Regarding the Oct. 23 Monitor Breakfast with Dan Glickman: As a college student, I found this a pleasure and a relief to read. I am of legal voting age and have the opportunity to exercise the privileges and responsibilities that come with voting rights. However, it has seemed to me that politicians, and most of the general public, view young adults as apathetic to the political sphere. Because of this narrow view, political issues are rarely made highly public to young adults. Instead, we must actively seek to remain informed on what is occurring in our nation and the world.
We do care, because we know that much of what happens today has a lasting effect on what happens in our tomorrow.
Regarding your Oct. 23 article "World aid for Iraq falling short": Early contributions that are outright grants might be important to establish political stability, but that does not eliminate the most pressing problem of all - the "curse" of oil. No developing country has ever avoided the destructive effects of "black gold." It badly distorts the ordinary functioning of the economy.
For example, it always appreciates the currency, making exports other than oil far more expensive. Furthermore, the proceeds are easily captured by a small elite or only one area of the country, and this alone creates political instability. It has been suggested by some that Alaska's solution - the distribution of proceeds to the population - can go a long way toward solving the problem. I have to wonder if the Bush administration would even consider this solution, even though Alaska has profited from it.
Regarding your Oct. 21 article "People power rules in S. America": As Americans who have seen the perks of a well-developed democracy, it is sometimes hard to empathize with citizens of underprivileged countries that lack a well-organized government. I saw firsthand how the people in Bolivia struggled daily, working in extreme conditions. The recent strikes and savage behavior were a result of fear and anger. But the people should not be blamed. They acted that way because everything they knew was being challenged by change. Bolivians have a set way of life. Trying to straighten an old bent tree is nearly impossible.
As the article stated, "Democracies ... allow people to express their discontent." This is exactly what Bolivians are doing. They are the power of Bolivia. They have an opinion and will go to any length to see that what matters to them will be reflected in the actions of the government.
Your Oct. 21 article "Historic battles" misses the point. Whether teaching history or social studies, teachers have to find meaning and purpose in what students learn. Facts and events should be used to help develop an understanding of key ideas and explore essential questions. The study of the American Revolution might focus on the following key idea: taxation without representation, and the question: When is taxation legitimate? Facts and events concerning the Revolution are learned in this context.
If we can agree to build the curriculum around this approach, then our debates will center on which key ideas and essential questions should be studied, not whether to teach from the perspective of facts or context. Both are important. Perhaps we can then agree that ideas and questions related to America's achievements - as well as the continual need to reach for its ideals - are important in the study of American history.
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