Regarding "A new warning from one who foresaw 9/11" (July 9): I liked John Hughes's Opinion column about our lack of unpreparedness for another catastrophic event. Just recently here in Seattle we did a mock terrorist attack. The outcome was much like you describe. Many of the frontline folks were not very well prepared. Funding is only one of the problems. There seems to be a turf issue hindering interdepartmental cooperation. I think that when our firefighters and police officers are shoulder to shoulder in the trenches, these folks are making Herculean efforts to get the job done. They are fighting, however, not only the terrorist enemy in front of them, but the managerial infrastructure behind them. Until the departments learn to trust each other and share, to not guard and protect their assets, it will continue to be difficult to get the job done.
Regarding your July 7 article "Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'": I have been in Kuwait with my unit for about five months, and I know that a lot of the people in my unit have suffered. People's spouses have left them. I seem to be an exception to that. I was supposed to be married to my fiancé this spring. We are waiting ... patiently. It is very frustrating, though, because my unit is doing nothing but sitting here. I feel as if there is no need for us to be here. I feel as if I could have been home with my new husband. I know that a lot of people feel the same way I do about this deployment.
Angela K. Parker
Camp Udairi, Kuwait
Regarding your July 8 article "Practical skills vs. three R's: A debate revives": Every article I see that discusses the future of the American workforce stresses the growing need for workers to have transferable skills. Transferable skills are not the sort of expertise acquired when one learns the very specific skill sets that underlie cutting hair or painting cars. The abilities to read, write, calculate, and think critically form the basis for transfer and are the building blocks of all subsequent learning.
Too often vocational education, particularly at the high school level, focuses on developing a narrow expertise that generally enables entrance only into low-paying, dead-end jobs, and strengthens the social and economic traps that keep people struggling in low-wage, low-security, and low-benefits employment. These workers are the first to be laid off when the economy is weakened, the first to be replaced by machines or offshore labor, and the last to be able to participate fully in the American dream.
Vocational education needs to be relevant to today's economic realities. This requires a solid foundation in the currency of learning.
Regarding your July 9 editorial "Not so COOL": While I appreciate the concern of the editorial about "protectionism," I must agree with the idea of country-of-origin labeling. There are many of us who depend on knowing where products come from. Many will not buy products from China because of that country's abominable human rights record, and for decades grapes from California were boycotted, to support the unionization of itinerant farmworkers. Without country-of-origin labeling, this type of expression of belief could not be properly directed. Many people feel they have little power over how the world is managed and its people are treated. But for letter-writing campaigns, boycotting, and protesting, we would be voiceless.
Port Orchard, Wash.
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