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For education solutions we must look beyond high school

Letters to the Editor
Published March 7, 2005

Re: We need to redesign our obsolete high schools, by Bill Gates, March 3.

Bill Gates in his recent op-ed sent a scathing message about the current achievement in public high schools. While I agree with his assertions and observations, I do not share his solutions.

Students who do not achieve in high school most likely did not achieve in middle or elementary school either. Trying to pin the blame on high schools or even fix the problem by the time students enter high school is ignoring the first seven to eight years of their education. A 14-year-old's brain is far more difficult to penetrate and mold than a 5-year-old's. I am surprised that Gates would take such a simple view of what is a very complex problem.

Furthermore, the idea that every student should be pushed into college or a college-based curriculum is using a one-size-fits-all model that is just flat wrong.

However, there is a much larger and more complex issue that is directly responsible for a child's achievement and success in school: parents/guardians/mentors. Talking about fixing education in high school terms only is simplistic at best. Talking about fixing education without talking about home life is idiotic. Educators, schools and government officials can only do so much. If a child's education is not valued at home, it most likely will not be valued at all. Gates' quest to demand better high schools will end in frustration and failure.

If you want to talk about fixing education, promoting achievement and preparing students to become citizens and productive workers, then you need to look at both sides of the equation.

-- Nick Hansen, St. Petersburg

Comparable compensation

Re: Report all teacher compensation, letter, Feb. 28.

The letter writer's call for the reporting of all compensation for teachers sounds as though he believes in total disclosure. So that means everyone is doing it, but the teachers aren't? Police, firefighters, postal and UPS workers make their $35,000-$45,000 - period?

No. They get pensions and health care, like teachers, but when their salaries are mentioned, the general annual amount is given without extras.

Does a CEO, offer the little perks and gifts, when his $50-million salary is splashed all over the business page? Again, no. He is getting closer to $100-million. But the letter writer doesn't care because he seems to have a problem with those technicalities when it comes to teachers, the folks that have at least four years of college and are busy molding Florida's greatest resource, for peanuts.

Attitudes like that are the reason there is a teacher shortage, minimal respect and a pay discrepancy in Florida.

-- Joseph Brickman, Largo

Help end the slaughter in Darfur

Re: The secret genocide archive, Feb. 24.

Nicholas D. Kristof has written often about the human tragedy unfolding in Darfur, in western Sudan. His recent photos should be a wakeup call to every person who witnessed the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and said "Never again!" I urge everyone to take to heart the words of the late Sen. Paul Simon, as quoted by Kristof:

"If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different." Kristof adds, "The same is true this time." My letters will go out today, and I urge others to help end the slaughter in Darfur.

-- Jessie W. Bush, Sun City Center

Add your voice to the call

It seems ironic how there is a huge effort to save the life of one woman in a vegetative state (Terri Schiavo), yet there is a very small effort toward saving thousands of innocent Darfurians being murdered in Sudan.

For those who want to help the people of Darfur, please go to and e-mail the letter to George Bush, telling him to stop this genocide. It will only take a minute of your time, and it is a step toward making this world a better place.

-- Alec Ewig, St. Petersburg

U.S. should not overextend itself

Re: Do we really want to stop the genocide? March 3.

Nicholas D. Kristof makes the point that the American people are apathetic about the genocide in Darfur, and that if we cared we would urge our government to act. Kristof fails to offer insight as to exactly how we would go about this, beyond the food and medical care we are already providing, and how many of our troops would be required.

He also has a painfully short memory, too, because we've been down this road before with disastrous consequences. In 1993, the media goaded the American public into an outrage over the fighting and famine in Somalia. We demanded that our government do something about it in response to the horrifying stories and photos we were shown in our papers and on newscasts. The result was the battle of Mogadishu and dead Americans being dragged through the streets.

I do not believe that most Americans are uncaring. We are already committed in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have asked for, and received, tremendous sacrifices from our military troops. We just recently pledged millions upon millions of dollars toward tsunami relief. These are our priorities at this time. Our country, in spite of being a superpower, does have its limits, and our government must operate within those limits. The United States simply cannot go rushing in to a desperate situation, no matter how noble it may seem, without taking our current level of commitment into consideration.

Kristof is trying to shame us into pushing our government into yet another international imbroglio. There are plenty of other countries, sitting back and doing little or nothing to help, that would love to see the United States overextend itself to the breaking point.

As a nation, we must respond to situations with logic and reason, not raw emotions.

-- Suzanne Natzke, Trinity

Farm workers forgotten at festival

Re: "Still all about the strawberry."

In regard to your article on the Strawberry Festival's tradition. I would like to see someone ask the festival organizers: When will it be about the migrant farm workers?

Country music may be great for the average Plant City resident, but what about the migrant farm worker?

Nine dollars to get in the festival? Do you know how many flats of strawberries a migrant farm worker has to pick to be able to afford one admission to the festival?

How about a strawberry queen who has actually set foot in a strawberry field. Hey what about a migrant farm worker?

For those of you who make the trek to be stuck in traffic, I ask you to please notice the strawberry pickers to the right of I-4 just prior to Plant City. Take a good look, because that will be the only place the migrant farm workers are associated with the Strawberry Festival.

-- Guadalupe Lamas, Plant City

[Last modified March 7, 2005, 01:57:13]

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