Invest in trained teachers, not cheap replacements

Regarding your March 5 article "Texas begs for teachers - with or without credentials": Part of the reason that school administrators and politicians propose simplifying certification is that they do not recognize a simple fact. There is no shortage of trained teachers; the shortage is in trained persons willing to work under the conditions of employment offered. The absurdity of solving such a shortage by allowing half-trained persons to enter the field is obvious when the same solution is compared to similar shortages in other fields.

There is a looming shortage in physicians. No one suggests that we allow biology majors or meat cutters to take a test and then let them learn on the job while they actually treat patients, for nine months. Trained teachers who have left classrooms might be lured back if the conditions of employment and/or pay were improved.
Sarah Caldwell
Warner Robins, Ga.

Taking 'marriage' out of state hands

Regarding your March 5 article "Who defines the word 'marriage'?": Marriage does mean much to many millions of people who regard marriage between a man and a woman as a basic foundation of society. In the holy scriptures of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, marriage is the very first institution of civilization.

Government has a legitimate and proper role to determine within its jurisdiction legal rights and privileges. For that reason, as a Christian minister, I have supported the state's right to grant domestic partnerships to anyone who agrees to abide by the terms of a state contract. I have always objected, however, to the state assuming the right to grant marriage licenses, or to require me, as a clergyman, to perform an official function of the state by witnessing a marriage and signing a state document avowing that I have carried out this duty.

Instead of the state granting marriage licenses, I suggest that states provide licenses and an appropriate civil ceremony to whomever it chooses to grant the legal privileges and responsibilities of domestic partnership. If the partners so choose, they may turn to another institution to bless or consecrate them and to call this a "marriage."
Kenneth Hougland
Prescott Valley, Ariz.
The writer is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ.

The fix-all: walking

Regarding your March 10 article "Downsize this! Americans escalate their war on fat": I've got a great solution to the rising rate of obesity and increasing gas prices. Think lifestyle change. Try walking or riding your bike to work or school. Consider taking the bus. Next time you run an errand - walk, don't drive. If you incorporate these changes you'll see less of a pinch on your pocketbook and your waistline.
Susan George
San Francisco

Considering the source

The Natural Resources Defense Council report cited in your March 9 article "The Old Yellow School Bus as a Threat" is an unreliable source. The report was not reviewed by peers for accuracy and does not offer sufficient data or details to support its assertion that exposure to diesel fumes on school buses increases childhood risk of cancer.

The report claims that children are more susceptible to the unhealthy effects of diesel exhaust, but does not cite studies or references to verify this claim, probably because no such studies exist. And the report makes claims that rising and falling diesel exhaust levels very with the opening and closing of windows in buses, but does not give quantitative comparison data.
Kimberly Bowman
New York
Research Intern, American Council on Science and Health

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