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Court's ruling is a blow to education

Re: The court drops the ball on education, by Martin Dyckman, July 14.

By denying the petition of 44 school boards to require the Florida Legislature to provide adequately for education, the Florida Supreme Court served notice on future generations of our children that they will get no better than, and maybe worse than, the second-rate public school education of their Florida-raised parents.

The court aligned itself with successive legislatures whose paranoid fear of increased taxes for education overrides concern that our education system, alongside two or three other Deep South states, ranks as the worst in the nation.

The majority court opinion that "inadequate" was not sufficiently proven ignores a ton of state rankings data. Worse, it establishes a lowest common denominator standard of "adequate," which is defined in Webster's as barely satisfactory, acceptable but not remarkable.

Barely satisfactory is not how I want kids to be educated, and it's certainly not how I want them to grow up. Neither is it what Florida needs to take its place among the nation's progressive, leading states.

By establishing a minimal standard of "adequate," four "learned" judges have shown an appalling lack of respect for learning.

Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

For smaller government

Re: The Choice, the July 14 article by Margo Hammond.

It's true that there's not much difference between the major parties this year. Whether the Republicans win or the Democrats win, the result will be more of the same: bigger government, more intrusion into our daily lives, and a continued erosion of our Constitutional freedoms.

This year the "wasted votes" are the ones cast for the major parties because they cannot express a clear or quantifiable choice. It has been decades since either of them had identifiable principles.

Thank goodness for the Libertarian Party. Its candidate, Harry Browne, has promised to cut the size of government by two-thirds (as a start) and turn most functions back to the states where they belong.

This year, voters who want a smaller government don't have much of a choice at all. The Republicans won't give us smaller government; the Democrats won't give us smaller government; the Reform Party won't give us a much smaller government.

The Libertarian Party is the only one ideologically committed to smaller government and personal freedom.

Frank Clarke, Oldsmar

Woodward's aim

Robert Friedman's The reporter as a confidence man? in Perspective (July 14) indicates quite strongly that he has changed his opinion about Bob Woodward's books.

He writes: "a review of Woodward's post-Watergate books shows that he has developed some bad habits that cast ever-darkening clouds over the credibility of his work," and "Since Watergate, he has not shown great ability to grapple with subjects of substantial complexity."

Could it be that Woodward's "credibility" and "ability to grapple with subjects of substantial complexity" were, in Friedman's view, great when he was going after Republicans, but are off the mark when he goes after Democrats?

M. Elliott, St. Petersburg

A dangerous man?

As long as God lets me live, I will probably buy the Sunday St. Petersburg Times, if only for the Perspective section. It keeps me on my mental "toes" and frequently makes me laugh!

Margo Hammond's combined review of Ralph Reed's book, Active Faith, and one by Robert Boston, The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition (June 30), was no exception!

Horrors! The company I've been keeping! I spend many evenings from 10 to 11 with this "most dangerous man" via "the tube."

I watch him pray for people and discuss with others subjects inspirational, sometimes patriotic and always helpful for daily living. I hear him interview high achievers and report on documented miracles of God. I thrilled to video footage of the landing of his L1011 flying hospital in El Salvador and the report of medical accomplishments there.

Is Pat Robertson dangerous? Well, maybe, if you are "in love" with a godless, me-first, hedonistic society, where nothing is considered to be sin and everything is out of control.

You have pictured Ralph Reed holding out an olive branch. I say to Ralph, "Okay, stand for standards lovingly. Jesus tells us to _ but keep on standing. You and that "dangerous man' may be the best thing this country has going for it."

Patricia Porterfield, St. Petersburg

Anti-social readers?

In his July 14 essay, The power of the printed word, Bill Maxwell has discovered the terrible secret of the mechanism that animated those two alleged terrorists, Theodore Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh: "Kaczynski, like McVeigh, reads voraciously. Because reading is a private, anti-social act that animates the individual, Kaczynski and McVeigh, both pathetic creatures on the fringes of society, found life-sustaining meaning in the printed word. They, like many other wounded souls, read to live."

While it is arguable that reading is "private" in the sense that it usually involves one person (although news anchors read their scripted texts to millions, and parents read of Mother Goose and Disney characters to other millions), one is at a loss to understand the expansion of Maxwell's definition in labeling reading as "anti-social" since, in most literate societies, at least prior to television, there appeared to be no more unifying social force than the printed word, and, even today, our newspaper circulation figures and best-seller lists seem to afford confirmation that print media are significantly instrumental in keeping us apprized of our society and our place in it.

Speaking for a host of readers (Times subscribers among them), certainly one might present a convincing argument that reading, per se, is not an inherently anti-social act and that Maxwell would do well to rethink this portion of his thesis.

Ben Tutoli, St. Petersburg

Mocking the eggheads

In a July 5 editorial notebook regarding an English department course taught at Swarthmore College entitled "Renaissance Sexualities," Bill Maxwell asks, what's wrong with plain old "Renaissance Literature and Society"? Why, he asks, are professors now offering courses which are "intellectual lite"?

Had Bill Maxwell, like some other readers of a misleading nationally syndicated news story about the titles of courses at many selective colleges, actually done his homework, he would have found out that something very like plain old "Renaissance Literature and Society" is offered at Swarthmore College, taught by the same professor who teaches the upper-level course "Renaissance Sexualities." Indeed, a quick perusal of Swarthmore's catalog _ now available on the World Wide Web _ would have introduced Maxwell to courses with titles like "Shakespeare." "Literature of the English Renaissance" and "English Drama Before 1642," all taught by the same person offering "Renaissance Sexualities."

This is leaving aside Maxwell's odd assumption that a class which covers gender and sexuality in Renaissance cultures must be "intellectual lite," a perspective that I suppose I might expect from a 12-year old who smirks uncontrollably whenever the word "sex" is mentioned.

Ah, well. Never let the facts get in the way of mocking the eggheads up yonder in the ivory tower, a national media sport which always seems to play well in Peoria _ or St. Petersburg.

Timothy Burke, Swarthmore

College, Swarthmore, Pa.

Let Chechnya go

I am a Lithuanian and know very well how hard it was for Lithuania to regain its independence from the former Soviet Union. It cost a lot of bloodshed and some lives, not counting hundreds of thousands murdered and deported to Siberia during the occupation.

Now Russia is slowly choking freedom-loving Chechens and the rest of the world is doing nothing. In a year and a half at least 30,000 people have been?? killed and the war is still not over. So, Russia, let Chechnya go! It's a small country, but their wish is to be free and independent.

Kostas Maciulis, Spring Hill

Bending for an oak

It was with great pleasure that I read the story (Resident's efforts save beloved oak, July 15) of Clearwater city engineer Rich Baier and Allin Turner's 100-year-old oak tree. We don't often hear stories of people who accommodate nature and/or appreciate the intrinsic, aesthetic value of it. More likely than not, God's creations seem to be in our way, and for the sake of convenience or expediency, it is destroyed or its grandeur diminished in some way. Perhaps this incident can teach us a lesson. It is possible, just possible, that bureaucracy can be as flexible as the branches of the old oak tree.

Thanks, guys, there is still hope for us all.

Daniel E. Hetland, Tampa