How heart-wrenching to hear of the violent end to the hostage situation in Beslan, Russia, particularly with the number of children involved. It illustrates, as your Sept. 3 editorial "Putting Putin on the Spot" stated, the need for a peace process there, as well as in other parts of the world. It also acts as a wake-up call for our own country to the need to reverse the perception overseas of our bullying policies. The way we've acted abroad has opened doors for the actions of others, such as President Vladimir Putin, to go unchecked despite their autocratic and repressive actions.
National news reports have stated that our November elections are being covered by foreign journalists as if they were their own; this undergirds the importance of how our leadership influences leaders around the world.
While the policies of John Kerry and President Bush may not look radically different, particularly in their perspectives on the war effort, the US needs a change of leadership if we are going to improve relations abroad and regain credibility on the international scene. If the US places more emphasis on international cooperation and negotiation, it has the potential to save lives in other parts of the world. If we must lead by example, let's give others a better example to follow.
President Putin is certainly no advocate of Western philosophy. However, to encourage Russia to find a peaceful solution with criminals will bring peace neither to Russia nor to the West. The reason terrorism proliferates is that those giving attackers support and sanctuary are ignored and not forced to face ultimate responsibility. No society can stop terrorism if terrorists are singularly motivated, but it is imperative to make those nations supporting such behavior know that they will be punished. Terrorists may hide, but nations cannot. Civil society needs to hold those states accountable.
The latest blitz of murdering strikes, targeted at airline passengers and schoolchildren in Russia, so angered me that I am almost ready to take a Bush-like approach to the problem. I try to imagine what Americans would do if a region of the US wanted to secede and started blowing up planes and mass murdering schoolchildren in order to accomplish its goals.
We wouldn't accept calls for an international peace conference and we wouldn't accept blame for the actions of the terrorists. The response would more resemble total war, and I will support the Russians if that is the course they choose.
Regarding the Sept. 7 article "Can competition really improve schools?": It seems perfectly obvious to me that if certain schools - be they charter schools or those used with vouchers or choice - show that children are performing better, the answer is not to move children. Rather, the school should be adopted as a model, and successful methods and conditions should be applied to lower-performing public schools.
The threat that there won't be room in the better schools for all the children wanting to go to them simply proves that point. If the schools are better, the parents will want their kids there, be they public schools or not.
From my experience, the factors that matter most in schools are teacher expectation and parent involvement. Generally, lack of time prevents most parents from getting involved. So why don't we have a time-release program for working parents to serve in schools like we do with the National Guard to serve in wars?
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