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Friday's letters: Critical thinking lacking in education debate

Costly higher-ed system not working | Sept. 19, column

Flawed thinking on education

Anne D. Neal rightly points out that critical thinking should be a focus of a college education, but her essay lauding the efforts of Texas and the intended approach of Florida Gov. Rick Scott does not display the same critical thinking. With her term "higher education," she conflates all other colleges and universities (including community/state colleges like St. Petersburg College) in her criticism of "higher education" while ACTA's study, "What Will They Learn," leaves out state colleges and community colleges completely, and more than a third of surveyed colleges are private.

For colleges like SPC, much of her criticism does not hold true. Far from buildings "being empty while new buildings rise," classrooms at SPC are packed. Tuition at SPC is not skyrocketing, and teaching, the focus of SPC and colleges like it, does not take a "backseat to costly and obscure research."

Finally, Neal suggests that while the problem with "higher education" is the required curriculum, and writes that the "Texas plan that Scott is currently considering uses a model that evaluates faculty based on class size and evaluations to incentivize productivity." She identifies problems with curriculum and with the system and then falls prey to the recent scapegoating thinking in Florida that evaluating teachers more stringently will solve the problem of curriculum.

Gregory Byrd, Clearwater, professor, St. Petersburg College

Tea partiers protest party-switching ban Sept. 20

GOP stomps on free speech

Tea party leaders have every reason to be disturbed about Florida's new law, which prohibits candidates for public office from switching political parties. This legislation is a dastardly attempt by Tallahassee bullies to block the First Amendment rights of political candidates to express themselves by changing political parties. A free speech impediment clearly exists when both the Legislature and governor acted to prevent political candidates from changing their party affiliation in an upcoming election.

The U.S. Supreme Court says there must be a compelling governmental interest in preventing free speech by the least-intrusive means. The compelling governmental interest must have been shameless self-promotion for the current Republican leadership.

Stuart Berney, Tampa

Competition helps politics

I don't often agree with the tea party; its followers take reasonable philosophies and concepts and use them to justify the most ridiculous and extreme approaches to government. I do agree with them on at least one point. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are serving the best interests of this country.

Just look at Florida's new law restricting the ability of candidates to change their political allegiance. A country dominated by only two political parties is not what the founding fathers had in mind. Competition is just as beneficial in politics as it is in business. Ford and Chevy may meet the needs of many drivers, but it wouldn't be good if we had no other choice in cars.

Jerry Stephens, Riverview

Sensible about gun control

Focus on illegal use of guns

I am neither a member of the National Rifle Association nor an antigun advocate. I seem to be one of those few people who favors a sensible interpretation of the Second Amendment. I believe that limits should definitely be placed on gun ownership, but there should also be a constitutional minimum limit, which guarantees every individual a basic level of gun-ownership rights.

The problem with limiting gun rights is that we have seen where that leads in other countries: an incremental path toward banning all guns, even for the most legitimate uses. The kinds of laws that antigun advocates seem to promote are those that would disarm or penalize law-abiding citizens who will never abuse weapons. Yet these same antigun advocates go soft on criminals who actually do abuse weapons.

Gun control laws should focus on issues of criminality. Penalizing the illegal use of weapons with laws and judicial decisions that provide effective deterrence would solve a huge part of the problems this country now faces.

Robert Arvay, Tampa

Make firearm laws uniform

Imagine a person carrying a firearm starts a car trip around the state. He starts in Key West, travels up the east coast to Jacksonville, heads west to Milton, goes south to Pensacola, then east along the coast to Perry, then south to Naples. Imagine that at any time during this trip he might encounter a local city/county law that he might inadvertently break.

He could be up to his neck in you-know-what for something he didn't even know was against the law. Now imagine if Florida had uniform firearm laws no matter where he was. What would you rather have?

Robert L. Simister, Seminole

Obama to ask rich to pay more taxes | Sept. 18

Wealthy pay their fair share

As PolitiFact points out, the wealthiest 1 percent of American households pay nearly 40 percent of total federal income taxes. If that isn't their "fair share,'' I must be confused about the meaning of the word "fair.''

Chris Johnson, Clearwater

Citizens Property Insurance sinkhole rates

Thanks for 32.8 percent

Thank heavens for our Florida state government protecting us from huge sinkhole insurance premium increases. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty held the line and kept increases from going beyond a statewide average of 32.8 percent.

Maybe Florida should propose a 440 percent increase on state sales taxes so that we would then be happy to accept a middling one-third increase instead.

Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach

Friday's letters: Critical thinking lacking in education debate 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 5:35pm]
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