Readers Write: Why a moderate dislikes GOP; Unfair comparisons for US schools

Letters to the Editor for the September 16, 2013 weekly print issue:

To me, a moderate, the Republican Party is bent on obstructionism, sees bipartisanship as a dirty word, and is primarily concerned with a personal vendetta against the president.

To compare the large US educational system and its 50 diverse states with small homogeneous countries like Finland or South Korea faults the comparison from the beginning.

GOP doesn't appeal to this moderate

Amy E. Black's Sept. 2 commentary, "To survive, GOP must stop infighting and appeal to moderates," presented a pat-on-the-back view of the Republican Party. She wrote of shared credit for legislative victories and cited polls that point to the GOP's potential among moderates.

As a moderate Democrat, my perception is that the Republican Party is bent on obstructionism, sees bipartisanship as a dirty word, and is primarily concerned with a personal vendetta against the president. I increasingly see little difference between the tea party and mainstream Republicans. But the bigger problem facing America today is the "money culture" that is rotting our democracy.

George P. LaMarsh

North Haven, Conn.

Unfair comparisons for US education

Regarding the Sept. 2 cover story, "Global lessons for US schools": The media continues to pick up on how badly the United States fared in the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment test.

To compare the large US educational system and its 50 diverse states with small homogeneous countries like Finland or South Korea faults the comparison from the beginning. The article asks, "What can get America to the Finnish line?" Answers appear to neglect the needs of America's diverse students: the English language learner, the immigrant student, the "latchkey" student, the abused student, the homeless student, the student who believes school is punishment, the bullied student, the hungry student. Who is failing – the schools, the teachers, the educational systems, or the families?

The article cites Stanford University's Linda Darling-Hammond, who states correctly that the US is "the only country in the world that tests every child every year." We do care. In so many other nations, poor and handicapped children are ignored by their governments. Considering the challenges many students face, American teachers, generally speaking, do a mighty good job. Education is a 24/7 experience.

Pat Lindgren-Kurtz

Lake Almanor, Calif.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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