Azerbaijan vote, if imperfect, still important step forward

I read the Feb. 10 article "Democracy rising in ex-Soviet states" with utmost interest, mostly because democracy is indeed, as the article stated, on the rise in the nations that used to be called the Soviet Union. We in Azerbaijan welcome this development, since democratization is undoubtedly one of the pillars of our country's policy in building civil society.

Yet I would most vehemently disagree with the article's portrayal of the 2003 election in Azerbaijan. Unlike the cases of Georgia and Ukraine, where the initial elections were obviously stolen from the majority of the electorate, there was no question about the outcome of the election in Azerbaijan. Independent polls taken both weeks before and just prior to the election by domestic and foreign NGOs showed Ilham Aliyev with a commanding lead over his closest opponent.

With no doubt as to the outcome, the Azerbaijani opposition began to disrupt public order and discredit the winner through public confrontation and violence. Unfortunately, some NGOs and media outlets took the bait, accepting the distorted vision of the election proper and the post-electoral process.

While I acknowledge that the 2003 elections did not meet all international standards, it was a step forward compared to previous elections.

It is important that your readers gain a clear and accurate perception of the democratic process in Azerbaijan.
Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev
Embassy of Azerbaijan

Root of truancy: ineffective teaching

I'm writing in response to the Feb. 17 article "Kids skip class - and parents go to jail." Parents cannot be held responsible for their child's truancy unless they help to commit the crime. It's absurd that we've gone so far as to actually arrest a parent for their child's actions.

The focus of this policy is to educate America's future citizens, but the problem lies deeper than getting students to attend school. In order to learn, a student must want to learn. If a student is not even attending class, he or she obviously does not want to learn. A new approach should be taken in order for students to want to learn.

As a 2004 graduate, I understand why students want to skip class. Classes consist of the student copying information, and then regurgitating it again later for the teacher. Seldom do students really understand or put the information to work; students know that they just need to memorize the information for the test.

Some students need more hands-on learning in order to enjoy school. In addition, more critical thinking should be used.

The rules that some schools enforce also deter kids from going to school. No one wants to be harassed about tucking in one's shirt tails, for instance, when trying to gossip with friends in between classes.
Michael Salmi
Statesboro, Ga.

License to drive out illegal aliens

Regarding the Feb. 17 article "Driver's license bill roils a melting pot": The passage of legislation that makes a driver's license unacceptable identification for entering federal buildings, opening bank accounts, or boarding airplanes will do nothing to deter terrorism. Instead, it will just make it more difficult for me to function as the American citizen I am, or to welcome foreign students and visitors.

Driver's licenses should not be tied to illegal or legal status, just to the ability to drive a vehicle safely with insurance coverage. Illegal-alien status should be dealt with separately.
Elizabeth D. Branson
Flourtown, Pa.

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