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There's a Time for Work and for Education

The question raised in "Teen Jobs: How Much Is Too Much?" (Nov. 21) is of long standing in the United States. There has always been tension between the need for education versus the need for a job.

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Most of our national icons favor work over study (e.g., Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard to start Microsoft). Presidents, like Lincoln, are portrayed as "work-first, study-second" people; so are our captains of industry. Going up against these cultural icons is difficult. As a teenager I felt the pressure to hold a job even though it was not necessary to the economic survival of my family.

As a nation we need to look deeply into determining what is important. We need systems with options that allow people to grow and become educated in a pattern that fits their lives. Perhaps we need to combine education and work. Even more radical would be to defer education until one is ready to study.

For me, it took four years of military service to teach me the value of education over work. When I had decided to study, the task was easy, and I was successful.

George N. Wells

Dover, N.J.

Ski towns no picnic for many workers

Regarding "It's a Banner Year for Ski Bum Benefits" (Nov. 18): I have to disagree strongly with the author's contention that this is a golden era for those wanting to work at ski resorts.

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A casual visit to a ski resort in Colorado will reveal that many of the behind-the-scene workers are Spanish-speaking immigrants (hopefully legal) with families, who must live in a trailer park 30 to 50 miles from the resort. Often the residence is in a different county from the workplace, and that county receives no taxes but must cope with a significant increase in school-age children and welfare recipients. Nobody is claiming that these service workers are being given 401(k) retirement plans or college scholarships.

And the problems don't end with the service workers. Communities around the big resorts are finding that middle-class workers (schoolteachers, police officers, town attorneys, bank managers, etc.) can no longer afford to live near their jobs because of rapidly escalating living costs, particularly housing. They too must commute long distances on snow-packed highways. The town of Vail recently realized that it was necessary to lease several apartments for use by snowplow operators, so they could be near the highways they are trying to keep open for the tourists, rather than also living 30 to 50 miles away.

Don C. Rieger

Aurora, Colo.

What about rights for workers here?

I read the article "Eye on Firms That Use 'Cheap Labor' Abroad" (Nov. 14) and wondered if it isn't easier to get something published about working conditions in other parts of the globe than about what is happening in the United States.

For example, it is my observation that because of the clout of wealthy and retired residents here in Monterey County, the local news media will never publish the fact that many jobs here do not meet the "Social Accountability" standards mentioned in your article. Companies use these as a "human rights seal of approval."

Many employers in Monterey County, in particular, do not meet the standard that wages must "be sufficient to meet basic needs of personnel and to provide some discretionary income." I am guessing, but it is an educated guess, that about one-fifth of the jobs in Monterey County pay so poorly that 80 percent of take-home pay is required to rent even an illegal - but everywhere present - bedroom, with maybe a microwave and a small refrigerator substituting for a kitchen.

So, because this is considered a beautiful and desirable place to live, the wealthy from all over will continue to come here and outspend the local working people for the available housing. The middle class sees this as something that the poor should just accept. Churches cooperate to run a free lunch program and to provide a small amount of shelter space - but no one, to my knowledge, addresses the basic issue.

Greta Nisson

Carmel, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed to

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