Readers write: Points on free speech and public school

Letters to the editor for the April 26 & May 8, 2021 weekly magazine. Readers discuss social media bans and the future of public education.

Staff

Points on free speech

Thank you for the terrific Jan. 25 Explainer, “Twitter banned Trump. Is free speech at risk?” The question-and-answer format was perfect for batting aside talking points in a clear, concise manner. I have two suggestions that would have made this article a bit more convincing (at least to a reasonable reader), though I have no idea how the writer would have incorporated them:

1. In addition to the choices by corporations being legally permissible, they are the direct consequence of past behavior of the users being blocked or banned. These decisions were taken in response to the users’ actions (inflammatory language, lies, etc.), not prejudgment of possible future action (censorship).

2. For those who insist that Twitter has replaced the “public square,” why should offensive speech or deception online be permitted more leeway? Saying the same thing on Main Street would rightly alarm law enforcement.

Rusty Wyrick
Ghivizzano, Italy

Seeking inspiration

Thanks for the March 8 review of Bill Gates’ book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” headlined “Big challenges energize Bill Gates, especially climate change.” Unfortunately, the most telling passage was of Mr. Gates mentioning how huge his own carbon footprint was. It is human nature to crave wealth and the status it brings, and wealth usually brings a prodigal lifestyle. Thus I crave articles about those who practice modest consumption, even as they are generous with their wealth. Those who teach by example are the ones who inspire me.

John Stettler
Dallas

No simple answers

Your timely March 29 Explainer, “Housing crunch: Is flexible zoning the answer?” emphasizes the racial aspects of a problem that is far more complex. SB 9 and SB 10, currently under consideration in the California Legislature, would override local residential controls. Suburban issues involved include lack of adequate water supply, traffic congestion, school funding, and environmental questions – all of which existing householders have been struggling with for years.

Location of housing and education are clearly linked, but these bills, and numerous others now under consideration by the state, are no solution to affordable housing. A policy simply promoting duplexes is not the road to solving a complicated dilemma.

Gloria Wyeth Neumeier
Kentfield, California

The future of public schools 

I recently read the April 5 Explainer, “Why enrollment matters to district bottom lines.” I think that public education will change forever, and I’m not optimistic about where it is going. My own family’s experience has been terrible since March 2020, simply because only about four months have actually been in person.

What I suspect will happen is that more and more parents will realize that there are other options to public school and those with the means will use them, while those without will have no choice. The inequity in the system will increase. While there are many factors to blame, the actions of teacher organizations to resist returning to school are a prime one. I say this not only as the spouse of a former public school teacher, but also as a practicing physician who has missed zero days of work, which makes me very unsympathetic.

James Schouten
Payson, Arizona

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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.”

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