Don't ignore charter school successes
Some charter schools seem to be doing an admirable job, others seem to do worse than the schools they seek to replace, and the large majority are somewhere in between. The Louisiana's Recovery School District, reviewed in the March 10 Focus article "New Orleans' bold new test," presents a clear picture of what might be gained by charter schools: The focus of public education is on teachers and students, at last!
If change in schools is going to be more than the historical, perfunctory ritual of introducing a new jargon while continuing business as usual, change must be bottom-up, rather than the customary top-down process that largely ignores teachers' real needs. They need to know and comprehend the curricula they are mandated to teach, have the materials they need to teach well, and know how to use them. And schools must possess the freedom to remove teachers who cannot do the work. My concern is that the New Orleans RSD might meet the fate of other unconventional and successful initiatives to improve education, which is to be ignored and eventually sacrificed to education's perfunctory rituals.
FDA must rule on marijuana safety
I applaud the March 17 Monitor's View, "Red flags on legal pot," which points to some of the deleterious consequences of legalizing marijuana sales in Colorado. Having lived for 10 years in Amsterdam, I can attest firsthand to the negatives surrounding an insidious drug subculture.
In Massachusetts, partial decriminalization of marijuana use has led to an increase in the number of recreational pot smokers. And this year, creation of medical marijuana dispensaries will further encourage the drug's use. Current provisions in the law allow dispensaries to expand marijuana's indications to include diseases for which the clinical evidence on efficacy is nonexistent or thin at best. Marijuana may have benefits for certain patients. However, first the drug's safety and efficacy need to be established by the Food and Drug Administration.
Joshua P. Cohen
Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development