- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

With love from Britain

As a sometimes reader of the Internet edition of The Washington Times, the editorial, “Bush’s British support” (Sunday), was of particular interest. It did, however, contain one error of fact, as more than 400,000 people marched to save hunting, four times the number of protesters that could be rustled up to protest the president’s visit.

From the British perspective, it also missed an opportunity to remind the AmericanpeoplethatPrime Minister Tony Blair, despite his fine speech proclaiming that it was worth fighting for the right to be “free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others,” intends to allow his left-wing backbenchers to curtail the freedom of hundreds of thousands of British citizens to go hunting.

NICK ONSLOW

Canterbury, United Kingdom

Yeas and nays for the Medicare bill

It’s difficult to understand how some people (including some Democratic senators) can be so gullible. The Medicare bill that just passed (“Senate approves ‘historic’ reform of Medicare,” Page 1, Wednesday) is a fiasco; the only beneficiaries will be the insurance and health care industries and the huge multinational pharmaceutical companies that have paid lobbyists vast amounts in support of it. The Republicans worked on this bill for two months, in secret, and then allowed the Democrats 48 hours to read its 681 pages. It should have been obvious that all was not honest and aboveboard.

The drug program has a monthly premium of $35, rising to $58, and an annual deductible of $250, rising to $445. And it leaves a gap of $2,850 to be paid by retirees, later rising to between $4,000 and $9,066. It allows employers to discontinue any health benefits they had agreed to give retirees. The bill also is the first step in privatizing Medicare, thereby eventually dismantling it — part of the Republicans’ and President Bush’s wish list. And, the $395 billion cost is paid for by yours truly, the taxpayers. It’s another scam pushed through by the Bush administration under the pretext of helping the people.

CHARLES PRENDERGAST

Los Angeles

The Senate passed and sent to the president a historic Medicare bill that provides affordable prescription-drug coverage for seniors and improves the Medicare system. While a majority of senators were concentrating on how to fix our nation’s problems, some Democrats continued their policy of protest, pessimism and obstruction by opposing it and attacking those who support it, instead of attacking the challenges we face.

For the first time in Medicare’s history, a prescription-drug benefit will be offered to all 40 million seniors and disabled Americans in Medicare to help them afford the cost of their medicines. Beginning next year, all beneficiaries will receive 10 to 25 percent off the cost of most medicines through a Medicare-approved discount card. Starting in 2006, those who do not have coverage will be able to cut their monthly bills about in half for a $35 monthly premium. Under this new plan, seniors who are happy with their current coverage can stay right where they are. The legislation reforms the system so it is there for the next generation, while allowing seniors to choose the health care plan that best suits their needs, rather than having the government choose it for them.

This legislation is supported by AARP and other seniors organizations because it is good for seniors. The House and Senate passed it because it is good for seniors. President Bush is going to sign it because it is good for seniors. This legislation is a huge achievement in our nation’seffortstoimprove Medicare and a huge victory for Americans as the holiday season approaches.

MATTHEW VERITAS TSIEN

Louisville, Ky.

Perturbed and disturbed

As a school-district representative in Colorado, I have some points to ponder regarding the Nov. 20 editorial “Disturbing test scores.”

Factually, when attempting to teach a lesson in two different languages, it does take twice as long. As we cannot make each school year twice as long to do this, something has to give.

In this case, it is the education American children are getting.

Surely, this cannot surprise anyone out there.

To fix it, look to the source. In this case, it is not your teachers or your school districts that are broken; it is our government, which caters to and does nothing to counter illegal aliens’ “rights” to U.S. education.

Call your local congressmen and call your senators to complain to them.

MARTY LICH

Gypsum, Colo.

Your editorial “Disturbing test scores” is right in terms of its expressed alarm, but in my studied view, things are much worse in American education than the latest results indicate. The instrument cited — the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — is a test bathed in secrecy, but one known to be the product of the most politically correct wing of the education establishment, a wing with an overriding social-engineering agenda that puts very little stock in pure academic excellence.

Where the largest margin for doubt arises is in mathematics. Having taught for many years in the Washington area in various schools, and this year having tutored extensively in the more affluent parts of the city and its suburbs, I can tell you that math knowledge and proficiency are clearly at an all-time low — quite contrary to the “improvement” shown on the NAEP since 1990. The public needs to be educated in terms of how such a skewed representation is produced.

Because of the NAEP’s secrecy, little is known about the material on a given edition. However, it is clear that the general thrust is similar to that of several other current national measures, including the Stanford 9. That particular abomination of an examination virtually forces math departments to ignore basic skills and concepts and to eschew natural sequence and key connections to focus on pretentious, trivial snippets from all over the map (and beyond). The available textbooks cater to such tests and are similarly oriented (in the name of “integrated math,” a “broad topical approach” or the like).

A typical high-school-age product of such training does not know his basic arithmetic or multiplication tables, cannot perform the four basic operations on multidigit quantities, can neither long-divide nor obtain a mixed-number quotient, can work only the most spoonfed problems involving fractions, knows nothing about powers or roots, is totally lost in terms of positive and negative numbers, can neither read nor write numbers of more than three digits and (because of such deficiencies) can work no problems of any consequence at the algebra I level or beyond. Yet such a pupil (especially if he’s naturally intelligent) can do reasonably well on the current crop of standardized tests because all of these essentials have been sacrificed to prepare him (essentially by rote) for the very specialized, totally perfunctory material on these tests — much of it culled from advanced areas that any meritorious curriculum focusing on the well-being of the students won’t even reach. (And, thus, such a program will be severely penalized for doing things right.)

In my tutoring of middle-schoolers (through the eighth grade) this year in Montgomery County, no pupil has passed the end-of-course math exam that first-graders had to pass to advance to the second grade at the World Charter School in the District, where I was director of studies two years ago. Seniors (most taking precalculus or beyond) whom I taught SAT preparation at an upper Northwest school were given (as a take-home test) the pre-algebra end-of-course exam, which — over a four-year period — 100 percent of my own students had passed. The average score of these seniors was 17 percent; one of them could correctly answer none of the 125 questions (all arithmetic). As a teacher in the Integrated Design ElectronicsAcademyCharter School, which serves the children of military personnel from all over the country, I saw similar results during several recent cycles.

Do not tell me that meaningful gains are being made in mathematics learning in this country. Precisely the opposite is true. Something is wrong with any standardized test that shows otherwise.

CHARLES R. LEWIS

Washington

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