Readers Write: Threats to a new Detroit; How to help 'English Language Learners'

Letters to the Editor for the December 2, 2013 weekly magazine:

Detroit citizens can't look to government for 'all of the answers,' but they should look at government, to ensure the city avoids the mismanagement that fed its bankruptcy.

Beginning ELLs will neither acquire English nor learn subject matter if they are placed in regular classes right away. Evidence supports LA's plan to separate them initially.

Threats to a new Detroit

The Nov. 4 Monitor's View, "A nonbankrupt Detroit," was right to highlight the assets that remain in Detroit (particularly its residents) as a source for its potential rebirth. But the editorial glazes over the man-made corruption that helped lead to the city's utter desolation, and too much of the piece, in my view, is platitudinous pie in the sky.

It asks: "What will a new Detroit be known for?" It should be known as a great place to start a small business, ultimately becoming a great place to site or expand a big business. "Urban planning" is not necessarily a seeder for – and can often come at the expense of – business growth.

While Detroiters certainly can't look to government for "all of the answers," it may behoove the citizenry to look at government, to ensure the city avoids the mismanagement that contributed to its $18 billion debt. If a new government reestablishes little kingdoms and power centers with public service unions enjoying unrealistic wages and benefits, a new Detroit will once again reach for the sky and fall flat on its face.

Roland Martin

Carmel, Calif.

How to help 'English Language Learners'

Regarding the Nov. 4 One Week article "In L.A., split by language?": The purpose of the Los Angeles schools' plan to separate "English Language Learners" from native speakers in core classes, as I see it, is to maximize comprehensible instruction and opportunities for meaningful student interaction.

Beginning ELLs will neither acquire English nor learn subject matter if they are placed in regular classes right away. We only acquire language when we understand what we hear and read. The most logical plan is to provide special English as a Second Language classes for certain core subjects but then include ELLs with native speakers in classes that are more easily comprehensible and encourage interaction, such as art, music, and physical education.

As students acquire more English and subject matter knowledge, they can move into classes with native speakers. There is a great deal of evidence supporting the principles underlying this plan.

Stephen Krashen

Professor emeritus, University of Southern California

Rossier School of Education

Los Angeles

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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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