Durham News: Opinion

May 23, 2014

Your letters, May 25

There are many points of disagreement between me and Mr McCann, but I will limit my response to three.

Support the Core

Re Terry McCann’s commentary “I will not teach the Common Core” (DN, May 4, bit.ly/Sf1Bm3 )

There are many points of disagreement between me and Mr McCann, but I will limit my response to three.

1) K-2 students learning to read by writing. This is not a new strategy but has been used for a long time as one of the ways to show students that writing, reading and speaking are related. Having students write their own stories and read them to each other clearly makes the link between oral and written language. It is never the only way reading is taught but one of many strategies.

2) Mr. McCann attacks the use of higher-order thinking skills rather than teaching the basics. Thinking skills cannot be taught in a vacuum; rather these skills are taught relative to basic knowledge. Comprehension and regurgitation of basic facts without analyzing and evaluating information is rote learning that does not lead students to think and challenge ideas. I'm sure that Steve Jobs was encouraged to use and think about facts, resulting in a man who was clearly creative. I hope that Mr. McCann does not have his students merely memorizing information, confusing that with education. Without thinking skills where students use, debate, write about both sides of an issue, the information taught is soon forgotten and no growth on the part of the students takes place.

3) Mr. McCann is upset about the Gates Foundation supporting Common Core. Some of the best curriculum materials have been developed and supported by organizations that have expertise and resources. The ESS materials, an excellent science curriculum that simulated a scientists exploration and thinking in the laboratory, were developed by The Lawrence Hall of Science and the National Science Foundation.

Diana Caplow

Chapel Hill

Highway Trust Fund going broke

Few Americans know that in 1962 Congress designated the third week of every May as National Transportation Week. One week to acknowledge the role transportation – roads, bridges, rail, buses, ports, airports, greenways and more – plays in our lives, communities and economy.

Now, the Congress seems unwilling or unable to avert a looming financial crisis. Over the last 10 years the federal highway program has provided roughly 48 cents of every $1 in our state for highway and bridge capital improvements. But its revenue base, the federal gas tax, has not been changed in over 20 years. It simply can’t keep pace with growing needs around our nation or the costs of transportation infrastructure. Unless Congress acts, the Federal Highway Trust Fund will go broke as early as this summer, forcing states to cut spending on highway and bridge projects.

This affects safety, traffic congestion, our quality of life and puts thousands of jobs at risk. We should all send our members of Congress a “Happy Transportation Week” card and remind them how important efficient and safe roads, bridges and transit are to our state.

Charles Hodges

Executive director, NC Go!


Graduation rates unacceptable

Re “Students protest principal’s ouster” (DN, May 21, bit.ly/1lD24pm )

“Kestrel Heights received a silver medal and ranked 1,744th among the top 2,000 high school in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best High Schools list.

However, last year the school board demoted Dugan from executive director to principal of the high school."

“Last year, the four-year graduation rate dropped by nearly 7 percentage points. In 2011-12, Kestrel Heights had a 75.5 percent graduation rate. In 2012-13 it fell to 68.7 percent, below the state average of 82.5 percent.

Black students’ graduation rate dropped from 73.9 percent to 61.5 percent.”

Charter school graduation rates below 98 percent are unacceptable.

Even with a relatively high national ranking, 61.5 percent or 68.7 percent graduation rates are obscene.

Obviously, the trustees have determined they need effective administration, with less attention to parental posterior oscillation than to student achievement from top to bottom.

Dan McGrew

via Facebook

Lesson for police, DA

Re Ex-Duke lacrosse players’ suit settled (DN, May 21, bit.ly/1jnLPiO)

A gift to the City of Durham. Hope the police and DA offices have learned a lesson: some people are innocent until proven guilty.

But alas, they probably have not learned anything.

Ken Walters

via Facebook

Where is the outrage?

As the parent of a disabled veteran who honorably served his country in Iraq, I know firsthand how the Department of Veterans Affairs treats our returning war heroes. I could write a book, but would anyone in our government truly read it?

Why does this government treat welfare recipients better than it does people who served honorably for this country? Why does a disabled veteran have to drive long distances to a veterans hospital to get treatment, only to be told to come back in a few months for treatment? Think that doesn’t happen? It does.

Why aren’t our disabled veterans given a card similar to a normal health insurance card, which would allow them to get treatment anywhere at any time? Why is it that a disabled vet has to receive treatment at a veterans hospital?

Veterans are treated like sheep. They are waiting in lines, and I mean long lines. There are not enough doctors, counselors or other personnel available to adequately treat their needs.

Will the recent uproar about the VA really change anything? I want all returning vets, with or without disabilities, to be able to get the appropriate care they do desperately need. Where is the public outrage?

Wayne Muller


Dueling headlines

The paradoxical juxtaposition of two articles in the May 4 N&O screams out for more thought, more comment, more action.

In the news article “ UNC-CH reviews health fee,” we learned that the trustees of our flagship university are questioning programs at the university that include sexuality counseling, sexual topics and social advocacy.

In the news article “ Colleges focus on fighting sex crimes,” which was also on the front page of the New York Times, we learned about the problem of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses. We learned that many college administrators and experts across the country say that “while the world has been changing, higher education has done a poor job of understanding the shifts and responding to them.”

So our esteemed trustees think that UNC college students, many whose hormones are raging due to their psychobiological stage of life, do not need any programs that address these issues. I wonder what the students think. Have the trustees thought about asking them?

Susan Cohen


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