One big primary day helps many candidates
"Primary races - over in one day?" (Jan. 18), which addresses the Democratic Party's proposal to hold as many as 48 state primaries on one day, suggests this reform will favor well-known candidates even more than the current system already does. On the contrary, it is the current system that gives the presumptively stronger candidate time to regroup after an early challenge because the best-known and best-funded candidates are the ones who have a network of activists and fundraisers.
A well-heeled candidate is most vulnerable at the beginning of the process when an insurgent with a compelling message can catch the leading candidate off guard. The closer we shift to a single-shot national primary, the more we will allow the people's choice to prevail over the insider's choice. We should rid ourselves of other archaisms, like privileged positions of two unrepresentative states like Iowa and New Hampshire and the delegate system itself. But the proposed consolidation is a good start to a democratic selection process.
Matthew Shugart La Jolla, Calif.
Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego
Regarding "For many, college is a debt- defying feat" (Jan. 15, Learning) and the Lumina Foundation for Education's college accessibility study: Far from improving accessibility, the study could well have the opposite effect, leading middle- and low-income families to believe college is out of reach and independent colleges are unaffordable.
Higher-education institutions nationwide, particularly private ones, are increasing student aid and have designed a vast array of academic- and personal-support programs which ensure median- and low-income students can not only enter college but complete their degrees. Private institutions enroll less than one-quarter of all undergraduates, but account for nearly one-third of all graduates. The study didn't explain the significance of the outcome of a student's entry. Access is only part of the struggle.
Many private institutions are more than ready to serve more median- and low-income students, if state governments would provide appropriate student financial-aid policies or establish a more level playing field through their investments across higher education. State policymakers encourage existing large institutions with dismal attrition rates to grow even larger. Meanwhile, finding ways to fill the underutilized capacity at private institutions is often ignored. Given the burdens on today's taxpayer already, you would think the study would have put forward a wider and wiser range of policy recommendations.
President, Council of Independent Colleges
Brenn Jones's column "Substitutes may not be 'experts,' but there's a lot they can teach" (Jan. 15, A Teacher's View, Learning) about his role as a substitute teacher demonstrates the difficulties school districts experience when their staff members are out. Fortunately for the students Mr. Jones subbed for, they probably got as good if not a better education with him than with their regular teacher.
However, Jones's call for people not certified in a particular subject to be allowed to teach it regularly, is another matter. Would we have a lay person practice law or medicine? But I do agree that teachers should use their personal strengths and interests in their classes, whether or not they coincide with their credentialed subject. Interdisciplinary lessons are encouraged in schools today, and dedicated substitutes and teachers can and should use all their knowledge in pursuit of academic excellence.
Francine M. Farber
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