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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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‘Destroy and divide’

To The Editor:

As the debate about "tracking" and "heterogeneous classes" for ninth-graders gains momentum, I find myself absorbed in the differing viewpoints. I appreciate the passion and fervor that is fueling this debate from both sides, as complacency would be disturbing on a matter so significant.

Unfortunately, using the language "both sides" to describe the entire array of opinions thus far is also disturbing. "Both" implies that the argument has only two sides, that it's black and white, right or wrong. This topic has many sides, many colors and no clear definition of right or wrong.

The arguments I've been hearing from parents and students opposed to the idea of heterogeneous classrooms are highlighting only the two extreme and opposing types of student: the one falling asleep in class and the one who is high achieving and highly motivated. Once again "both" types of students are represented, rather than all types, which is a significant oversight and a flaw in the argument opposing the idea of heterogeneous classrooms.

Many, possibly most, students don't fall into either category and they are not being considered or represented in this debate. With only two types of students continually being represented on this matter it seems to be fostering an attitude of "us" and "them" in our community, both at Harwood and within The Valley itself.

It's becoming more difficult to ignore the overarching social division that is happening at Harwood as a result of this attitude. There are many types of students, not just two, yet the justification for the argument for honors classes hinges on this fallacy. Students coming in as ninth-graders can only benefit and flourish in an academic environment that is stimulating and challenging for each and every student, rather than be categorized as one type of student or the other.

All types of students gain better learning from a rigorous and stimulating classroom environment so why wouldn't we want to make it available to all of them? We need to make choices that are good for all, not just some. A healthy debate, when viewpoints are heard and respected, has the power to inform and unite. When differing viewpoints are not heard and respected, it has the power to destroy and divide.

Jane Devereux



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