Today's Letters: Symptoms epidemic in public school

Published May 19, 2007

Thank you for Bill Maxwell's wonderful article. I know he had a dream for those he cares so much for.

Unfortunately, the lack of desire for learning is not restricted to the African-American culture. While reading his article, I feel the same frustrations he experienced frequently in my own public school classroom.

Somewhere, sometime, students stopped caring so much about learning and reading. We educators have had to provide so many things for the students who come to our classrooms unprepared - those without materials, completed assignments or basic facts that are necessary for learning beyond what they already know.

Guidance counselors are so busy with FCAT, report cards and behavior problems that they cannot guide any student to adequately prepare them for life beyond high school. High school students do not have any idea what's expected of them in college because the behaviors Maxwell described are an extension of the life they exhibit in public schools all over this country.

We teachers are not able to realistically "grade" students, as we should be. We are told that we cannot fail students anymore. Those of us who dare to grade students on their performance are admonished for doing so. It is rare that we have parents as partners to teach their children how to be more responsible.

I don't know what the answer is, but I worry about who is going to teach our children in the years to come, and if our students really will learn to be contributing citizens.

Charlotte Morales, Safety Harbor 

Dried by drought, dreaming of rain May 17, story

Xeriscape your yard

Ryan Morse has the right idea: Replace as much lawn as you can with drought-tolerant plants. Our state is reaching its carrying capacity where water is concerned, and we must all try to reduce what we use as much as possible.

Some people say that doing so only enables more development, but that argument is a red herring. We must limit our water consumption and insist that our local and state governments practice meaningful growth management. To do otherwise is foolish and immoral.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, Pinellas County Utilities and the Florida Native Plant Society all have excellent information available to help you have a beautiful landscape without draining our lakes, rivers and natural areas.

Jan Allyn, Largo

Corps gives blessing to building Pasco mall May 17, story

When will we stop?

Another development is approved and we lose 56 acres of wetlands to a commercial mall.

At a time when we most need our wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers allows the destruction of wetlands at the headwaters of the Hillsborough River. Is just me or is this over the top?

When does it stop? When we go to the tap for a drink of water and nothing comes out? What do you do then? Will we wake up in time and put a stop to this insanity?

Gregory Colvin, Odessa

Fighting for Florida

I have come to believe that when those leading Florida stand before future generations (and I'm hoping there are lakes of fire involved), they will be most harshly judged for the way they treated natural Florida.

I believe future generations will forgive us for technologies not yet discovered, and our many interesting cultural diversions, but they will not forgive us for stealing from them all that is truly Florida.

Is there is any greater testimony to the folly that is environmental regulation in Florida than a mall parking lot being given higher priority than 56 acres of pristine wetlands?

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District completely failed the public and the resources they are supposed to protect. This is another disgraceful example of government of the developer, by the developer and for the developer.

Enough is enough. Floridians need to fight back and speak up for the Florida that we lose every day to the bulldozer and the dredge. The elections in 2008 offer an opportunity for Floridians to vote. It's mall parking lots vs. wetlands. I'm voting wetlands.

Joe Murphy, Ridge Manor

Fires are started through thoughtless, selfish acts and Charge $100 a pack May 15, letters

Don't blame all smokers

I am writing in response to the angry letters about people starting fires because they threw out lit cigarettes. I'm a smoker, and I put my cigarettes out in my car ashtray until I can properly dispose of them. This has always been out of concern for the environment, but I am extra careful now because of the fires, and I have nagged all my fellow smokers to do the same.

I understand the fire in Sarasota was caused by carelessness, but Tuesday's letter writers were just people trying to find a place to lay blame. Don't lump all smokers together just because of a few careless people. If it really bothers you when you see someone toss a butt, then maybe you should say something to them about it.

Melissa Jardine, Tampa

Drivers pay through the hose May 17, story

Gas should cost even more

It never ceases to amaze me that every time gas prices rise we start beating up on the oil industry. Higher gas prices is just one of the problems we are facing.

I for one am quite happy that gas prices are going up. For that matter, I don't think they are high enough. A trip to Miami, which cost $ 34.48 a year ago, now costs $36.09 - a difference of $1.61. Let's be realistic. That's not exactly a fortune.

When will people wake up and realize that their behavior is the problem? Is it really necessary for the average citizen to buy an SUV or truck that gets 10-12 mpg and use that vehicle once in a while to transport his or her lawn mower but generally carry only one passenger?

The problem is broader, namely an atrocious drain on our environment and resources and ever-increasing dependence on foreign powers who generally are not well-disposed toward us.

If I had my way, I would add a 25-cent gas tax per gallon each year for the next 10 years and have all of the money applied to alternative-energy development and resource conservation.

Think about it. If the gas prices drop again for a while, people will go back to their old, wasteful habits, which in the long run will just cause more problems to our environment and increase our dependence on other nations.

Lower gas prices are not the solution but a cause of our problems.

Thomas C. Knueppel, Tampa

Drivers pay through hose May 17, story

Report on guns, not gas

Here we go again. Just the other day the Times published scathing letters regarding its poor journalism in giving top priority to the story of Steve Stanton, displaying his photo on Page 1 above the center fold, while treating the story of soldiers killed in Iraq on the inside pages as minor news.

Then Thursday's front page shows a huge picture of a gasoline pump with the story about high gas prices, as if it's big news. Hidden inside on Page 8 under the heading of "Elsewhere" is the story about the Columbia, S.C., state House subcommittee approving a measure that would allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry guns onto public school campuses.

Do you call this journalism? To be permitted to carry a gun on campus is outrageous. Paying higher prices at the pump is expected. Let's go back to our journalism classes.

Morris Grossman, Sun City Center

Allow guns on campus

As Gov. Charlie Crist has enacted the Gubernatorial Task Force on University Campus Safety, we as Floridians must consider the fact that the majority of state colleges and universities have no immediate means on campus to prohibit a safety threat. Florida should join with Utah in allowing students who hold concealed-carry permits to bring their weapon on campus.

While everyone would prefer to remain oblivious to the fact that the average student can bring a gun on campus without anyone finding out, the reality is that students can easily do such a thing. Law-abiding students who go through the process of obtaining a concealed-carry permit are not the ones who pose a threat to campus safety. In fact, prohibition of concealed-carry weapons in any situation infringes upon the Second Amendment.

Now is the time to encourage the governor's office that guns on campus - provided they are in the right hands - can add safety to the classroom.

Margaret Beck, St. Petersburg

Jerry Falwell's legacy

Any sudden death, like the Rev. Jerry Falwell's, is both sad and tragic. He leaves quite a legacy and did many good things to proclaim the gospel.

But we must realize that he did not represent or speak for the entire Baptist denomination. I did not agree with the concept of the Moral Majority because there is only one person who can judge us and that is Christ. I did not agree with his off-the-wall statements about the Teletubbies and who was responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Christ taught us to love unconditionally. Unfortunately, Rev. Falwell did not grasp that.

Betty O'Hearn, Treasure Island

A missed opportunity

Bill Maxwell has been a favorite of mine for years. When I heard that he was returning to the Times, I was so glad. Having read the first in his series of articles about Stillman, I can only be sad. It is too bad that most of his students failed to recognize the opportunity they had for his guidance and to accept the wisdom that he had to offer.

Now, maybe those who have criticized Oprah for building her school in Africa rather than in the United States can begin to understand why she did that. Learning rarely occurs by osmosis; there needs to be some effort on the part of the student.

Maybe now Stillman will begin to expect honest effort to learn, instead of letting the impudent and indolent slide by.

Shirley M. Day, St. Petersburg

Basics go ignored

I can identify with Bill Maxwell's rude awakening. Having taught for two semesters as an adjunct instructor at a local community college, I was shocked and disheartened at the lack of dedication, learning and discipline. What a disappointment when most could barely write a correct sentence.

Perhaps U.S. schools think that teaching sentence structure, or even spelling, is a waste of time in elementary classes. Cursive writing is too much of a task. These basics are ignored to teach to a questionable test. How sad.

What can we do to improve our educational system? Let's hear from more educators and parents. Love of learning and language is what we need.

Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey

An unspeakable truth

I admire and respect Bill Maxwell, who continues to attempt to persuade black youth to assume personal responsibility for their future. His description of the absence of motivation to learn displayed by many students at Stillman College is "politically incorrect" but truthfully on target. Unfortunately the target of his message probably doesn't reach its intended audience because they either can't read or don't subscribe to the Times or cannot comprehend what they may have read.

In my 10 years of delivering Meals on Wheels in the Midtown area, I see black teenage males lounging around in their neighborhoods during normal school hours, T-shirts dangling to their knees, sagging pants, profuse dreadlocks all bespeaking, "I am unemployable."

Who wants them? Who would even consider hiring them?

For some years I volunteered at the Florida Parole and Probation Department attempting to find jobs for "ex-offenders" - not an easy assignment. I concluded that the common thread amongst them was irresponsibility. Having no developed marketable skills, many turned to crime through sheer boredom.

I believe that somehow black leaders, ministers, teachers and role models have to convince teenagers that failure, poverty and "dumbing down" are not "cool" and prison is not fun.

Maxwell's voice may presently be a zephyr in a gale, but eventually his solutions will prove to be the answer to a major problem in the United States.

John Christy Clement, Tierra Verde

College is too late

It seems that Bill Maxwell's side trips into the academic world the last few years have been enlightening experiences. He is to be commended for making the sacrifice and it is too bad more like him do not try to get a more close-up picture.

Almost no white people, however sympathetic or innocent, can even address the situation without being labeled a racist. We have gone from the mind being a terrible thing to waste to the threat of a whole generation being wasted mostly because of intimidation by PCNs (politically correct nitwits).

Something must be done now, and it must be done at kindergarten level. College age is too late to make much change in most young people. Thinkers like Maxwell are probably the only ones who can possibly do it.

Gerald E. Doty, St. Petersburg

Try with younger students

Bill Maxwell's report on his experience at Stillman is a sad story.

Unfortunately, it is often repeated as we learn about the young, negative black culture that is so antiwhite that it is also antisuccess. It seems to be especially prevalent at the college level. We hear of black students taunting others as acting "white" because of their academic effort. Poor language usage and questionable dress seem to also signal "I'm not white." (Bill Cosby has spoken of this.)

On the front page of the same day's Floridian is a success story of a young man of color, Keto Hodges, and his adoptive mother, Ruth Hodges. She got to him before he was 9 (Mother's Way).

I suggest that Maxwell try again, only with much younger black students. Perhaps as young as first- or second-graders.

Ed Hansen, St. Petersburg

Courage of character

I read Bill Maxwell every chance I get. I really enjoy his clear writing style and almost always agree with his opinion. I commend him on the article on Stillman College.

I think it speaks volumes about Maxwell's courage and character to give up his job at the Times, take a serious pay cut, and try to "give back" to help those in need. The outcome of his efforts is a sad shame. The article must have been very painful for him to write.

I suppose there are a host of reasons to account for what happened at Stillman. I would imagine that sort of thing is happening at a lot of places. I can't help but wonder if the reason these kids behaved like they did is because of the relentless negativity and stereotyping they get daily from the music and entertainment industry.

I don't know what the answer is. Censorship is not the answer - it never is. Perhaps people of color in "role model" positions need to take more responsibility for themselves and try to "give back" as Maxwell did. I congratulate him on an excellent piece and look forward to the next installment.

Jeff Cutting, Seminole