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Testing proposal shows ignorance of higher learning

Re: Colleges may get FCAT-like test, Jan. 23.

Regarding testing university students prior to their graduations (since we do not want to waste taxpayer money on them) I suggest that we test our state senators and legislators as well, our governor and all his appointees, to make sure they are able to do their jobs well. I do not want to waste taxpayer money on them if they cannot do their jobs. Sure seems as if they cannot these days, so let's test them.

Let us test the Board of Governors as well. They do not seem to be doing such a fine job. We should not waste taxpayer money on them. Test them for their ability, credentials, their history of success or failures. Let us track Florida graduates and find out how well they have done in the world, then hold the Board of Governors responsible.

The idea of testing for university graduation is a stupid one, generated from small minds with no concept of the idea of universities nor the value of knowledge and exploration. Attending college or university is a great experience because one encounters the greatest cross-section of people and ideas in one's life. It cannot be tested. It is too vast, too exciting, too exploratory, too individual. Leave it to the academics, which just irritates the daylights out of our silly state legislators and senators. The local politicos want to control every facet of education in this state. That is why we are quickly becoming the bottom feeders in education in this country.

Georgie Bowser, New Port Richey

Test for political competency

Re: Colleges may get FCAT-like test.

Why are we going to waste more money on standardized tests? We already have seen how great the public school FCAT works.

Instead of spending millions on a new FCAT, let's take that money and give it to the universities and let them spend it as they see fit. Unlike public school students, university students pay tuition. And let's not forget that tuition is repeatedly and inexplicably raised year after year.

The Board of Governors keeps asking for accountability. Well, students at universities are there because they want to be there. That is enough accountability for me. Standardized testing will only complicate things and most certainly will have a negative impact on already stress-ridden classes. Also, how can the test be standardized if each college offers a wide variety of majors? Even though the majors have the same title, that does not mean each university teaches the exact same curriculum from the same text; therefore, the tests couldn't be standardized.

If the Board of Governors wants an FCAT-like test, I think they should allow the university students to collaborate on one test and then administer it to the Board of Governors. I would like to call the test the PCAT, for Political Competency Aptitude Test. If they can pass the test, then they can test university students.

James Zervios, Clearwater

Pushing out the riffraff

Re: Higher ed tuition shift would sort out lingerers, Jan. 23.

The Board of Governors is right: Why should poor and working class people have equal access to a college education? That is what these proposed increases and penalties are all about, after all. Who wants lazy bums who have to work to earn their tuition taking extra time to get through college? People like that obviously don't deserve to learn. After all, we wouldn't want them getting too educated. If that happened, well, they might start getting uppity and demanding things like affordable health care, living wages, and decent funding for public schools.

And just who exactly are these people that want to take classes to broaden their knowledge? Did they miss the memo that our university system is not about higher learning, but about higher profit margins? Think how splendid it would be for our precious young blue bloods to never encounter one of the great unwashed in a college class. After all, our elite should remain separated from their inferiors lest they be contaminated by the thought that race and class don't (or shouldn't) matter.

Fortunately, the new proposal to install an FCAT-esque standardized test at the college level will probably keep them too busy doing test prep for that to take place anyway. Sure, college students already have to take the SAT or ACT to even get into school, take the CLAST test sometime around sophomore year, as well as all of those exams and tests they take during their actual course work. But forget all of that. A College-CAT is just the thing to prove that they really learned what the state thinks they should be taught. Who better to judge which learning is important: professionals with higher-level degrees and years of experience in their field, or a bunch of business people and acquaintances of the governor? Let's not ignore the side benefits; the testing companies, which are already giving the state a soaking with the FCAT, will get to suck up even more public dollars, and all in the name of accountability.

The only wrinkle I can see is that, since tuition is not a duty of the state the way K-12 public education is, there won't be an easy way to funnel money into private, and therefore superior, colleges through some kind of university voucher. However, I remain supremely confident that the governor will find a way.

Aaron Elkins, Dunedin

Physician advice too often ignored

Re: Controlling a killer, Jan. 24.

"The health care system, doctors and patients share responsibility for the lack of progress against the disease (diabetes mellitus)," said the editorial. "Too few doctors push their diabetic patients to gain optimal control of their blood glucose level . . ." and "With occurrence of the disease at earlier ages . . . that message should be a wakeup call for diabetes patients, doctors and public health officials alike."

As a physician, over the last 20 years I have watched the American public do exactly what doctors have been advising not to do despite our vigor, enthusiasm and true interest in the individual and his/her health.

During this same period we have all been forced by a changing societal paradigm to accept the consumerization of health care/medicine and have been exposed to a global consciousness of what constitutes a healthy diet.

As physicians we were essentially unsuccessful with the public health and doctor/patient initiative with regard to smoking, whereas attorneys and lawmakers were highly successful.

In an adjacent column on the same page, "Don't eat sweets" hardly junk science, we "taste" the politics of trading dollars for calories. It's all about bucks and choices.

As for physicians/doctors, my opinion is: Not our job!

David P. Kalin, M.D., Palm Harbor

Curious juice defenders

Re: A low-carb orange alert, Jan. 26.

This editorial was a relief from national politics, but a great reflection on state politics.

Twittish might describe a group that presents a product with a significant carbohydrate content as being maligned in some way, when a product is offered by one of their own that's advertised as reduced calorie. Is this accomplished by the secret process of dilution with water, and perhaps adding a nonsugar sweetener?

William Nygard, St. Petersburg

Sweetness is taken to extremes

President Bush is fond of talking about taking personal responsibility. How about his taking some responsibility for his administration's opposition to the recommendations of the World Health Organization against so much sugared food? He will not because he takes such large contributions from the sugar lobby. That is an incidence of evading personal responsibility.

I have recently begun to read all food labels closely. Things that do not need any sweetening often contain corn syrup. Could agribusiness have anything to do with that? Another large campaign contributor.

When I compared glycemic indices with cereal and breads from the same manufacturers in this country to what the indices are in Australia, for example, turns out the indices are lower in foreign countries for companies like Kelloggs, Post and Pepperidge Farm. I guess our corn syrup lobby does not reach out that far.

I was a frequent bread baker when I had a family at home. I can positively state that it is not necessary that breads have sugar or corn syrup as the second or third listed ingredient to be tasty.

Salad dressings do not need sweetening either, unless you are aiming for a honey taste. Yet almost all prepared salad dressings contain the ubiquitous corn syrup or sugar. If you buy a frozen vegetable with butter sauce, you will find corn syrup.

Even if one is trying to eat in a healthy manner, it is almost impossible. No wonder obesity is such a problem in this country.

Marilyn J. Day, Beverly Hills

Addicts have to want to change

Re: Treating the problem, editorial, Jan. 20.

There's one important issue in this equation that I want to address. I totally agree: Drug addicted parents need drug treatment. It always sounds so easy. Treat the parents who have an addiction: problem solved. Ask any judge, Family Continuity caseworker, drug addiction specialist, counselor or detox facility, and he will tell you that addicts must truly want help to change their course in life. If they don't earnestly desire to radically change their lives, even the most intense treatment programs and case plans are not going to help. You can lead an addict to help but you can't make him receive it. Healing comes from a desire to want more in life than using drugs offers. It takes motivation (which starts on the inside), treatment, counseling, Narcotics Anonymous/Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a sponsor and faith in God and one's self.

All the state funding in the world cannot give addicts a heart's desire to change their lives. They have to want it. Yes, it is truly sad and heartbreaking that children have to suffer and be parentless because their parents are addicted. But no one can change the addicts' lifestyle, no one can change their friends or their hangouts but them.

Sharon Blair, Largo

Feeling the big squeeze

Re: The Everest of trucks, Jan. 21.

I read your article about the new Chevrolet pickup truck that's more than 21 feet long. It hope it doesn't park next to me at the mall. I swear no matter where I park, I always come back and find out I'm in between two SUVs or big vans.

I don't know how they opened their doors and got out. I never feel safe backing out. Maybe the larger SUVs need their own parking spaces.

Nancy Philbin Garcia, Tarpon Springs

Happy with her hybrid car

Re: Biz bits, Jan. 4.

The column claims that hybrids cost "significantly more" and get "marginal savings at the pump."

I am the owner of a 2001 Prius and find that is not at all true. The cost of my Prius was less than a late-model, used automobile by the same maker and still is less than most mid-size cars. The savings at the pump are significant. How often can you fill the tank for $10 or less and always get between 45 and 50 miles per gallon?

I would prefer to buy American, but the industry must meet the competition by putting out a comparable product instead of just bad-mouthing them.

Mary Kennedy, Spring Hill

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