Plan revamps path for grads | April 13
Education more than job training
Florida legislators, with their initiative for two separate designations for high school diplomas, once again illustrate a distorted focus on what's truly important for educating our young people.
This concept is ill-conceived on so many levels it is hard to understand how educators and more importantly superintendents think the plan has "merit" — merit being the name of one of the designated diplomas.
When did our educators start believing that we should create what basically could be called a caste system in education? The idea of separating students into "scholar" and "merit" is a not-so-subtle methodology of putting students on a track and making decisions on their future before their education even begins. This is a very dangerous road to travel. If we can start tracking them in high school, why not test them in pre-K and elementary and get them headed in the direction the Legislature would like them to go?
What has happened to the basic idea of a sound, well-balanced curriculum that challenges and involves students and prepares them for planning their own futures? Why have we allowed the power of the business community to control and map out the future for our students based only on the principle of preparing them for their first job?
Regardless of the latest idea from the newest consultant, we need teachers who are competent and are offered a wage that will attract the best and the brightest out of college to pursue a career in education.
Tom Flora, Clearwater
Immigration plan sets 2011 as cutoff to qualify | April 13
The honor system?
This article states that a cutoff to qualify for citizenship would be arrival before Dec. 31, 2011. Do we have a sheet at our borders that illegals sign when they cross the border?
How else would we know when they crossed, except for their own testimony? Of course they would never lie to authorities.
Benjamin Vecchio, Largo
As girl heals, experts offer hope | April 13
Check for safety feature
A tragic accident to befall a small child brings to mind the safe operation of a riding mower.
My rider will not operate in reverse with the mowing deck engaged. Many times, I have stalled when reversing without disengaging the deck. An interlock prevents this occurrence. This is probably a required safety feature.
If you own a rider, you should verify that this feature is operable.
Charles Grubbs, Valrico
Long agonizing path to kill a killer April 13, Sue Carlton column
High cost of vengeance
Sue Carlton paints the expensive and tortured pathway to execute Oscar Ray Bolin. This is a classic illustration of the futility and cost society bears for the death penalty. We remain one of the few countries of the world that executes our criminals. Others include China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen.
Project Innocence's research resulted in 18 innocent people recently being released from death row. Since 1930, more than 140 innocent people have been released from America's death rows. Left unstated were the number of innocent people executed. This abundance of caution in the American justice system is a huge cost, yet innocent people are still convicted and executed.
A recent study in California concluded that the cost of the death penalty in that state has totaled over $4 billion since 1978.
If California's governor commuted the sentences of those now on death row to life without parole, this would result in an immediate savings of $170 million per year, with a savings of $5 billion over the next 20 years. Who knows what savings might occur if all states did so.
If we replaced the death penalty with life without parole, the billions of savings could be applied to more socially beneficial projects.
America's insistence on rigid adherence to an ancient biblical injunction, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," is a huge waste of precious resources better used for other things to improve our society, not to extract vengeance.
Jay Hall, Tampa
On budget, breaking through gridlock April 14, Tim Nickens column
For a permanent fix
I agree that both Democrats and Republicans need to back off their dogmatic budget proposals and accept a balanced approach. I was particularly pleased with Tim Nickens' comment on fixing Social Security: He said that President Barack Obama's concession on using a modified cost-of-living adjustment to help control costs needed to be combined with raising the cap on income subject to the payroll tax.
That's a good suggestion, but a better approach would be to eliminate the cap, just as the cap on the Medicare tax was eliminated many years ago. Unfortunately, eliminating that cap then didn't fix Medicare because of the rapid escalation in health care costs. Social Security costs, on the other hand, have a different set of dynamics, and eliminating the cap would permanently fix that part of the budget quagmire.
Jerry Stephens, Riverview
Father of improv | April 13
Laughter and sadness
It's the end of an era. Jonathan Winters, along with Red Skelton, were masters of their art. I grew up loving them for their wit and sincerity.
Red could never tell a joke without laughing himself, or at himself. He was the embodiment of a little red-haired elf, who we all loved for his simplicity and honesty as well as his comedy.
Jonathan, who could never look at an object or hear a word with out finding the hidden, hysterical meanings in them, was never at a loss for giving us a good clean and hearty laugh.
These men inspired many others through the years, who have tried to copy them, their "characters" and their style. Yet who among those followers have kept to the high standards of creativity that Red and Jonathan laid down?
We are saddened, and sadder as an audience, for their passing.
Nancy Frederich, Madeira Beach