Computer etiquette lessons needed for younger students

Regarding Mark Franek's May 10 Opinion piece "Rise of the cyberbully demands new rules": It's a relief to finally see educators approaching the topic of computer misuse seriously. For too many years, educators have embraced the electronic world without fully appreciating the consequences. Their focus has been on how to effectively integrate computers into lesson plans without understanding how students can misuse technology, whether for cyberbullying, cheating, or other abuses.

Unfortunately, it's been my observation that not enough schools are tackling this problem proactively. Rather, they are comforted by the thought that students are warned about misuse (without a full discussion of what constitutes misuse) and told that any violation will bring repercussions.

The only disagreement I have with Mr. Franek is that the message regarding acceptable behavior needs to start long before middle school. Our school district has purchased laptops for every fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grader. Waiting until middle school to spread this message is too late. Students need to be taught (and retaught) these rules as soon as computers are introduced into their school activities. The availability of undesirable information on the Internet demands this. Putting technology into the hands of students without appropriate training is tantamount to giving a car to an untrained driver - and when mishaps occur, the students, their families, and schools all suffer the fallout.
Mary Mastenbrook
Schaumburg, Ill.

What's behind Sunni-Shiite split

Your April 27 article "Sadr the agitator: like father, like son" is just what Americans need to read. We need to know about the Shiite impulse to pattern government after Iran's theocracy. I make one observation about this otherwise excellent description of the beginnings of the Sunni-Shiite split in the 7th century. It was not Imam Ali who set up a rival caliphate. Ali, son-in-law and cousin of the prophet Muhammad, has always been understood as one of the "Rightly Guided" caliphs. But Ali was challenged and defeated by Muawiya, the governor in Syria, who moved the capital to Damascus and established the Muslim Empire on the pattern of the old Roman Empire. From those days Shiites have sought dominance. Iran is their only success. That success is powerfully persuasive among people with long memories and compelling motives.
J. Richard Irvine
Pine, Ariz.

Press complicit in prisoner humiliation

Regarding your May 10 editorial "US Retreat in Iraq? Or a Retread?": I am dismayed that the prisoners who were humiliated by bodily exposure, then by being photographed, must endure the further humiliation of worldwide exhibition of those photographs in newspapers and other media. It's pornography on a universal scale, and it implicates everyone.
Margaret Koscielny
Jacksonville, Fla.

E-voting merits paper trail

Regarding your May 4 editorial "Touchy Touch-Screen Voting": Virtually every home computer system includes a cheap, simple, easy-to-use printer. Why then, are states so reluctant to include such a simple device on their electronic voting machines? Do they fear having physical evidence of a vote that was cast? The pen is mightier than the sword, but only when its message can be written on something. Unless there is a real physical backup of each and every vote, something that can be counted by a real human being, electronic voting is an open invitation to abuse. The integrity of our democracy is too important to be left to the whims of a gadget or its corporate designers.
Isaac Boxx
Austin, Tex.

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