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Finneran: The Globe’s Mission

Friday, October 12, 2018


Tip O’Neill famously advised against picking a fight with someone who buys fifty tons of newsprint at a time. It’s a no win situation, so much so that Boston Globe readers often go underground, making themselves akin to the French Resistance fighters in World War II.

I thought of the French freedom fighters this morning, Wednesday, October 10th, 2018.

I had just finished reading yet another Globe-inspired assault on Boston Latin School and I thought that I’d scan the reader comments for some enlightenment. The time was 5:30 AM and 25 readers had offered their thoughts on the Globe’s palpable hostility to the best school in the entire state. Wow. The Resistance was flourishing at an early hour. Twenty-five out of twenty-five, all the commenters, told the Globe to shove it.

Let me be the twenty-sixth.

Let’s be clear about a few things:

The Globe likes to think that it is the racial savior of the world, constantly battling racially benighted forces, otherwise known as the people of Boston. It is not, for they are not.

The Globe has been on a long march of hostility to Boston’s exam schools, and particularly against the Latin School.

Whatever problems may be attributed to the Boston Public Schools, Boston Latin is not among them. If anything, the Latin School is the gold standard of excellence. May it long continue.

Very few Bostonians would object if every single student at Boston Latin was a minority, as long as those students had taken the entrance exam and passed. The principle to which Latin School adheres is merit. A student must earn her way in. And a student must earn graduation. It is to be earned, not given.

I very clearly recall a furtive effort by the Globe to topple the Latin School’s ethnic composition by way of disqualifying students who had attended parochial schools for their primary education. The Globe’s view was that those parochial school families had “abandoned” the Boston Public Schools and that they should, therefore, be barred from consideration for admission to Latin School. Think of that for a moment! Think of the sheer audacity of the idea, all done of course in the cause of racial bean-counting.

Parochial school families—i.e. Boston residents and taxpayers—had paid their property taxes every year. In addition, they had taken on the expense of parochial school tuition. They had not in any way “abandoned” the Boston schools. Indeed, year after year they had paid into a system without complaint. That those families may have felt more confident in the rigor and quality of the parochial schools was more of a comment about the shortcomings of the city’s public schools than about anything else.

That there should be more exam preparatory programs for all of Boston’s aspiring students is a no-brainer. Do it. Do it now. Make it an essential component of Boston’s search for a new school superintendent. Build upon Mayor Walsh’s excellent start in this cause. But, do not abandon merit. Do not abandon the effort. Do not abandon achievement. Everyone gets to line up on the same starting line and run the same course. The best of the best go to Latin School.

Once upon a time, Boston’s Jewish community held academic center court at Boston Latin. Various immigrant groups have also done well at Latin School. More recently, Asian students have held sway across the city. It is not possible to argue that these groups enjoyed an economic privilege or advantage over others. Vietnamese or Cambodian families fleeing the genocides of Southeast Asia often arrived without a penny, not knowing a single word of English. Yet their sons and daughters dove into the waters of a strange culture and, through sacrifice and effort, came to be highly successful American students.

Let the Globe lead the fight for more meaningful preparatory efforts for all students, black and white and I will applaud. Let more minority students enter the school on merit and I will applaud.

And let Latin School be Latin School, a legendary and undiluted standard of excellence for all to applaud.

Sumus primi.

You can look it up...................

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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