Bureaucratic barriers to becoming a teacher

Your April 17 editorial "Testing teachers" hits an important nail on the head.

There is considerable danger that national standards for teacher qualifications will strengthen the stranglehold the education school establishment has on the training of new teachers.

More bureaucratic requirements endorsed at state or national level run the danger of making even more difficult the recruitment of qualified persons with solid subject-matter expertise who may wish to enter public school teaching late in their careers. This is because such requirements often require a potential teacher to spend large amounts of money and time taking education courses which benefit the education school establishment more than the student.

Some training in teaching methods is important, but there is a danger that the move toward national standards will still further paralyze the nation's system of public education. If this should occur, the need for alternatives, such as the voucher system, will grow.

Frederic A. Moritz Belfast, Maine

Consider all ranks when polling cops

Your April 13 survey "States' top cops split on adding more gun laws" reported a "sharp split" among cops about whether more gun laws or better enforcement of existing laws are needed. Police at that level are essentially politicians in blue uniforms that can often be expected to conform their views to those of the people who hire them.

One receives a different impression by contacting rank and file cops who are not under that constraint. The San Diego Police Officers Association polled their members in 1997 and found no support for the idea that California's recently enacted tough gun laws were having a positive effect. Ninety-four percent said no and only 7 percent favored further restrictions of any sort. But 96 percent favored stiff mandatory sentences with no plea bargaining. Police officers are intimately involved in our crime problems, and their views should be given special weight.

William G. Dennis Kelso, Wash.

Monitor tributes are appreciated

I am grateful for recent articles recalling the contributions of significant former members of the Monitor's staff - Richard Cattani, on December 29, and on April 13, Charlotte Saikowski. These remembrances were beautifully written, sharing with readers some of the outstanding professional and personal qualities that enabled these individuals to give us all this great gift, The Christian Science Monitor.

In the winter of 1969-70 I was working in London. I was introduced to Charlotte, who was on brief furlough from her position as Moscow correspondent for the Monitor. I tried to picture what her life in Moscow must be like at that time, and my heart went out to her. Impulsively, I invited her to Sunday dinner at my small flat in a London suburb.

When she arrived, we first walked in a large park nearby. Families, children, pets were out in force, enjoying the sunny winter day. At home I served what I hoped would remind her of a typical American family Sunday dinner -beef pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, and homemade apple pie. As we talked, I noticed tears in her eyes, and asked what she was thinking. "The freedom," she said quietly, "oh the freedom." I've never forgotten that moment, and how humbled I was at her courage in serving in that exceptionally difficult post; and I was awakened to cherish the privileges I enjoyed living in the free democracies of England and the US. I never encountered Charlotte again, but feel honored to have had that small interlude with her. Thank you for enabling us all to say a mental "thank you" to journalistic lights like Charlotte Saikowski.

Caryl Jean Fishkin Maple Valley, Wash.

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