To the editor:
In the June 2 Sailor, Dan Olson and Mike Remucal complain about Minnetonka School District’s statement that the “the best strategy (to prevent incidents of violence) is to ensure all of our students have a strong sense of belonging in our schools.” They consider it inadequate. They seem to say they want the district to double as a social service institution addressing various psycho-social problems facing students. Requesting “specific policy solutions,” they provide none. The proper response to their concerns is that the district should not attempt to solve these problems outside teachers demanding that intolerant, unkind behavior not occur in their classrooms. Do Olson and Remucal believe that, for example, a middle or high school teacher responsible for 130 or more students daily is able to know each well enough to perform delicate diagnostic appraisals and to suggest possible solutions? A school’s job is difficult enough without asking it to take on an onerous second task.
Fostering a sense of belonging is a noble aim. What is disconcerting about the district’s statement is that for 25 years it has, by its continual segregation within schools, promoted an environment which makes improbable any sense of belonging — Vantage, Immersion, AP, IP, Navigators, and on and on. There is a hierarchy to this system and, necessarily, a different amount of prestige attributed to its different parts. Not only does it discourage a sense of schoolwide belonging, it encourages a dismissiveness (or worse) of those outside the hierarchy’s favored parts. It is essentially anti-democratic. This is something the district can control.
A possible solution: Adopting the principle that education for the best is the best education for all. It involves all children being taught the same curriculum in classes of randomly distributed students. The purpose is cultivation of human beings, not vocational training or increasing the likelihood of acceptance to a prestigious university. Fuller description may be found in Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal. Instituting it would do more for the problems Olson and Remucal are talking about than any tinkering with the current system.