Russians Teach Their Children Well

The description of the Russian educational system in the page 1 article, "In Russia, Children Get to Sesame St. in a New Way," Oct. 9, differs greatly from my family's experience. Although we have only been in Russia for three months, we have a pretty good sense of what the school system is like.

Despite dire financial straits, Russia, so far as we have seen, has an extraordinary level of commitment to education. By way of comparison: Our son just completed third grade in a school district in Rhode Island that is usually rated first or second in the state. The level of preparation in math, sciences, music, dance, grammar, and penmanship demanded of him here, however, is significantly higher.

We would concur with the author's characterization of Russian children as more respectful of authority and less easily bored or distracted. But based on our experience, the very real differences between Americans and Russians, at least through high school, seem most obviously related to educational method, not culture. Perhaps this is one area where America could learn a thing or two from Russia.

Nicolai Petro

Novgorod, Russia

Press freedom in Mexico

The opinion-page article "A Heavy Hand on Mexican Papers," Oct. 10, brings up several half truths. While it is true that in the past censorship and "self-censorship" have been practiced in Mexico, both in overt and subtle ways, I believe it is undeniable that today's Mexican press would rank among the most critical in the world. All four of the papers that the author cites as examples of government persecution continue to be published to this day, with basically the same editorial staff that they had when they presumably incurred official wrath. The liberalizing of the Mexican media has been credited with being one of the crucial elements in the transformation that Mexico is undergoing.

Hector Vasconcelos

Boston, Mass.

Consul of Mexico

Many happy returns

May I suggest another spin on your recent Home Forum Kidspace on "Things to Fling," Oct. 8? How about boomerangs? The modern variety bears little resemblance to its L-shaped predecessors. A recent demonstration at the Air and Space Museum in Washington included boomerangs for all ages, even some for international competition.

Gary Pfaff

Warrenton, Va.

Right on target

The Oct. 4 opinion-page article about the use of the M16 rifle in Vietnam titled, "An Earlier Evasion of Fact: the M16," reflects a view not all that uncommon with knowledgeable shooters. The military cartridge used by the M16 was originally selected because a soldier could easily carry lots of them, and it reduced the cost of supporting logistics. I remember tales in the 1960s about the terrible destruction wrought by this cartridge. I agree with the author - the average soldier lost out to the Pentagon bureaucracy. If given the choice, I too would prefer a Kalishnikov rifle in battle.

E.V. Reed

Tucson, Ariz.

The article struck the right chord. The author was lucky enough to find a Kalishnikov AK-47 rifle - we did not have the luxury of raiding an enemy supply depot to steal an AK-47. When I was wounded and lay face down on my M16, I didn't want to take the chance of firing at the enemy and having it jam. So I played dead. It must have been the right decision because I am writing this letter.

Persistence, determination, and a legitimate complaint are the keys to dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs or any bureaucracy. The DVA will eventually admit responsibility and help the affected veterans. A veteran always fights two wars: one with the enemy and one with his country to receive compensation for his or her sacrifices.

John Axel Hansen

Capitola, Calif.

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