Readers write: poverty and education, crime of being poor, unfair comparisons

Letters to the editor for the Aug. 3, 2015, weekly magazine.

Whitney Curtis/Reuters
Protester Joshua Wilson marches in front of the police department during a rally in Ferguson, Missouri September 26, 2014.

Poverty affects education
Regarding the July 19 online article “US wins Math Olympiad for first time in 21 years. Is math education improving?” ( The United States won the Math Olympiad, but American educators just can’t win. The Monitor’s report of the Olympiad reminded readers that US math scores are not at the top of the world rankings. The article then presented suggestions for improvement in math education. We are always interested in improving our teaching methods, but pedagogy is not the main problem. The main problem is poverty. Study after study shows that when we control for the effects of poverty, American academic performance, including performance on math tests, is among the best in the world. The best teaching in the world will not help when students are hungry, ill, and have little or no access to books. 
Stephen Krashen
Los Angeles

The crime of being poor
Regarding the July 17 online article “Sandra Bland: Who was she, and what happened to her in a Texas jail?” ( It would be very interesting, in light of the heightened attention to and racial atmosphere surrounding the recent deaths of civilians at the hands of police, to investigate the income levels of all persons killed by police in the US over the past year as opposed to their race. I suggest that being black or Hispanic in America may not be nearly as heinous a crime as being poor.
Richard W. Brandlon
Via e-mail

Unfair comparison
In the June 29 cover story, “Where police don’t pull guns,” the writer attempts to compare countries such as Germany and America in the context of crime. On the surface this may seem to be a logical comparison, but looking deeper we see that America and Germany are as different as apples and oranges. Germany has a largely homogeneous society, while in America we have a diverse society that is growing ever more diverse.  
Paul Ratcliffe
Elk Creek, 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.

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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