Letters to the Editor
Readers write about the 'Jena 6,' improving secondary school education,security of using surnames, and the role of the media in a family.
Charges against the 'Jena 6' can't simply be ignored
In response to the Sept. 21 article, "'Jena 6' case raises questions of bias in US justice": The furor over the charges brought against the "Jena 6" appears to me to be sadly misplaced.
Putting aside the opportunities this case presents for self-serving posturing, there should be only one factor involved here that ought to have nothing to do with race, creed, or color: six – count 'em, six – teenagers beat a lone, individual classmate unconscious.
All aspects of American life, not just the civil rights movement, stem from the single concept that every human being is entitled to a fair chance. The inescapable core of this belief is personal accountability.
For hundreds of years, that one dream of "a fair chance" has drawn the world's best and bravest to this country.
For any group of people to pretend that skin color or poverty exempts an individual from responsibility for his or her actions is a betrayal, not just of the civil rights movement, but of the very essence of America itself.
So let's indeed be fair. And remember that "fair" – like the sword of justice – cuts both ways.
High schools need to make the grade
In response to Julian Alssid's Sept. 19 Opinion piece, "As job market advances, so can American workers," I have a question for Mr. Alssid regarding the thesis of his essay, which is that we must attract as many workers as possible to postsecondary education and graduate them to realize the skilled workforce we need.
No argument from me that we need as capable and adaptable a workforce as possible, and we need to provide lifelong learning.
But what is supposed to be happening in high school?
How much postsecondary education would be needed if our public school system graduated competent learners, persons who could speak, write, talk, and compute with sophistication as young adults should, rather than too many persons who don't know their way around a sentence, cannot form or critique ideas, are intimidated by speaking in public, can scarcely add and subtract, and seem to have little interest in mental discipline?
And why can our secondary schools not train young adults in the numerous vocational areas, especially if they desire such courses?
Perhaps I am misconstruing Alssid's opinion, but exactly what does he think that postsecondary education can do for most people that high school cannot do? Why can't a high school graduate move directly into a sophisticated job?
Surnames or first names?
In response to Ralph Keyes's Sept. 21 Opinion piece, "What we give up by using first names": In a desire to go back to surnames, Mr. Keyes ignores as the main reason for the first-name practice: security.
The young waitress is ill-served by giving a full name; as are children, because predators read papers; as are hospital patients who do not want anyone to know their full names because, here in Iowa, thieves target empty rural homes whose lone inhabitants are in a hospital or a nursing home; and, as I discovered when I was interviewed on National Public Radio about my student loan, people from all over the country can find your home address – and one did get my credit card number.
Parents need help from the media
In response to Caroline Fredrickson's Sept. 6 Opinion piece, "Why government should not police TV violence and indecency": Although there are greater challenges today with cable and the many venues of the media, this does not mean that we should shrink from our civic duty when it comes to our children.
The main argument of those who support keeping any kind of decency monitoring out of the media, is to leave it in the parents' hands. I can't help but wonder: Are these people aware that it is the parents who are asking for greater accountability in our media? Are they parents themselves?
Every parent knows that children act out whatever they see on TV, and it is close to impossible to monitor all the different ways that media is communicating to our children. Studies have shown the influence of media, especially on children, but I don't need a study beyond my own children to know its impact.
As a parent, I need help. Many parents are throwing up their hands because they feel they are losing the battle, and they are having to choose their battles with their kids. Instead of asking the questions: How much does media impact children negatively, and how much can society tolerate, why don't we work from the standpoint of what is best for our children?
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