Dear Tell All: My liberal neighbors are all worked up about Madison Preparatory Academy, the Urban League's proposed school for African American students. They're wildly in favor of it, believing it's the solution to the achievement gap for minorities in the Madison school system.
I'm as liberal as they are, but to me, the proposal seems riddled with problems. Most importantly, Madison Prep would require a lot of taxpayer dollars to help relatively few students. This is just one of the arguable issues, along with high administrative fees and lack of accountability.
Well, you wouldn't know that from my neighbors. Anytime I try to engage them on the subject of Madison Prep, I get shouted down, as if even bringing up objections brands me as someone who doesn't care about disadvantaged minorities. This is the same approach that some supporters of the proposal took at a recent school board forum. They suggested that for school board members to vote against Madison Prep would be racist.
That strikes me as absurd, especially when you're talking about a bleeding-heart liberal board that clearly believes in helping minority kids. It also seems absurd to place all the blame for the achievement gap on the school district, as some supporters do. What about poverty, family issues and all the other problems the district can't do anything about?
I'm feeling mad at my neighbors for not fighting fair. They appear to have abandoned rational discussion, preferring to wallow in self-righteousness and demonize their opponents. I've decided to give up and just stop talking to them about it.
The Guy Next Door
Dear Guy: I would counsel you to do exactly the opposite: keep talking to them about it. Everybody's emotional about Madison Prep, and we're not going to get anywhere if the two sides stop communicating with each other. The bad feelings seem particularly unfortunate in this case, given that most people agree on the need to address the achievement gap. So keep a cool head and remind your neighbors that we're all in this together.