Commentary Magazine


Public vs. Private School

To the Editor:

Richard Schickel’s warm and sympathetic report [“P.S. 165,” January] struck a familiar note, since I taught, in the 40′s, under remarkably similar circumstances at P.S. 102 in Manhattan. There, too, a resourceful principal, Murray Kaufman, provided the atmosphere in which Puerto Rican youngsters could be taught effectively side-by-side with the Italian, Negro, and Jewish pupils of that particular Harlem neighborhood. So I can testify that P.S. 165 is not an isolated case of an exemplary teaching situation.

There is, undoubtedly, a place for private schools that are set up for specific ideological or vocational preparation. But having taught at private schools in Manhattan, I can assure white parents that, in most of them, they do not get their money’s worth in terms of instructional advantages over those available at public schools like the one Mr. Schickel described.

Schooling in a socially homogeneous situation too often sets the stage for instinctive antagonism to the “outsider” and is, more frequently than is generally admitted, a place where the child learns to cover up mediocre performance. By keeping them out of the public schools, parents deprive their children not only of good academic training, but also of the feeling of belonging to a large, variegated society with which they must be on understanding terms as adults. . .

Edith Friedlander Bondi
Oakland, California

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