Getting at the roots of student apathy

Your Aug. 25 article "At school, race gap widens again" is clear and thoughtful in its assessment of why there is such a gap in academic achievement between black and white high school students. The article saves the most poignant and provocative point for the reader at the end, suggesting the reader consider culture as a part of the solution.

I would agree that young African-Americans start at a disadvantage if they are coming from an environment that isn't "serious about learning," no matter what kind of teachers, books, and buildings can be provided for them via funds.

My question is: Who was responsible in the first place for creating this environment that has promoted such lethargy and apathy? A study of US history, and who's been in control, might reveal that considering "white" culture, as well, is worthy in understanding this complex issue.

Once again, the Monitor should be commended for including and dealing with complexity, as most of mainstream media turns the other way.

B. Patterson Dundee, Ore.

Gun ownership's relation to crime

The Aug. 21 opinion piece by John Lott makes some thought-provoking points, especially the one that media coverage of mass shootings gives a very negative impression of gun ownership. However, I cannot accept his premise that gun ownership would prevent much crime and violence from occurring, and that this is never reported.

Mr. Lott claims that studies show that much violence has been prevented by brandishing a gun. Does he realize how much this sounds like taking the law into your own hands? As a teacher of comparative government, I am constantly made aware of the difference in the level of rule of law that a country has versus its dependence on the "rule of gun," and the continued instability in a country that depends more on the latter.

Lott overlooks so many additional social, political, and cultural problems that come from gun ownership. I strongly urge Lott to rethink his premise.

Rick Onderdonk Claremont, Calif.

I was so glad to see John Lott's great opinion piece favoring guns for defense in the hands of law-abiding citizens. If more people knew about the good things guns do, there wouldn't be any moves toward banning them.

Pate Miranda Meridian, Miss.

Praise for Clinton's trip to Africa

I strongly support all initiatives that improve the political, economic, and policy relationships between the United States and the 54 nations of Africa. In this regard, I wholeheartedly endorse President Clinton's trip to sub-Saharan Africa, and I am disturbed by the criticism of this historic and unprecedented action. It is about time that Africa receives the attention and recognition of its importance to the US and the international community.

There is a newly strengthened Africa constituency in the US right now, of which I am proud to be a part. I applaud the legislative strides being made in Congress on behalf of Africa. Passage of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act as well as the World Bank AIDS Prevention Trust Fund Act are signs that Africa is beginning to take its rightful place in the pecking order of US foreign policy priorities.

Please ensure that this progress continues by supporting Mr. Clinton's decision to focus on Africa. Whoever succeeds Clinton must continue this precedent of showing the world that Africa matters.

John Sarpong Westport, Conn.

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