The public schools were never meant to compete with private schools attended by the elite. Public schools were originally established by the industrialists to provide an adequate supply of employees for their industries. An eighth-grade education was adequate at that time.
Unfortunately, exploitation of minors occurred. Child labor laws were enacted and the federal government took over and added four years to education. This worked well while this country was expanding and jobs were plentiful and the draft was in effect.
However, no one could foresee the "perfect storm" of changes and the rapid growth of technology that would change the job market forever. Farm mechanization, robots, manufacturing sent overseas, the real emancipation of black people, women in the workforce, changing the age of majority to 18, illegal immigrants, the elimination of the draft — all these added more people than the job market could support.
Grading schools and teachers is not the solution. A change in educational philosophy is needed. Public schools need to provide training programs starting after the 10th grade so that graduates have job potential before they are put out of their homes at age 18 and cannot support themselves. Students on an academic track would take 11th and 12th grades at the junior college and get credit that would transfer. Everyone who is physically and mentally able to work would be in a training program suitable for employment in their community while they can still live at home and have parental control.
The job market is very competitive and our educational philosophy must change so that our young have the best opportunities for employment or advanced education.
Gloria R. Julius, St. Petersburg
To vote on July's Letter of the Month, go to www.tampabay.com/opinion
Expect more from parents | July 31, letter
Good parenting is the key
After 29 years of teaching, I retired due to increasingly difficult conditions in a low-performing school in Pinellas County.
As I read daily articles on every manner of problems with our schools, I recall a remark made to parents years ago by our principal: "We are doing the best we can with what you've sent us."
This still holds true today. I don't care how many tests, rules, regulations, innovations or grade manipulations are made, nothing can or will substitute for good parenting in a secure home environment.
This is called "personal responsibility" and until our society demands, respects and accepts this approach, nothing will change — not in the schools, the neighborhoods, the workplace or the nation as a whole.
Walk in the shoes of a teacher.
Spend a few days in a low-performing school. I know you will find that "they are doing the best they can with what you've sent them."
Marcia Schmidt, Tampa
Not a traitor, but many times guilty | July 31
Act of conscience
Bradley Manning had solid evidence of war crimes. He was faced with a choice between being complicit in perpetuating the system that allowed the crimes or making a moral choice, which he did. His moral choice was to expose the crimes and deceit.
Manning's actions are in accordance with and required by international law as spelled out in the Nuremberg Principles adopted after World War II. In part the principles state that a person who "has a moral choice" but instead chooses to follow an order to commit a crime is guilty of the crime, even though he or she was following orders. Also, complicity in a crime against peace, a war crime or a crime against humanity is a crime.
According to international law, not reporting war crimes (being complicit) is a crime.
And we already knew that Manning is not a traitor. I thank him for his service.
Robert Van Wyk, St. Pete Beach
Affordable Care Act
I have read recent articles about delaying the employer mandate, which is a key provision of the health care law. I have a question: Who or what gives the president the authority to selectively enforce the law?
If precedence is authority, then I guess he has it. He selectively enforces immigration and continues to fund the Egyptian army even after a coup.
If the Affordable Care Act is not ready, then he should go to Congress and get an extension of the bill until all the details can be worked out. But since he believes he can just do whatever he wants, that leaves a few courageous members of Congress to try to defund Obamacare.
I think it is high time for Congress to stand up and demand that the president start enforcing all U.S. laws, whether politically convenient for him or not.
Traci Chadbourne, Tampa
Mass torts, mass payoffs | July 31, commentary
A misleading attack
This opinion piece by Joe Nocera is a misleading attack on the lawyers and judges in our civil justice system.
The premise of his article is that BP was forced to settle with oil spill claimants because the company was unlikely to get a fair trial in our federal court system. Nocera states that BP, "fearing the worst" in a Louisiana courtroom before a judge who had once been a plaintiff lawyer, settled the case.
It is irresponsible to suggest that U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier would disregard his oath of office to deny BP a fair trial. Furthermore, this case would ultimately be decided by a jury. A Louisiana jury would be composed of residents who sympathized with oil spill victims but also of residents who know that the oil and gas business is the life blood of the Louisiana economy.
We, as U.S. citizens, know that the most of these jurors would put aside their personal feelings to do their sworn duty as citizens and follow the law to give both sides a fair trial. That is one of the most important rights that we cherish as citizens.
Nocera is just wrong to assert that large corporations that injure and harm people cannot get a fair trial and so they have to settle cases that they could win because lawyers have a business model to force them to settle. His attack on the lawyers and the federal judge is a theme of so called "tort reform" that seeks to deny access to the courts to consumers and small business owners.
Joseph H. Saunders, Pinellas Park
Chisels edit King's statue | July 30
Money and memory
To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., "If I were to die, I should be remembered for goodness, not showy acts or awards." Do you suppose he was prophesizing about spending $120 million on a statue? And now being altered at the tune of $90,000 a word? Now there's a job!
Roger H. Oddson, Sun City Center
DUI cop moved after controversy | July 31
It is comforting to know that Tampa police Chief Jane Castor recognizes that allowing a DUI sergeant to waste two hours with another officer watching a bar for potential drinking violations, at the request of the sergeant's close friend, might have the potential to convey an appearance of impropriety.
At the very least Castor has a moderate grasp of the obvious. Is the Tampa Police Department a boutique law enforcement agency available at the beck and call of the well-connected?
John Henninger, Clearwater
Survey says: At 63 you're obsolete July 30, Daniel Ruth column
Gray and blue
Mr. Ruth, I feel your pain concerning your ageist survey snub, but try looking for work when you have more than a few gray hairs on your head. It seems that nearly all the job search sites prominently feature young, good-looking 20-somethings on their websites.
Pretty discouraging when you are forced to admit you graduated college in the 1980s on your online application.
Joe Oosterhout, Tampa
Hanging in there
While I am a mile or two to the right of Daniel Ruth on most issues, he can still tickle anyone's funnybone. As one also born in the prehistoric year of 1949, I too feel obsolete at times and mutter often, "I'm glad I'm old …" (I think).
The classic Twilight Zone episode entitled The Obsolete Man came to mind after enjoying Mr. Ruth's diatribe.
Kenn Sidorewich, Oldsmar