Sean O’Brien | Questioning Column’s Assumptions

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

The following is in response to Pastor David Hegg’s Oct. 29 column. 

Thank you for your op-ed regarding public education. I am always gratified that public figures, like yourself, are concerned with the state of public schools in our community.

I am a teacher in the William S. Hart Union High School District and have been in the profession for over three decades. There is much in your piece with which I agree: Your statement that “gaining a good education should not be a matter of finances” is, to my mind, completely correct. Likewise, the idea that school should be “all about providing our kids with the academic experience they deserve” is self-evident, but I agree needs to be said. Lastly, your ending line that providing this experience is ethically “the right thing to do” is one I applaud.

I do take issue with several of your statements and assumptions, however, in the body of the op-ed. To say that our schools are falling short of state standards is misleading at best. As you know from your study of the data, our high schools and junior high schools are above the state average for English language arts by 14 and 17 points respectively. Our high school and junior high school math scores are 18 and 14 points respectively above state average, and our science scores are 19 and 13 points above the state average for high school and junior high school, respectively. The district consistently scores well above state averages in all test areas.

One of your theories as to why enrollment is down is that parents are seeking out more private school enrollments or homeschooling enrollments because they “no longer trust public education.”

Do we even know if this is true? Are private school enrollments higher proportionally? It seems to me that if you want to advance such a theory, you would at least know if the phenomenon for which you are seeking a cause is even happening at all. I see no evidence in your op-ed to settle the matter one way or another. You simply assert that it is true.

That leads me to several other assumptions you make, often declaring them as fact with no evidence whatsoever. You claim that “more and more parents are ‘waking’ up to the reality that the governing powers behind public education now see our kids as belonging more to the state than to the home.” You simply declare this as a “reality” with no evidence. Which “governing powers” believe this? Where has this been said or put into policy? I have never run across this “ideology” in any form, and would be curious to know how you came to this conclusion. Is it something you simply assume to be true? If so, you can hardly claim it is a “reality,’ can you? It’s your view as to what is happening. I would ask you to support this view.

In the same vein, you refer to the “progressive ethos that ties the hands of our teachers, overrides parental authority and turns out students who may know all about progressive social causes but have no idea how to write topic sentences let alone coherent essays.” I assure you, there’s no “progressive ethos” tying my hands. I don’t know what parental authority to which you refer that is being overridden. If you mean that parents don’t want their children to read certain works or study certain topics, I’d ask you to detail those works or topics and find the examples where parents are unable to assert “parental authority” and receive accommodation. Once again it appears you are asserting things as “true” or “real” with no evidentiary basis in fact.

I do take umbrage at the idea that you claim “Kids leave the classroom fully indoctrinated into the progressive narrative but can’t write a usable topic sentence.” I’ve never indoctrinated any student into any “narrative,” much less done so “fully.” Nor do I know any teacher who does. As for being able to write a topic sentence, please, I beg you … come into my classroom and you’ll see me working hard on this very subject.

In fact, Pastor Hegg, I would very much like to invite you into my classroom to see the reality of what actually happens in a Hart district public school. I believe you to be a man of integrity and honor, as well as an impressive writer, who may be operating under assumptions that are simply not accurate. Before a public figure writes about the “reality” of a given situation, it would be reasonable to expect that figure to know what reality is, yes?

After all, ethically speaking, it’s the right thing to do.

Sean O’Brien


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