Oakland High School and its defenders
You know, I've been posting on this blog for over a year, and I've yet to receive one legitimate piece of hate mail. I suppose I shouldn't complain, not when I know that some of you out there have a perverse sense of humor and too much time on your hands. Still, it's surprising, given the somewhat-loaded topics that I discuss. I've only gotten two really contrary emails in the past, and they were both from people who felt somewhat hurt by my comments, not angry.
Well, Aggrieved Email #3 showed up in my inbox today, from a student at Oakland High School, and their comments are in reply to my earlier posts about Oakland High's anti-war teach-in (search this page for the most recent one entitled, "Living down to our expectations" - sorry that my archives are busted).
Here's the email, in full:
You can not judge Oakland High like that. It's not right. We may not be the best school, but we are proud of our school. And I really resent you saying my best friend is blind and not educated enough. Maybe you aren't educated either. And by the way, this teach-in wasn't about "'soaring' homicide rate and crappy test scores"! You should be ashamed of yourself for judging my school like that! I don't know which schools you have been, but don't say crap about a school unless you've been there.
There, there. I hope I didn't give the impression that everyone at Oakland High is an idiot, because I didn't mean to, and I certainly don't think that you and your best friend are willfully blind and uneducated.
However, I do agree with you that Oakland is not the best school, as evidenced by its drop-out rate (11th-grade enrollment is almost half of 2nd-grade enrollment) and poor test scores. And I do believe that Oakland's recent teach-in events, including the pro-Mumia one, are blatant propaganda meant to distract you and your friends from realizing that you are being cheated out of a genuine education. Yes, cheated. Anti-war propaganda is NOT an education and it is NOT a proper use of school resources. Perhaps you agree with it, but other students who disagreed were disillusioned by all the bogus anti-war information being pushed on them by Oakland's teachers.
And no, the teach-in was not about "the soaring homicide rate and crap like that". That was exactly my point. There are things Oakland High can do to improve itself, and then there are things that Oakland High can do to give students a bogus impression of learning and of having an effect on the world. The anti-war teach-in, which was completely one-sided and will have no effect whatsoever on whether the U.S. actually goes to war, falls in the second category. If you are a student there, the teach-in was a complete waste of your time, and that was the point I was trying to make.
You and your fellow students are not bad people, and I hope the post did not sound like I was insulting your best friend personally. But perhaps you're trying too hard to defend a bad school that is not giving as much to you as you are giving to it. There are a lot of people involved in school reform in California. If you want to change the world, why not start with your school?
And now, can I make a suggestion? If you really want to make your point in a debate, I would suggest you refrain from direct insults such as "Maybe you aren't educated either." Such a comment is deeply petty (and demonstrably untrue). Such an ad hominem (or, in my case, ad feminem) attack undermines the rest of your complaint. Trust me, no one will ever be convinced to see your point of view if you insult them - in fact, it gives them reason to dismiss your entire statement. Even if you mistakenly believe that I was out to deliberately insult you personally, if you refrain from insulting me back, you have elevated the tone of the argument, which gives your opinions more weight.
You are entirely right to feel upset that I have seemingly attacked your school, but remember that I am a psychometrician and statistician. I look at the numbers. The numbers for the Oakland Unified District are horrible, so I think you may very well be in a bad school. Based on numbers alone, I am entirely justified (and unashamed) in feeling that I can say "crap" about how much good Oakland is doing for its student body as a whole. If it's been a nurturing and educating environment for you personally, I'm happy for you. But the numbers suggest that relatively large numbers of your classmates have not found it so, and bogus educational follies such as the recent teach-in do nothing to help the actual quality of teaching there.