Readers Write: Unfair comparison for diverse US students; US media need global view

Letters to the Editor for the September 30, 2013 weekly print issue:

You cannot compare small, relatively homogenous student populations in other countries to our very diverse, multicultured US student population.

Too many American media take a narrow US-centered perspective. Americans need and deserve deeper journalism and a broader, global view.

Diverse US students

The Sept. 2 cover story, "Global lessons for US schools," cites tests showing how poorly American students perform relative to their peers internationally. These assessments are based on unfair comparisons. During the 1960s and '70s I put up with numerous comments from my European friends about how much more race tolerant (read "advanced") they were than Americans. Once their countries added significant immigrant populations, the same issues we have in America surfaced there.

You cannot compare small, relatively homogenous student populations to our very diverse, multicultured US student population with its huge income ranges. These children are our most important resource. Support your public schools: They are the only ones who are required to teach all these kids.

Carolyn Leigh

Tucson, Ariz.

US media need global view

In John Yemma's Sept. 2 Upfront column, "A perspective worth striving for," he writes: "Readers outside the United States occasionally nudge us to remember that America is not the center of the world." Too many American media take this perspective. I recall one network news report in particular: A reporter stood on a white California beach to do a story about the leaking radioactivity from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan.

She confirmed that unnamed experts admitted underreporting the amount of radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean. But the reporter assured her audience that the ocean would dilute the radioactivity before it ever reached American sunbathers.

Was neither she nor any of her producers concerned with asking the more obvious and pressing questions: Were the Fukushima reactors still in melt-down? When would they reach cold shutdown? The reporter seemed to be delivering happy news – not acknowledging what this disaster meant to 127 million people living in Japan. Does the American audience empathize only with other Americans?

Americans need and deserve deeper journalism and a broader perspective than this.

Lucinda Wingard

Gig Harbor, Wash.

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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.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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