A date with history | Editorial, Aug. 20
Slavery predated 1619 in Americas
The focus on 1619 as the beginning of African slavery in the future United States brings attention to a significant aspect of our shared history, and it is appropriate that the Times emphasizes that in this editorial. It is, perhaps, even more useful that this editorial emphasizes how slavery was enmeshed in northern business as well as southern plantations. However, the emphasis on this particular date perpetuates the idea of the founding of America solely as a British enterprise, oversimplifying our history. An article in Smithsonian, "The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History," does a great job of explaining how slavery in the Americas (including North America) occurred at least 100 years earlier and discusses the impacts of Africans on the development of North America. We should remember that Jamestown and Plymouth were no more the United States in 1619 than were Florida or Texas. And how could we forget the first enslaved African to visit continental North America? Esteban the Black — known by Estevanico and other names — traveled with the Narváez expedition, which landed in Tampa Bay. With Cabeza de Vaca, he traveled far into the west, eventually leaving those who held him in slavery.
Gregory Byrd, Clearwater
The writer is a professor of American literature.
Student discipline debated | Aug. 18
Teachers need resources
If the goal of Pinellas County schools' "required" decline in behavior referrals is disheartened teachers and students, administrators have hit their mark. Many of our teachers today feel they have no support when it comes to students who regularly act out in class. They are simply told to deal with it. At the same time, children who truly have an eagerness to learn are put on hold while a teacher deals with disruptive students who quickly learn there will likely be no repercussions. Our schools are not given proper resources to deal with these students. The results show in the numbers of talented, qualified teachers who are leaving the profession, as well as in the hearts of children like my own who many times in the past few years have lost a desire for the learning they love due to uncontrollable students in their class. I am all in favor of finding ways to reach disruptive students rather than just writing them off, but the district must do the honest work of providing tools, training and additional staff rather than the laughable solution of denying teacher referrals.
Stephanie Lane, Safety Harbor
Build roads to the future | Column, Aug. 20
This isn't smart growth
The president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce engages in double speak when he refers to "smart growth." By definition, smart growth curbs urban sprawl and worsening environmental conditions. Laying down new highways in undeveloped and rural areas is the opposite.
Tim Martin, St. Petersburg
On the brink of new water war? | Aug. 20
A question of treatment
Water is filtered as it seeps through the ground into the aquifer. So if Tampa injected wastewater directly into the Florida aquifer, where would the filtering occur? And if the treated wastewater truly needs no more filtration, why not pipe it directly to homes?
Douglas W. Molt, Saint Petersburg