To the Editor:

In my last letter, I sang the praises of the great kids I’ve met over the years and the equally great parents responsible for making them that way.

In a recent letter to the editor, former City Councilman Dick Young wrote a very nice letter praising all teachers for the job they do. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Young, but I don’t share his praise for all teachers.

Just as we have a lot of great kids, we have a lot of great teachers, who are passionate about shaping young minds. But not all teachers fall into this category.

For many years, I’ve seen the following message posted on the marquee in front of schools everywhere: If you can read this, thank a teacher.

What do you mean, “if”? Why wouldn’t you be able to read this message? The truth is, if you can’t read that message, you can thank a teacher also. Several teachers, actually.

Just as a parent has only one responsibility to a child, teachers have only one responsibility to their students — and that is to teach them the basic reading, writing and math skills needed to make it in the world.

Fail them by passing students who have not learned the required subject matter during the school year and they’ll be that much further behind next school year. Let it happen again and they’ll never catch up.

Nothing demonstrates this better than an episode of “60 Minutes” I watched years ago. Four young men were being interviewed. All four had played basketball for the same college.

After four years of playing basketball, their college eligibility had expired. No big deal. They’ve each got a bachelor’s degree and can get a good job. Wrong.

After 12 years of public school and four years of college, these four men were functional illiterates.They could only read and write at the lowest level. Just enough to get by.

As you can imagine, these young men were pretty upset. Twenty-two years old and they can’t even fill out a job application!

What happened was tragic, but there’s plenty of blame to go around. The players, at some point, had to realize they were way behind their classmates. But pride and denial kept them from asking for help.

Their parents were obviously clueless. The coaches had to be aware but chose to ignore the signs because it was more important to win games than to worry about the futures of these young men.

But I put the bulk of the blame squarely on the teachers these four men had who chose the path of least resistance, year after year.

It takes a lot of courage to be the teacher who tells a student, “I need to sit down with you and your parents. You’re way behind the other students” — and doing so in a caring manner that says to the student, “You’re not stupid but you need time to get caught up and I care enough to make that happen.”

With a new school year underway, teachers, ask yourselves if this year you will be the one who makes the difference in a student’s life.

Bill Paquette


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