U.S. should keep out of Syria's sectarian war July 1, commentary
For U.S., a no-win conflict
Kudos to Rep. Tom Rooney. Every point made in this article was spot-on.
We have no business in another country's civil war where both sides are composed of bad men and affiliated with worse men. President Barack Obama wants to give guns and support to our enemy to fight the bad guys. Is he too blind to see that our guns will eventually be used against us?
Once again, Obama is going around Congress in order to do what he wants. And the sad part is that Congress, as a whole, does not have the nerve or strength to challenge him. Hopefully, Rooney's legislation will pass both the House and Senate and put the clamps on Obama.
So whom should the United States support — the current Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, or the rebels consisting of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups such as al-Nusrah?
Unfortunately this is a no-win situation for us, and we should keep our nose, and our guns, out of this war.
Jim Rechtin, Tampa
Summer school, less heat | June 29
Reading for pleasure works
Pinellas County's summer program is doing it the hard way: More classroom instruction in reading is not nearly as effective as encouraging free, voluntary self-selected reading.
The first study of the summer slump, done in 1975 by Barbara Heyns, showed that the difference in reading development between children from low and middle incomes is largely the result of lack of access to reading material over the summer. Heyns found that those who live closer to libraries read more, and both Heyns and Harvard scholar Jimmy Kim, 30 years later, found that children who read more over the summer made more gains in reading.
Also, Fay Shin and I reported that sixth-graders behind in reading who participated in a summer program focusing on self-selected reading and plenty of library time made dramatic gains in reading.
All this agrees with mountains of research showing that extensive reading for pleasure is far more effective than traditional classroom instruction in reading for boosting reading proficiency, as well as studies showing that better libraries mean higher reading proficiency.
Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles
Reverse the rate increase
Last week, Congress let down students, families and the economy when it failed to prevent the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling.
Congress was blocked by legislators who insisted on charging students more for their loans as a way to lower the deficit. As a result, the rate on these loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1. This increase will cost over 460,000 student borrowers in Florida an additional $936 for each loan they take out.
This failure will not only affect student borrowers, it will also harm the economy — to the tune of almost $430 million in additional spending on student loans.
Fortunately, Congress can still act this summer to pass a retroactive extension, before colleges issue student loan packages in August and September.
We urge Congress to protect students and the economy by acting quickly to reverse this rate increase.
Jonathan Leidenheimer, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Washington, D.C.
Education isn't just sciences | June 22, editorial
The value of empathy
Thank you for your excellent editorial on the value of the humanities in education. There is one more value that I would like to include.
I've been teaching for almost 50 years, and when people ask me what I teach, I tell them empathy. Literature, history and art let us walk in the shoes of others, take on their identity for a time, feel their joys and sorrows, loves and pains. They rescue us from the narrow confines of the time and culture in which we were born. They allow us to identify with people and experiences which, except for that experience, would be solely "other." They enlarge our humanity, for we see others with a complexity that goes beyond stereotype, that says to us that under the circumstances recorded in the work, I too could act or feel the way that character does.
The Holocaust and other genocides of our time have shown us all too clearly what can occur to our fellow humans when we reduce them to "other." We experience almost daily politics without empathy. Conversely, the manager who has experienced the economic pain and suffering of a character like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman will, through that experience, be a better manager.
Empathy is not necessarily agreement, but it makes the relationship with people and even nations with whom we disagree essentially different because we understand them in the complexity of a shared humanity and within the context of their culture.
As we grow more global, as events around the world or on our border with Mexico affect us more closely, the empathy that the humanities provide may be our education's most valuable product.
Francis Gillen, Dana Professor of English, emeritus, University of Tampa, Clearwater
Lights on when it rains
Why do some drivers insist on not having their headlights on when it is raining? Every person who has a Florida driver's license has taken the test. It is the law in Florida.
You must use these lights during rain, smoke or fog. Parking lights do not meet requirements of this law. It could be a blinding rainstorm and still some drivers have no lights on. Or they have auto safety headlights but their taillights are not on. Don't these drivers understand how difficult it is for someone to see them when rain is falling?
It is mind-boggling to me that the police seem to do nothing about this. Start writing tickets and these drivers will learn fast. And it will help prevent accidents and help to save lives.
Terence Robinson, Seminole
Sensible gun reform for Florida July 2, editorial
Gun law worth supporting
Recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, HB 1355 will help keep guns out of the hands of most of those who have been committed under the Baker Act or have committed themselves voluntarily.
As a gun advocate and gun owner, NRA member and concealed weapon permit holder in El Salvador, California (now expired) and Florida, I applaud the commonsense approach to gun violence rather than so much of the political histrionics and media-inspired emotion of late involving firearm profiling and magazine capacities.
H.A. Smith, Palm Harbor
The nation of mutts | July 2, commentary
A rising underclass?
My dictionary defines "mutt" as a mongrel dog. For mongrel, I found: "A person of mixed racial stock. Usually used disparagingly or facetiously."
David Brooks' backhanded compliments for the rising wave of immigrants populating American cities, his disclaimers aside, seem to imply a welcoming embrace of the masses who will toil ceaselessly for the enjoyment and endless profit of the entrenched ruling class he slyly represents.
Michael Henry, Bradenton