Letters to the Editor

Readers write about preparing youth for college, the reasons for building walls or fences, and the best ways to meet college students' need for spirituality.

To prepare kids for college, start early

I so enjoyed reading Roger Hull's May 24 Opinion piece, "Improving the college pipeline for at-risk youth." We certainly can't wait for high school to get kids ready for college, and it was exciting to read about what Dr. Hull has been doing. However, preparation for educational success should begin way before third grade. It really must begin at home, and then it should continue all the way through every grade.

I taught kindergarten and first grade for many years, and I could almost tell in those early years what success the students would have. We constantly kept in touch with parents and did all we could to keep education exciting and relevant, hands-on, and meaningful. It is so special to see former students now and hear their stories of success.

Miriam Mades

Regarding Roger Hull's Opinion piece about making college attendance more possible for at-risk youth: Three cheers for Dr. Hull and his third-graders!

How right he is that the time to start interesting at-risk pupils in a possible college education is third grade. Also, how right he is to set up his precollege academies on the college campuses (not in the elementary schools) and to be sure to provide one-on-one mentors for the students and continuous involvement of the parents to keep them open to such a radical activity.

But Hull should not worry about Bill Gates and the millions of dollars he is spending to solve other schooling problems. Mr. Gates spends lavishly, but he tracks every nickel. He devotes other millions to research, especially in those areas he is funding. We need that input. And we also need Hull to interest 100 or so college presidents to follow his lead. Four campuses is a good start.

Cynthia Parsons
Former Monitor education editor
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Not all walls are alike

I read Daniel Schorr's May 25 Opinion column, "The wrong way to solve a problem: Build a wall," which compared the planned wall at the US-Mexican border with the East German wall, among others. This comparison is just nonsense. The Berlin Wall was erected by the East German government to keep citizens from escaping to the western part of Germany, not for preventing West Germans from seeking a fortune in East Germany. Also, Germany had been divided by the Allies into east and west. (My family escaped before the wall went up.)

Mexico was never divided, and the wall is being built by the US to keep illegal aliens out. I came to the US in 1973 by applying for a visa. Once here, I applied for a green card. In 1998, I became a US citizen. That is the procedure that all immigrants should follow.

Juergen Wehner
Somers, Conn.

Regarding Daniel Schorr's Opinion piece on walls: It is disingenuous to imply that all walls are fundamentally similar. Comparisons of some walls with the Berlin Wall are especially odious. That wall was for keeping people in; most others are for keeping people out. My personal concern is primarily with the West Bank wall (which happens to be mostly a fence) a few miles from my home. While I have serious reservations regarding parts of its exact route, it has succeeded in keeping almost all of the terrorists out, even though it is not finished yet.

Like any measure, construction of this wall invites countermeasures, but meanwhile I sleep better at night, and I can live with the increased difficulties of the poor people on the other side who cannot or will not make this fence superfluous.

Zwi Eshed
Modi'in, Israel

Where higher education and spiritual education should meet

Regarding your May 25 editorial, "Higher education's missing soul": At St. Lawrence University, I have seen increasing interest by students in exploring spirituality for at least the past five years.

In response, we developed a program called "Build Your Own Beliefs," which allows students to connect to something beyond themselves, to explore spirituality in an attempt to make life more meaningful.

As educators, we need to give students the tools they need to find their full humanity. In the complex world they will inherit, it is irresponsible to do less.

The Rev. Kathleen Buckley
Chaplain, St. Lawrence University
Canton, N.Y.

Regarding your editorial about college students and spirituality: There are extensive opportunities to examine one's religious beliefs ranging from involvement in churches, individual organizations, group meetings, and within families. The study of religion or spirituality should not be mandated in academic university curriculum; it would represent a move away from rather than a respect for the reasons that most students choose to study at a university level.

While some professors may well need to become more adept at responding to students who wish to discuss individual values and beliefs in light of curricular information, it would be wholly inappropriate to insist on a broader integration of such information across the university curriculum.

Students who strongly wish to have a faith-based college education are able to select from an increasing number of universities that closely tie religion to curriculum. Any study of religious thought at the university level should continue to be broadly conceptualized as an elective and under the purview of philosophy course work.

Lou Sandler
Amherst, N.Y.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

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