Build community support – and funding – for public schools

Your Sept. 26 editorial, "When the teacher brings the apple," highlights two problems dogging public schools: lack of appropriate funding and its result – that underpaid teachers are reaching into their own pockets so that children have needed classroom supplies. The editorial also points out two commendable approaches to solving these problems: the immediate impact provided by the terrific programs of donorschoose.org and long-term government support of innovative, effective teaching.

We believe there is a third element needed to help link those two interventions: building community support for public schools – particularly in the business world – through direct investment and involvement. Programs such as Stock Our Schools invite local realtors – who have a direct interest in quality education – to leverage their knowledge and support into community participation for rebuilding local, accountable, quality schools.
Dave Levenson
Founder, Kohala Foundation: business solutions for social issues
San Anselmo, Calif.

Since when are 50-year-olds 'seniors'?

I clicked on the Sept. 22 article, "Eons: 'MySpace' for the boomer set," about an online community for seniors, thinking I would send it to my mother-in-law, who is eagerly learning how to use the new computer we gave her to get connected to the Internet. Imagine my surprise to learn that the discussion was about "seniors" who are over age 50. I find it odd that demographers and people from politics to marketing who use demographic information would separate my daughters – who are only five years apart in age – into Generation X and Generation Y, but lump me together with my mother and mother-in-law in talking about "seniors."

When did "over 50" become "senior citizen"? By my count, the span between 50 and the upper edges of the human lifespan should include at least three generations, maybe more. When you lump 50-year-olds with 80-year-olds, any generalization or particular insight is lost. How can you tease any meaning out of a statistic that 20 percent of people over 50 are interested in an online community? Any commercial or communication endeavor – or any story about one – that seeks to understand the large chunk of Americans over 50 needs to start with better definitions.
Virginia Gilbert
University City, Mo.

US universities are not best in the world

Your Sept. 28 editorial, "Gauging education bang for tuition buck," remarks that the US has "the world's most-admired system of higher education." I have, sadly, found that abroad all too many do not in fact share that view. Especially in Europe, people regularly joke about our universities – "shallow," "utterly commercial," and "sub-par" are descriptions more often used.

When students come to study in the US, it is mostly so that they can later get a US job, which is beyond question better-paid than in most other countries. In my experience, few seem prepared to spend the ever-growing fees out of a desire for our standard of education for its own sake.

Meanwhile, we continue to run colleges as everyday businesses, and we choose them purely as the "career launchers" that your editorial refers to – just as foreign students do.

We cannot continue to delude ourselves that our system of higher education is self-evidently the best in the world. I must agree with almost any initiative that will provide us with a better and more objective understanding of its true merits and weaknesses.
David Shaw

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