Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of April 18, 2011

Readers write in about the problem of classifying nuclear power as 'clean' energy and the disproportionate blame placed on teachers and unions in the education reform battle.

Nuclear energy isn't 'clean'

I am writing to call attention to the characterization of nuclear energy as "clean" in the article "Nuclear Pause?" from the March 28 issue. This identification does readers a disservice – especially those who may lack a background in energy issues – by promoting the unquestioning assumption that nuclear energy is "clean."

Certainly, burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, generates pollution in the form of particulates and chemical compounds that are damaging to humans and other forms of life. Nuclear energy does not do this.

But the hazardous nuclear waste that is generated by the nuclear power process is certainly not "clean." On the contrary, the threats posed by radioactive wastes are very real, in addition to carrying forward thousands of years. We are seeing the harm being done in Japan by nuclear waste stored in pools, especially when something goes wrong with the storage system. The news media must be careful not to propagate the calming and false assumption that nuclear power is "clean."

Carolyn Schmidt

Whiting, Vt.

Stop scapegoating teachers

I am disappointed in the main idea behind the Monitor's March 28 editorial, "Next education reform: teachers." It calls on better teachers as the key to better schools. It's not that what is written doesn't ring true, but it is only part of the story. Teachers seem to be the current sexy target for why America's students' test scores are unacceptable. That perspective is too narrow.

There is not yet a comprehensive, accurate way to evaluate teacher effectiveness. The variables that affect student test scores and teachers' ability to impact student performance are out of control.

It is not fair to hold teachers responsible for being less engaging (read: addicting) than the pace and content of visual media and video games. It's not right to undermine their daily efforts with blame when the whole realm of education is scrambling to catch up within our digital culture.

We need reform, yes. But start by encouraging and watching progress at the base lines. Collectively increase family support so children are read to, listened to, and fed before they show up in the classroom. Education reform in America needs to be taken on much more broadly than continuing to scapegoat teachers.

Valerie Lloyd

Acme, Wash.

This editorial seems to make the assumption that if we didn't have teachers unions, all our students would be above average.

There are many reasons why schools fail. Unions may be part of the problem, but it is also possible that unions have raised teachers' working conditions and pay to the point that the teachers we have now may be better than those we would get with no unions.

David Ingalls

Severna Park, Md.

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