John Hinderaker is past chairman of the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis and I’m a current member of its board. Mitch Pearlstein is the founder and president of the Center. Mitch took his doctorate in education; he is an impassioned, long time advocate of school choice, especially for the students who need it most. The Center has just published Mitch’s most recent paper on the subject: “Achievement gaps and vouchers.” Last week the Star Tribune published Mitch’s excellent column summarizing the findings set forth in his paper: “Test results add up to a good case for vouchers.”
Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels wrote the foreword to Mitch’s paper. Don Samuels is a Democrat who represents Minneapolis’s Fifth Ward, one of its poorest. Here is what Mr. Samuels had to say in introducing Mitch’s paper:
As a Democrat and a politician, I consider it a hazard to attach my name and contribution to this fine essay. The majority of my voting base will probably frown on this association. Yet, I am impelled by an impetus greater than political survival. I am forced by nothing less than the socioeconomic survival of the poorer half of my people in these United States, who have gradually descended into massive academic failure and its disastrous attendant repercussions.
For me, it is as simple as this: what is the pool from which my young daughters will choose a life partner? Who will be their girlfriends here on our block? How many future murderers are in the first grade classes of the four elementary schools within a mile of my home? What level of change are we willing to endure to reverse the frightening answers to these questions?
If you can relate to such questions or are appalled at the academic decimation of African American and Indian children, you would do well to dispense with partisan fears long enough to give this essay an objective reading.
Mitch Pearlstein writes a balanced work of persuasion. He writes with the deference of one who has personal relationships on the other side of his own position, acknowledging the validity of some opposing concerns and challenging others with objective facts and a generous attitude.
The historically virulent nature of this debate has led many down the errant path of subjective accusations, personal attacks, perverted information, and emotional manipulation. Dr. Pearlstein avoids these pitfalls. He presents his position in a scholarly, dignified, sensitive, and winsome way. He subordinates his passion to his priority of persuasion. He critiques his own sources and limits the scope of their significance by the integrity of their methods.
There is among us a class of people who believe strongly in their positions and always strive to do what is right. They are keenly aware that the opportunities for wisdom are often disguised as trauma and betrayal. They always leave the door of reason open for new information and enlightened persuasion. They are willing to endure the inconvenience of change for significant personal and social gain. If you are one of these rays of hope, I urge you to suspend suspicion and give Dr. Pearlstein access to your intellect and heart for a few moments. The children of my race and community languish in wait of your transformation.
It’s a remarkable introduction to an important paper.
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