Help choose May's Letter of the Month
Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a Letter of the Month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year.
Help us choose from the nominations for letter of the month for May by visiting the website listed below by Wednesday.
Read through the three letters and vote on the ballot at the bottom of the Web page. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style.
The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly help.
To see the three May nominees and vote, go to www.tampabay.com/opinion.
High court spares killer | May 28
IQ test's limited use
The latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling found fault with Florida's statute defining a specific IQ value of 71 as a standard for executions.
The IQ test was originally constructed for Parisian schools by the psychologist Alfred Binet during the early 1900s. It was designed to predict which children would need special assistance in their classwork, and was considered effective for that purpose.
Using this and later instruments to test "intelligence" has greatly helped educators to identify students with unique needs. It is infinitely more useful than most other assessment methods, but was never considered to be a measure of a child's total capability.
Binet considered the scores on his intelligence test to be limited and temporary, not a predictor of a student's success in life. He considered the test results highly dependent upon the child's environment.
Today, the IQ test is much improved but considered by many psychologists as invalid for many of the uses that have evolved since Binet.
The standard often used to define mental retardation in most cases is an IQ of 70. A person scoring below this level would be expected to be less successful in school than 97.8 percent of the population. This is not a valid determiner of whether a person "knows right from wrong," nor was it designed for this purpose.
Fred Prince, Tampa
What the founders meant by gun rights May 28, commentary
I respond to the column on the Second Amendment with an observation about fear and the paradox of freedom. Owning a gun increases the freedom of the person who owns it but decreases the freedom of the community he or she lives in. It does that by decreasing his fear while increasing that of everybody else.
The right to keep a gun is statutory, not natural. Like every other statutory right, it can be changed. I say that as a lawyer.
The sick murderer in California decreased the freedom of the community, the nation, by scaring and distracting it. That will happen again. It will happen until the community gets fed up with having its freedom diminished and, instead, diminishes the freedom of persons in it.
Alan Jude Murley, Tampa
The meaning of gun rights
Bravo to Joe Nocera, who points out that the Second Amendment does not give everyone the right to bear arms — only a well-regulated militia. To me, this means the National Guard. Therefore, if you want to carry a gun, you must belong to the National Guard. Sign up now.
Barbara Counts, St. Petersburg
Scott admits, on climate change, he's no scientist | May 28
Science and sense
When asked if he thinks "man-made climate change is real and significant," Gov. Rick Scott replies, "I'm not a scientist."
I don't get it. He is not an educator, yet he cuts millions from public education. He is not a biologist, yet he actively promotes development over the health of Florida's wetlands and springs. Apparently a leader doesn't have to be an expert to act. He or she just needs to be informed by experts in order to act for the good of the people.
And what say nearly 100 percent of our expert climate scientists? Man-made climate change is real. Scott is also real — a real disaster.
Richard Downing, Hudson
Take down barriers to solar power May 25, editorial
Big return on investment
One aspect of the economics of solar power is the antiquated notion of "payback" — which should be called instead "tax-free return on investment."
This editorial cites a "six-year payback" for a commercial solar power system. This is a 16.5 percent return on investment, compared to a 1 or 2 percent taxable return on a certificate of deposit.
What sounds better: Wait six years to get "paid back" or make a 16.5 percent on your investment? The media keeps this negative concept alive by parroting the fossil fuel industry's words to criticize solar power as a bad investment.
A 16.5 percent return on investment is outstanding in today's market. My solar system just rewarded me with a zero dollar electric bill for March — quite a good tax-free return on my investment for the next 20 years.
Frank Arenas, Coleman
As scores go from bad to worse, no time to waste | May 29, editorial
Shift focus to families
Respectfully, your editorial seems to sidestep the broader meaning of the graphic attached to it. The editorial urges intervention in the schools. The chart, more pointedly, says that good education cannot surmount bad demographics. Lest demography continue as destiny, I suggest we shift our focus to families.
There is no doubt that the output of our educational system has declined over recent decades, but there is little evidence supporting a corresponding decline in instruction. Essentially, we test who is in a school, and not what happens in there. Many proven interventions, public and private, would improve the input, yet these receive little serious attention.
Our penchants for culpability and simplicity misdirect our focus. Our nostalgia for the 1950s is not for Mr. Chips; it is for a middle class with intact families.
Pat Byrne, Largo