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Wednesday's letters: Let South Korea defend itself

Meeting N. Korea's challenge | Nov. 25, editorial

South Korea can defend itself

You say that the United States has 28,000 troops in South Korea "that guard against an invasion by the North." South Korea has a standing army that ranks among the top five in the world both in size and capabilities. To imply that America needs another protectorate as the world's policeman is irresponsible.

South Korea is an economic and military powerhouse in its own right. North Korea barely qualifies as even a Third World country. Yes, North Korea has a large military of its own — underfed and poorly equipped.

As a nation, we must use our treasure and initiative to meet the needs of "strength at home." Stop the ever-escalating challenge and conflict that is bankrupting our nation.

David Cardina, Tampa

A comical assertion

Let me see if I have this. The Times editors believe that we should sign the proposed arms reduction treaty with Russia — which many believe would limit our efforts to build a strategic missile defense system — because it "would have a trickle-down effect by inducing smaller and less stable states such as North Korea to redefine what it takes to have global influence."

I must admit that having read Times editorials for over 15 years has led me to believe that "liberal logic" is an oxymoron. Your assertion that reducing our ability to defend ourselves would have a positive "trickle-down" effect on North Korea's behavior just may be the silliest thing I have ever seen in print. For a moment, I thought I was reading the Onion.

Mike Lyons, Apollo Beach

Climate change

A threat to our health

Climate change puts more at risk than just the quality of our land, air and water — it threatens our health. What's more, while climate change can affect the health of all people, our children and the elderly, who have weaker immune systems, and the poor, who have less access to health care, are among the most vulnerable.

Rising temperatures and changing climate conditions affect the reproduction and survival of mosquitoes and ticks that carry diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever and Lyme disease. Higher temperatures can expand mosquitoes' range to areas previously too cold to support mosquito populations.

Already in the United States, physician-reported cases of dengue fever — a virus transmitted through infected mosquitoes — has more than doubled in the past decade, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Every day we fail to act to address climate change is another day we put our health in danger. It's time to get real about solving the climate crisis.

Although more and more people are getting on board with the green movement lately, I feel as though it is often for selfish or image-related reasons rather than because it is the right thing to do ethically. Tying health into the environmental crisis we are facing makes it both a personal and global health issue.

Emma Erickson, Tampa

Advanced Placement courses

What's the objective?

The central question to be asked, when considering who should be enrolled in AP classes, is: "What is the purpose of AP classes in high school?"

Originally, the purpose was to offer a higher level of challenge to exceptional students who were ready for college-level material. Now it seems that the purpose is to offer greater challenge to students who need help getting ready for college-level courses. These are very different goals.

In the first case, courses would be structured to reflect actual college experiences. The brightest students would have the opportunity for advanced study not otherwise available. In the second case, courses would be more remedial, offering help for students who aren't quite ready for college-level expectations.

If we focus on the second option, which we seem to be doing in Hillsborough County, we lose the first option. There is no way a teacher can simultaneously teach to the upper ends of possibility for the brightest students and also remediate the weaker students. It seems that Hillsborough has made a choice: to focus on the enhancement of average students over the enrichment of our brightest students.

I wonder if there isn't a way to do both, perhaps by encouraging our more average students to take the honors courses, which are already offered and are of no additional cost, while reserving AP for those who really could earn college credit and who could benefit from a truly advanced classroom experience.

Marlene Bloom, Ph.D., Tampa

Much less challenging

Recently I visited senior English AP classes at a Hillsborough County public high school where I taught the course in the mid to late 1980s. I was shocked at how radically the course had changed. Our students qualified for acceptance by scoring on standardized tests in the top 3 percent nationwide and by earning top academic grades. Therefore, classes were small but most of our students passed the AP exams, which they paid to take.

Now the literature selections are much less challenging and the expected writing proficiency much less stringent. The teacher, who seemed highly competent, explained that some students placed in AP classes were reading at a 4th or 5th grade level. The original course required college-level performance, but the curriculum has been watered down to such a degree that it can prepare no student adequately for an AP exam.

I would love to see AP classes put in the hands of qualified teachers again, and not left to the tender mercies of administrators with unrealistic expectations.

Ann Cook, Tampa

Wobbly AP progress | Nov. 26, editorial

Content is king

Congratulations for a commonsense editorial on the problem of pass rates for AP testing. You are right — it is not that complicated. But you ignore one fact that should be added into the mix.

As a college history teacher for many decades, I had and still have the pleasure to teach a large number of students who were enrolled in the college of education. Over that time, a large number of them complained about the same thing: They knew little content and their education college coursework was no help in solving that. Content is knowing more than "how to" teach. It is knowing "what to" teach, and that's a part of this issue in my opinion.

AP courses help students, but only if the teachers know their "stuff," and the colleges of education in this country do not insist on that.

Peter Klingman, Tampa

Wednesday's letters: Let South Korea defend itself 11/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:14pm]
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