I'm quite concerned with the Pinellas Education Foundation's document, "A Case for Change in Pinellas Schools," which calls for Pinellas County to adopt the educational system of Okaloosa County. This document is full of the cliches and buzzwords that seem to surface with every "new and improved" idea for education.
These buzzwords may impress some people but teachers are quite sick of their hollowness: notions such as " incorporate relevant learning," "a 21st century responsibility," "know your customer," "work smarter, not harder," "principals are empowered" and "discontinue social promotion." (Really? How long do you propose to keep a student in third grade? Don't make broad statements without understanding the ramifications and having alternatives!). The list of cliches goes on ad nauseam.
After checking the Web sites of the individual elementary schools in the Okaloosa district, it was readily apparent that in 14 of the 18 schools there was not an art teacher on the faculty list. In half of the schools, the libraries were attended some of the time by a media aide. In other words, there were clerks who merely checked out books - no library program.
Elementary schools need to have a specific staffing model throughout the county: an art teacher, a music teacher, PE teachers and a certified librarian. Why? Because we are providing children with a well-rounded education and opportunities to explore and be creative, not just providing future employees for employers. Staffing models should not be up to the discretion of the principal .
I can only talk for elementary staffing models as that is where I have worked for 17 years. Education should be left to educators, not to business people who seem to think that our students are products. For those who sit around complaining about the state of education, I challenge you to volunteer at a low-socio-economic school where struggling children need mentors and one-on-one instruction. You may be surprised at how difficult it is to teach in today's world. It takes more than cliches.
Diane Oldja, St. Petersburg
Who will stop Florida's fleeing faculty? June 25, editorial
Education gets short shrift
It's interesting that Gov. Charlie Crist can find $1.75-billion in taxpayer funds to buy a faltering, polluting U.S. Sugar Corp., and former Gov. Jeb Bush could find billions of taxpayer dollars for payment to high-tech companies as incentive to relocate their businesses to Florida, but no Florida government in recent memory - not even Gov. Bob Graham's - has considered spending vast amounts to prop up Florida's underfunded, second-rate public education system. Our politicians don't appear to see how shortsighted this is in terms of Florida's future.
Your editorial speaks to the brain drain at Florida's public universities. However, our primary and secondary schools suffer similarly from underfunding, low teacher pay, low per-pupil spending on education, low high school graduation rates and low overall ranking in comparison with the other states.
Your paper and some of its readers have for years been writing in support of recommendations for increased funding of education - and our politicians without exception declare themselves in favor of a system of quality education, but no major effort is made. Those who say that more money isn't the solution to the problems of education in Florida invariably win out.
When will Florida's politicians put our money where their mouths are? For Florida's future.
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg
The war's heavy toll - June 29, letter
The letter writer says that before the war 4,100 of our brave men and women were still alive and that 20,000 still had eyesight, limbs and all their fingers and toes.
So I imagine that for this person there is a magic number when it is no longer feasible to keep our men and women fighting in a war. What is that magic number? Is it 10? Perhaps after 100 are killed we should admit defeat? Or maybe the number is higher? Lower maybe?
This letter writer and all those who are quick to state the casualties should look at previous wars and see the numbers there. Look at the hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of lives that ended because of previous wars. More than 600,000 died in the Civil War. In World War I, more than 9-million died on the battlefield, and nearly that many more on the home fronts because of food shortages, genocide and ground combat. For World War II, more than 70-million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.
"War is sorrowful, but there is one thing infinitely more horrible than the worst horrors of war, and that is the feeling that nothing is worth fighting for ..."
- Harper's Weekly, Dec. 31, 1864
Ronald Melone, Clearwater
In war's darkest hour, Bush made right call June 25, David Brooks column
He just got lucky
This column reminded me of the old Southern saying, "Even a blind chicken gets a piece of corn once in awhile."
Of course, what was not mentioned was that the "surge" in Iraq would not have been necessary if President Bush had listened to his militarily experienced advisers who told him to go in with overwhelming force at first. And he should not have taken the advice of the neo-cons and Dick Cheney whose military experience consisted of staying out of the military
Carlos DeCisneros, Tampa
FBI may add tool against terror: ethnic profiling - June 3, story
A perilous practice
Anyone who didn't read this should go back and find it. This might be one of the most important news items for the future of our country this year.
So the FBI doesn't need congressional approval for this? How about judicial approval when the first lawsuit comes in, because this violates the Constitution? Fourteenth Amendment, anyone?
It's not like this kind of thing hasn't happened here before, of course. In World War II, Japanese-American citizens were imprisoned for being Japanese-American. But some other events in that era should make us leery of repeat performances.
A final thought, readers: What profiling could they imagine for your ethnic group?
Kathryn Dorn, Tampa
The middle class continues its sad disappearing act - June 29
Plan to succeed
Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren has said that we are moving from a three-class society to a two-class society. The members of the current middle class (who want to avoid becoming relegated to the lower class by default) need a plan to get them into the class of their choosing.
All such plans will contain certain common elements, such as expense reduction, debt elimination, asset protection, saving for the future, wise investing, and possibly, a career change.
Your paper can provide an important community service by showing your readers how to develop a customized plan.
Bob Reid, Brandon