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Letters to the editor on teachers, Algebra II, Obamacare, income inequality

  • Published Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Letters to the Editor

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Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Wichita Eagle, 825 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202

E-mail: letters@wichitaeagle.com

Fax: 316-269-6799

For more information, contact Phillip Brownlee at 316-268-6262, pbrownlee@wichitaeagle.com.

Quality of teaching is unparalleled

I recently concluded the fall semester of my 56th school year as an elementary educator. I have been a part of many changes in public schooling, having observed too many “innovations” to recall. One constant remains, and I saw evidence of this as I visited elementary schools more than three dozen times this fall: incredibly dedicated, competent and tirelessly hardworking classroom teachers.

When the various forms of media almost casually refer to “our failing schools,” I immediately speculate about how long it has been since these reporters actually visited a public school and spent enough time with a teacher and a class of students to more accurately comprehend what constitutes “successful” and “failing” instruction or the greater operation of a school and its faculty’s responsibilities.

I am absolutely convinced that the overall quality of teaching today is at an unparalleled level of excellence, especially when considering the continuing acceleration of challenges and demands being made upon teachers, administrators and support staff. And I will argue that only those currently teaching can identify with the unique and dynamic complexity of competent and successful public school teaching. Of course, with every sensible generalization there are exceptions, but the rather casual criticism of our schools seems unjustified.



Algebra II needed

I read with both interest and amusement a comment by Kansas State Board of Education member Ken Willard (Dec. 15 WE Blog excerpts). As a high school teacher of Algebra II, I took offense to his statement, “I’ve never met anyone who uses Algebra II in their daily life.”

I assume Willard was questioning the validity of requiring Algebra II as a high school graduation requirement. I seriously hope he did not really mean what he implied so literally.

For some students, Algebra II is a difficult course, and they may not experience the success needed to make further application of its many concepts in post-high school years. However, I know many students of Algebra II are grateful for the instruction they received from the course. The ACT math section is largely composed of Algebra II questions, and high school students and colleges know the importance of doing well on that college entrance and placement exam.

Furthermore, any course that teaches one to think, reason and apply is certainly one students should experience. I would hope that Willard would appreciate any course that assists one to do so in such a complex world.



Met a scientist?

Regarding Kansas State Board of Education member Ken Willard’s statement, “I’ve never met anyone who uses Algebra II in their daily life” (Dec. 15 WE Blog excerpts): If Willard has indeed never met anyone who uses Algebra II in their daily life, his circle of acquaintances (please see a math text for definition of a circle) is very small.

He evidently has never met scientists, engineers, architects, geologists, medical doctors, dentists, registered nurses, economists, bankers, accountants, information technology specialists, biologists, agronomists, meteorologists, machinists, educators, auto technicians and a myriad of other professionals who utilize Algebra II and follow-on subjects such as calculus, statistics, etc.

God help Kansas students and our state’s economic future if Willard’s thinking becomes pervasive on the state school board.


Valley Center

Blame the victim

Columnist Cal Thomas tried to explain Detroit’s pending bankruptcy and to justify austerity programs by claiming that Detroit’s predicament was created by 60 years of the profligate dispensing of “government freebies and benefits” to the greedy middle class in exchange for votes (Dec. 11 Opinion). What this blame-the-victim approach overlooks is the role of corporations and their political enablers in the South’s siphoning of auto jobs from Michigan and the Midwest.

The South is devolving into a virtual banana republic with wages 30 percent less than up north, low corporate and property taxes, and limited environmental and labor protections.

The key to America’s general economic prosperity and debt reduction is a strong middle class. After three decades of trickle-down economics, tax cuts and corporate subsidies and the monopolization, privatization and deregulation of industry, combined with the near destruction of unions, 50 million Americans now live in poverty. Meanwhile, 400 individuals possess more than half of the country’s wealth. Government austerity programs just widen the gap between the rich and poor.

A higher minimum wage, higher taxes on corporations and the rich, and unionization will go far in halting our downward slide into Gilded Age economics, with its wage slavery and culture of despair.



Inequality not bad

“Income inequality” seems to be one of the favorite phrases of the left these days. Most references to it take for granted that it is a bad thing.

I have a very different view. In fact, if I found myself living in a country with perfect income equality (everyone earns the same amount of money), I would seek out a country with income inequality and promptly move there. Why would I want to live in a country where there are only a few rungs on the economic ladder?

Give me a system with many rungs on the ladder. I would define that as opportunity. Being on the lower rungs of that ladder, and seeing what is available at the top, would motivate me to take the necessary steps through education and hard work to move in that direction.

The left makes the same false assumption here that it does with the minimum wage. Being on the lower end of the wage scale is not a permanent condition, at least not to those willing to strive to do better.

Opportunity trumps security, in my opinion, because it motivates and incentivizes people to better their economic condition through their own efforts, rather than depending on government to redistribute the fruits of someone else’s hard work.



National medicine?

The rules have changed again regarding Obamacare. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently ordered the insurance companies to cover people on Jan. 1 who paid for their policies on Dec. 31 (impossible to determine). She also pressured them to cover people who pay only part of their premium. (How much? A dollar?) She also told insurance companies to treat out-of-Obamacare-network doctors like in-network doctors for people with acute illnesses. Is that not forcing doctors to be in the network?

Sebelius announced these changes in a conference call. Forget Congress; we are now governed by conference calls of Cabinet members.

The insurance companies are promised in Obamacare to be covered in part if they fall short of their actuarial projections.

So ask yourself this question: Is this nationalized health care?



Prayers answered

After hearing harsh words about Obamacare from Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Larry the Cable Guy, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others, I was apprehensive about signing up for this “train wreck” program. However, I felt like my wife and I needed to give it a shot since we had received notice that the existing policy for my wife was being canceled and her medical bills, for cancer treatment, surpass $200,000 per year. I am already on Medicare, but my wife has two years to go before she becomes eligible. We were thrilled to learn that through the Obamacare insurance exchange, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas offers a BlueCare Elite Platinum plan with zero deductible. The new plan is top of the line, so we will have a much better insurance value. Our prayers were answered.



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