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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 2, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Education funding cuts

Jump in and help

We now have a new president calling for public education to take a harder look at charter schools and merit pay to improve student learning in our schools [“Obama vows swift action on economy,” Times, Politics, Nov. 23]. I teach these children. I get up every single morning thinking about, working for and feeling the needs of my class deeply as I teach the curriculum demanded of me.

I, like most teachers, put in an average of 10 to 12 hours each workday and most weekends. Yet, each year more is asked of us. Teachers don’t need charter schools or incentive pay to work any harder. It is not just a matter of curriculum. Japan, China, Belgium, France, Germany and so many more countries have higher achievement because they treasure learning as a nation, and look at and respect teachers as a valuable tool in life. The U.S., on the other hand, has an underfunded and punitive program called No Child Left Behind. We have done this to ourselves.

We value 30-second commercials, the quick fix, the fast car, sharp clothes and short articles to read. Great books, well-crafted plays or movies and in-depth public discussion of issues are poorly read and attended, at best. We don’t seek to embrace the challenge of a deeper meaning or question why. It takes too much time and effort.

Now our economy is in the tank and politics are more divided than ever.

Our businesses and government don’t inspire the hard-work ethic; it is an “I got mine, what-are-you-looking-at society.” I want to hear and see the public, businesses, newspapers, governors, mayors and our president encourage greater pride in student learning. Start reminding everyone on the TV, newspapers, public discussion, on fancy company letters, how important it is to be with your child.

Our parents need to set higher expectations for learning. We cannot be satisfied allowing TV, cellphones or CDs to be the best way for kids to spend so much of their free time anymore. The very people who are critical of public schools are too silent, except at election time, or when a house sale or major business deal has school as part of its sales pitch.

The public-school system is good when everyone is behind it all the time.

Right now, people are only behind school when it is convenient. If these places we call schools are so important at election time, then why are the classrooms and their teachers rarely visited or asked for input, except by parents. Stop blaming the teachers and start asking what are you doing? Jump in.

— Jim Thompson, Kent

We need fresh thinking

Here are some suggestions on how to handle the budget crisis in higher education.

Cut art history, philosophy, American studies, music therapy, communications, dance, English literature, Latin, film, religion, psychology, sociology, etc. Those subjects can be taught in private, religious, arts and philosophical schools. Most people with those degrees don’t get a job in their field of study anyway. Instead, they could forgo college and get a head start on their careers.

Also, cut sports.

Let’s give our students real opportunity. Higher education needs to adapt to the challenges we face: energy independence, global warming and world poverty. To do this, bolster the sciences, medicine, law, business,

education and engineering. This will also help us to be more competitive against strong emerging markets around the world.

The world needs technological breakthroughs. Change is difficult, but hope lies in the courage to make necessary changes in the face of adversity. We need fresh thinking and bold action.

— Kevin Wright, Shoreline

Comments | More in Economy, Education, Washington Legislature

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