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'Educational Fast Track'

December 18, 1988

I'd like to respond to your Nov. 30 editorial "Educational Fast Track."

In recent years I have been concerned about how best to accomplish change in our public education system. Conflicting feelings of frustration versus a sense of imperative to act are now common among community leaders in all sectors: educators, politicians, business leaders and employers.

But we should not fall into the trap of debating one approach to the problem versus another, as was implied in your editorial.

It isn't that the creative Merrill Lynch program is on too small a scale, nor that the most common approach to literacy, one-on-one tutorial of teen-agers and adults, is too labor intensive. But rather that we need to create the broadest possible commitment to a variety of approaches.

As a 1989 New Year's gift to our Los Angeles community, we could make the commitment that every organization and every individual would have an answer to the challenge, "What are you doing to improve the education system?" We could transform the foundation of life in Southern California.

We should not deride each new commitment, such as Merrill Lynch's, by saying this won't work because it is too narrow; this was tried, and it's too expensive, etc.

Every major company, trade association and community organization could choose some approach in 1989 to improving public education in Los Angeles. There are a multitude of choices, ranging from attacking adult literacy through the computer-assisted PALS program to motivating youngsters to seek college educations, such as our local "I Have a Dream" Foundation and Merrill Lynch's nationwide effort.

At the Riordan Foundation, we have chosen to commit to the specific issue of reading skills in very young children.

But the possibilities for action are tremendous; and the need is so great that it threatens the viability of life in Southern California. So commitments of all kinds should be sought and celebrated.

The Times could even periodically report an inventory of these commitments for action throughout 1989.


Los Angeles

(Riordan chairs the Riordan Foundation, which contributed two Writing to Read labs for the entire 1st grade at 74th Street School in Los Angeles, to complement the Merrill Lynch project at that school which targeted 25 first graders.)

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