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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 5 years ago

Letters to the Editor


+ It’s a free country, isn’t it?
Dear Editor:

When I was young, every single one of us said the words,  “It’s a free country, isn’t it?” every single day.
I can’t remember the last time I heard that. Great editorial. Let’s all start saying that every day again, especially in front of the young ones who have never heard it.  It’s way past time to relearn what matters.
Shannon Gault
Longboat Key

+ U.S. schools are still in need of help
Dear Editor:

We recently relocated to Longboat Key and I must say that it is a pleasure to read the Observer editorial, which provides a real view of our dysfunctional K-12 public school system.

The fact is, the most significant initial effort to highlight the problem was made in 1983 and since then our schools have been in a state of decline.

Those who promote the fallacy that the schools are good — and there are many —should come down off the other planet that they live on and get real.

Consider the following: In 1983, a blue-ribbon panel made of 18 member and known as Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a report called “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform,” which provided irrefutable evidence on the mediocrity of American schools and warned of the potential consequences. Twenty years later a follow-up report by the Koret Task Force concluded that little progress had been made in the school system and that there was “a rising tide of mediocrity in our schools.” In April 2008, a 25-year follow-up report on “A Nation at Risk” was done by the Washington Post and offered plenty of evidence to back up its headline, which read “25 Years Later and Still Dumb.”

As indicated in your editorial, SAT pre-college scores have been declining over the years. Florida high school graduates who apply to community colleges must be admitted but are required to be tested on math, reading and writing, which are considered to be minimum capabilities for the first-year of college. A November 2012 report by NPR indicated that more than 50% of these graduates failed to meet the minimum standards and were required to take and pass remedial courses on subjects they should have learned during their 12 years of elementary and high school. This requirement cost taxpayers more than $100 million in 2011.

In May 2012, it was reported that average scores of Sarasota students on the writing FCAT had plunged from the 80s in the prior year to the 30s and 40s.

I still have a copy of a local newspaper article, which indicated that the educational establishment was upset because the state had made the tests “more difficult.” The article went on to define the meaning of more difficult, which was that for the first-time students were being required to spell correctly and to use proper grammar and punctuation. This is almost beyond belief.

Major studies and comparisons have consistently shown that even our best schools are inferior to those of many foreign countries. Read one study in the Atlantic magazine called “Your Child Left Behind,” or Google the words “Globally Challenged,” to see a study by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

A well-documented Wall Street Journal report recently indicated that the biggest complaint of companies who hire MBAs is that they cannot effectively write.

A survey of 500-member companies by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that 48% of those companies were conducting basic training programs in writing skills and grammar for employees.

As Cassius said in the play, “Julius Caesar,” “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.” How true that is.

The prime culprits here are the teachers labor unions, which fight tooth-and-nail against reform, but there is plenty of blame to go around, including the educational establishment, parents, most of the media and add to this the usual suspects: politicians. And last, but not least, are citizens who are too busy watching football games and reality shows on TV to become aware that one of the worst realities upon us is the continuing failure of government to provide an effective public education system for America in this age of global economic competition.
William B. Allen
Longboat Key

+ Chatter about default on debt is scare tactic
Dear Editor:

As a seasonal resident of Sarasota, I have welcomed the escape from Connecticut politics, snow etc., but I never substituted Florida politics into this gap. But your Buchanan headline caught my eye.

First point: I thought it a bit harsh that you referred to my receiving Social Security and Medicare B benefits as being on the public dole. I seem to recall paying into Social Security for more than 45 years, and more recently into Medicare B, all as required by law. Hardly the dole! If the law needs to be changed to reflect current reality, let’s hope courage from more than just Buchanan springs forth.

Second point: Failure to raise the debt limit is not tantamount to the government defaulting on the public debt. A Jan. 13 article in the Wall Street Journal notes that the government pulls in around $200 million per month from normal tax inflows to the treasury.  An article earlier in the week in the WSJ (that I no longer have) noted that current tax revenue inflows will fund about 60% of the federal budget. Debt service consumes 8% to 10% of the budget. Hence, current tax revenue to the treasury is more than enough to service the debt. All the chatter about default on the debt and the end of the world is just Washington scare tactics. What is scary is the 40% of our budget that we have to fund through bonds and other debt instruments.

I’ll now revert to enjoy my hiatus from Connecticut politics and leave Florida politics to the natives.
Jack Woodilla
Siesta Key



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