Comparing a US education to others

Regarding your April 19 opinion article, "It's the teachers, stupid," by Marguerite Roza: I could not agree more that the teacher is the defining factor inside a classroom. There is no substitute for good teachers. However, I do not agree that "we [in the US] have nothing to show for" the mammoth sums we've spent on education. We take on a tremendous task of educating all of our citizens. We try not leave anyone behind.

As a former US public school teacher, I taught gifted students, students with learning disabilities, and average students. Although our system is not perfect, it provides an opportunity for all.

Two years ago my wife and I moved to Brazil to teach in an overseas American School. The financial benefits are tremendous, and we have only college-bound students. But in comparison to the US, Brazil does a pitiful job of educating its population. Public schools have classes of up to 50 students. Classroom discipline is a joke, and facilities look like former Soviet prisons.

Although the US system is imperfect, we do work hard to educate our entire population.

Joe Young Brasilia

Free India from western influence

Regarding your April 25 article "India's history goes more Hindu": In my opinion, the change of direction in the Indian school curriculum means a good thing: That the focus of the next generations of Indians will turn back toward India's own tradition of education - a Vedic education.

Though politically independent since 1947, India has for too many years been under the spell of Britain and America, especially business firms that look to India only as a means to fill their coffers with profits. It's about time India began taking charge of its own destiny, and rejecting Western business and educational systems. The West and its admirers only scoff at Indian Vedic traditions as "superstition" and "myth."

Are the present educational systems of England and America such great models that everyone elsewhere in the world should line up to follow? I hardly think so. If most people in America could afford it, they would take their children out of public schools and send them to private schools.

Doug Shattuck Dublin, N.H.

Give teens some credit advice

Regarding your April 11 editorial "Helping teens avoid red ink": Parents and teachers should heed the warning that children who don't learn responsible credit use are very much at risk. There is no national spokesperson, catchy jingle, or flashy public service ad campaign to raise awareness about financial illiteracy. Yet it is a condition that can have a profoundly detrimental impact on a child's future.

One way that teachers can teach children about wise financial practices is to take advantage of the resources of the nonprofit Financial Literacy 2001, www.fl2001.org, which provides high school teachers with the tools, training, and ongoing support they need to tackle financial illiteracy among their students. All materials are noncommercial and free.

Heather Greenwood Arlington, Va. Project Director, Financial Literacy 2001

Taking stocks out of education

Your April 16 editorial "CEOs as school principals" is unconscionable. The bottom line for a CEO is net profit and the return on the investment to the stockholders. Is that how we think of children in America today - as a material product, a commodity to be bought and sold? Children are not a commodity. They are human beings, each with his or her own worth and value. Labeling children as products takes away their individuality. CEOs could not possibly have the same commitment to - and value of - education as a public school principal.

Ann Catherine Williamson Zionsville, Ind.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. All submissions are subject to editing; only a selection can be published. Letters must include your name, mailing address and phone number. Mail to One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail oped@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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