What's needed most to successfully educate US children?

Regarding the Dec. 15 article, "To fix US schools, panel says, start over": The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce calls for drastic changes in the way we educate our students. I could not agree more.

As the report points out, the nation's global competitive position is far weaker than previously recognized. This is due in large part to the fact that our students don't have the basic skills for success. Nationally, 70 percent of eighth-graders are reading below grade level. These students are most at risk to drop out of high school and lose out on a productive life.

The cost is not only to the individual, but to the nation, the state, and local communities. For instance, the nation is spending over $1.4 billion each year on remedial education in community colleges for recent high school graduates who did not acquire the necessary skills to succeed in college or at work.

Rethinking our schools, especially our high schools, is essential if we are to secure a future for all Americans.
Bob Wise
President, Alliance for Excellent Education; Former governor, West Virginia

Regarding the Dec. 15 article about revamping schools: Focusing on improving schools in the US is laudable and important to the long-term health of our country. I've read many articles discussing the same subject and have mixed emotions. For the most part, the stories focus on school funding or teachers themselves as a basis for what is wrong with our school system. This continues to feed parents with the notion that it is the schools' responsibility to take children and make them successful at school.

Rarely is the focus on parental responsibility. Promoting video games as a pastime, rather than teaching children about the importance of reading as a pastime at home is as much to blame as anything for poor reading scores. Why fault teachers when some parents would rather focus on whether their child can play a sport, rather than whether he can compete academically? Collectively, we in the US need to look into a mirror when "Johnny" can't read or master mathematics, and we need to ask parents what they're doing to improve their children's education. Lastly, I feel compelled to note that I am an attorney, not a teacher. Along with my wife, to whom I owe all credit, we have raised highly motivated, exceptional students. It was a lot of hard work but well worth the effort.
Robert Goodrich
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Reasons to linger at the mall

Virginia Postrel's Dec. 14 Opinion piece, "The American shopping center, redeemed," says traditional malls are revamping to provide more "reasons to linger." If she's right, then history repeats itself. Back in 1951, there were only a few suburban shopping malls in the United States. One was Shopper's World in Framingham, Mass., and when it opened on Oct. 4, it offered lots of reasons to linger. Facing inward around an emerald lawn and lush gardens, it was a virtual town square, drawing celebrity visitors such as The Lone Ranger and Rin Tin Tin. Its one-screen cinema had a stage where Mae West and Marlon Brando performed summer stock.

Opening Day was also the first day of the 1951 World Series – Giants vs. Yankees. The game was on everyone's mind. Shopper's World hired women called Ask Me Girls who strolled the mall listening to transistor radios. If anyone asked, they knew the score. Now that's a reason to linger.
David Horn
Carmel, Ind.

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