Improving math and science education starts with teachers

Regarding the Dec. 6 article "Contrarian finding: Computers are a drag on learning": As a teacher of math for almost 20 years, I have yet to see the computer program that can interact with a student as effectively as a live human being. Policymakers in Maine should think deeply about how much good the $37 million they are throwing away on laptops that will be obsolete or broken in a few years could do if it were spent on hiring more teachers for the lower grades and ensuring that students in upper grades are taught by fully qualified teachers with a degree in the subject matter that they teach.

One of the many reasons that American students have difficulty with math and science is that high schools pay so poorly that an astounding number of math and science classes are taught by people who don't have degrees in math or science.
Deirdre Collins
Glendale, Calif.

Regarding Louis Gerstner Jr.'s Dec. 13 Opinion piece, "Math teacher pay doesn't add up": As a teacher of mathematics for over a dozen years who holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in mathematics, I can say that salary alone will not retain or entice a talented and well-educated teaching body. I left teaching because I became exhausted and demoralized with increasingly abhorrent classroom behavior. I may be well-educated mathematically, but I am not well-educated in dealing with antisocial behavior. It isn't surprising that graduates with degrees in mathematics and the sciences should prefer jobs where they not only get paid more handsomely, but they are treated so as well.
Claire Pettingale
Barrow-in-Furness, England

Gracious women, retire your fur coats

Regarding Nancy Bennett's Dec. 9 Home Forum essay, "Grandma left me her only luxury": I, too, used to wear my glamorous full-length fur and thoroughly enjoyed its incredible warmth in the gusty Chicago weather. I, too, felt very glamorous in that rich sweep of mahogany mink. And then I read about how the fur-bearing animals died, how they suffered, and how I really had no right to the only covering they had. Gracious women are gracious in their style, their clothing, their kindness, and their courage. The fur does not transform them - they had the grace all along.
Lynn O'Toole
Walnut Grove, Mo.

Israel only indirectly to blame for Shatila

In her Nov. 29 column, "Revisiting the gritty symbol of Palestinian survival - Shatila," Helena Cobban stated that the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon was "the site of an ugly Israeli-orchestrated massacre in 1982." In fact, Israel neither orchestrated nor committed the massacre, which was carried out by Lebanese Christian militiamen of the Phalangist party.

A commission of inquiry into the events at the camp (the Kahan Commission) concluded that "the atrocities in the refugee camps were perpetrated by members of the Phalangists, and that absolutely no direct responsibility devolves upon Israel or upon those who acted in its behalf."

Far from having orchestrated the massacre, Israel was found by the commission only to be indirectly responsible, since it failed to consider the danger in allowing the Phalangists to enter the camp. Israeli officials were similarly faulted only for indirect responsibility. Ariel Sharon, defense minister at the time, was criticized "for having disregarded the danger" posed by the Lebanese Phalangists who entered the camp, and "for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing" this danger.
Gilead Ini
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

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