What the drug war needs

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute and former special assistant to Ronald Reagan has written a most sensible opinion piece on drug prohibition ("The Robert Downey Jr. problem," Dec. 11).

It takes moral courage to stand up against a policy was falsely sold to us as upholding morality. The evidence is completely overwhelming, however: The drug war itself is a far greater evil than the social and health problems it promised to solve.

Dave Michon Eau Claire, Wis.

Doug Bandow differentiated the health, moral, and spiritual issues of drug abuse from the legal and criminal issues.

I was part of a judicial process that tried several drug addicts for murder and rape. Drug abuse was part of a criminal process. While the consequences of the drug abuse of Robert Downey Jr. may at this time be more irresponsible than criminal, a jail term would not only protect him (and others) from himself, but give him sober space for reflection and self-improvement.

Although "warehousing" drug abusers in jails is not a substitute for rehabilitating them, criminal accountability is needed. Let's strengthen the value of the jail term through better rehabilitation, rather than abandon incarceration.

Suzanne W. Liebenrood Boston

'Supremes' only following Constitution

The spirit and perspective of your Dec. 11 editorial "The supremes, out of tune" is contrary to blessing all mankind. This critical editorial belittles our highest court justices by impugning them with base political motivation in their decision to consider this case that relates clearly to our Constitution, which provides extremely precise (and legal) directives governing the electoral process.

This lack of an enlightened, balanced perspective on such a critical issue is disheartening.

Henry J. Taylor Rochester Hills, Mich.

Learn your first language first

According to your Dec. 11 editorial "English only, but where?" the best way of assimilating immigrants is "beefed-up English instruction in the public schools."

That's not what the research says. Study after study shows that the best way to help children acquire English quickly and do well in school is to utilize a careful combination of the child's first language and English.

Quality bilingual programs introduce English right away and teach subject matter in English as soon as it can be made comprehensible. But they also develop literacy in the first language and teach subject matter in the first language in early stages.

Developing literacy in the first language is a shortcut to English literacy. It is much easier to learn to read in a language one understands. Once a child can read in the primary language, reading ability transfers rapidly to English.

Teaching subject matter in the first language stimulates intellectual development and provides students with valuable knowledge that will help the child understand instruction when it is presented in English.

Research confirms that this combination works. Students in quality bilingual programs acquire as much English as children in all-English programs, and usually acquire more. Studies also show that students in bilingual education drop out less than comparison children in all-English programs, and that graduates of bilingual programs outperform comparison children in school.

Stephen Krashen Los Angeles Professor of Education University of Southern California

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