To the Editor: Spring Cleaning For Open Space##M:[more]##

With better weather on the way, you can help clean up our community and save our open space at the same time by participating in a unique public/private community service program. For each hour a person 16 years of age or older volunteers to collect litter from our streets and parks, the Friends of West Windsor Open Space (FOWWOS) will receive $10, and for each hour a person younger than 16 participates, FOWWOS will receive $5. These funds are provided by the state and are used by FOWWOS to preserve land in West Windsor.

Volunteers such as the Berrien City Neighborhood Association, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and other community organizations, as well as individual citizens have given their time to clean up litter —and by doing so through this program, simultaneously generate funds to save open space in West Windsor. Parents should accompany children at all times. If you would like to participate, please contact Elliot Kleiman of FOWWOS, 609-799-8372, or E-mail ek61@juno.com.

Michael Schuit

President, FOWWOS

A Rebuttal to ‘Time For Big Cuts’

Allow me to offer a rebuttal to Mr. Harbir Singh in his commentary “Time For Big Cuts” (The News, February 18). He brings to our attention the need to examine the high cost of education and to find ways to change the system on which property taxes are determined, with the goal of making property taxes more affordable.

This laudable goal has seemed to elude most municipalities in this state and elsewhere and the clamor over incessant property tax increases rises from coast to coast. No one, yet, seems to have found a way to solve the problem.

Mr. Singh’s suggestions are similar to the same suggestions heard elsewhere — cut the salaries of teachers, policemen, firemen, reduce school programming to just the basics, increase class size, etc.

In fact, Mr. Singh offers up the paradigm of the airline industry as the way to solve the property tax problem. Yet cutting back the wages of its employees does not seem to be saving many well known airline companies from probable bankruptcy and eventual disappearance from the industry.

Similarly, cutting off education’s nose will surely be to the detriment of its face. Slash and burn is not a technique that would work well in communities that have high expectations of those that it serves. Cut the salaries of highly qualified teachers who are already paid too low and you wind up with angry resentful teachers who will stop teaching and become professional babysitters.

Get rid of anything that is beyond the basics in school and you wind up with blue ribbon school districts that deteriorate. The consequences will ripple through our communities with apathy and deterioration leading the way. Let us not go there!

Mr. Singh is on the right track in pointing out the need to re-examine and change. His suggested methodology is seriously flawed because it does not address the operative system that is at the very core of the creation of the problem, The Culture.

It is the culture in place today that created the property tax monster and the only way to tame the monster and turn it into something more manageable is to change the culture that gives it life and sustains it. It may be true that in India they can get the job of education done for a lot less and turn out bright stars. Apparently, India may have elements in its national and local cultures that enable this kind of result.

We turn out lots of bright stars as well, yet if we feel the cost to do that is excessive, then we need to change the underlying assumptions on which that cost is based. Here lies the crux of the problem. Mr. Singh advocates an Outside-In approach that typically takes the form of slashing salaries, cutting services or eliminating programs. A different way to change the assumptions is an Inside-Out approach that works at first to examine the beliefs, the values that make up the current culture of our education system, and then determines if those beliefs and values are still relevant. If they are not, then new values and beliefs can be adopted and fostered and a new culture will be created.

When change is made using an Outside-In approach, those who serve to those who are served typically feel angry, disenfranchised and resentful and they become constant sources of friction and negativity that never seems to go away.

Change made using the Inside-Out approach produces a quite different result. Here, participants in the culture are involved in the change process and contribute to fostering the change. As a result, the anger turns into empowerment, the feelings of disenfranchisement turns into real participation and resentful attitudes turns into active support. The new culture takes hold and the results are long lived and positive.

How do we go about changing The Culture? For starters, we need leaders who can help us collectively rise to a new level of thinking and involvement. Consider this:

This requires a willingness of our school administrations and school board members to actively examine the current beliefs and value systems that make up our educational culture today. They need to involve the community at large in this examination process and any other organizations that are part of the overall educational culture. They need to actively solicit and receive the benefits of everyone’s thinking to determine if the underlying structures (i.e the core beliefs, the value system in place and the behavior norms these produce) of our educational system are still valid. If examination reveals a discontinuity between the current educational culture and the one that is desired, it will produce the impetus and desire to create a new culture supported by new core beliefs and values. This approach requires organized and systematic implementation involving those affected and it is through this very involvement that sustainable change from the Inside-Out can be created.

Using this Inside-Out approach, we will find out if the core beliefs still give rise to the need for having a school nurse, or a special education program or a low student to teacher class ratio. If they do, then these would not be appropriate targets for change. However, if we find through collective examination that these are no longer valid, then we have a motivating basis for creating new core beliefs and a new system that will sustain them. The examination would bring into synchronization and harmony our shared beliefs and the systems needed to sustain them and give them life.

This will take us to a new level of thought and involvement and create satisfying change with sustainable long term results — in short, a new culture. Is this easy to do? Absolutely not! Must this be done to make our communities affordable without sacrificing excellence? Absolutely!

Brian Wittlin

1407 Edinburg Road,

West Windsor

Innate Benefits of Public Schools

I read the letter by Harbir Singh with much interest. I can sympathize with his confusion as to why we, as Americans, seem to operate under a system of apparent wastefulness and inefficiencies. I lived in England for 10 years and very slowly came to understand how the different culture affected the systems of government and education.

Although Mr. Singh notices all kinds of apparent wastefulness throughout the township, I will address only the issue of our local public education. In America, we have many laws in place to protect children and to ensure that all children receive an education. These legal constraints, and there are many, can have a profound effect, good and bad, on the quality of the education. Our school board and administration often has its hands tied when trying to make any radical changes.

Every child must go to school until age 16. This includes every kind of child and teen, even ones with serious behavioral problems. It is not fair for well behaved students to have their education degraded by the interference of undisciplined students but these students must all be put into classrooms. It is the law.

One of the most constraining laws that I think everyone wonders about is the law that says every child must have transportation provided to and from school. It doesn’t matter that many students get to school by car, bike or walking. We must pay for busing each one. This law manifests itself in an absurd way for children attending private schools. Families who send their children to private schools are paid $700/year per child to cover the cost of transportation — we have to pay for not educating them! Do we as tax payers want to shell out for families with school age children who don’t attend the schools? Of course not, but this is the law.

The curriculum is largely set by the State of New Jersey. Our district goes over and above some of the requirements but this is a choice that we make as a community.

I feel strongly that our music program is something for us to be extremely proud of. Every child has the opportunity to study a musical instrument or develop the gift of his/her voice. The experience of being part of a musical group and the skills that are developed, will nourish the individual’s spirit throughout his/her life. No one can deny that our primary purpose in public education will increasingly become the development of balanced, unselfish human beings rather than simply productive citizens. This is not attainable without participation and study of the Arts.

Mr. Singh states that like the airline industry which cut the wages of their employees by almost 30 percent, the school and municipal budgets must be cut by similar margins. The goal of a business is to make a profit. The goal of education has nothing to do with making money. The aims of education cannot be reached by adopting the measures a business uses.

Despite the difficulties, there are innate benefits to sending your children to public school here in WW-P. I rank the cultural diversity of the student body and the dedication of the majority of teachers as highly valuable.

When I have doubts about the education that my three children receive in school, I remind myself that they spend far more time outside of school than the 180 days per year when they are in school. Out of 365 days, much more than 50 percent of their waking hours are spent out of school. A family’s attitudes, values and rituals will always have a much greater affect on the child than what can be acquired in school. Suzanne Dicker

7 Chaucer Court, West Windsor

Swimming Update

Thanks for your coverage of the Mercer County Swim Championships, and the great pictures of our swimmers from both High Schools North and South.

However you neglected to include two female swimmers who both placed at this important meet and added points to their respective teams’ score. Mary McGovern of North placed ninth in the breaststroke, and Erika Tomei of South placed fifth.

Jennifer McGovern