Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 6, 2012

Letters to the editor - Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012

Voters, Washington, fiscal responsibility

For a bit of background music ...

The president asked two men, Erskine Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff for President Clinton, and Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, to conduct a study on the following: the fiscal cliff, the national debt ceiling and related matters regarding Congress’ runaway spending patterns.

Their recommendations which included spending cuts, new taxes and other fiscal actions were presented to both the president and Congress after a two-year study. Congress refused to act, and the president ignored their findings.

Here we are a year later. On C-SPAN yesterday, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson were asked what they believe are the most serious problems facing our economy. Their response was to reiterate: the fiscal cliff needs to be addressed at once, the debt ceiling, likewise cuts in discretionary spending and related fiscal restraint actions which they had laid out previously.

I called Congressman Burton’s office on Friday and relayed my concerns. This lack of decision-making will have effects: increased inflation, more unemployment, fewer services, expiration of the Bush tax cuts which affect us middle-class Americans. The country can easily fall into another Great Recession and maybe one worse than the one we’re just beginning to come out of.

The bottom line: It’s up to you and me and all citizens, Democrats and Republicans alike, to step up to the plate! Your congressmen, Dan Burton and Joe Donnelly, are in the middle of this mess. Please take a few minutes to call or email them, as well as Sens. Dick Lugar and Dan Coats.

There are 10 or 12 days before the Congress recesses for the Christmas break. It needs to hear from each of us. The deadline looming ahead is Dec. 31st. Without your voices being heard loud and clear, we face dire consequences soon!

Ralph Reddersdorf, Kokomo

Teachers deal with chaotic classrooms

I thank Margaret Brown and Mark Heinig for their replies to my letter concerning the third-grade literacy testing requirements. Both provided details of which I was unaware.

Both also reinforced my observations that teachers today are caught in the middle. They go into classrooms hoping to teach motivated students at their respective grade levels how to master a variety of academic subjects.

Instead, they face requirements imposed on them by federal and state mandates that do not always translate sensibly in the classroom. They face parents who express various forms of animosity toward the education process. They face students, some of whom are motivated to learn and others who seek to distract everyone. They face classrooms that, according to teachers I know who have been in the profession for years, continue to become more and more chaotic.

I have my conclusions as to why classrooms have become more chaotic. My evidence is anecdotal, but it is accurate, for it comes from my own experience in public school systems.

I remember when the day began with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. I remember when parents supported the academic goals of the teachers and the discipline that sometimes had to be administered.

Indeed, the only time I recall my parents expressing dissatisfaction in any of the school systems I attended was when they complained that I was not being challenged enough. Just what a junior high student wanted to hear!

I remember orderly classrooms and an atmosphere of respect between students and teachers. And on those relatively few occasions when respect, good order and discipline broke down, it was quickly restored.

I remember learning and working to master the subject matter that was presented to me. Is this what the education system is like in public schools today? Not according to what I hear from those actively in it.

Oh, not everything is negative, to be sure, but there is a lot more chaos now than in years past. Why is that? Well, what has changed between then and now?

According to my personal experience and observations, the answers jump out to me quite clearly. But, again, I am not a professional educator, so perhaps those with the expertise and scientific data can provide their answers.

Charles A. Layne, Bunker Hill