US cannot wait for piecemeal reforms by states

Thank you for the special report about a new type of federalism implied in rulings by the Supreme Court majority ("Recalibrating the power balance," Jan. 6).

As the reporter noted, the Supreme Court decisions favoring local versus central authority actually are anti-federalist, if we define the term as it was used during the first decades of our country's history.

The first citizens of the new United States both desired and feared strong central government power. It was desired by Federalists, who were by and large the old order aristocrats and had attained power by inheritance or patronage.

On the other hand, yeomen and those with egalitarian leanings were suspicious of strong central government power that smacked of the British system they had fought to replace.

As for today's dilemmas over federal versus state and local authority, we might learn from the compromises that were made to dismantle the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution.

The very document - our Constitution -- over which the Supreme Court opines today with a bent to return power to local levels was once used, in the case of slavery, as the basis of continuing an unquestionable human evil. Its amendments now support a somewhat more perfect union.

Amidst arguments for local rule, we should remember that we have at least one example in our history when overriding central power, authority and moral leadership served higher interests than those of a region or a state.

Shall we let the health of children and the poor, the security and dignity of elders, the equality of women and the rights of minorities be decided on a piecemeal basis state-by-state?

Philip M. Smith College Station, Texas

Education as a guide to the unknown

Your recent articles on the advantages of learning by methods other than by personal involvement with members of a faculty and other students really brings up the question of what is an education.

The Latin root of the word is educere - to lead forth. Developing the best qualities of an individual to full potential requires more than imparting information. Educators who have the most profound influence take students from where they are to where they can and should go by building on what they know.

Everyone is comfortable with what is known. The unknown is frightening and threatening and it helps to have a guide. Not everyone starts at the same place and not everyone can progress at the same pace. New knowledge must be accepted emotionally as well as intellectually.

Michelangelo saw in an imperfect block of marble that which others had missed - and "David" was born.

The "Information Age" is a far cry from "The Age of Reason," "The Enlightenment," "The Renaissance," or "The Age of Discovery." Information and technology are tools.

All tools have some useful function. The question is: How do we use the tools to educate rather than blindly impart information?

John V. Kavanagh Chevy Chase, Md.

Union-busting helped economy

The editorial "America the dominant" mentioned a few contributing reasons for American economic success (Dec. 29).

I would suggest that a contributing factor left out was the breaking of the backs of the unions in both the US and Britain by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

The unions had put a stranglehold on the economies of these two countries. Marked progress has been made since these events.

Robert H. McCrea Obrien, Fla.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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