Reality Check

Jordan Ma has joined the discussion about the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) and the closing of Bay Farm Middle School ("," April 6). Ma complains about "the assaults on Smith's character" and Smith's "ad hominem critics," so it's ironic that his letter contains no less than five ad hominem attacks. Moreover, Ma doesn't mention the personal attacks that appear in some of Smith's letters.

It's perfectly reasonable to point out the factual errors Smith presents in the ongoing discussion about the school district; Smith is putting attention on himself. Ma reminds us that Smith "wants to be proven wrong" about what Smith perceives as "the decline in accountability and transparency in public education." But Smith's argument contains a fallacy called "begging the question." Smith's premise is that the abysmal levels of proficiency in core subjects is mostly the fault of the school system. I question that premise and I would welcome an extended discussion with Smith on the topic.

Smith repeats that AUSD must be more accountable and transparent, seeming to forget that Alameda residents have always had the power to do that. I'm reminded of The Wizard of Oz when the good witch tells Dorothy she always had the power to go back to Kansas.

I'll repeat what I've said before, since neither Smith nor Ma have bothered to respond to it: AUSD is accountable to voters. If AUSD has violated the rules, we should vote the rascals out or organize a recall. If the residents of Alameda want to have smaller class sizes in all the middle schools, they can vote for that. If a good case can be made that there is too much unnecessary overhead in school administration, that case must be made before corrective action can be taken.

— Steven Mason