It's about time vocational education came back in style

Regarding the Oct. 12 article, "Suddenly, vocational training back in vogue": It's about time that the US gets real about career and technical education. Not all students have the ability or desire to pursue a traditional academic course of study. Other countries around the world have long recognized that fact and taken steps to provide alternatives.

The damage done to young people in America by this rigidity is incalculable. It's altogether possible that the appalling dropout rate, in large part, is the direct result of the failure of schools to provide students with courses in line with their needs and interests. This is particularly the case in inner cities and rural communities.

That's why the recent reauthorization through 2012 of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act is welcome news. But it needs to be accompanied by a change in America's attitude toward students who do not fit into the college-prep template. They deserve the same respect that their peers receive.
Walt Gardner
Former schoolteacher and lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education
Los Angeles

Discourage use of exotic mortgages

Regarding the Sept. 29 article, "Risky mortgages threaten a squeeze": This article highlights well "exotic" loan terms such as teaser interest rates, zero down payments, and zero monthly principal repayments offered with today's residential mortgages that tempt homeowners to over-borrow. But it fails to identify the culprit.

Our past and present congressmen are to blame for turning otherwise mildly tempting niche mortgage products into the near majority of loans. Congress needs to change our current legislation. Tax deductibility of home interest supports the goal of individual home ownership. But we need to eliminate counterproductive tax incentives that propel homeowners to buy ever-more-expensive homes, incurring higher debt and leading to increasing risks of foreclosure. Deductibility of interest expense for new mortgages should be limited to those that have fixed interest rates for at least a reasonable number of years. Exotic niche mortgage products shouldn't be outlawed, but merely discouraged for general use. Presumably, they will be used when the benefits of their terms are more favorable than traditional terms that allow deductibility of interest expense.

The very positive benefits of individual home ownership can be restored to our society if Congress removes the strong incentive for homeowners to be irrationally risky.

Do we want Americans to buy homes they can afford, or do we want them to buy homes that are too expensive and will be unaffordable when interest rates rise significantly from time to time, as they always do? The latter scenario catapults home ownership from a stabilizing contributor in our American society to a fragile and dangerous condition during times of national economic turmoil.
Jonathan Stoddard
Certified financial planner
New York

Going home to Liberia

I just want to say thanks for such an inspiring Oct. 5 article, "Liberia's elites leave American comforts for war-torn home." I'm planning to move back to Liberia after living in the United States for 24 years. I think the article reinforces my thought that returning home is definitely worth the sacrifice, and it's encouraging that others are of the same thought.
Phil George
Providence, R.I.

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