Athelia Knight's series on McKinley High School {front page, Sept. 13-16} had the ability to hurt 1,200 students and their educators in just four short days. How sad that one whole day's article was devoted to one basketball player who is not even counted among the high achievers.

Contrary to what Miss Knight thinks, nobody gives a darn how many coaches wanted to recruit Anthony Tucker. It's good to expose the wrong decisions, such as tickets for grades, but surely there are some worthwhile things going on between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at McKinley other than the few portrayed in this mean-spirited article. As a volunteer at Sousa Jr. High for three years, I find this article an affront to all friends of education.



McKinley High School must be doing something right.

We had five student interns from McKinley's School of Communications working at our company this past summer. Their supervisors raved about them, their seriousness about on-the-job training and their readiness for the work world.

Their evaluations include comments like these:

"Very dependable." "Picks up work quickly." "Able to do assignments with minimal supervision." "Cooperative and willing to take on new tasks." Accepts instructions well." "Responsible and interested in good job performance." "Willing approach to work." "Showed initiative."

Obviously, these young people and their families should take the credit for personal characteristics that their supervisors found delightful. We also credit McKinley for the fact that they have a seriousness of purpose and job-readiness skills that enabled them to make their interships into real learning experiences.



The prejudice against academic achievers, described in the first of Athelia Knight's series {"Doing Well Is Not Cool at Inner-City Schools," Sept. 13}, confirms the other research on the subject. However, I would disagree with one implication.

Having an anti-academic-excellence attitude is not a black phenomenon. It is an attitude that is common to most adolescents, regardless of race, when there are markedly different levels of academic achievement.

Students know and adults should remember that there is a price to be paid for academic excellence. One price is the negative attitude of one's peers, for academic achievement does not contribute to popularity. The valedictorian is not as respected as the athlete.

Excellence also demands homework and study, which cuts down on the time that can be spent on more pleasurable pursuits, such as dating or watching television. It also may reduce or eliminate the time needed to hold a job to provide money for leisure activities or, more important, to contribute toward family support.

In spite of all this, some students are willing to pay the price. As the director of the Science Youth Program here, I see finalists in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and the International Science and Engineering Fair. They are not only academic achievers but scientific achievers, and have spent a tremendous amount of time on homework and in the laboratory, rather than engaging in more relaxing pursuits.

What makes these students strive so hard? In a substantial number of cases, their parents had a lot to do with their achievement. The parents supported and in many cases demanded academic excellence.

Unfortunately, there are not enough parents who strongly support and demand academic excellence, because they, too, have to pay a price. It is no fun to demand that your children study and do their homework, and to continuously follow up to see that the demand is being carried out. It is far easier to leave the job to the teachers, so that they can be blamed when there are problems.

E. G. SHERBURNE JR. Washington

What a disappointment! Didn't reporter Athelia Knight, author of "Pursuing the Legacy," experience anything positive in her visits to McKinley High School? The picture painted was very bleak.

Where were the students in these classrooms who are excelling? Shouldn't they have received some recognition? So much negativism has never promoted excellence. Isn't that what we are striving to achieve?

I am a product of the D.C. Public Schools, graduating many years ago from Cardozo High, another inner-city school. Because of dedicated teachers and administrators, we were inspired to feel proud of ourselves and our accomplishments.

Having experienced years as a classroom teacher and reading specialist in the D.C. Public Schools, this article has saddened me. Where were the discipline, respect and the striving for academic excellence? Did not this reporter see any of these? Inspire, motivate, praise, encourage our students. They need it all.