One-size-fits-none school | Oct. 25, commentary
Vote to make education a priority
Susan Green is right that the No Child Left Behind Act has caused many "underperforming" students to feel disenfranchised. When young people like her son continually make "steady progress" and are in school daily, it comes as a blow to them that they are categorized as struggling or lacking skills simply because they don't score adequately on the FCAT. It can be enormously discouraging, and I daresay that has contributed to our increased dropout rate.
But Green is inflammatory and casts blame incorrectly on educators (who are also victims of random political educational tinkering). She says, "Educators experiment with shortcuts and ways to get parents 'involved,' which is code for making them pseudo-teachers."
That is unfair. She should remember the saying about a village raising a child. Only so much can be taught in one school day. A learning mind requires more. Surely she knows that parents and guardians are their children's first teacher, the conduit through which family values, skills, beliefs, knowledge and experiences flow from generation to generation.
Education fads like NCLB have been going on now for more than 100 years as public schools try to tweak how they do things. Research has shown, though, that students have consistently learned at the same rate, at the same levels, and in the same way regardless of the fads.
Green finally comes back around to the source of the problems: legislation and funding. Many frustrated parents heartily agree with her that NCLB is not optimal. I hope that on Nov. 4, Sue Green and people like her vote for those candidates who are most inclined to make education a top priority.
Sarah Lehrmann, Clearwater
Accountability is necessary
"One-size-fits-none" is the philosophy of the Pinellas County schools and many of our other neighboring counties. We do teach phonics daily, also known as word work, word skills, and word attack skills. It's a requirement! We have also not failed to teach the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as this is also required.
Our state requires accountability, which is done through continuous assessment testing. The data collected from student results are used by teachers to drive their instruction, along with knowing and planning remediation strategies for the struggling, and accelerated activities for the advanced.
The writer says, "Never mind that parents work long hours and have no spare time to do the government's job." Raising and educating our children is not solely the government's job!
This parent pleaded for writing practice sheets and simple math worksheets to be sent home, but she said her pleas fell on deaf ears. I suggest she use the math sheets her child completes in class and create her own. How simple is that? Redo activities in the school textbooks to reinforce and practice skills at home. She can also access printable worksheets at her child's level from the Internet to help in learning and reinforcing those weak skill areas at home.
The writer speaks about the pressure on our children and families. It's called accountability, and with accountability comes pressure for all of us, including our teachers, who work day and night under pressure insuring that we meet state and federal mandates.
Leigh Taylor, St. Petersburg
Since when is raising children the government's responsibility? I thought that as parents, we were the ones responsible for raising our children. Foolish me. I was supposed to have left all this to the government.
How long has the government been trying to figure out how to educate children? Even Susan Green mentions a 1980s report that references a report from 30 years prior that suggests the government's educational system is incompetent. And she wants us to rely totally on the government for our child's education? Unbelievable.
The fault is ours. We neither demand nor are we willing to pay for a system that actually works. Raising children is a 24/7 responsibility. All the wonderful enticing distractions in our world today beckon parents away from the hard work of raising children. It's no wonder that children cannot read, write or count.
Zachary Foulk, St. Petersburg
TECO franchise deal offers too little for Tampa
The single most important issue to come before Tampa City Council in 20 years is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, two days after the election, and the community needs to voice its concerns.
Tampa Electric Co. is asking for a franchise agreement that will commit Tampa residents and 300,000 adjacent customers to a 25-year exclusive monopoly as the electricity provider. What enticements does this agreement offer? Burying power lines? Renewable sources of energy? Commitments to clean up the 14th dirtiest system in the country? A commitment to conservation?
No. The agreement, which has been under negotiation for two years, presents almost nothing better than what was negotiated in 1986, when the world's energy picture was quite different.
TECO's tepid response is that they don't have to address these issues in their franchise agreement, that the Public Service Commission is the appropriate group to make them pay attention to these issues. Only that's really a lame excuse. While the franchise agreement doesn't force them to do the right thing, the PSC doesn't preclude TECO from voluntarily taking these important steps.
I have been working on these issues — tree protection through placing power lines underground, conservation and renewable energy — for more than 12 years, waiting for the franchise agreement to provide the basis of debate for improving Tampa. Now we have an agreement that commits our community to 25 years of nothing better. We cannot accept this mediocre offer.
I beg TECO customers to attend our public hearing and tell my colleagues on City Council that a 10-year agreement is the longest acceptable length. It's our future, and we must protect our community.
Linda Saul-Sena, Tampa City Council
Let's pull through together
Many times in our history we have faced some of the worst times. The stock market collapse of 1929. World War II. The Kennedy assassination. Marines killed in Lebanon. Sept. 11. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The current financial crisis. It's a mess out there in the job and housing market.
We have faced adversity and we have pulled together and found a way to work through these terrible things that have happened to our country in the past.
Our country is usually at its best in the worst of times. Let us not fall apart now. Remember the greatness of this country and its people and their desire to do the right thing. We will make it through this and do it with the help of our citizens, our fellow Americans. For this is America, so let us lead by example.
Kevin J. Blanck, St. Petersburg
A wasteful effort
I don't understand the purpose or goal of this amendment. Why would you care about other people's lifestyles — especially when they don't directly affect your own? How is a "domestic partnership" a threat to marriage?
I've been married almost 20 years. I love my wife. Nobody's going to threaten that by living their own lives, whatever the lifestyle. The world can be a cold, tough place to survive in these days. If people can find love and happiness together, why would anyone try to deny that?
Why does it always seem that the sort of people who rail about "government intrusion" into our lives wind up promoting this kind of thing?
It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to get an amendment added to the Constitution. Wouldn't that effort be better spent addressing real issues that are actually threatening the people of this country?
Live and let live. Better yet: Mind your own business.
Jeff Cutting, Brandon
It's not to protect marriage
As Election Day grows nearer I would like to remind voters of a couple of things. Throughout the history of our country, amending our state or national Constitution has never been something to be taken lightly. Throughout history our Constitution usually has been amended to expand or guarantee citizens' rights, not to limit or deny citizens' rights.
In fact, just a couple of years ago, voters in Florida amended our state Constitution to protect the rights of pigs!
Now, a group of people wants to amend the Florida state Constitution to deny rights to as much as 10 percent of the human citizens of this state. And in the process, they're willing to jeopardize the rights and security of countless others who, for whatever reason, have chosen not to marry.
The backers of Amendment 2 say that this amendment will only keep same-sex couples from getting married. (Florida law already does that.) But Amendment 2 will impact all unmarried couples, the vast majority of whom are heterosexual.
If you really want to protect marriage, then lobby for more restrictive divorce laws. Demand that infidelity bears more consequence than just a broken-hearted spouse. Support comprehensive sex education to prevent teen pregnancies (and potentially fatal diseases). Support stronger penalties for domestic abuse. There are many things we can do to protect marriage without restricting who can marry.
Preventing loving couples from getting married protects nothing. Please vote "No" on Amendment 2.
Brian Feist, St. Petersburg
Petraeus crosses line into politics | Oct. 29, commentary
Doubts about the general
I found Lawrence J. Korb's article very disturbing. The article implicated Gen. David Petraeus with being heavily involved in partisan politics for the past few years. The article doesn't conclude exactly whose orders the general was following or what his objectives were, but it seems to me that they were to get President Bush re-elected in 2004 and Sen. John McCain elected in 2008 — objectives that clearly are not the military's responsibility or authority.
We don't know exactly how much misinformation the general has reported or how much his influence has resulted in other military sugarcoating of the situation in Iraq. We do know that the status of Iraqi troop training and their involvement with Iraqi security were way overstated as early as 2004.
Petraeus was directly in charge of troop training at that time, and he either was not aware of the true status or was deliberately reporting false information. Both of these possibilities indicate to me what I believe are flaws in great military leaders.
The information in this article makes me wonder about the wisdom of the decisionmakers who appointed Petraeus to be in charge of Central Command. The article also makes me wonder about the ability of the general to carry out the duties of such an important command in the best interest of our national security.
Jerry R. Dangler, Palm Harbor
A Muslim problem | Oct. 28, letter
The letter writer says that "Muslims have perpetrated numerous atrocities" and fails to say that it's the Muslim extremists that are the culprits. In fact, extremist Catholics and Protestants have caused a great deal of havoc in the world, along with extreme groups of numerous other religions.
Sure, the Muslim community has a lot of work to do in creating a better image, but would anyone in America listen? It's very sad that we've become such a nation of division, and anything foreign to us has to be labeled as terrible in every way. I feel for the faithful Muslim families in this country that have to endure such blanket assumptions.
C. Fay, Safety Harbor
$56,650 a year and asking for a handout Oct. 29, Washington Post editorial
Autoworkers are worthy
This Washington Post propagandist hit on the auto industry was so asinine, honesty requires that it be exposed. The $25-billion is a low-interest loan guarantee for the auto industry, which will be paid back, and not a handout as the slanted headline leads the reader to believe. Any money borrowed by the auto companies has to be repaid. The Chrysler bailout nearly 20 years ago actually netted the federal government a profit.
The auto industry is without question in a perilous time, similar to the rest of the economy. There are too many jobs involved with this critical cog of the transportation wheel for it to be cast aside so flippantly. And the workers who represent these companies do not deserve to be demonized by liberal commentary that despises the manufacturing world as irrelevant. Sure, the unions have been part of the problem, but these same unions built the middle class into a thriving segment of society chasing their American dream for the last 70 years. Translation: They earned it.
The strength of the industrial middle class has helped build this nation into the world power we are today. And now these working families should be thrown under the bus because it's to be deemed unfair to assist and invest in the undeserving auto manufacturers?
Dan Murphy, Palm Harbor
Faking it can work, but … | Oct. 27, BayLink
An insult to honest people
I'm sitting here at my desk trying my best to keep my small business afloat when I happen to glance at the BayLink section of the paper and see the article on Andrea Stanfield.
Let me get this straight: She makes a fortune based on a life of lies and now wants us to buy her book so she can make more money on her lies?
Wow, she's good. Maybe I should hire her and she can lie her way into getting me some corporate sponsors for my program in local schools. My company teaches young girls about puberty, which keeps them safe and healthy in their teen years and beyond. But, hey, where's the thrill in that, right?
This article is an insult to me and every other business person who is struggling in today's economy because we are doing it the honest way.
Angela Welsh, Spring Hill