'No Child' promises change but lacks necessary funding

Regarding Bruce P. Murchison's March 23 Opinion piece "One teacher's take: Stop griping, our schools can measure up": While Mr. Murchison's commentary on No Child Left Behind raises some important issues, it fails to address a major indictment of the legislation: its status as an underfunded mandate.

Superficial analysis of the law, as the product of political compromise, results in the feeling that something is being done to address the failure of America's educational process. Certainly no one can argue with the premise of a law that seeks to raise standards for our students.

As often happens in politics, one must dig beneath the surface to gain a better understanding of the implications of this law. Schools deemed to be "failing" lose funding, further jeopardizing the possibility for students within that district to succeed. While money certainly doesn't solve all problems, the lack of it further complicates matters.

Another issue with NCLB is the law of unintended consequences. To avoid the stigma concomitant with the "failing school" brand, more resources are diverted to struggling students. While those students are certainly deserving of additional resources, it comes at a cost, namely the resources devoted to the highest-achieving students. Too often, the mediocrity of all is tacitly deemed better than the failure of a few.

As a teacher, I agree that we do have an incredible amount of work. I disagree that a law that is flush with promises but weak on support will make teachers, or their students, any more successful.
James Graber
Centerport, N.Y.

The Methodist dilemma

Regarding your March 22 article "Third-largest US church grapples with gay issue": The acquittal of the Rev. Karen Dammann raises several critical issues that the United Methodist Church and other mainline churches will all have to answer - this is not likely to be an isolated circumstance. There is the aspect of what it means to show compassion, love, and understanding for an individual who believes God is willing to use her as a pastor, regardless of whether she is at odds with the rules of her church.

In a church that teaches and means to exemplify unconditional love in the world, that cannot be overlooked. Neither can the church overlook the fact that its judicial system has been used to circumvent its own rules. Since there can be no appeal, now there is no way to hold any pastor accountable for actions and beliefs that are incongruent with church teachings on matters of personal morality and belief. The unanswered question, if this ruling stands, is where the conclusion of this logic will lead the church.
The Rev. Larry Saunders
Fort Wayne, Ind.

The writer is a United Methodist pastor.

Learning democracy at home

Your March 23 article "Homeschoolers keep the faith" suggests that home-schooled children are being "indoctrinated" by evangelical Christian parents. But if any group has a captive audience being indoctrinated, it's the teachers within our public school system. The children attending public school are indoctrinated with liberal agendas and they are also graded based on their compliance with those ideologies.

Home-schooling families are diverse, and include every aspect of the political and cultural spectrum. Not all home-schoolers are evangelical Christians. What these families are teaching their children is that democracy works and that it's important to be involved in the political process. This is not something that is taught in a one-semester course on civics; it is lived every day in a home-school family.
Judy Aron
West Hartford, Conn.

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