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    Letters to the Editors

    Success in school begins in the home

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 5, 2002

    Re: Ignoring racial politics in education, by Gloria Graves Holmes, April 28.

    Those of us who have spent time in primary and secondary education have seen one thing demonstrated to us repeatedly. That is, students (of any skin shade) who come from homes where people read and encourage reading, and attach a high value to education in general, will almost always pass from K through 12 successfully.

    Gloria Graves Holmes says that racism in the schools is to blame for minority student's lack of success. I don't believe it.

    The answer to this problem lies in the home. But people don't want to hear that. I guess that's why Holmes failed to mention it.
    -- Tom Reid, Seminole

    Many factors involved

    Re: Ignoring racial politics in education, by Gloria Graves Holmes.

    As a Hillsborough County teacher of almost 27 years I must take issue with assertions made by Gloria Graves Holmes.

    Sixty years ago there was a demand by civil rights leaders to allow minorities to attend predominantly white schools and to have white teachers. Holmes would have us believe there is now a vast white conspiracy to hold down black and Hispanic achievement. She would also have us believe that a nonwhite student is really better off in a poor, segregated school. I could swear that Thurgood Marshall once argued the exact opposite in Brown vs. Board of Education.

    I do not claim that all teaching methods in use today are perfect for every student, but I do know that attempts have been made to improve nonwhite achievement and test scores. There have been many curriculum changes, attendance incentives, inclusion in advanced programs, and numerous scholarship opportunities to name a few. All of these assertions can be well documented, yet minority achievement still lags behind that of whites despite years of integration.

    Experience tells me that other factors just might relate to failure to achieve in schools. Pregnancy, divorce, the number of parents in the home, crime and family income all have been proven to affect achievement. Nonwhite students, particularly black students, suffer from sad statistics in these areas. Another hurdle may be the assertion that black students particularly are under peer pressure not to achieve and are unfairly ostracized for doing so. I have been a witness to this too often.

    I dare say that white educators did not create the current problem and cannot be expected to solve it by themselves. Maybe Holmes needs to add a word to her vocabulary that was sadly missing from her long article: responsibility.
    -- James R. Goeb, Valrico

    Focus on the basics

    Re: Ignoring racial politics in education.

    I would agree with Gloria Graves Holmes that there are problems in education and part of the problem is unprepared teachers. However, I would challenge her premise beyond that.

    The problem is not a result of "bastions of white power and privilege." The problem is that children from all races are not being taught the fundamentals of reading and math. Without these two basics being understood and mastered by every child, regardless of their ethnic background, they will fail. We as a society have become so concerned that children will "feel good" regardless of doing what is expected of them that we allow our school systems to pass them without regard to mastery of the basics.

    All children deserve the chance to learn to read and do math, and it doesn't require millions of dollars to achieve this. It requires commitment from the teachers, staff and school boards all across this country to teach the basics first.
    -- Terri Holmes, St. Pete Beach

    "In your face' plate

    Re: Confusing abortion politics with abortion rights, April 28.

    Maybe Philip Gailey isn't offended by "Choose Life" license plates, but I am. As far as I know, Florida is the only state to actively take sides in this issue. Anyone who thinks the Republican-run Florida Legislature is an innocent bystander is only kidding himself. This license plate is as "in your face" as it gets.

    The most insightful remark in Gailey's column is his wondering why "Adopt a Child" wasn't chosen over "Choose Life." I think the answer to that question is obvious. "Adopt a Child" would require a subtitle: "Unless You're Gay."
    -- Thomas Thoms, St. Petersburg

    To choose requires choice

    I read with interest Philip Gailey's April 28 column, Confusing abortion politics with abortion rights. One subtle but interesting wrinkle that went without comment about the "Choose Life" license plates is the fact that it uses the word "choose."

    "Choice" is at the heart of the argument for those who want to keep government out of the picture when a woman makes the difficult and personal choice to abort a pregnancy. Recognition that it is a valid, legally protected choice is what the "other side" wants.

    The abortion rights opponents weakened their license plate's message by not "choosing" their words carefully.
    -- John Balla, Tampa

    The moderate center

    Re: Bush's spoils: reproductive freedom, by Robyn E. Blumner, April 28.

    Blumner's column went far beyond common decency by comparing the Bush administration's judicial nominations to the systemic, genocidally motivated rape practices of Bosnian Serb war criminals. Without regard to logic or intellectual honesty she even compared our president to conquering Roman legions!

    This hyperbole is consistent with a frighteningly Orwellian thought process that is typical of the radical left, where it is accepted as fact that the execution of convicted murderers is immoral but that the killing and mutilation of infants in the third trimester of pregnancy is euphemistically called "reproductive freedom."

    Although I deeply respect the moral clarity and beliefs of the pro-life movement, most Americans, including myself, do not desire a return to the back-alley abortion clinics of the pre-Roe vs. Wade era.

    The moderate center has sympathy for the women who face an unwanted pregnancy or the possibility of a child with birth defects, but we recognize the difference between a zygote and a baby. The continuing massacre of third-trimester babies, and particularly the repulsive practice of partial-birth abortions, is a horror that stains our national soul and shames us all.

    Incidentally, in contrast to Blumner's ideological manifesto, Philip Gailey's column on the same day presented a thoughtful and truthful analysis on the abortion debate, which I applaud.
    -- Roland St. Marie, Oldsmar

    Many options offered

    I take great exception to the statement made by Philip Gailey in his editorial of April 28, (Confusing abortion politics with abortion rights). He states that it is unlikely "for a prochoice group to offer counseling on both abortion and the adoption alternative." What does Galley think choice is?

    The mission of Planned Parenthood and its more than 900 clinics throughout the nation is to give choice to women faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Every woman who comes to us unsure of how to handle her pregnancy is given options counseling, where a thorough, unbiased discussion is held on her three choices -- including adoption.

    Planned Parenthood has no doubt referred more women to adoption agencies than any other private organization in the country. We respect the decision each individual woman makes.
    -- Barbara Zdravecky, president/CEO, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, Inc., Sarasota

    A place captured

    Re: Highway into history, by Diane Roberts, April 28.

    It's not often that you can read about a place and feel as though you actually were there with the author. Fortunately, this was one of those times.

    Diane Roberts is not one of my favorites because she relentlessly bashes the Florida conservatives, but one must give credit where credit is due. Her description of the area she grew up in was captured in total, I feel. I think a writer of her caliber is an asset to the Times and should be recognized as such.

    Please remind her to be a little more objective in her criticism and to include the blunders of the liberals in Florida.
    -- Jim Thurmann, Largo

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