Students need basic lab tools before laptops

The fate of Gov. Angus King's laptop proposal ("Mixed marks on giving laptops to students," May 9) is unclear after many months. I suppose one must give credit to Maine's governor for persistence, but I would not give him much credit for understanding our children's real educational needs.

Recently, I met with a sixth-grade science and math teacher at our town'smiddle school. In my opinion, our sixth grader was not getting enough hands-on experience in her science class.When I walked into the classroom, part of the reason for this was obvious: no facilities for science activities, not even a sink.More of the reason came from the teacher: He is given an annual budget of $100!

Mr. King's (and my own district's) priorities are all wrong.We should not spend $50 million for laptops when fundamental needs are going unmet. That money would go a long way toward buying things like sinks; it would go a long way toward giving elementary and middle-school teachers additional course work so that they would be better prepared to provide interesting and appropriate science instruction.

Jonathan Mitschele New Gloucester, Maine

Cincinnati riots rooted in government

Your May 11 article "Cincinnati's woes rooted in 1920s reforms" is right on the mark. As a Cincinnati resident for 10 years, I've observed the recalcitrance of the city in response to social woes, and pegged the root of the problem in Cincinnati's form of government.

The 9X system, as it's known, elects nine members to city council, with a city manager running day-to-day operations. The result is that very little can get done without a consensus or strong support from the business community, because no single person has enough power to enact tough reforms.

I've closely followed media coverage of the riots in Cincinnati, and have seen very little about the root causes of the problem. Your coverage gets past the surface drama to reveal what lies beneath.

Jason DeBord Cincinnati

Pushing the boundaries of dialogue

Your May 8 article "Tough talk turns to trust" was most enlightening and inspirational. It pointed out how people on the opposite sides of an issue can have a constructive dialogue and even understand the other person's viewpoint.

It would be interesting to see if the approach by the Public Conversations Project can be used on an international level like the current Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. What would be even mind-boggling would be to have former Attorney General Janet Reno and retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf sit down with Timothy McVeigh and have a dialogue filled with forgiveness and understanding about the Gulf War, Waco, and the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy.

Robert Scheldrup Solana Beach, Calif.

Those without deep pockets need PBS

Matthew Harrington's May 10 letter to the editor about discontinuing the public subsidy to PBS ("PBS faces up to the competition," May 4) neglected to mention one very important issue: PBS broadcasts are offered free, over the public airwaves, while shows like A&E are available only to those who can afford to have a private carrier bring them into their homes for a monthly fee.

PBS offers a lot of good programming to people who may not otherwise be able to afford it, and should continue to have a portion of its productions costs subsidized by taxes.

Dave Karasic Quincy, Mass.

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