Character education starts at the dinner table

Regarding your Oct. 20 editorial "The three R's - and character": Although character education in schools can have a tremendous effect on children, morals and values taught in schools will not be remembered or exercised unless they are also taught in homes. The home should be the main center for character education.

I recently graduated from a public high school, and I have witnessed firsthand the neglect of values in my generation. Many teachers possess and exemplify integrity and morality, and thus students pick up some of these behaviors. Nevertheless, after school, several students go to homes where the values their teachers have just displayed are mocked.

If families will sit down each day for a short time and eat dinner together, lines of communication will open. Parents need not lecture their children on values, but as they talk, the topics of conversation will eventually drift to a point where moral teaching can be integrated.

Schools should not have to teach values. Schools should only have to reinforce them.

Meisha McMullin Rexburg, Idaho

Thank you for bringing National Character Counts! Week (Oct. 15-21) to our attention with your editorial on character education in schools.

My children, who are in high school, regularly deal with issues of honesty and lying, have been offered money to falsify sports scores, and have been aware of a student who offered to sell a gun to another student.

Students spend a lot of time at school. All adults who work with students should help them understand that honesty is their biggest asset, now and in the future. Society is built on trust. Every effort by parents and schools to work together on character education will pay off for our society as a whole.

Carla Stillman Clarendon Hills, Ill.

Guatemalan adoptions reviewed unfairly

Your Oct. 17 article "Adoption vs. trafficking in Guatemala" is disturbing. Were you aware that for US parents to adopt a child from Guatemala, DNA testing is required to ensure that the woman relinquishing her parental rights is in fact the mother of the child? That the birth mother is interviewed by a Guatemalan Family Court social worker and must restate her desire to relinquish her rights? And that the birth mother must agree four separate times over the course of four to six months that she indeed desires to relinquish those rights?

I can't say for certain that there are no coerced or illegal adoptions in Guatemala, and that any such adoption should be condemned. However, to paint all adoptions in Guatemala with such a broad brush is simply wrong.

Kathy Eccles Arlington, Mass.

Russian tourism has future

It was with great interest that I read your Oct. 18 article about tourism in Russia ("Roadblocks slow effort to make Russia a tourist mecca").

I have visited Russia four times now, and I agree that it has the potential to be a top tourist destination. Unlike most visitors to Russia, I don't have any Russian ancestry or personal links; I first went simply out of curiosity, and fell in love with the place. I want to urge people to go there.

However, the difficulties in actually going to Russia are immense compared with travel in almost any other European country. The worst part is the visa process, which is slow and inflexible. I feel that if the bureaucracy became more traveler-friendly (e.g., stop visa requirements for European Union/North American visitors at least) this would help the country immensely.

Gillian Gala London

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