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In defense of Christian Scientists 

In defense of Christian Scientists

This statement in your editorial of Jan. 16, "Little sister is watching," provides an opportunity for clarification: "Presumably a boss who was a Christian Scientist could prohibit his employees from participating in any health-care plan. Another might pass out poisonous snakes to his employees."

Your readers deserve to know that Christian Scientists are not taught nor are they likely to force or prohibit any kind of health care. The choice for spiritual treatment through prayer is strictly an individual decision, which every Christian Scientist is free to make for himself. Because it is effective, the Christian Scientist tends to choose this method, but he is always free to turn to medical care without fear of censure or even criticism.

Also, a number of nationally known employers now include Christian Science care in the health insurance plans they offer their employees. Among these are Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Intel, Screen Actors Guild, Smucker's and United Airlines.

Joe Pelphrey

Rogers

Against TPP

A decade ago, Ross Perot said if the NAFTA trade bill passed we'd hear a "giant sucking sound" as American jobs were drained to Mexico and other countries. NAFTA passed and we all now know Ross got that right.

A new trade bill, the Trans Pacific Partnership, is near passing. The TPP is described far and wide as NAFTA on steroids.

It is being negotiated in deep secrecy. What little we know of the specifics of the TPP are that it is constructed to guarantee profits for drug companies, elimination of food safety, labor and environmental laws that would "infringe" on corporate profits. This bill will allow corporation "rights" to override United States laws!

I phoned Congressman Tom Cotton's office to urge him to oppose the TPP until we have a full and open accounting of what all it contains and what it would mean to the American people. I received a letter indicating he is all for it because it will be great for Arkansas businesses and will lead to a higher standard of living for us all.

I was flabbergasted. Keep in mind, our elected representatives are being kept in the dark about the specifics of the TPP. Rep. Cotton does not know what it contains, yet he is all for it. Why?

I encourage all Arkansans to do some online research. Educate yourselves about the Trans Pacific Partnership now. And ask Rep. Cotton to explain specifically why he is in favor of this corporate-backed monster.

Gene Warren

Magnolia

Conspiracy theory about public education

In the 1980s a new term was coined that entered the American lexicon largely unchallenged: "achievement gap." It ostensibly described the gap in education of American kids compared to those in other countries. In actuality the only gap that existed was that of kids who came from poor backgrounds as opposed to those who didn't. When measured separately, middle and upper class American kids' achievement was on a par with that of kids in other countries. Only the poor in the U.S. did not measure up. While this is an inexcusable abomination in the richest country in the world, it is also no surprise; the American poor have mostly been viewed as expendable. Nevertheless, most Americans drank the Kool-Aid of the so-called achievement gap, and the term precipitated a growing antagonism toward public education in general and against teachers in particular. Thus began a long-term plan to dismantle public education.

In the 1990s, the notion of teacher accountability took hold. Since schools were apparently failing our kids, teachers needed to be held accountable. New requirements were instituted, including greater surveillance of teachers doing their jobs. Suddenly, teachers had to justify the methodology of their profession. They were put on the defensive as politicians, pundits and even many parents repeatedly placed the blame of our schools' unproven failures squarely in teachers' laps. At the same time, cultural changes had transformed the landscape of public education and deprived teachers of powerful tools: ability grouping was abolished in a misguided effort to shore-up self-esteem; school districts severely curtailed teacher autonomy; corporal punishment was phased out; a huge percentage of parental support dwindled; and respect for the profession eroded precipitously. In spite of all this, teachers continued teaching, and the middle and upper class students maintained pace with their non-U.S. peers.

The new millennium ushered in an era of hostility against public education unknown up to that time. It began with a pampered and privileged C-student president claiming to want to be the "education president." With his "no child left behind" doublespeak, he successfully initiated a series of attacks against public education that astronomically increased paperwork, slashed school budgets to all-time lows, and enshrined a system of increasingly impossible mandates that ensured public school failure. Schools were told that if their students could not pass standardized tests, they would lose federal funding. These were the threats while layoffs became commonplace and the amount of work schools had to do ballooned, leaving fewer people to shoulder the extra work.

No one can do a job well when there's simply too much job to do. No one can be an exemplary teacher when buried in paperwork unrelated to the betterment of young minds. And certainly, no school can produce well-educated students when the tools for keeping students on track and in line have all but disappeared.

Until our country embraces certain realities, public education will die.

One reality is that not all students can perform well academically regardless of how many instructional hours or how much people power you throw at them. The human capacity for intelligence (or lack thereof) is too widely varied for that to be possible. Secondly, it is inefficient and unrealistic to place students of such broad intellectual abilities in one classroom and expect an excellent job to be done. While an open flow between tracks should be maintained throughout one's public education experience, if you cannot prove your potential for success in higher mathematics, for example, then you need to remain at the basic level. Also, teachers need to have returned to them the power of failing students who perform poorly and correcting them, even physically, when they behave badly. Without these powers, students have little reason to take their teachers or their studies seriously. Additionally, student performance needs measuring beyond standardized tests. Plenty of people can pass standardized tests, yet they remain idiots. Conversely, many people fail standardized tests in spite of their massive intellectual prowess. Finally, we need to accept that teachers are teachers, not entertainers. Good teaching certainly can involve entertainment alongside education, but there is no reason to expect that every shred of learning must be made palatable. Education is about growing and training the human brain, and sometimes that requires doing things that are not necessarily entertaining.

With regard to the parental role in education, there was a time when they strongly backed up teachers. Would that they would again!

Leeann Bennett

Little Rock

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