Sunday’s Letters to the Editor
Sep 4, 2016

Failing schools

EDITOR: Forget preparing students for the 21st century. Our school system isn’t even preparing them for the 19th century (“School test scores up in county,” Aug. 26). When fewer than half of students meet expectations in English, and fewer than 40 percent are competent in math, we are confronted with two dismaying alternatives: either most students are incapable, or the system is dysfunctional. I think it’s mostly the latter. Good teachers struggle mightily, but to quote W. Edwards Deming, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”

No organization that relies on the competence of its workforce — in government, the military or industry — would use the instructional methods of the public schools. Effective training doesn’t allow learners to fall behind and requires mastery at each stage. Schools have conflated training in skills with the provision of social services, esteem building and cultural enrichment — all important to be sure.

My opinion is that hard skills ought to be taught differently, perhaps using a skills certification model that is independent of grade level. There really are subjects in which there is a right answer, no matter how you feel about it. We need to do something different, and soon.


Santa Rosa

Anthem protest

EDITOR: I can’t help but notice the irony when it comes to the recent letters regarding Colin Kaepernick choosing not to stand for the national anthem. There is a rush to equate Kaepernick’s decision to sit with an inherent disrespect for the military, as if one cannot be critical of the current state of our country without blatantly discounting the sacrifices made every day to protect our freedoms.

Setting aside our country’s fixation for a song whose (since removed) third verse explicitly cited the death of slaves, the main criticism launched Kaepernick’s way is that he is discounting the efforts of the current and former members of the military who have fought for his various freedoms. One of which, of course, is the one he is exercising — freedom of expression.

Interestingly, some of the strongest backers of Kaepernick’s decision have been members of the military. A quick search of #veteranswithkaepernick on Twitter reveals tens of thousands of current and former military members who have voiced their strong support, recognizing that what they are fighting for is Kaepernick’s right to stand up (or sit down) for what he believes in.


Santa Rosa

Where was Wood?

EDITOR: Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, has just helped deny economic equality to those who harvest our food. Assembly Bill 1066, which just managed to pass the Assembly will, if Gov. Jerry Brown signs it, grant overtime pay to farmworkers after an eight-hour day or a 40-hour week — conditions the rest of us enjoy, but they never have. And Wood abstained. Didn’t vote. Shame on him, but — I suspect — kudos to the local dairy industry, whose fingerprints are all over this.

What doesn’t Wood get about economic justice?



Targeted from the right

EDITOR: So many words, so little substance. That’s my reaction to Marc Thiessen’s column in Wednesday’s paper (“Where are the #NeverHillary Dems?”).

There’s a simple answer to his question: She hasn’t done anything to warrant it.

This article, like so many others authored by conservative critics, uses public opinion rather than facts to build a case against Hillary Clinton. After claiming the she has “lied to the American people,” Thiessen cites opinion polls showing that there is a public perception that Clinton is untrustworthy. Opinion polls aren’t facts.

What the right has done for years is to work very hard at creating a perception of corruption, only to then point to the perception as proof of the supposed fact.

Thiessen and other conservative critics, stuck with the catastrophe that is the Donald Trump candidacy, would like to create the impression that Trump and Clinton are equally bad. They’re not; not by a mile. He says that “for Democrats, the Clinton Foundation is a PR problem, not an ethics problem,” and while he means that ironically, he’s actually right. It’s not an ethics problem, and it’s only a PR problem because of all the work that the right has done to make it so.



A ‘sane rebuttal’

EDITOR: Thank you for Paul Gullixson’s astute editorial on Santa Rosa’s marijuana mecca (“Do we really want to become the mecca for marijuana?” Aug. 28). I had begun to think The Press Democrat was promoting legalization with the three headline stories in August, so it is refreshing to read Gullixson’s sane rebuttal, as it has given me some more specific information to pass on to friends. So many people are not aware of the down side to this issue. I was especially interested to read what John A. Jackson of the Colorado Police Chiefs had to say. Our young people have no idea. So thank you for stepping out and sharing. I hope you don’t get too much abuse in return.



Dog fights

EDITOR: Over the years, I have had some experience with large dogs fighting (“Neighbor thwarts dog attack,” Wednesday). The thing that works best is water. Inside the house, a spray bottle set on sharp stream with a little vinegar added to get their attention will usually allow you to separate them.

If this doesn’t work, go calmly outside and get the garden hose. Set it on sharp stream, and turn it on full force. Bring it in the house. I guarantee the dogs will still be fighting. Turn it on the dogs full force in the face and mouth. After they are separated, you can dry your house. The water won’t cause any permanent damage.

Don’t ever get between fighting dogs. It is important to stay calm and not scream as this will excite their prey instincts.


Santa Rosa