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    Letters to the Editors

    Class seems to overlook basic purpose

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 21, 2002

    Re: The real-life lessons about the plight of migrant farm workers, April 14.

    During 37 years as a professional educator at the university level, I promoted and practiced Writing Across the Curriculum. Hence I am familiar with challenges and outcomes of English 101 and 102.

    I read Bill Maxwell's column about Frank Gillen's objectives and methodology in Gillen's sections of English 102 this semester at the University of Tampa. Did either Maxwell or Gillen read the course description?

    Here it is, verbatim from the university Web site: "101, 102 Composition and Rhetoric I, II (First-Year Writing) (4, 4) Teaches the process of writing effective expository essays. ENG 102 includes extensive instruction and practice in research writing. May not count for the English or writing major or minor. Students must complete ENG 101 with a grade of "C' or better to register for ENG 102. (*fall and spring semesters)"

    As a professional educator, I know that this course intends to assess and improve each student's ability to perform primary and secondary research and apply that research to writing expository prose.

    I know that the second semester of the year sequence emphasizes the development of critical thinking skills and their expression in expository prose. I know each student at the university must pass this year sequence in writing to graduate. Many students struggle to meet that standard.

    How wonderful then for a student to discover professor's Gillen's two classes, which replace the rigors of a writing course with a '60s version of social activism called "Researching and Leaning to Serve: The Migrant Worker Experience."

    According to Maxwell's column, students in this course listened to him and three other guest speakers. Although a professional writer, Maxwell spoke about the migrant worker cause and experience. No guest speaker, apparently, spoke about writing.

    Maxwell begins his column in praise of professor Gillen. He writes "Great teaching is a subversive activity, a revolution that transforms lives." Perhaps. Ignoring the accepted curriculum may be subversive, but it does not create or represent great teaching. Students enter English 102 to improve their ability to research and to write, skills required for success at the university. Maxwell's column fails to account for how Gillen's course meets the course description.
    -- Will Grant, Ph.D., St. Petersburg

    Why change stripes?

    Re: McBride appeals to moderate Republicans, April 14.

    Like the annual changing of the leaves up north in the fall -- except on a two-year schedule in Pinellas County -- some of the registered Republicans locally are again changing their stripes to support a Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

    As reported by Adam Smith, a few prominent registered Republicans are openly supporting a liberal, tax-raising, untested candidate for governor. The political tent, Republican or Democrat, that provides cover from the natural elements must be large by design. Don't jump ship with distaste over one issue. A voter and supporter must evaluate the entire policy of a party or major candidate. Jeb Bush more than deserves the support of state Republicans and all registered Republicans in Pinellas County, and that is based on the wide view of his years as governor.
    -- Todd Pressman, Clearwater

    Go for Gore

    To all of Florida's Democrats: Please back Al Gore for president again. I'm sure that even without the hanging chads he will lose by a much larger margin than before. This would guarantee "W" the presidency for a second term.

    Also, why is Jeb Bush being chastised for not doing enough for education? Who was it that left the state in this mess? Could it possibly be the late Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles? Face it, Democrats, your man left it the way it is along with your elected representatives. Now you expect the new kid on the block to clean up your mess!
    -- Jim Thurmann, Largo

    Where is the fairness?

    Has the Times no shame? Your flood of pro-McBride articles not only appears on the editorial page but throughout the paper in the guise of "news articles." Your support for a Democratic candidate is understandable considering your past endorsements, but why not report who is really behind his bid for public office? For a start let's talk about the trial lawyers who clearly have an agenda, the organized education lobby which doesn't want to be held accountable and the various Democratic factions who don't think Janet Reno is electable.

    As for Adam C. Smith's article about "moderate Republicans" who support McBride, does that imply that those of us who support the governor are "extreme"? If you want to be fair (which I doubt), why not name Democrats who support Gov. Jeb Bush?
    -- Hans Walter Seelig, Palm Harbor

    Rational leaders wanted

    Re: Faith is a natural partner in public life, letter, April 14.

    Most of the letter writers on this issue don't seem to understand the primary objection of thinking voters to politicians who allow faith to determine action. Even if it were true that the balance of progressive versus regressive actions taken based on faith was heavily weighted in favor of the former (which it is not, but that's another issue), even if the emotion of faith is a natural part of humanity (such as anger or jealousy), and even if it were true that objecting to faith-based action was more divisive than the action itself, faith would not be an acceptable basis for political actions.

    When I vote for representatives, I expect them to act rationally in the conduct of their duties. I want them to gather all of the evidence available, weigh it carefully and make an informed decision based on the facts. Period. I don't want them consulting the Oracle of Delphi, Miss Cleo, astrologers, palm readers, preachers, priests, rabbis, imams, shamans or any other purveyors of mystical gobbledegook in the performance of their elected duties.

    What they do in their personal lives is their choice, and if they make poor decisions it usually affects only them. What they choose in their official capacities affects me and all of their other constituents, and I want them to follow a proven path toward sound decisions, not the path that brought us witch burnings, crusades, slavery, airplanes crashing into towers and suicide bombers. The world is bloodied from those who wish to force their faith down our throats.
    -- Brent Yaciw, Wesley Chapel

    A historic shakedown

    Re: Putting a price on corporate America's sins of slavery, April 14.
    -- Robert Trigaux says, "not that (Deadria) Framer-Paellmann is some modern extortionist" in spearheading the lawsuit against corporations seeking reparations for profiting from slavery.
    Actually, she is. Not only is this the largest shakedown in history, the entire reparations thing will do more harm, probably irreparable, to race relations than anything in history.
    Ernest Lane, New Port Richey

    Delightful discoveries

    Often you find sensitivity and humanity in the strangest places. I would not expect to find a really poignant story in the Perspective section.

    As expected, I recently read a very good story about Coconut (the three-legged dog) in the April 13 Floridian (The meal that got away). Of course, Jeff Klinkenberg always writes about the "good part" of Florida -- the Florida we all should love, without concrete and without commercial greed.

    But now I have just discovered the wisdom and sensitive writing of Samantha Puckett! Her April 14 article about the new dog in her life caught my eye first (New addition fills our home with love). I go to Perspective for politics, scandal and conflict, but I was delighted to find a really good article about Miles, the Welsh Corgi.

    Her thesis on dogs, cats and all pets really spoke to me about the way I feel about my dog and my past cats. More important, the article may convince others of the values and important items that can make our own lives more meaningful.

    Then I discovered her again on the April 15 editorial page, discussing the strange phenomenon of "reality TV" and its negative effects on the new generation and the old (Television's unreal world). Again she spoke for me, especially in her apparent disdain for Survivor and similar shows.

    Puckett ends up stressing the same points often raised by Klinkenberg: that if you want to see the "real world," get off the couch (into nature). Wow! How refreshing -- and well said!

    I want to read this type of article by these two people even more in the future. Why not consider a column or permanent spot for both of them in a prominent location?
    -- Dale L. MacKenzie Gross, St. Petersburg

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