A letter to the editor
April 6, 2017
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We read with dismay a statement in the 3/10 issue of the New Trier News. In “Community packs Cornog to voice view on Seminar Day,” the News quotes an attendee at the February 20th, 2017, meeting of the New Trier Board of Education, where the Seminar Day was discussed and its merits debated.
Because of its offensive nature, we will not repeat the quote. Its basic message is that different ethnic and racial groups can be ranked based on their level of intelligence, or “smartness”. As proof for the argument, a 2016 “California school study” is cited.
We were floored when we read this quotation in the school’s newspaper. Was it really necessary for the News to include a statement that was so hurtful and offensive?
At a minimum, once the decision was made to include the quote, the News should have exercised heightened scrutiny and care by placing the statement in context. The vast majority of people in attendance at the Board Meeting were in support of Seminar Day. The article, however, gives a disproportionate amount of attention to the dissenters, and it quotes extensively the opinions of the person referenced above. His opinions represent a fringe view at best.
Second, the News should have challenged the outrageous claim that was made. The 2016 California study that the person used to support his claim does not exist. We checked.
The News reporters should have checked as well. Studies do exist showing different levels of student achievement on assessments in California and elsewhere in the USA. Importantly, actually very importantly, there is a huge difference between “smartness” (i.e., intelligence) and student achievement.
Several of us have worked in schools that are not blessed with the many resources found in schools such as New Trier.
The gap in student achievement in these schools is almost always due to environmental factors, the lack of resources and support systems, and a myriad of other issues unrelated to ethnic or racial identity. We have seen students across all groups succeed and excel when provided the necessary support.
Finally, your readers are owed good proof-reading. There is no end quote for the statement with which we have taken issue. The quote stops in mid-sentence and the article continues in a very disjointed way on the next page.
We feel sorry for those who were hurt and offended by the slur that the News decided to publish.
Finally, we want to thank the many presenters and collaborators who worked so hard to make the Seminar Day a huge success.
It is our hope that all who attended the sessions left with great ideas on how they might work to make our country and world a better, more just, and more compassionate place.
In our opinion, a great way to start toward this goal is to lift up all students, regardless of background, and to find ways – both big and small – to help all young people achieve their full potential.
From the Editors:
Thank you for your letter, we appreciate all feedback from our readership and the community. We rarely respond to letters to the editor, but would like to take time to do so here, due to the sensitive nature of the article referred to.
The article from the March 10 issue, ‘Community packs Cornog to voice view on Seminar Day’ was meant to describe the board meeting and the opinions held among attendees. Part of the job as a journalist is to show all sides to a story.
The decision to include the quote was made to show that there are people who share the same ideology as the man quoted and the fact that there were dissenters at the Feb. 20 Board meeting. We stand by the decision to include the quote.
The piece was not meant to argue one point of view, but to illuminate community members viewpoints.
We feel the article showed different sides and was objectively balanced.
It was our responsibility to publish the quote in order to show the differing sides of the issue and to represent people who shared the same point of view, no matter how much we disagree with it.
However, as a news organization we understand the necessity to acknowledge mistakes and we recognize that the delivery of the quote should have been better.
We agree that there could have been steps taken to check the quote such as stating that the California School Study could not be found. Other visible mistakes such as the unfortunate error regarding the jump to the next page and the end quote will be fixed on our website.
We are one of the final remaining weekly, print high school newspapers left in the country. We mention this not as an excuse, but as an acknowledgment that our student reporters take our work seriously. We are still learning the practice of journalism, and the senior page editors work diligently to produce a newspaper informing and giving a voice to New Trier and our community.