Lessons of learning
Re "State English instruction flaws cited," May 28
I have been a teacher of English-language learners for 26 years. I get angry and frustrated at being blamed for our students' failures. In this article, The Times balanced the many factors that go into a student's failure or achievement.
Rosa Briseno's lack of interest in academics and Nathanael Cueva's desire to achieve — and his biliteracy — show the spectrum of what educators have to deal with.
At my elementary school, our focus is English-
language instruction. Our program is strong and getting stronger thanks to monitoring and parental outreach. But if student motivation and/or parental support is lacking, we can only do so much. Educators are not and never will be miracle workers.
The article on English instruction begins by citing the failure of existing English instruction programs and places the responsibility squarely on the education system. Yet later it outlines the reasons for the failure: linguistically isolated communities, students' personal situations, transient lifestyles, lack of motivation and interest, and so on.
At the end of the report we are suddenly back to stating solutions to the problem. Only one addresses the need to involve the family.
The system will continue to have meetings, conduct studies and come up with strategies, but they will also fail, as the basic problem is not with instruction but a result of overcrowding, cultural isolation, unrealistic expectations and negative societal influences.
A deadly raid by Israel
Re "Israel criticized over raid on Gaza flotilla," June 1
I'd like to conduct an experiment. I'd like to bring some contraband from Mexico into the United States — let's say, perhaps, a couple of ounces of marijuana. Let's further suppose that marijuana is actually intended as humanitarian assistance for my roommate, who suffers from glaucoma.
At the border, I am stopped. The police demand to see the contents of my trunk. Of course, as I am on a humanitarian mission, I feel no obligation to comply.
My response? I begin beating the border agent with a bat. A couple of my friends join in. One of them takes the agent's gun away and shoots him with it.
We are all arrested and taken to prison in an obvious attempt to sabotage our humanitarian mission. Though we have no access to TV, we're certain our images are being shown all over the world and that the U.N. Security Council is meeting to condemn this disproportionate action.
At that very moment, with great despair I realize my mistake, one that will leave me to rot in prison for a very long time. You see, I've violated the borders of the United States: Nobody would consider questioning that nation's right to defend itself.
There is, indeed, only one country on Earth judged harshly for acting in its own self-defense: Israel.
E. Scott Menter
Wow, those were some "peace activists" on the Gaza flotilla.
If this was all about "humanitarianism," how come they were carrying clubs, knives and pistols?
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, said last week that the Free Gaza flotilla, which was delivering humanitarian aid, was engaged in "violent propaganda" against Israel and would be met with all available force. Apparently he was not merely posturing. To consider the provision of humanitarian aid as a kind of violence — is this not a kind of insanity?
As an American Jew and a son of Holocaust refugees, I am deeply distressed by the depths to which the state of Israel has sunk. In light of this incident, the Obama administration should immediately suspend all military aid to Israel and join the rest of the international community in issuing a clear condemnation of Israel's action.
Mark J. Kaswan
The Obama administration's "cautious" response to Israel's killing of nonviolent activists on the high seas is not only disappointing; it is positively hypocritical.
In his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo a year ago, President Obama called on the Palestinians to pursue a nonviolent path. But over the last year, Israel has reacted with increasing violence, often with lethal force, and has imprisoned and tortured nonviolent activists.
And even now that at least nine international nonviolent activists have been killed, Obama has hesitated to condemn Israel's actions forthrightly.
Can there be any greater hypocrisy than to encourage the oppressed to pursue nonviolent means and then ignore them when their oppressor reacts with violence?
Helping out on healthcare
Re "Stymied by rates," May 27
California's economic recovery depends on giving our small businesses relief from skyrocketing healthcare costs.