USIA needs to remain independent

Regarding John Hughes's column, "Bring back USIA, and let America tell its story" (Dec. 19): The prime piece of political blundering in weakening the former United States Information Agency (USIA) was the transfer of it to the censorious State Department, which is hardly the epitome of free, uninhibited thought and action. The thought of placing a new USIA under the control of a federal department is guaranteed to be even more hindering. A revived USIA should be an independent and objective news service, reporting directly to the Congress, and operating under a new charter that guarantees its editorial and reportorial freedoms. Staffing it would be a monumental task. However, if a new USIA is built right, I believe the unbiased, objective, knowledgeable, dedicated, and fearless reporters, editors, and announcers could be found.

John Douglas Sarnia, Ontario

Lost investment in company stock

Thanks for publishing "After Enron, calls grow for pension law fixes" (Dec. 19). I was also a 30-year Polaroid senior manager who left in September and lost substantial ESOP value. One point of correction for your article is that the 8 percent which employees contributed to the ESOP was not voluntary. Your article indicated that Betty Moss agreed to the payment, but it was mandated by the management at the time as part of the company's defense of a hostile takeover. Our pay was cut, and the money was used to fund the purchase of stock to put into the fund and distribute annually to employee accounts. I endorse the rest of the article content and hope it will help to surface the impact on long-term employees and generate legislation to avert such a large impact.

Ronald Klay Monson, Mass.

All children deserve high expectations

Regarding "Achievement gap narrows as attitudes change" (Dec. 18): When people accept the possibility that intelligence isn't something doled out to one group and not another, achievement by all children will improve. As a mother of a successful African-American student who attended a highly competitive high school, I have witnessed the achievement of a nonwhite student. I have also witnessed whites who doubted my daughter could be so academically talented. Some thought she got into Harvard and Stanford because she was filling a quota. When accepted at Georgetown University, one man asked what sport she played. I hope she won't spend more energy proving herself - because of perceptions of a shade of skin color - than doing the amazing, creative things of which she is capable. All children deserve high expectations.

Emily Smith Houston

Schools in poor communities reliably produce the harvest of laborers necessary to maintain the tidal wave of riches flowing to schools in more affluent communities. No matter how much we deny it, the cards are stacked. Almost from birth, good ole boy networks, class divisions, and a culture of success among the well bred, ensure it. In the '70s, I traveled to schools in a 15-state area. In the inner cities, I feared for my life as I strolled halls of the urban jungle, where brave teachers attempted to teach hungry juveniles. Floorboards creaked, windows were broken, classrooms were damp and cold in the winter. Need I describe the growing contrast of schools as I struck out into plusher suburban towns? When all Americans have been dehyphenated, the money pool for schools spread evenly, and teachers revered and paid well, we'll have a worthy educational system. Let's at least start walking in that direction.

David Fredericks Huntington Beach, Calif.

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