Letters to the Editor: Week of Sept. 4, 2013

Defending columnist’s credentials

In his Aug. 28 letter to the editor, Norman Pressman questions the qualifications of J. Martin Rochester who has authored a number of commentaries on behalf of the Jewish Light. The tone of  the letter suggests Pressman is disheartened by Rochester’s commentary and rather than constructively criticizing his opinions, attacked his qualifications, apparently without knowing what they are. 

Pressman is not alone in disagreeing with Rochester.  However, there are as many, if not more, who agree with Rochester’s positions. The Light clearly and open-mindedly was seeking to publish diversity of opinion when they engaged Rochester to pen his columns. The paper’s editors did not simply pick Rochester’s name out of a hat:

Rochester is nationally known in international political science and is a critically acclaimed author of nine books, a well-accepted expert by his colleagues, and recognized for excellence in teaching by the Chancellor of UM-St. Louis.

Regarding public education, such nationally known names as E. D. Hirsch, Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch have recognized him as an educational leader and his book “Class Warfare” (featured on C-Span’s “BookTV”) has been widely recognized as a seminal treatment of the issues that plague public school education.Locally, he is a frequent contributor on KMOX’s Charles Brennan show and is frequently requested to speak before Jewish organizations.

His qualifications are not hidden. A couple minutes of research would have unearthed both his professional qualifications and academic achievement. He is far more than, as Pressman suggests, merely “a professor at a local university.” 

Andrew Rochman, Clayton

Norman Pressman’s letter questioning J. Martin Rochester’s qualifications as an Op-Ed commentator concludes with Mr. Pressman asking what he is missing. 

I’ll be happy to help him out.

Professor Rochester’s opinions on school transfers were provocative but failed the political correctness test.  One can agree or disagree with all or part of the substance; that is exactly the journalistic purpose of an Op-Ed. 

To argue — as Rochester did — that the disorganized transfer process has caused educational chaos  in the region is certainly not beyond the pale. His critics love diversity, except when it conflicts with their “truths.”  

Too often we are treated to lock-step conventional wisdom, both political and ideological, in Light editorials and news sources. I applaud the Light’s willingness to occasionally present counterpoint commentary such as Rochester’s. You deserve kudos, not criticism, for offering such content. 

Pressman airily calls opinions he disdains “garden variety blather.” That’s his right. But questioning the qualifications of authors with whom he disagrees is a clear attempt to censor their ideas by preventing their opinions from being printed. That is reprehensible.

Irl Solomon, St. Louis County