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Letters to the editor - 5/2/03

May 02, 2003

Don't lose track of average students



To the editor:


The lack of logic or intelligence in the decision-making process of those in charge of education in this county never ceases to amaze me. According to The Herald-Mail of April 9, the decision to replace honors classes for 12th grade English with advanced placement classes "was made in hope that more students would take the English Advanced Placement exam, said Boyd Michael, the school system's executive director of secondary education."

This decision, with its wide-reaching implications, was based on a "hope"? This plan will lead inevitably to either a watered-down version of a true AP English class or a high failure rate. If the former occurs, then it won't matter how many more students take the AP test, since we will have fewer students who pass it.

If the latter occurs, the teachers will be under pressure to lower the standards anyway. Indeed, during the present school year, letters went out to secondary teachers in at least some of the high schools, telling them essentially that they were bad teachers because their failure rates were too high. These letters were sent out without any regard for the percentage of low-achieving and special education students assigned to the teacher.

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The argument that "virtually every other rigorous senior-year course, such as calculus or physics, had an Advanced Placement designation with no alternate certificate of merit, or honors, class offered along with it" is specious.

Those classes are elective classes, whereas English 12 is mandatory. In fact, and as usual, the school system has it backward. An academic student has the option to take an AP class in physics or calculus, but does not now have that option in English, not unless he or she wants to take Basic English. Many will do exactly that, by the way, because it will be a safe way to maintain their grade point averages.

Our educational "leaders" need to accept the fact that the bell curve does not lie. The curve says that only about the top 10 percent of a given population is gifted enough to take an AP class.

It should be the school system's goal to sort out the other 90 percent and find out where their talents lie. The one-size-fits-all approach of Washington County - the one size being college - does a serious disservice to every student in the system.

Martha Pratt
Williamsport




Medicare at risk



To the editor:


Enormous changes in Medicare are being seriously debated in Washington by a senior White House official. It's a major, radical Medicare reform that could shift costs to seniors and the disabled. It would greatly increase out-of-pocket costs for up to 80 percent of beneficiaries and add a huge home co-pay. Privatizing is at the center of the debate.

With the recent shift of power in Congress, there will be a lot of changes this year. Congress is ready to totally overhaul and undermine our Medicare. They want to support the option of receiving Medicare's benefits through private health care plans.

If this happens, too many seniors will not be able to afford this. I think we are in for a big battle to defend and preserve Medicare benefits. They still want to privatize and the key supporters hold some of the most powerful positions in Congress. We are paying annual deductibles of $840 for hospital stays and $100 for doctor visits. We are paying more out-of-pocket expenses and higher co-pays and deductibles. Medicare was created in the first place because private insurers were not interested in insuring seniors.

You would think they would have learned the lesson of privatization after the debacle of HMOs.

Millions were persuaded to go into HMO programs, and then they went sour on them. We can't depend on big insurance and drug companies and Wall Street. The true beneficiaries of this drug plan would be HMOs and the big drug companies.

The truth is there is pressure on Congress to create a privatized Medicare drug benefit that is tied to some kind of radical Medicare reform. One thing sure is that if this is adopted, it may mean the end of Medicare as we know it. It is a battle to redefine Medicare and everyone who relies on Medicare could be affected by it. Please speak out and take a stand.

Anna Lee Burker
Sharpsburg




French deserve our contempt



To the editor:


In the article "Who freed us?" dated April 26, 2003, Douglas Scott Arey evidently thinks the United States should be forever grateful for whatever he thinks the French did for us in the Revolutionary War.

Perhaps we should forever be indignant toward the French for their role in the French and Indian War? The actions of the French toward President Reagan when responding to the terrorist Khadafy in Libya and now President Bush's assault on Saddam Hussein in Iraq promotes nothing worthy of gratitude in or out of being a member of NATO.

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