Readers Write

For the record, I'm no techno-utopian

Contrary to Dinesh D'Souza's assertion in his Oct. 30 opinion piece "No substitute for the real thing," I am not a utopian, "techno" or otherwise. Nor have I ever claimed that "cyber-communities are better than real communities because they allow us to choose our affiliations."

To the contrary, I argue in my book, "The Future and Its Enemies," and elsewhere that progress is a nonutopian, incremental, open-ended process of trial and error. Individuals use their creativity and imagination to search for ways to improve their lives and, in doing so, gradually change society.

Mr. D'Souza's move to San Diego from Washington (and to America from India) exemplifies that process.

My quarrel is with those who believe we would be better off in a static society where individuals were not free to create their own communities - physical as well as virtual.

The Internet is not a substitute for physical interaction with other people, but it is a powerful complement to it. As D'Souza and many others have noted, it allows us to work remotely. This furthers our personal communal ties, but at some cost to our workplace community - a decidedly non-utopian trade-off I and many other people are willing to make.

Virginia Postrel Dallas Editor at large, Reason magazine

Taking school tests to task

Regarding your Oct. 30 editorial "Testy over school tests": You missed the major point of the Rand corporation study. The primary point was not that the national test was better than the Texas test, but that, if children were actually learning more, they should have done better on a general test, not just on an exam for which they may have been specifically primed.

You also say, "The bad timing alone casts doubt on the study's integrity." The timing may cause one to look at the study particularly carefully and skeptically (as all scientific studies should be evaluated), but it does not cast doubt a priori on the results.

Bruce Herman Rockville, Md.

While I agree with the basic gist of your editorial on school tests, you manage to gloss over one very important point when you imply that the rise in Texas State test scores versus national test scores are due to "the fact that the state tests are based on school curriculum in Texas." When did the state tests become part of our schools' curriculum?

In fact, Texas school administrations feel such pressure to increase scoring on the state tests that they direct valuable classroom time from what should be a school's curriculum - reading, writing, and arithmetic - to how to narrow down a set of multiple choice answers on a test. These efforts often result in diminishing actual learning by students.

These consequences could even be called "dire," because the state test scores in Texas affect funding for these schools. Are tests good? As your editorial points out: Yes, but not at the risk of sacrificing a student's true education for learning how to take a test.

Mike Rocha Houston

First on the agenda for the next leader

I am totally appalled by the lack of proper attention given to the Middle East crisis by the candidates running for president in this country.

Despite of all the rhetoric said and claimed by the candidates, the very first issue facing the man in the White House will not be taxes, education, Medicare, or healthcare. It will be the Middle East crisis.

Reza Ghadimi Albuquerque, N.M.

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