Administrators must think creatively to keep kids in school

In the March 3 article, "Dropout rates high, but fixes under way," the Harvard researcher Daniel Losen "wants to see a major emphasis on getting better teachers into schools," but he offers no suggestions on how this might be best accomplished.

I would remind Dr. Losen and the educational bureaucracy that former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and former Secretary of Education William Bennett had a great idea years ago when they initiated a program to encourage retiring military personnel to go into the teaching field. I was one who followed their suggestion and enjoyed 20-odd years in teaching and in educational study and research.

Although I have found that the program devised by Messrs. Weinberger and Bennett has not received much support from the established educational system, I consider the annual number of military retirees a distinguished potential pool of teachers that would go a long way in satisfying Losen's quest for better teachers.
Lefteris Lavrakas
Captain, US Navy (Ret.)
Costa Mesa, Calif.

I am responding to the March 3 article on high school dropouts. The article quoted John Bridgeland to the effect that high schools need curricula more relevant to their students' interests and hopes. I agree.

US schools are run by "college-track" people. But my experience tells me that college-track people - and I am one - have too little appreciation for the talents and aspirations of people who choose to be in the skilled trades or to run a small business.

Seek out an electrician and try to understand his explanation of complex circuitry. Ask a building contractor how he arrives at estimates, recruits and supervises craftsmen, and keeps tax records. Ask an auto service manager how much training and intelligence he expects of his engine mechanics. All of these are well-paying occupations that cannot be outsourced to India.

Our high schools should teach academic subjects in such a way as to interest all the students in skilled trades and small business entrepreneurship.

A student who learns mathematics, chemistry, literature, and composition in the context of a trade can easily transition into an academic track at a junior college and on into a four-year and graduate program. And those who go to college immediately after high school will be prepared to make much better summer money to pay their tuition.

Our public school system should not short-change youngsters who are more interested in nonacademic careers just to satisfy the preferences of college-track administrators.
John Ashby Morton
Columbia, S.C.

Outsourcing raises ire over ports

I agree with one point in James J. Zogby's March 7 Opinion piece, "Denouncing the Dubai deal won't ensure port security": Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feelings are prevalent in the US right now.

However, I disagree with the framing of the controversy about the Dubai Ports World operation in racist terms. I, and others I have talked to, were surprised and unhappy to learn that so many major sea ports were not operated by their local municipalities. We see so much outsourcing and privatization that we feel our country is being sold out from under us.

It seems that US services and resources are continually up for grabs to the highest bidder and that little is done nowadays for the common good of the American people. That - not the nationality of the contractors - is what has me outraged.
Margot Coker
Pittsburg, Calif.

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