History class: Analytical skills key, no matter what the topic

Regarding the Sept. 8 article "Everyone is telling teachers what to teach": There is no problem with a course that focuses on African-Americans or women or Armenians or any group. Students need to understand that history is viewed through a lens shaded by cultural and social bias. When history classes leave out the tremendous impact of slavery and the African experience on our development as a nation, it misses the moral struggle that nearly broke our nation in two. One can't understand US history without a solid understanding of the role of slavery, abolition, and free African and "mixed" race persons in shaping the debate and setting a course toward greater freedom.

The most significant problem with history teaching is the belief that a bunch of dates and deeds must be memorized and repeated. An understanding of basic events and dates is good, but more important is to be able to critically read and interpret the meaning of events and the possible outcome of specific actions. A question that every student should ask is, "How do I know what I believe and how does what I believe affect my behavior?"
Jonah Maidoff
Chilmark, Mass.

Carter, the compassionate conservative

Reading the reminiscence, especially the presidential cameos, written by Godfrey Sperling Jr. ("A farewell after 60 Monitor years," Sept. 6) was a high point of my day. My self-imposed reading project this year has been to read at least one book about each president who has been in office during my lifetime. I'm now reading Peter Bourne's biography on Jimmy Carter, and have a comment about the term "compassionate conservative," which Sperling said the elder Bush was the first to use, in 1979.

Mr. Bourne writes that Jimmy Carter used the term "benevolent conservatism" in his address at the National Press Club in Washington on Feb. 9, 1973. Bourne calls the speech "compassionate" - Governor Carter was explaining his frugality and yet his envisioned programs for attacking poverty. Though the term never caught on then, Bourne writes, the term did express Carter's philosophy.
Joland Mohr
Cottonwood, Minn.

Legal use of off-road vehicles

The context in which my quote appears in your recent article is misleading ("National parks grapple with surge of illegal off-road vehicles," Sept. 7). It is the actions of the National Park Service, and not beach drivers, that I labeled as illegal.

National park visitors are welcome to drive their vehicles off-road in parks where they are specifically authorized. But at Cape Hatteras, the National Park Service has not yet issued regulations to allow this use of the beach, which they are required to do. It isn't that park visitors are using the beach illegally, but that the Park Service hasn't fulfilled its legal obligation to determine in which areas that use is appropriate.
Don Barger
Senior director, Southeast Regional Office, National Parks Conservation Association
Knoxville, Tenn.

I take offense to being lumped in with nut cases who feel they have the right to deface national treasures. Just because I choose to admire the beauty of the park from inside a Jeep should make no difference. In my case it is either drive the Jeep to where I want to visit or not go, as I have limitations that require me to use means of locomotion other than walking for more than a half-mile at a time. No one should abuse the right to enjoy our public land as they see fit, but everyone should at least have that right.
Jim Richards
Las Vegas, Nev.

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