Readers write: What about the kids who are falling behind?

Letters to the editor published in the Nov. 7, 2022, weekly magazine. Readers wonder whether the kids are doing alright and look back on John Gould's legacy. 

The kids need our attention

I was taken aback by the commentary “American school kids are doing all right” in the Oct. 17 issue. The article cites a study conducted by Harvard University, but no other information was given other than a glowing report about 7 million national academic test results between 1971 and 2017 and how high the levels of learning were. 

Well, the latest assessment of our kids nationally is much more dire. One example: National test results just released showed in stark terms the pandemic’s devastating effects on American schoolchildren, with the performance of 9-year-olds in math and reading dropping to the levels from two decades ago. 

This year, for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, 9-year-olds lost ground in math, and scores in reading fell by the largest margin in more than 30 years. The declines spanned almost all races and income levels and were markedly worse for the lowest-performing students. Students in the bottom 10th percentile dropped by 12 points in math, four times the impact. Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics is quoted as saying, “I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline.” Our kids are not doing all right and are falling way behind the scholastic levels of comparably aged students in other countries.  

Class sizes must be reduced, and more individual attention given to each student in public schools. And I am sure a public school near you would welcome volunteer help in the classroom.

John Burk
Santa Barbara, California

Peter Main/The Christian Science Monitor/File
John Gould in Gorham, Maine, in 1987. He also lived in Lisbon Falls and Friendship.

Lifetime of John Gould

“John Gould still waits to welcome you home” in the Oct. 17 issue was a soft breeze on a summer day, awakening many memories of my youth. You see, my father used to read Mr. Gould’s “Dispatch From the Farm” to the family every Friday evening. Mr. Gould’s stories were ever delightful and witty and often brought a tear to the eye, be it one of joy or one touched by his profound humanity and grace.

My father was one of those Greek Americans who embraced philoxenia, which literally means “love of the stranger,” the Greek word for hospitality. So it was not surprising that he reached out directly to Mr. Gould and formed a relationship by correspondence that continued until Mr. Gould’s death. When I left home and later married, I carried on my dad’s tradition, reading aloud Mr. Gould’s column each week to my wife, using my best Down East accent. At first she was amused by this tradition, but then grew to love Mr. Gould’s stories.

The tale Owen Thomas related about the baseball and the train porter was a new one to me, but so “Gould.” Without hesitation, I invited my dear wife of 43 years to once again sit down and listen as I read, in my best Maine accent, one more story by Mr. Gould. Ayuh!

Thanks for sharing this tribute to John Gould. And thanks to The Christian Science Monitor for being a rock of thoughtful and intelligent reporting for so many years.

John Lavrakas
Newport, Oregon

A nightly ritual

What a joy to find your tribute to John Gould! His columns in the Monitor cheered me for nearly 40 years, and his writings continue to delight me. His last 29 books line a shelf in my bedroom, and I enjoy a chapter each night before retiring. I think I’m on my fifth journey through the collection. Thanks for adding one more essay (“Pockets full of memories”) to the journey!

Martin E. Biemer
Louisville, Kentucky

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