students pay full fee. The Lake Washington program started in 1995 and cost $1,650 a year per student.


When it came to academic differences between full and half day kindergarten, there wasn't any. So the question is, "Does full-day kindergarten become a glorified day-care center, and/or to indoctrinate our students with government curriculum?"

Do we have too much schooling, instead of too little? John Gatto, 26 years of teaching plus New York State Teacher of the Year during the 1980s, delivered a speech last September at the University of Texas in Austin, saying:

"Hong Kong, with its short year (in education), whips Japan in every scientific or mathematical competition. Israel, with its long school year, can't keep up with Flemish Belgium. Sweden won't allow children to enter school before they're 7 years old. The length of Swedish schooling is nine years, not 12, after which the average Swede run circles around the over-schooled American. Why don't we know these things? To whose advantage is it that we don't?"

Chester Finn Jr., in his book "We Must Take Charge" made this quote of William Bennett warning against the "fallacy of the 14-egg omelet":

"If the chef has a terrible recipe, is an inept cook, and is accustomed to dishing up 12- or 13-egg omelets that few customers will eat, simply adding another egg or two to the mixture is unlikely to yield a tastier result.

"If the education system is doing a mediocre job of educating youngsters who are in its grips for 12 or 13 years, adding a year or two to the front end of that experience, and doing so in the same institutions and on the same terms, is not likely to produce much gain. It can even be harmful, especially if a very young child is rushed too early into formal learning."

According to Chester Finn Jr., we have no grounds for supposing that making all children start school at the age of 5, 4 or even 3 would of itself produce high school graduates who are better supplied with cognitive skills and knowledge.

John W. Cohen is a candidate for the Washington County Board of Education.

We can't please everyone, but we can try

We are fast approaching the completion of our second year of service as your Washington County Commissioners. I believe these two years have been both rewarding and productive for Washington County. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving our citizens and I have developed a deep respect for my fellow commissioners. We agree and disagree with the utmost dignity and appreciation for others opinions. But in the final analysis, after sharing each other's opinions and gathering facts, good sound decisions have been the outcome.

However, there are citizens who believe otherwise and that is their prerogative. I have received letters that would indicate both displeasure and also an appreciation for our service. We knew when we were elected that we could not please everyone, but that does not excuse us from trying to please everyone. There is a difference between accepting the attitude of not pleasing your citizens and not trying to please your citizens. This group of county commissioners adopts the theory that we will try to please everyone.

Having said this, we are always open to suggestions and we accept your criticisms in an understanding manner. We ask that you research and get all your facts before passing judgment. Please sign your name to your letters so that we may respond and dialogue with you. You the citizens have a unique board of county commissioners in that they are well-educated, intelligent and compassionate leaders. Honest, patient, good listeners with a strong love of our county describes all of the present commissioners. You as taxpayers (revenue enhancers) deserve the best and I believe you have the best.

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