July 12, 2007
Magnets, illusions, violence and fear
In "Magnet Schools: Last Hope to Keep Whites" (July 6), Mark Slavkin raises important questions about the U.S. Supreme Court, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), diversity and the overall engagement (or lack of it) of Jewish and white families. While the article rightly addresses an issue long neglected by the Jewish community, it misses a key part of the discussion: charter schools.
Charter schools are independently operated schools that win freedom from certain regulations in exchange for improving student achievement. There are currently 104 charter schools operating in LAUSD, serving approximately 41,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Charter schools hold promise as one piece of the reform puzzle for LAUSD. While perhaps not a panacea, charter schools do provide options for some of the families Slavkin mentions, who desire to stay in public schools but who are not thrilled about their local options.
Some charters see diversity as integral to their mission. While charter schools must admit all students who wish to attend, they have to hold a random public lottery due to high demand. Charter schools may, however, enact enrollment preferences based on geography or socioeconomic status.
The New Los Angeles Charter School, a middle school scheduled to open in the Carthay neighborhood in 2008 with social justice themes, will aim to nurture and train a diverse cadre of students who understand how to work together to solve problems, changing their own lives as they change the community around them.
Our board is currently working on legal enrollment policies that will help generate a diverse student body. While the Supreme Court decision on school desegregation was clear about what cannot be done, Justice Kennedy left the door open for creative thinkers who value the goal of diversity to come up with new ideas. At the New Los Angeles Charter School, we hope to create an interesting, dynamic, diverse community with excellent academics.
Slavkin writes, "Magnet schools may be the only hope for retaining the remaining white enrollment in LAUSD."
I think he overlooks charter schools.
Dr. Matt Albert
Founder, Executive Director
New Los Angeles Charter School
While I can appreciate most of Leslie Susser's report regarding the latest meeting of Middle East leaders, I feel it necessary to point out that the term, "moderate cause," when referring to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah camp, is a sad illusion ("Summit Exposes Differences Between Israel, Neighbors," June 29).
It should be noted that the Palestinian Authority continues to teach the destruction of Israel in it's classrooms, still demands the "right of return" for refugees of the 1948 war and declares Jerusalem as its undisputed capital. Nor has there been a renunciation of violence against Israel.
The lack of recent terror acts is not a result of action on the part of the PA (as required in the Oslo accords) but a result of the vigilance on the part of the Shin Bet and the IDF to stop such acts before they can be carried out by Tanzim or Fatah militias.
Perhaps the Western press can afford to be deceived by this politically correct nomenclature, but let us hope that at least the Jewish press will not be taken in by the charade.
Rabbi David Wolpe makes some glaring errors. Regarding the violent beginnings of some religions, he postulates, "Imagine what a Canannite would report about the origins of Israel" ("Seeds of Peace Revealed in Early Coexistence," June 29).
The Canaanites were not indigenous to the region. They emigrated from Africa.
They were doing many abominations, including child sacrifice and bestiality.
When the Israelites came, they gave the Canaanite tribes options: leave, give up your abominable practices or fight. The land belonged to Israel as designated by the Creator.
Regarding the myth of a golden age in Spain between Muslims and Jews: After being slaughtered by the Christians, perhaps second-class citizenship (excessive taxation, beatings and many humiliations, including dress codes) seemed "golden".
Certainly, Christianity has evolved from its bloody 2,000-year history, but what has Islam got to show for its 1,500 years? More violence, more distortion and more bizarre theories about what is wrong with the world and how to fix it.
The overall history of Judaism has been of a people tried, persecuted and persevering with a magnificent vision revealed to them by God - a vision of tolerance, peace, justice and compassion.
Personally, I'm weary of writers who try to paint Islam as a "religion of peace," when most of the evidence is to the contrary.
Name withheld by request
Regarding Sonya Sultan's fears: Americans were being killed by the thousands in New York, and by the hundreds abroad, before the invasion of Iraq (Letters, June 29). How are we less safe now?
World War II cost us 400,000 dead, because we refused to fight until our enemies forced us to (at a time convenient for them). This war has cost us less in four years than we lost on the first day of that one, because this time we attacked at our convenience, before our enemy grew stronger.
Jews, too, were slaughtered in Israel and in the Diaspora for generations before we invaded Iraq. How are Jews less safe now? The image of Israel was always bad in the eyes of anti-Semites. Don't invent an excuse for them. Their antipathy toward Israel always was energized: That is nothing new.
Israel's fear now is not its image, but Iran's plan to use those long-range missiles it displayed, nuclear-tipped. If sanctions can foil that plot, it is best. If they can't, only an attack will save Israel from annihilation and America from loss of its only reliable ally in the Middle East.