Public schools teach students to participate in democratic society

Regarding the June 7 article, "An education from Russia, with tough love": There is nothing wrong with rigorous math and science instruction, expectations for high achievement, sequentially planned courses, and interdisciplinary subject matter. The problem with the Advanced Math and Science Academy charter school is that it doesn't offer enough opportunities to students in nearby districts, and there's little evidence it serves students with learning disabilities.

Public schools, however, are required to service all students and still adhere to high expectations for achievement. Unfortunately, the funding formula for charter schools in Massachusetts siphons away funds from public schools.

The founder of AMSA maintains that parents and students are comfortable with conforming to strict rules and few chances to make choices. But the beauty of public schools is that they foster students' development as participatory members of our democratic society. By giving students some practice at making choices and taking on some personal responsibility for their own learning, students experience the process for improving the greater world around them.
Andrea Green
Ashland, Mass.

Make public-private deals transparent

In response to the June 7 article, "Cash-strapped states embrace toll roads": The momentum toward the privatization of roadways and other infrastructure seems to be escalating without a real dialogue with the public. The article's seeming embrace of public-private partnerships (PPPs) appears to be prematurely enthusiastic. Dieter Katz from the New Zealand Treasury says in his March 2006 policy paper on PPPs that, "There is little reliable empirical evidence about the costs and benefits of PPPs" and points out that these PPP contracts are complicated and add tens of millions of dollars in financing costs above and beyond what a conventional contract would cost. He says bluntly, "There are other ways of obtaining private sector finance without having to enter into a PPP; most of the advantages of private sector construction and management can also be obtained from conventional procurement methods...."

Last year in Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments can force property owners to sell to make room for private development, including public-private partnerships. Enron is considered a variation of a public private partnership. Many, if not most, of the American people do not want to privatize Social Security.

So why the big rush toward privatization? Don't the American people deserve transparency and accountability? Let's have a real discussion about PPPs before we hand what is left of the public's treasures over to dark boardroom secrecy.
Alice McGuffie
Waller, Texas

It's not just Thais who revere the king

Regarding the June 12 article, "The king and Thai": I am a retired American who has lived in Thailand for the past 10 years. My association with this country goes back 37 years, when I first came over here to work. After three years, I returned to the US – until 10 years ago.

I want to express my appreciation for the article on his majesty. It was so well written, and clearly captures the essence of this great man. I have observed with awe and a growing love his many accomplishments over the years. The adoration and love shown to him is so genuine. Thank you again for making more people aware of him.
George Scudder
Chiang Mai, Thailand

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