Why New College has endured
My father, Douglas Berggren, helped found New College of Florida, the school from which I graduated. I fear that the newly appointed board members seek to transform New College in a way that will turn its mission upside down. Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to abolish diversity, equity and inclusion, and his “classical liberal arts model” is blatantly political.
New College has endured because it has always strived for excellence and relevance, instead of conforming to specific ideologies. Excellence has meant knowing one’s discipline rigorously while questioning its fundamentals and the nature of academia. Students are encouraged to cross academic areas and commit to their education through contracts they help design. This makes them excellent problem solvers and innovators and has led to New College’s consistently high nationwide rankings.
New College does not espouse indoctrination. Rather, freedom of thought is encouraged and the college prides itself on creating a safe environment to respectfully exchange ideas. My father once noted New College attracts a highly diverse student body, giving them the opportunity to learn how to work together. The ability to genuinely engage with those holding opposing viewpoints to reach solutions is a skill that is necessary to face the serious challenges facing the country and planet.
Lynne Buchanan, Fletcher, North Carolina
I like DeSantis but he’s wrong
I am a moderate conservative who tends to lean toward Republican ideas more than I do Democratic ones. I have voted for Gov. Ron DeSantis twice and would vote for him if he runs for president. However, I think that he and his aides made a mistake with their proposed changes to New College of Florida in Sarasota. My understanding is that some of the approximately 700 students who go there chose to attend New College, in part, based on two factors: (1) Students do not receive grades but a general pass/fail and (2) it has a significant LGBTQ population. The latter appears to be important as the students say that they enjoy being with others who are like them. How is this different than those who attend historically Black colleges and universities, where Black students say that they feel more comfortable with people who look like them and may have had similar life experiences. New College students should be allowed to go wherever allows them to make the most of their higher education.
Tom Craig, Riverview
Democrats, define yourselves
Can Florida Democrats win again? | Editorial, Jan. 15
There’s a political maxim: Don’t let your foe define you. To hear our governor, Florida Democrats are Marxist drag queens coming for your gas stove! His Wizard of Oz misdirection means to take voters’ minds off Orwellian edicts on education and voting rights, antediluvian policies on social justice and abortion, and head-in-the-sand stances on climate change and gun safety. I think that the Party of Lincoln (and of parents) is now the party of autocrats, theocrats and “resume embellishers.” The parties have sharp contrasts on things like Social Security and workers’ rights. Let’s remind voters the most sensitive nerve in the body is the pocketbook nerve, so while coddling billionaires and global CEOs may enrich politicians’ war chests and cronies, it doesn’t trickle down. “Woke” is a joke if you’re broke! Another political maxim: Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
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Claude Walker, St. Pete Beach
A lifelong love of reading
The joy of reading | Letters, Jan. 15
I fondly remember sitting on the sofa with my mother in the mid-1950s, while she read a book to me. With her finger, she traced the words in the sentences as she read. Thanks to her, I have a love of reading that persists to this day, in my seventh decade on the planet. I was able to pay her gift forward, when I volunteered to read from the Lemony Snicket books to a classroom of fifth-graders. They were transfixed; they listened with rapt attention. I can give no solid scientific evidence that my efforts gave to them what my mother gave to me. But their facial expressions told the story.
Charles Lehnert, Sun City Center
Move those peacocks
Pestiferous peacocks | Jan. 15
I’m with the peacock relocaters on this. Many years ago I worked on the landscaping crew at Innisbrook. Peacocks were wandering all over the place screeching continuously. “Loud early morning screeches compared to a howling infant,” as this article states, is a bit off the mark. The loud, obnoxious screeches are in a class by themselves — and go on all day long. I marveled that the residents of such an upscale resort would put up with the noisy birds.
Pete Wilford, Holiday