To the Editor:
In a previous letter, I noted that ideological posturing both on the left and right are preventing collaborative action on serious issues. An example is the culture war over public education. The far right has mounted an organized attack on public education, criticizing educational content ostensibly based on critical race theory and gender identity. This strategy is facilitated by a campaign to ban books related to these topics. The focus on critical race theory is particularly disingenuous. CRT emerged from research in law schools and graduate programs to explain the lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the Johnson administration. It is unlikely that most of the far-right scolds of public education have ever read any of the arcane CRT-based research. Rather, the CRT critics object to any effort to teach the malicious effects of slavery if it contradicts conservative ideology even if the teaching is based on historical fact. Likewise, courses designed to explore gender issues are uniformly opposed on ideological bases rather than their factual content. The bottom line is that the far right is more concerned with promoting a conservative ideology rather than the truth.
Progressives are not innocent of injecting ideology into educational content. Some diversity, equity and inclusion projects based on the ideas of DiAngelo and Kendi reduce entire races to simple characterizations and make unsupported generalizations regarding the behavior of individual group members. Their ideas are ideology not social science. DEI issues are important but should be taught as objectively as possible. They should not be designed using the Progressive ideology du jour. This is not false equivalence. It is simply to note that extremes on the left and right are operating from flawed ideological presuppositions that obstruct truthful inquiry and promote conflict.
Ideological debate carried out by the ignorant on the right and zealots on the left obscure understanding and collaborative action on pressing public education issues. The fact is that public education in the U.S. is in trouble. For several years prior to the pandemic, test scores of American students in reading and math were in decline compared to other countries. The decline has primarily occurred among Black, Hispanic, Native American and low-income White students. School closures during the pandemic have exacerbated the decline. Some estimates are that students have lost from one to two years of educational progress due to pandemic closures. Public school teacher morale is at an all-time low. They are criticized by the left and right regarding the cultural issues discussed above and are often held falsely accountable for poor student performance. They endure this criticism while being significantly underpaid in comparison to their educated peers. The result is that many skilled educators are leaving the profession and fewer college students are opting to major in Education.
The consequence of educational decline is obvious. Declining test scores indicate that students will be less capable of competing in the high-tech industries that now comprise the global economy. As experienced teachers become rarer, there are fewer skilled professionals to stem the decline and train students in the critical thinking skills necessary not only for economic success but for making effective life decisions.
The situation calls for a major effort to renovate public education, especially for low-income students. Students who graduate from affluent suburban schools generally do well on performance tests and go on to prestigious colleges and achieve advanced degrees. This includes middle class black students who perform at the level of their peers when the educational context is conducive. The fact that poorer educational performance is overwhelmingly concentrated among lower income students whether Black, Hispanic, Native American or White indicates that the issue is better understood as a class rather than racial problem. Solutions need to be devised on this basis to help low-income students overcome inherent disadvantages. Economically disadvantaged students often enter school with academic and emotional deficits compared to their more affluent peers. Pre-school programs need to be made comprehensively available to help counter both behavioral and academic deficiencies. High quality programs and teachers need to be available in schools primarily comprised of low-income students. And an effort must be made to change the culture of low-income families that may undervalue educational excellence. This is not blaming the victim. It is recognizing that family culture matters and must be considered in a comprehensive effort to improve educational outcomes among lower income students. There is only so much that dedicated teachers within well-resourced schools can do to educate students that have not been taught to value education. But before any effort can be made to solve these problems, we need to focus on realistic, fact-based analyses rather than engage in feckless ideological conflict.
Robert D. Russell, Ph.D.
“The situation calls for a major effort to renovate public education,” you write, “especially for low-income students.” We agree completely.
That effort will never be made, though, under current conditions, and no arcane research is required to explain why: the same societal forces that have slowed racial progress will decline to cooperate. Wouldn’t be prudent. Wouldn’t you really rather have a voucher?
DiAngelo and Kendi are bit players in this game, mere distractions only. The real player here is Arthur Jensen in “Network,” as played by Ned Beatty: “You want to provide the same educational opportunities for everyone, Black or white, rich or poor? You’re proposing to meddle with the primal forces of nature!”
Ordinary people have to struggle like hell just to keep their heads above water. And, in the minds of the people who run this country, that’s exactly as it should be. Keeps wages down, and profits up.
As another famous fictional personage once said, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”
This is not to say we, the people, should not demand a complete renovation of public education—minus the vouchers. We should. That, and more. Lots more. Oprah voice: “You get medicare, and you get medicare, and you get medicare,” ad infinitum.
“Wars are never won. Victory is a myth…”
Here are some quotations taken from recent news reporting on the Gaza situation.
“Biden is green lighting a far-right leader’s policy in Israel that holds all Palestinians responsible for Hamas.”
Biden’s acceptance of this despotic narrative contradicts everything his party stands for. It would be like America punishing all Mexicans for cartel activity in American cities. Trump and a few other Republican candidates have already said they will implement this same kind of military campaign south of our own border.
“Hundreds in the American Congress have literally said nothing about the loss of Palestinian lives while loudly bemoaning the loss of Israelite lives.” “Congress held a vigil bemoaning Israeli deaths only, not Palestinian deaths.”
This kind of silence indicates a discriminatory worldview related to religion, ethnicity, national origin, human rights, and wealth that a democratic society is not supposed to have. Palestinian lives do not matter in America the same way poor Black lives do not matter.
And finally, an impressive word of wisdom from a neighboring Arab nation: “Wars are never won. Victory is a myth invented by political leaders to justify the loss of many lives.” (Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan).
Woods Cross, Utah
We generally share Thomas Paine’s stance on monarchy, but thanks to you, we’ll cut Queen Rania Al Abdullah some slack.
It’s Time For an “Unfit to Serve” Tour
It isn’t often that I feel vindicated but today my hat is off to Max Boot at The Washington Post for declaring that “Trump’s generals have one last duty to perform, they must tell American voters what they saw first hand: their former boss is unfit to serve as commander-in-chief.”
Boot was referring to retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s longest serving chief of staff, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and former national security advisor H.R. McMaster. I would add a fourth, recently retired Gen. Mark Milley, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs.
Max Boot believes the generals have an obligation to tell voters about “the unique threat Trump poses to American democracy” and that they should launch an “Unfit to Serve” tour, “revealing the horrors they witnessed.” I couldn’t agree more.
I’m retired Navy myself so I fully understand and appreciate the reluctance of military affiliated personnel to involve themselves in politics. However, these are unprecedented times. We have a twice impeached former president presently awaiting four criminal trials totally 91 charges across four states plus an assortment of civil trials pending. Donald Trump poses a severe risk to national security and he is clearly unfit, unqualified, and an undeniable threat to our democratic form of government, our way of life.
Donald Trump has shown only distain for our Armed Forces for as long as we’ve known him, particularly for those killed, wounded or captured, referring to them publicly as “losers” and “suckers.” Gen. Kelly described Trump as having “nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions.” Is this the kind of president we want in the White House? I think not.
I agree with Max Boot, unequivocally, the generals must speak up and tell Americans the truth about former President Trump. Our past presidents must speak up as well. Present and former members of the United States Congress must speak up. And, most importantly, veterans and veterans organizations, all veterans who are serving and who have served this nation in uniform, must speak up; we must not allow this misfit to denigrate and malign and slander our soldiers, sailors and airmen who daily put their lives and limbs on the line to keep our country free. None of us has the privilege of remaining silent any longer.
David L. Snell
We hold brass hats in about the same regard that we do so-called monarchs [see reply above]. As for Max Boot, we’ve never thought he had enough sense to pour… never mind.
Having thus established our chronic closed-mindedness, we agree wholeheartedly with your letter. We will joyfully join all generals, right-wing writers, reformed politicians, and repentant preachers in a grand kumbaya moment to just say “No” to the Mango Man from Mar-a-Lago.
That’s What The Money’s For, Right?
To the Editor:
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 gave New Hampshire federal funds “for the use of improving election security and technology.” The state has been holding onto these funds, and they now amount to “approximately $12.9m,” according to the wording of House Bill 447-FN: Relative to the purchase of election equipment. The bill, to allow this money to be spent, will be voted on by members of the N.H. House Committee on Election Law, on October 31.
The money is there. What is the need? Most of the election equipment currently used throughout N.H. has aged and may soon be in need of repairs or replacement. Yet the one company that has manufactured the majority of these machines will no longer be in business.
Much effort went into finding other voting machines that met New Hampshire’s standards. Election officials and other individuals statewide had the opportunity to test out these machines. The will to purchase the new machines is there, but many municipalities don’t have room in their budgets for such an expense.
HB 447-FN would release federal funds from the Help America Vote Act of 2002, allowing the Secretary of State to “establish a grant system for cities and towns” to apply for these funds. Why should our cash-strapped municipalities struggle to find the means to ensure a safe and secure voting system when we are sitting on this federal money? Please urge your local representatives to support HB 447-FN.
This would seem, on the face of it, to be a pretty danged simple decision to make. Of course, you never know these days what kind of imaginative argument might come swooping down out of the belfry.
Media Pile-On Misses the Point
To the Editor:
I’m sick of the media obsession with President Biden’s age and not his remarkable accomplishments. With only a 50-50 “majority” in the Senate and a narrow House majority, the President achieved more in less than a single term than presidents have normally managed in two full terms. A letter isn’t long enough to summarize Biden’s many achievements.
The long overdue Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the largest investment in transportation infrastructure since the building of the Interstates in the 1950s. It also expands access to broadband internet and to clean drinking water.
The Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare for the first time to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. It caps the monthly cost of insulin for seniors at $35, to end Big Pharma’s profiteering on the backs of seniors. It also invests in combating climate change through supporting solar and wind energy, electric vehicles, etc. The Department of Energy estimates it will both drive clean energy generation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
The CHIPS & Science Act invests in scientific research and increased domestic manufacturing of microchips, so we don’t have to depend on China. We all remember what happened during the pandemic when car manufacturers couldn’t import enough chips.
Biden’s age and decades of experience in Congress and as Vice President are an advantage. Age and experience give him foreign and domestic policy expertise, and the tools to get stuff done for Americans—as he’s demonstrated repeatedly. I’m looking forward to a second Biden term.
Marlin Perkins’s voice: “Ever fearful of being singled out for criticism by a big-name columnist or—worse-yet—becoming the subject of an attack campaign by a phalanx of right-wing propaganda mills, career-minded journalists at corporate media companies quickly develop an ability to blend in with the herd.”
Negotiating drug prices, capping the cost of insulin, supporting common-sense energy policies, promoting domestic manufacture of critically-important components…these are all, without question, important achievements.
What is maddening is that any of these things needed doing in the first place.
Let’s Really Railroad the Former Guy
Recent reports state that trump [sic] and his lawyers are asking to delay his four separate criminal trials until after the election, so as not to “cripple his chances of being elected.”
That justification is false, and it is dangerous to our democracy. In fact, the opposite is true. Voters need to know whether a presumed candidate for President of the United State is guilty of any of the 91 serious criminal charges against him before the election.
Court trials, conforming to our system of justice, are the best and only way we can know whether an accused person is guilty or not guilty. An innocent candidate for office could be presumed to want the trials’ results before the election. A criminal candidate can be presumed to want to delay his trials until after we have voted.
Delaying trials cripples our chances of knowing if the candidate is a crook.
Yet another reason why this country needs high-speed rail. Can’t you just see The Former Guy in a private rail car—gold-plated, of course—shuttling back and forth between Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York City? We could fund it with a confiscatory wealth tax on billionaires.
We Need a Better City Council
To the Editor:
While I consider myself a progressive Democrat, local elections are usually not about partisan issues. Party affiliation can be a help to voters, but more important is the quality of the candidate and their willingness to ask hard questions and make hard decisions.
In recent elections, a political action group, Progress Portsmouth, endorsed candidates that were favorable to a developer that has sued our city for millions of dollars. It is important that voters ask for candidate’s definition of progressive. I certainly hope that former mayor Steve Marchand stays out of this election, considering his 2021 campaign violations, and because he does not live here anymore.
The current council has been weak and ineffective regarding the entire McIntyre project resulting in significant costs to taxpayers. At the same time, they often remained silent instead of asking important questions during council deliberations, leaving the public in the dark.
I am planning to vote for candidates who put residents first not businesses and developers. Our zoning laws are there for good reasons, and variances should not be awarded just because a developer wants to increase their profit. That is not a real hardship.
The candidates that I plan to endorse should have these top three issues: maintaining our good city services, keeping our tax rate increases reasonable (thereby affordable), and support restrictions on new development. They also need to involve our neighborhoods more in decision-making.
That is why I am planning to vote for some of the former Becksted 5 including Rick Becksted. I am also considering current city councilors who can stand up to aggressive developers and who do not delegate city policy to the city manager, but set those policies. Finally, I am also considering some of the new candidates to give the council some fresh ideas.
Regardless of your political view, please do not rely on social media alone to decide on a candidate, and be suspicious of mailer sources you do not recognize. Attend candidate forums either in person or by Zoom, and check out the questions and answers provided by the candidates to media outlets, e.g. Seacoastonline, &c.
Peter Somssich / former Portsmouth Democratic Chair
Public Education Reflects Our Future Community
I am Leigh Hudson, I am running for Portsmouth School Board because public education reflects our future community and what we invest in it is what we can expect in return. Students are our future leaders, business developers and the success of our community.
The school department believes that too. It’s evident in the evolving “Portrait of a Graduate” vision. A graduate that can succeed through adaptability in a collaborative diverse environment and do so with empathy. It’s evident in our school’s mission statement, “The purpose of the Portsmouth schools is to educate all students by challenging them to become thinking, responsible, contributing citizens who continue to learn throughout their lives.”
We fog that vision and tarnish the mission when 43 percent of the special needs instruction budget is used for out-of-district placements. The associated tuition and transportation expenditures are a multiple of the in-district per student cost. While families are involved in these placement decisions, it brings into question how well intentioned we are in serving our students.
My son is one of the 16 percent student demographic with disabilities. He has MECP2 duplication syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder with developmental delays, motor skills challenges, speech issues, autism, and more. My son’s first year Portsmouth School District experience was a mix of wonderful faculty executing education or therapies but thwarted by accessibility issues that made our family question the “educate all students” mission.
I seek to lead school improvement efforts that ensure all students achieve their highest abilities, including those with significant disabilities, by leveraging best practices of inclusionary schools. Choosing not to only perpetuates exclusion in the community, and acceptance of that in key including employment, skills training, and health services. We fail our future community.
When we are not purposefully inclusionary, we are unintentionally exclusionary.
Leigh Hudson (he/him)
Has A Taste for Ewing-Skewering
To the Editor:
I look forward to your cutting down Don Ewing’s letters with your sharp wit so I was saddened to read that you’re not going to publish any of his letters… . Hopefully others will feel as I do and you’ll reconsider.
As it turns out, you are not our only reader who had an ear for our dulcet duets with Don Ewing. Before we could reconsider our decision to stop publishing his screeds, a certain sine qua non would be required: he would have to resume his practice of sending those screeds to us.