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Magnet School Controversy

January 21, 1988

Board President Rita Walters claims that magnet schools are elitist. She feels that "What we do in magnet schools we should be replicating in all schools." Perhaps she is right. This, however, would make little difference in many of L.A. Unified's schools. What really makes the difference at magnets are parent and student motivation. The program itself is only a portion of what makes magnets work.

Magnet parents volunteer their time and donate their resources to the school. They carefully discipline their children, actively ensure that assignments are complete and done well, monitor the quantity and quality of the television their children watch, provide enrichment opportunities and, in essence, take parenting seriously. At a magnet school you get a parent and a student concerned with education.

If it is elitist to want my child to attend a school that is not rampant with drugs, where classmates are not murdered regularly, where drug dealers and pimps are not heroes and where extortionists and gangs are not in control, then I guess I am elitist.

How can a teacher be successful in an environment where these terrible social problems permeate the classroom? How can a child with no parental supervision or negative parental supervision value education? Those few students who rise above these handicaps have been found to have strong mentors that help them escape the environment emotionally, educationally and physically.

Parents--like those profiled in the article--who work in concert with teachers and administrators are what make magnet schools and any school in the district successful. More magnet schools with strong discipline, high academic standards and parent participation are clearly what we need.

L. JANEDORA HOWELL

Los Angeles

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