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Our schools need to return to some real discipline

Re: Do treats sour the learning process? Oct. 26.

As the husband of a school teacher with more than 25 years experience in both special education and regular education, I was amused by the outrage expressed by the parents in your article.

Ironically, it has been parental lawsuits and overly zealous social workers who have brought the schools to the place where they are now _ loaded with an excess of underachieving, poorly disciplined children who cannot be motivated to learn by anything short of bribery.

My wife has never believed in using the candies and cookies to motivate the children, but she is also extremely hamstrung by rules relating to discipline. Children can no longer be kept after school, given extra work, stuck in the corner, or made to write "I will not stomp on Suzie's head anymore" 100 times on the blackboard to control the children because it might "make them dislike writing."

The current belief seems to be that you should not discipline children for violent, antisocial, disruptive or disrespectful behavior _ you should motivate them with "positives."

Frankly, many of these children do not understand "positive motivation" and it blows past them like a "will-o'-the-wisp" unless it comes in the form of a bribe. Some of them understand bribes perfectly well even in the first grade and even say that they will pay attention if the teacher will bribe them to do so!

Every day, school teachers have to deal with many children who have never even been read to in their lives, have grown up with little or no discipline, and many parents that are in complete denial about the bad behavior of their children.

If we do not allow the public schools to re-establish some real discipline in the system, we might as well start putting a lot of the education money into building prisons _ we'll need them in another decade.

Allan Horn, Redington Shores

The lesser of two evils

Re: Do treats sour the learning process?

Years ago teachers decided that the class roll listed on the bulletin board where little blue, silver or gold stars could be placed next each name for one accomplishment or another was psychologically wrong. It was wrong because children are in different levels of development. Therefore, the honors were reinforcing unfair competition. In athletics, teams or individual sports have classifications to avoid unfair competition. A light wrestler wrestles another of his weight class. A football team classed double "A" plays another double "A" team, etc. In all this is economics and parental background. This is why Gov. Jeb Bush's educational A+ Plan is unworkable and unfair. The commissioner of education, Jim Horne, has no concept of how children learn.

We now come to the concept of rewarding children with treats, like candy, for academic achievement. Is this good for their health? No, it is not! Neither is putting soft drink machines in schools. Nutritionist are right when they say our children are overweight. It is a scenario for disease. However, a candy treat for a child in a disadvantaged school and in a remedial class may be part of the treatment to get them started on the path to learning. This may not be good for the gluteus maximus, but it could be the lesser of two evils. Children who are at risk in dysfunctioning neighborhoods and families need a treat with every little accomplishment. Besides, we are an instant gratification society, be it good or not.

Peter M. Pullara, retired teacher, Temple Terrace

Sugar is the latest drug

Re: Do treats sour the learning process?

As a former teacher, I view the practices described in the article by Melanie Ave with alarm and disgust. Apparently, the latest addictive drug our children are being hooked on is sugar, and the "pushers" are their teachers.

Eldon Patterson, Beverly Hills

Say no to Disney train ploy

Re: Disney depot in train plan, Oct. 28.

Once again, the Mouse has roared and got his way! The Disney complex is getting the state of Florida's taxpayers to fund a transportation system for its theme park exclusively. Is this what we voted for and passed as a state constitutional amendment? Obviously, the thing to do is have another review of this arrangement between the Mouse and the bullet-train board. Something smells in this arrangement. I wonder if it's Mouse droppings!

The spokesman for Universal Studios, John McReynolds, is absolutely correct. The Mouse controls the Orlando area and apparently it also controls Tallahassee, which appointed the board for the rail system. Where do these people get off dictating that all stops in the Orlando area must pass all other attractions and stop only at theirs? Let the Mouse continue to run its buses to and from the Orlando airport, and make one stop at International Drive and one at the Orlando airport. After all, it is a bullet train for the state of Florida and not another shuttle for Disney! Let's keep it that way.

Bob Shutt, New Port Richey

We voted for public transportation

Re: Disney depot in train plan.

Once again Gov. Jeb Bush has taken the will of the people and thrown it back in our faces with another "devious plan." His bullet-train commission has given the project over to Disney. The people of Florida voted for the bullet train not so we can get to Disney more easily, but as an alternative to driving I-4. This is because it is an environmentally sound idea: It will decrease automobile traffic and will enable people to move around the state more easily.

Many older drivers eschew highway driving. A train would give them the mobility to visit friends and relatives along the I-4 route without the anxiety of driving. Some people don't own a car. But the governor, who has always opposed the bullet train, has found another way to pretend he is acting on the people's mandate, while fulfilling his own personal and financial interests. We did not vote for a Disney train. We voted for public transportation.

Alice Graves, St. Petersburg

Buying jobs at the expense of education

The articles I've been reading regarding educational woes in this wonderful state have been consistent regarding a lack of funds for better equipment, smaller classroom sizes (which we voted for and then it was ignored) and the pay we give to our teachers _ and you have to believe they earn every penny.

Suddenly our state's leaders find $369-million to give to a company that doesn't pay corporate taxes, and will over a long period of time give jobs to 2,800 people, not necessarily Floridians, who may not have a good enough education to be hired by this high-tech company. Does anybody else out there see anything wrong with this picture? Where are the leaders when you need them?

This state doesn't need backroom deals _ that kind of business leads to failure, if history has any place in this dialogue. It is so disheartening when elected officials use their influence to promote themselves and a special interest group.

There is a solution: Vote these people out of office. Anything would be better, and we would at the very least gain fresh ideas that would be more beneficial to the common citizen and our children's futures.

Dave Douglas, Seminole

This is conservative?

Re: Florida's $369-million secret?, Oct. 25.

So, let's see if I have this right. A so-called "conservative" governor and Legislature balk at assisting citizens and small businesses in need, cut programs for the elderly, fail to properly fund the Department of Children and Families so that it remains a national disgrace, fail to meet the needs of the public schools and university systems, and refuse to heed the will of the people in regard to the class size amendment. This governor and Legislature now deem it proper, with no hesitation and little debate, to give $369-million to a corporation to spend as it pleases, in order to convince that corporation to establish facilities in West Palm Beach _ the last time I visited, not exactly a poverty-stricken area.

There are no guarantees that Floridians will occupy the higher-paying positions, since most top executives will be transferring from other areas of the country (although, we Florida taxpayers get to pay their salaries, an unheard-of perk even in these days of corporate welfare). There are no guarantees that the discoveries of this corporation will be affordable to the average Floridian, no guarantees that the corporation will remain as a taxpayer in Florida indefinitely, and no performance bond demanded from the corporation to encourage good-faith actions.

Also, 70 percent of all new jobs in our country are created by small business. So if this sort of funding is proper for a giant corporation, where are the programs encouraging small business growth in Florida?

It seems that there is no corporate welfare deal that isn't in line with the Bush so-called "conservative" philosophy. Barry Goldwater would be turning over in his grave.

This is oligarchy, rule by the rich for the rich, not conservatism. Given the cuts aimed at services for the middle and lower classes, it represents, in fact, a form of class warfare by the rich and powerful against the rest of the population, which is suffering from insufficient government revenue to fund services even at current levels, and leaving our children with mountains of debt.

The only question is whether Floridians have had enough and will get away from their TV sets long enough to vote every one of these rascals out and vote their own needs and the needs of their children and grandchildren in. It's time. In fact, it's overdue.

Martin Altner, Safety Harbor

The common sense gap

Re: A failed test, Oct. 25 editorial about the college student who breached airport security.

Thanks for the clarification. I have often wondered why the government does so many things that, well, just don't make any sense. Now I understand: It has no "policy" concerning common sense, as you so nicely stated in your editorial.

If government officials had a policy for common sense, then maybe they would start passing bills and making laws the rest of us could live with. Of course, they would have to form a committee to determine just what is "common sense."

Then they would argue whether this is a bipartisan issue, and debate about the difference between Democratic common sense and Republican common sense. They would also have to determine just what special interest groups would be offended, and whether or not it would be "politically correct" to have a policy on common sense. But it will probably never happen _ it makes too much sense!

Staci Marsh, St. Petersburg

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