Taking Issue With National Standards

Two articles about education (March 7) make interesting reading. "Single Education Standard? States Are All Over the Map" points out that the impetus behind national standards is purely economic. How sad that we seem to care more about our country's status than the well-being of its children.

Do we want our children subjected to the kind of pressures and weeding-out system that, for example, Japanese students face? Why should children be punished just because they can't or won't learn what some adults decide they should? Should adults be punished just because they can't force the proverbial horse to drink the water?

The opinion piece "Teacher Unions: A Key to School Reform" says the public is divided over whether public schools are capable of educating at all rather than whether they do a good job. While I don't believe this is entirely accurate, it is time we critically analyzed our school system, as many progressive thinkers such as home-schooling pioneer John Holt have done. Unfortunately all I keep hearing about is magnet and charter schools, smaller class sizes, higher standards, and more testing. We're missing the forest for the trees.

Suzanne Soule

Vista, Calif.

National standards in education will undermine local needs and discourage experimentation. National standards are one of those things that sound good, but often have detrimental side effects.

In New York state, we have problems because of statewide mandates on various services and facilities. Our local county budget is dictated by state requirements so that funding for local programs is impossible.

Our local cooperative extension was threatened with closure because the county could not afford to support it. It was revived by resident contributions, but lost federal and state dollars because of funding rules.

We need fewer regulations for our citizens. We should accept as proven that it is impossible to eliminate poor standards and discrimination by legislation and work toward removing traps, restrictions, and unnecessary risk for honest citizens, simplify the law, promote honesty, and learn to accept, begrudgingly, that there will always be some small level of inequity, deceit, and theft.

Mike Howard

Cobleskill, N.Y.

Light in the darkness of prison

It was good to read your nicely balanced article "N.Y. Prison Religion Program Helps Turn Lives Around" (March 11).

I am a 1988 graduate of this highly successful New York Theological Seminary effort to reach into the state prison system and help inmates refocus their lives toward a positive future.

With the national and state political agenda of "tough on crime" sweeping the country this program is a bright light on what otherwise is a dark world.

Donald Morritt

Woodbourne, N.Y.

Woodbourne Correctional Facility

Public wants respect from the press

The opinion-page article "Journalists' Loosening Grip on the Public's Trust" (March 21) shows that your columnist has been bitten by the cause of the problem. He states, "First Amendment press privilege is the only privilege written into our Constitution to protect a single industry."

Baloney. The First Amendment protects me when I tell my town government it should consider a proposed action corrupt. It lets the union president say what he thinks of the company and the company president express his opinion of the union. It allows the average citizen to voice the politically incorrect but essential counterpoint to accepted prejudice. It protects the artist who finds beauty instead of obscenity in the human form.

And, yes, it also protects the press. When the press stops congratulating itself on its unique position and starts to reflect respect for the intelligence and importance of its audience, it will start to win back the public's respect.

Dan Evans

Westwood, Mass.

Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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