|ABOUT US||STORE||DONATIONS||FREE NEWSLETTER||BLOG||PRESS ROOM||CONTACT US|
Sample Letters to the Editors
11 Letter-types With an Example of Each
Note to writers: These letters were written specifically for this handbook, not only to demonstrate types of letters but to present the case for separation from a variety of angles.
The Informational Letter: Use an article as an excuse to provide more information.
To the editor:
In light of your recent article about parents who are frustrated with schools off-handedly dismissing their concerns and even becoming hostile toward them (Whose Kids Are They? 12/4/04), I thought readers might like to know about the Alliance for the Separation of School and State. This organization promotes free-market, parent-controlled schooling. More information can be found at www.schoolandstate.org.
The Praise Letter: Let the Praise Speak for Itself.
To the editor:
Kudos to the Central High School students who had the gumption to take part of their education into their own hands by apprenticing themselves to a local businessman. It gives me hope for the future to think that there are still young people willing to defy the idea that the state has a right to control their education and their lives. I am greatly encouraged. May more teens work up the nerve and motivation to do the same!
The Praise/Criticize Letter: Start with praise and lead into an additional point and/or information.
To the editor:
What a breath of fresh air to open my paper and find an objective article about home schooling — one in which the local school superintendent was not asked to comment on something he knows nothing about (why aren't home schoolers ever asked for their take on the state of the public schools?).
Your article (The Learn at Home Trend, 3/23/04) mentions that many home schoolers feel the government has no business dictating how their children should be educated. I'd like to agree and add that the government has a serious conflict of interest in controlling the education of children.
Many of the founding fathers emphasized that government is a necessary evil that should be constantly guarded against, that you can be absolutely certain that government will abuse its power. It is, in words attributed to George Washington, like fire — a dangerous servant and a fearful master, ever ready to grab more control, more power, to restrict liberty, to eat up our livelihood. And how do we react to this advice? We hand our own children over to the monster. Then we sit around and whine about the results.
There are alternatives. Visit The Alliance for the Separation of School and State at www.schoolandstate.org.
The Look What's Already Happening Letter: Get the ball rolling by showing that it already is.
To the editor:
Your recent article about The Alliance for the Separation of School & State (Get the Government Out of Schools? 4/15/04) implies that this is an idea so radical as to be unbelievable. But The Alliance makes it clear that they believe separation will occur over time and by people taking personal initiative. In fact, that's exactly what has been happening for some time now.
11.4% of all school-age children attend 27,000 private schools across the country. Another 1.5 to 2 million children are home schooled. Tens of thousands of parents pay hundreds of learning centers and thousands of tutors to supplement or compensate for their children's public school experience. Jewish parents send their kids for special religious training after school hours. Chinese parents send their kids for native language training on weekends. Home schoolers pool their resources to start classes and run co-ops to conduct science labs and teach kids higher math, to offer art and music and drama.
The revolution has begun. It's only a matter of time. We are returning to the private education model that made this country great way before the government got its hands on the schools. Freedom is on the march.
The Personal Authority/Expertise Letter: Speak from your own experience.
As a former classroom teacher, I must take issue with your editorial, "If Only Parents Would Do Their Part" (7/9/04). There is no doubt that teachers are in a difficult position. Children do come to school less disciplined now than in years past. Teachers do have fewer options in dealing with discipline issues.
But your article completely ignored the fact that much of the fundamental cause of all this trouble is that schools have spent many decades slowly robbing parents of responsibility, then they wonder why parents send them undisciplined kids.
When I left the public school system to teach in the private sector, where parents still retain the lion's share of responsibility for ensuring that their kids are polite and respectful, I was amazed to see the difference. Private schools expect parents to do the work of character education, then they back up the parents rather than preempt them. Parents are trusted and courted, unlike public schools, where parents are blamed but never trusted and certainly not courted. Government schools make it clear that they consider parents basically incompetent to raise children and that they themselves are experts in the field — then they blame the parents for their own failures.
There are many options for parents who want out of this vicious cycle of blame and failure. One good place to start is with The Alliance for the Separation of School and State at www.schoolandstate.org.
The Appeal to Authority/Expertise Letter: Draw on Someone Else's Expertise.
To the editor:
Superintendent Joe Schmoe's comments about the superior expertise and motives of public schools (Can the Free Market Be Trusted With Our Kids? 10/3/04) can be placed in better perspective if we look at the comments of some of his illustrious predecessors in public schooling, people who put less effort into shrouding their philosophy in euphemistic terms.
William T. Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education in the late 1800s, summed up the goal of government schooling with refreshing candor: "Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life..." He was not criticizing — he was bragging!
"[The children's] parents know not how to instruct them... The state, in the warmth of her affection and solicitude for their welfare, must take charge of those children..." Archibald D. Murphey, founder of North Carolina public schools.
"The children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming..." John Dewey, American philosopher and educator in early 1900s.
"Only a system of state-controlled schools can be free to teach whatever the welfare of the State may demand." Ellwood P. Cubberley, American educator and writer in early 1900s.
"'Parent choice' proceeds from the belief that the purpose of education is to provide the individual student with an education. In fact, educating the individual is but a means to the true end of education, which is to create a viable social order to which individuals contribute and by which they are sustained." Association of California School Administrators
We are still a free enough people to take hold of our liberty and exercise it, but if we continue to sacrifice our children to the state, that may not be true for them. It is time to squeeze the government out of the school business. Resources for getting started can be found at The Alliance for the Separation of School and State's web site: www.schoolandstate.org.
The I Object Letter: Let loose with a little righteous indignation.
To the editor:
I must take exception to Mrs. Smith's comments to the editor on May 4. I understand her frustration with the state of public schooling, but to blame people who have chosen not to sacrifice their own children in hopes that a system that has been failing from its outset will improve for future generations is misguided at best.
No one has the right to ask me to sacrifice the well-being, the education, or the future of my children for their idea of how things ought to be. If they choose to make such a sacrifice, that is their business. I am not interfering with Mrs. Smith's decisions regarding the upbringing of her children. I would certainly never suggest that she should be legally required to sacrifice her children.
As it is, my hard-earned money is confiscated for Mrs. Smith's purposes. I hand it over every year, all the while paying for the education of my own children. But that's not enough. Mrs. Smith wants my children, too, in the vain hope that the few extra dollars they'll produce for the schools and the dedicated mom who will tag along will magically transform a system that is corrupt by its very nature.
Again, I do not interfere with the right of others to choose what they wish for their children, but I do object vehemently to their efforts to force me to make the same decisions.
The Set the Record Straight Letter: Then add a point.
To the editor:
Your article, School Funding at Record Low (9-10-04), contains a false claim. School funding is actually at an all-time high, as readers can learn at www.-------.gov/edfunding. Your source arrived at his figures by slight of hand — he used as a jump-off point the amount of money the school system requested. When they received less than that figure, they claimed funds were being cut, when in reality they received a 15% increase over last year's budget. This is a typical ploy used to make people feel guilty and to deceive them into conceding to higher taxes.
This is also one reason among many that schools would be better off out of government hands. It is next to impossible to maintain control and accountability when a system has the power of the state behind it. It's all the more difficult with schools, because so many positions are not open to election.
To get an idea of how schools might look if they weren't run by the government, visit the web site of The Alliance for the Separation of School and State: www.schoolandstate.org.
The Point Out the Hypocrisy Letter: Don't Let Them Off the Hook.
To the editor:
The audacious hypocrisy of a public school official suggesting that he should be charged with overseeing the academic and social welfare of privately and home schooled students (Accountability in Education, 6/19/04) leaves me with my mouth hanging open. No sane person would entertain the idea of a surgeon who loses half his patients sitting on a hospital oversight board. No nursing home would hire a director whose previous job resulted in 75% of patients suffering from malnutrition. No serious business would hire a CEO who had run several previous businesses into bankruptcy.
Yet someone who oversees a school with a 35% drop-out rate and a one-third functional illiteracy rate among those who do manage to graduate has the hubris to think he should be rewarded with even more authority over children. Someone who runs a system that sends off 55% of its college-bound graduates so unprepared in math and English that they need remediation should be laughed right off the stage. Only in a bureaucracy-laden, government-run system that is itself unaccountable to anyone could such irony be missed.
We all need to pull our kids out before the disease spreads.
The Concede a Point and Make a Counterpoint Letter
See the Personal Authority example, where the writer concedes that teachers have a tough job handling unruly children but makes the point that the system has brought much of the problem on itself.
The Jump-Off Letter: Jump off from an article, editorial, general news topic, holiday, another letter...
We won't include any samples here. Most of the above samples fall under this category. This heading is just a reminder that you can almost always find some little item in a newspaper or other media to use as a jump-off.
Return to Top Writer's Handbook
Some of the more