Merit pay doesn't value having a variety of teaching styles

Regarding the June 14 article "Calls to commend teachers - with cash": If teachers fit nicely into one category and were charged with the same job description, merit pay might make sense. The question remains: "How do we decide who merits the extra pay?"

• Those who have the largest class size? Guess Phys Ed wins that one.

• Those whose kids have the best scores? The gifted and AP teachers go straight to the bank. That leaves out all who report "normal" progress.

• Those whose kids make the most progress? What about kids who aren't good test-takers?

• Those who create the most application-based lessons? Right on, vocational and home and careers classes! Look out, social studies.

• Those who offer the most "one on one"? Special Ed has that one hands down.

• Those who produce the most effective lessons? Are we moving into videotaping every class, and then following the kids around to see if they use the information or skills?

We know from research that our children learn in many ways from teachers who teach in many ways. There is no one way to teach or learn.

Merit pay divides staff and decreases morale. Talk to people who have been through it. It turns the classroom into a political war zone.
Sherilyn Czerwiak
Fulton, N.Y.

Australia shouldn't bow to China on asylum

Regarding the June 13 article, "Australian-Chinese trade ties complicate 'spy' case": As an Australian, I am deeply disappointed with my government's pragmatic handling of the Chen Yonglin affair. Just as the United States has suffered in the past from a lack of a principled policy, so Australia suffers from it now.

Regardless of my country's tradition of freedom, Australian officials tend to make decisions on a don't-rock-the-boat basis with China because they think it's practical.

It isn't. It just makes Australians cynical about politicians and leads the Chinese (very wrongly) to think we're a pushover.

We should announce to the world that Australia will automatically grant asylum to any defecting diplomat from a country that has one-party rule, no free press, and that imprisons or executes political dissenters. Then China cannot claim it's singled out.

On the contrary, it might encourage it to change its shameful policies.
Tom Minchin
Melbourne, Australia

People, not a legislature, make apologies

The Senate is not a thing, a body, that can apologize for the acts, or the absence of acts, of past members.

It is curious that current members of the Senate can visualize themselves in that manner.

People apologize for acts they commit; if the senators (not the Senate) are sincere, they have much to apologize for to African-Americans today. But far better, instead of doing nothing today and having some future Senate apologize, perhaps they could do something now to make equality a reality.
Harold A. Maio
Fort Myers, Fla.

Require military service and finish the war

Regarding the June 17 article "As Iraq effort drags on, doubts mount at home": All this whining does not serve any useful purpose. Either we get on with it or we get out.

Every young American male should have to serve four years in the military: two active and two inactive. No exceptions except for medical. We messed up after Vietnam by canceling the draft. We need it now.

We should not "cut and run," no matter what the cost. We started this thing and now we should finish it by seeing it through.
Joseph S. Hill
Cookeville, Tenn.

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