Letters for April 21, 2011

Letter of the week

Only test what can be tested

Re “Erase to the top?” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, April 7):

So maybe we need to dial back from standardized-testing overdose and let the teachers teach and children learn. It’s a novel idea. But without some uniform benchmarking type of test, how do you ascertain if students are learning in the subjects that lend themselves to standardized testing? Students must learn core language, math and science skills if they are going to function in our society. Standardized testing is not flawed, but it can only measure some subjects well. The problem is that we have become so fixated on metrics that we ignore everything else.

Subjects that don’t lend themselves to measurement by penciled-in bubbles are no longer important. That doesn’t mean we should stop teaching or measuring in the areas where we can. But we also have to champion the importance of teaching equally important subjects that defy measurement.

Arts matter; can’t test it. History, philosophy, music and—dare I say it: religion? No, I dare not. How about civics? These studies enrich our lives and define us as a society and a species. But the humanities defy simple measurement by penciled-in bubbles—they transcend it. They are also essential to the richness of our lives. The kicker is, we need all of it, not one or the other, but both.

So rather than give a free pass to mathematical incompetence, what say we focus on defining the real issue: Subjects that ought to be taught and emphasized aren’t, simply because they can’t be readily measured in a standardized test.

In life, there are those who don’t understand the problem, those that do but offer no solution and those who try to solve it. [SN&R is] the last of the fourth estate, for God’s sakes; advocate the latter.

Brian Corrigan
Granite Bay

Goodbye, attention span

Re “Goodbye, books?” by Hugh Biggar (SN&R Feature, April 7):

This was a very interesting story. I’m glad SN&R decided to cover this issue, but I think the concern about e-readers (and technology in general) expressed in the article is misplaced. We don’t value learning new things as much as we once did, and I think it’s because our education system sucks out loud. If we could make the appropriate changes in our classrooms, I’m optimistic that we could easily recover our attention spans, regardless of how much we tweet or surf the Internet.

Cameron English

Just say no to testing

Re “Erase to the top?” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, April 7):

I was pleased to see Cosmo Garvin’s column mentioning Michelle Rhee and the latest revelation to come to light regarding her.

Ms. Rhee’s career in education has been remarkable because it is all predicated on her original lie, her success at raising test scores as a classroom teacher in Baltimore. All one needs to do is use a search engine with these three words: “Rhee lies Baltimore.” The story, recently told in Salon, reveals that her record is not as she says.

The recent revelation that, under her watch, cheating took place at “successful” Washington, D.C., schools and that their “achievements” were a cause for celebration. Lying and cheating: That is her strategy. In reality, her actions have wrongly cost the jobs of hundreds of teachers, primarily female African-Americans.

As Mr. Garvin points out in his final paragraph, parents have the right to excuse their child from the tests. No one can cheat on a test if it isn’t taken. It is as simple as writing a note and your child won’t have to participate in the charade of taking tests that have no positive effect on their life but can cause a lot of anxiety. I excused my child and he is better for it.

Ken Poppers

It’s elementary—add bathrooms!

Re “From blight to might” by Jimmy Spencer (SN&R Frontlines, April 7):

This article made my heart “feel good.” It seems to me that article tells it like it is. Yes, definitely. Hot showers and food and a place to rest one’s head are elementary to any recovery.

Yes, some of the residents will backslide even with all the new provisions they receive to keep them from doing so. Still there is no doubt in my mind that The Effort has given 100 percent of themselves to see this thing take off.

Meanwhile, what they need downtown in the Cesar Chavez [Plaza] are bathrooms. Someone needs to organize the homeless and street people down there and demand toilets. The endless stream of people in the library restrooms is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a right to a toilet. Rip out that silly cafe in the park and expand the restrooms. Hire a caretaker if needed to supervise the place. How hard is that?

David Keith Cyphers

Capitalizing all over the place

Re “Broadcast blues” by Katie Hanzlik (SN&R Frontlines, April 7):

Communication is the lifeblood of democracy. How sad, then, the current efforts by Republicans and the tea party to defund National Public Radio.

NPR keeps its 27 million listeners in tune with reliable and diverse broadcasts which run counter to the Republican agenda of “dumbing down” America to the Fox News level. The GOP can’t sell its pack of lies to a well-informed and intelligent population.

Remember when Republicans and tea-party rowdies tried to shut down the dialogue in town-hall meetings on health-care reform? Well, now they’re trying to do the same thing to NPR, using budget deficits as an excuse to silence this media outlet—using budget deficits that they themselves created with huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. Nothing like creating a problem and then capitalizing on it!

Ron Lowe
Nevada City

A zombie speaks

Re “Climate zombies” by Auntie Ruth (SN&R An Inconvenient Ruth, April 7):

Dear Auntie Ruth: Why are you preaching the Al Gore gospel of climate change to us befuddled readers? The politics of this nonscientific doctrine are no more valid than the “flat Earth” consensus was many years ago!

Far more citizens today have opened their hearts and minds to a reality that seems unfit for serious consideration by the mainstream press. Undaunted, we face mudslinging by journalists we once trusted. We continue to share our newfound knowledge with family, friends and social networks. The science of photosynthesis cannot be denied! We can all breathe easier knowing that carbon dioxide is a friend to the plants and all living creatures. In this time of economic upheaval, we do not need to levy a heavy carbon tax on all facets of industry. This wage, in gold, no longer needs to be sequestered into the underground vaults of the rich and powerful.

The climate is changing in the way we take care of Old Mother Earth. Step by step we are making changes in our personal lives to reduce, reuse and recycle. Pound by pound we are growing our own tomatoes and buying our food locally. Gallon by gallon, we are finding ways to travel without our cars. Day by day, we are forging an innovative path toward cleaner living. We are no longer high on the thrill of unbridled consumption.

The recipe for a brighter world is clear. Breathe in! Become inspired. Breathe out! Take action. Repeat.

Steven Bourasa