Regarding the opinion-page column ``Covering third parties,'' Oct. 20: As the present campaign demonstrates, the two major-party candidates are terrified of addressing serious issues with specific, hard-nosed policy proposals, since specifics are most easily attacked and are more likely to offend voter blocs. In contrast, third-party candidates could have no hope of garnering popular support by dispensing the same substanceless generalities; their success requires risk. By giving third-party views an equal forum with the major parties' candidates, the media might force a more meaningful dialogue all around. Mark Wilber Seattle
The press assumes that since the third parties ``won't win anyway,'' reporting on them is unnecessary. But because of the media's refusal to cover thoroughly all serious candidates, people now complain about not having a choice. The idea of voting for a ``lesser of two evils'' is only self-defeating. My vote for Libertarian Ron Paul will be one of principle, and a principled vote is never wasted. Scott Garfinkel Brookline, Mass.
No excuses for failure The opinion-page column ``Lost in the Sarah Dessert with Mummy,'' Oct. 12, implies that former Education Secretary William Bennett lives in a cloudy world of educational theory and hasn't a clue as to what really goes on in schools. Such an assertion is as inaccurate as the student examples cited in the column.
Dr. Bennett is an outstanding teacher, by all accounts. He has taught in schools and been involved in teaching programs all around the country. In three years as secretary of education he visited nearly 100 schools, often teaching a class during his visit.
It is this vast experience that makes Bennett so successful; he knows what works in good schools. He also knows the reasons why the majority of US schools are still failing to provide a sound education.
James Madison High School is not an unattainable Utopian design. It is an excellent plan taken directly from the content and curricular requirements of the very best US high schools.
These schools are not the stuff of dreams; they actually exist. The teachers in these schools demand much, and they get results. They do not settle for mediocrity.
Bennett has correctly diagnosed that one of the primary problems with US schools is that they expect too little of students. Some teachers complain that if a student doesn't come from a good home or was neglected by society, that student can't achieve success in learning the basics.
These same excuses appear in this column's statements: ``The point is that the most highly disciplined instruction can't account for that portion of the class which, out of inattentiveness, just can't get it straight,'' and ``Every one of these faux pas has a goofy earnestness at its root.''
All children need a basic education. Especially if they have an earnest desire to learn, then inattentiveness or goofiness are small, solvable problems. Good teachers get the attention of their students, and they have high expectations for accuracy.
All kinds of excuses have been made for the educational failure in the US. It is now time to set high standards and work to meet them with all resources.
Leaders such as Bennett focus energies and move us toward achieving the goal of a literate, educated society. Nothing less than the country's future is at stake. Scott Hamilton Philadelphia
TV media motives Regarding the front-page article ``Shock talk: no-holds-barred TV shows winning new fans,'' Oct 5: Just wanted to let you know that here is one that it is not winning!
I would question that talk shows have ``an appeal which, according to experts, satisfies a whole range of viewer needs.'' Baloney ... it makes money! The quoted media authority was right when he said that ``with these talk shows, it's the use of shock and aberrant behavior.''
Thank you for bringing out the fact that the public is interested in other topics. Isn't there a real need for restructuring programs such as the talk shows? The interacting of audience and narrator is appealing, but it can be even more successful.
Millions of us yearn for the day that we can once again turn on our sets to see and hear about subjects that will enhance family living.
Now is the time for all of the media to take a long look at their motives for communicating to the public. Yvonne Black Mission, Texas