Television can be watched wisely
I wanted to comment on your Nov. 1 article "One family that forgoes screens of all sizes." I write from the ironic perspective of having grown up in a TV-free home, only to go on to star on the ABC sitcom "Boy Meets World" for seven seasons. Doubly ironic is the fact that not watching television was the very foundation for my career on television. With all the after-school time I had as a kid, I became involved in community theater, which led directly to auditions for TV shows.
Although I certainly agree with much of what the Rodriguez family was asserting, some of their opinions were less about television and more about the influences of pop culture. Television itself is a neutral technology, and there are a variety of ways for our culture to utilize it. It is a dangerous seed to plant in a child's mind that all media and visual entertainment is necessarily worthless.
In my home, though we didn't watch television, we rented movies on a regular basis and were one of the first houses on the block to own a computer. The key is moderation and filtration of the abundant forms of media flying into our homes. Pop culture, for all its downfalls, is really an important American narrative that can be healthy for a child to understand, if not participate in.
Rider Strong New York
The best way to vote in a president
I thoroughly agree with opinion writer Steven Hill ("Perils of the Electoral College," Nov. 2) that it would be better if the president were elected by direct national vote.
But the "instant runoff," using ranked first, second, and third choices, is too complex. Some people are bound to accidentally invert their preferences or to make other kinds of slips that invalidate their votes.
Furthermore, it doesn't solve the perennial "voter's dilemma" in which, for example, voting for Ralph Nader weakens support for Gore. This is solved by the much simpler system of "approval voting," where each voter is allowed to give simple, unweighted votes to one or more of the candidates.
"Approval voting" removes the "voter's dilemma" and reflects the real distribution of the voters' wishes. It is already used in many contexts, for instance in votes for members of boards.
Guy Ottewell Greenville, S.C.
Battling bureaucracy in the classroom
In response to the Nov. 7 opinion piece "Education debate: moving beyond politics": That it took nine "professionals" to write an 800-word commentary is a metaphor for the top-heavy, feather-bedding educational system that fails millions of students.
Q: How many education professionals does it take to change a light bulb?
A: The bulb never gets changed, because first they must examine and study the size, shape, and color of the bulb. Some will argue that it is not burnt out, but just resting. Along with these arduous chores, they must also unite to fight anyone who simply wants to replace the light bulb.
Barbara Vickroy Escondido, Calif.
How to deal with bullies
Thank you for your Oct. 24 article on bullying ("Pulling together"). When I received word from the school counselor that one of my students was bullying, I struggled to come up with an appropriate response that would make it a learning tool for my fifth-graders. The next day I passed your paper on to the counselor who in turn passed it to other staff members. I presented a lesson to my class using the three main points you mention: (1) Notify an adult. (2) Defuse the situation with humor. (3) Just stand next to the target.
Marcia Hartill Astoria, Ore.
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