Regarding Dante Chinni's Aug. 9 column "Journalism's fear and loathing of blogs": As a former educator, I place blame for the steep drop-off of interest in quality journalism on my fellow elementary school teachers. From experience I know that, starting in the fourth grade, if student interest in current issues, events, and diverse intelligent opinion were cultivated by teachers devoting five minutes of classroom time each day to news and opinion reporting and discussion (I did it at the start of the day, immediately after we saluted the flag), and if quality news periodicals, such as the Monitor, were made available when students' regular work was completed, we would be raising a few "news junkies" and many more informed, alert, newspaper-reading American citizens ... and better supporting the newspaper industry.
May I also suggest that the time to institute such educating is now - as the new school year is about to begin.
I was disappointed to read the lead statement of the Aug. 11 article "When it comes to French business, the accent is on English," which read: "You still aren't likely to get a Parisian waiter's respect if your accent isn't complètement parfait."
Written tongue in cheek or not, this stereotype subtly places an artificial division between us and the French, a division that is certainly unhelpful in today's polarized world.
The Parisians I encountered during a recent trip to France - waiters, shopkeepers, policemen, passersby - were friendly, warm, and respectful when I attempted to start conversations in my very imperfect and broken French. None expected perfection; in fact, they all seemed to appreciate and respect my fledgling attempts to speak their language. More than once, they accommodated me by subtly shifting the conversation into English, although I generally preferred to stick with French.
When visiting France, I say forget the stereotypes. Start a conversation with an earnest, "Je vais essayer en français" (I will try in French), and see where it takes you.
Regarding the Aug. 8 article "Strong hiring shows depth of expansion": Since I correspond regularly with family and friends from New York to California, and since I read and research widely, I can state positively that those "hiring now" signs mean nothing except minimum wage, heavy labor, or extremely specialized work requiring extremely specialized advanced degrees.
Everything else, it seems - even such vital work as medical transcription - is being outsourced to third-world countries. Even with an advanced degree, I have spent three futile years seeking employment after finding that I could not live on the fixed income of early retirement. No labor boom exists for the average US citizen. No thriving economy benefits the average US citizen.
Dr. Sonya Cashdan
Johnson City, Tenn.
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