Letters to the Editor
Readers write about democracy in Darfur and cash for good grades.
Regarding Nathaniel Myers's Jan. 25 Opinion piece, "Darfur's best hope: the ballot box": The longer the human tragedy continues in Sudan, the more it becomes obvious to the world that the present method of dealing with the catastrophe that has befallen the country is not working.
More than peacekeepers are needed, and next year's election appears, at least on paper, to be a solution. But is a fair election doable with the present regime so firmly ensconced in power in Khartoum? Without a completely different approach to the problem, is there even reason to expect improvement in the situation?
Regarding Nathaniel Myers's recent piece on the need for free, fair, and open elections in Darfur: Continued US involvement in their internal affairs is exactly what the people of Sudan do not need.
Self-government must come from the consent of the governed; it can never be successfully imposed from outside. The sad situation in Iraq is proof of that.
John P. Slevin
Rancho Cordova, Calif.
Student incentive programs need more
Regarding your Jan. 22 editorial "Cash for school grades? It works," about the Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP): I agree that, as needed, paying students to learn is fine. However, I see one overlooked and vitally important element the program should include – a system of additional responsibilities that any benefiting students should be required to take on in return for their inclusion in such an incentive program.
If the perception of the APIP student is that his or her inclusion in the program, with all its benefits, entails no follow-up responsibilities and is a freebie, this easily instills in the student an unhealthy, selfish sense of taking with no corresponding responsibility to give back.
In addition, an APIP without extracurricular qualification requirements undermines the true purpose of education – to lead out of ignorance – as it pertains to character, regardless of the advances in technical knowledge an APIP program might encourage.
Hopefully, APIP and similar programs require, or will require in the near future, some character-building way for students to give back, such as perhaps working on a community service project or school-related activity.
Without this component, APIP is encouraging selfishness, particularly because the program apparently has only minimal acceptance performance requirements and so many students nationwide have no APIP opportunity.
Frederick E. Howell
Regarding your editorial on student cash incentives: I noticed irony in paying students for academic performance in challenging courses.
Using external profit to incite internal desire turns education into an instrumental process, making learning valuable to the extent that it leads to success elsewhere. The intangible rewards you cite, that students "may discover a whole new world of learning" repeats the irony.
The teacher in me doubts that students must see clear rewards in order to take school seriously. I mean to suggest that these chains of external prompts lead to a meaningless final place unless we have also cultivated an internal sense of happiness.
Education should be part of that cultivation, not merely a link in the chain. Teaching otherwise lacks equity, fairness, and justice.
Neil J. Liss
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