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Starvation in Somalia; Congress' record on job creation; teacher turnover at charter schools

August 05, 2011
  • Refugee: Hawa Barre Osman from Somalia watches her malnourished son at a center in Kenya.
Refugee: Hawa Barre Osman from Somalia watches her malnourished son at… (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles…)

Famine in Somalia

Re "A drought at their heels," Aug. 3

I recently read this quote from Jonathan Swift: "Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." The terrible beauty of photographer Barbara Davidson's front-page "vision," her "Pietà," was such an experience for me — making visible the face of famine in the image of a mother watching over her suffering child.

Women and children continue to be the most vulnerable and unprotected members of our global community. May Davidson's vision move us to actions of compassionate solidarity.

Catherine Minhoto


The starving masses in Somalia are indeed tragic. One does not like to see human or other suffering of any sort.

However, over the past few decades similar calamities around the globe have occurred many times over. The worst tragedy of all, whether through lack of education or apathy, is that the people have wrought this upon themselves through deforestation.

Sadly, Somali women are now stripping and cutting trees in neighboring Kenya, home to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai, who has spent several years teaching the people of her country to reforest the land.

Steve Tyler


Economy takes center stage

Re "Now, a focus on jobs," Editorial, Aug. 3

Having already experienced the recent failures of economic stimulus under Presidents Bush and Obama, there is a better mechanism for increasing the lackluster growth rate: eliminating the income tax and replacing it with a consumption tax.

Eliminating income taxes will ignite a whole new jobs boom by creating an environment of certainty for businesses, removing the need to seek out loopholes and foreign labor markets. Moreover, eliminating income taxes will increase individuals' consumption, investment and savings. Due to the ensuing rise in consumption, sufficient tax revenues will be collected to fund the federal government.

The removal of unfair tax advantages to the politically connected will create a level playing field and certainty for all market participants, fostering and encouraging economic activity.

Craig Schlesinger


This editorial ignores the elephant in the room. Republicans don't just reject the view that deficit spending can improve the economy; they have stated that their priority is making sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president.

A weak economy helps oust incumbents.

Renee Leask


The challenges in education

Re "Burnout equals turnover," Opinion, July 31

The UC Berkeley study about the high rate of teacher turnover at charter schools calls into question whether high-flying schools will be able to continue to post impressive results.

The designation applies to schools that rank above the 67th percentile on state standardized tests and have more than 50% of their students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. According to the Education Trust, there are about 3,600 such schools.

High-flying schools are too new to allow valid judgments to be drawn about their practices. But it's highly unlikely that they are scalable and sustainable. What can be accomplished by teachers in one venue on a short-term basis with students from chaotic backgrounds tends to be an anomaly.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

The writer is author of Education Week's Reality Check blog.

The sheer volume of workload on new teachers is abusive. It is a 24/7 job.

I have an idea: To best manage a classroom, two teachers should be present at all times. It is the only way a classroom full of children with multiple needs can be taught well.

Teaching requires excellent management skills. Next are good political skills to deal with demanding parents and administrators. Next is an ability to handle abuse and lack of appreciation. Subject knowledge falls below all the other skills an effective teacher needs.

Society today wants students to have total freedom in speech, thought and action. There are rarely significant consequences for poor behavior by adults as well as children.

Monali Khandagle

Van Nuys

Re "A troubled time for education turns dire," July 31

The Times presents a disturbing analysis regarding how America is failing in its educational commitment.

Public education is always going to "seem expensive." However, can any of us really afford the luxury of attempting to survive in a society where ignorance is considered an acceptable educational outcome?

Patrick Ridolfi

Granada Hills

Separation of church and state

Re "A powerful pulpit," Editorial, July 30

You rightly criticize the new ultra-conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia for using religion to coerce public officials to adopt laws to enforce compliance with church teachings.

Society is nowhere near a consensus on what point in a pregnancy a fetus becomes a separate human being, let alone on the intrusiveness that could force a mother to die rather than end a doomed pregnancy. Only religious belief can address such things, and that is no proper basis for law making.

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