Letters to the Editor

Readers write about mandated volunteerism, New Haven licenses, focusing on renewable fuels, and the war on terror.

Changing the meaning of community service

The July 16 opinion article, "Mandated volunteerism," is on target in being concerned about recording community service hours. When the intent is to record hours for the purpose of recording hours, service projects become insincere. If there is a mandate to serve, from a school, a business, or parents, this is not true community service; it is servitude.

What happened to serving others for the pure thought of serving others, for the good feeling of doing something for humanity? Inspire the true concept of philanthropy, caring, and sharing, and community service is elevated to its proper level. Do not record hours, and do not use community service as a penalty, as some high schools do. I have always inspired this thought in my students: There is no limit to what you can do if you do not care who gets the credit.

As a teacher, I do write letters of recommendation for college applications, but do not mention hours served. The level of quality, involvement, and the projects of service speak more of character than do numbers of hours served.

Bob Yeates
St. Louis, Mo.

When we take a perfectly noble element of human nature, such as altruism, and institutionalize it, we get an uninspired, moribund approach in follow-through as discussed in, "Mandated volunteerism." The joy of giving is reduced to a slotted requirement and box that can be checked off with a number beside it. Time would be better spent teaching about the value of personal gratification that comes from charitable actions, than supplying examples of people who have made a difference from doing so. Academic subjects such as history and English are replete with examples. Therefore, when the time does come to give of oneself, it will be done with more meaning, value, and appreciation, not merely as a check box on a laundry list.

Mike Huhndorf
Anchorage, Alaska

Liability of New Haven licenses

After reading the July 17 article, "New Haven opts to validate its illegal residents," I can't help but wonder if that city is ready to face that liability? What New Haven is doing is essentially providing sanctuary, which is against federal law for a city or state to offer to illegal immigrants. So far, the federal government has not put penalties in place for this, but is the city ready to face penalties such as loss of federal funds if it does so?

Mara Alexander
Alexandria, Va.

Focusing on renewable fuels

I am always grateful to see the Monitor covering ongoing advances in environmentally sound technology. However, I have become increasingly frustrated with stories throughout the media about the electric car. In the July 9 article "Electric cars in Big Sky country?" the piece focuses on the Zenn car, an acronym for "Zero emissions, no noise."

"Zero emissions" is an egregious and very common misperception about electric cars. We as consumers find it easy to forget where our electricity comes from. Wall outlets make no noise, operate without our regular attention, and are attached only to a forgettable household bill.

Over 50 percent of energy in the US is generated by coal-burning power plants. The coal that these plants burn is an older relative of oil, a more compressed form of the same high-carbon resource, produced by millions of years of heat and pressure. Its burning not only releases carbon dioxide, but often sulfur and mercury as well.

Let's stop ignoring the larger picture and start focusing on renewable fuels.

Froggi VanRiper
St Louis, Mo.

Problems with the war on terror

In response to the July 20 opinion piece, "How to squeeze jihadi culture out of Pakistan," I believe the article was overly simplistic in blaming President Musharraf of Pakistan for the spread of the Taliban taking place there. The real blame lies on the way the war on terror has been fought.

The deaths of over half a million civilians in Iraq, the outrageous destruction of civil infrastructure, the imprisonment without trials, the torture, etc., has been a boon to extremist recruitment everywhere. In light of this there is little Mr. Musharraf can do to rein in the jihadis – they have been inflamed and squeezed out of Afghanistan and are setting up across the border.

Yousaf Butt
Cambridge, Mass.

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