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- January 25th, 2010
Performance & schools
Stephen Tuttle’s opinion piece, “Performance-based Silliness” (Spectator,
1/18) while not exactly wrong, reflects a misconception about including
student test scores as a criterion for evaluating teachers.
Legislation measures the amount of improvement a class shows over the
course of a school year so it is irrelevant whether an individual student
has learning difficulties. If that student scores a 48 one year and a 58
the next, that might be a sufficient increase to justify a bump in salary,
providing the rest of the class improves similarly.
His implied view that social promotion does not help students learn is not
supported by research. Students held back fall further and further
Also, while, “returning discipline to the teachers” might be helpful in
some situations, even better would be to design a learning experience that
does not require such a heavy hand of discipline: smaller class sizes,
better communication with home, a curriculum that fits the child’s needs,
trained counselors, and special learning environments for those that need
Certainly there are “bad” teachers, though they can be fired for due
cause. If Tuttle is arguing against tenure for teachers, then he should
also specify how otherwise excellent teachers who disagree with
administration can be protected from dismissal or how those at the top of
the salary schedule can avoid being sacrificed to accommodate a less
expensive new hire.
What is glaringly missing from Tuttle’s discussion are questions about the
use of a standardized test to measure what goes on in classrooms. Do test
scores reflect the child’s attitude towards school? Do children want to
learn more even if they get high scores? What about subjects like art and
music -- which are not easily assessed by such tests—are they to be
ignored? Do standardized questions measure adequately traits such as
creativity and problem-solving? And what about the social learning that
goes on in classrooms—how can a test measure that intangible?
It’s a terrible idea to use test scores to bolster salaries of some
teachers, but let’s make an honest argument against it that recognizes all
of the pitfalls without misrepresenting the proposed rules. That way, we
build strong opposition to short-sighted policies propounded by
politicians and others far separated from schools and children.

Richard Fidler • TC

Digital technology impact
Re: “The Great Job Eater” and the impact of digital technology: good piece
-- a timely topic that also includes fallout from
Have to feel bad about Border’s. To their credit, they purchased local
music CDs, whereas Horizon Books’ best offer is consignment. The irony is,
CDs are a commodity. With local music at least Border’s had something
everyone else did not -- they had something proprietary with local CDs. In
retrospect, they should have promoted this area better. Border’s and local
musicians will suffer from what looks like at minimum, massive downsizing.

Paul Tegel • Elk Rapids

Digital tech not a threat
Your article “The Great Job Eater” really got us thinking. Technology
certainly has been a job eater. The printing press put thousands of
scribes out of work. You, personally, could greatly improve employment
possibilities in the Grand Traverse area by using scribes to duplicate
your paper. Isn’t this worth a try?
The telephone is a technological “advance” that did quite a bit of damage
to peoples’ chances for jobs. Think of all the young men and women that
would be employed as messengers, were there no telephone. This might
solve much of the youth unemployment problem.
And speaking of these youngsters, how would they get their music? Without
technology, we would need to hire musicians to play for us in our homes.
Wouldn’t our young people enjoy that?
Furthermore, technology has really ruined employment in the home.
Electricity, central heating, refrigeration and the like have destroyed
the jobs of millions of potential servants. After all, a couple of
hundred years ago, people often had a house full of servants. What
excellent employment possibilities there were then. Of course, most of us
would be the servants, rather than be those people who have the servants.
But so what? It’s only employment that matters, right?

Judy and Fred Swartz • via email

Avatar brainwashing
Many of the “wizards of Hollywood” enjoy making movies about oppressed
peoples or characters in need of rescue - and they’re darn good at it. The
most popular scenarios are to cast antagonists as bizarre evil “corporate
interests,” coupled with a battalion or so of let’s say... bloodthirsty
zombies? Oh not that... too tame for this hardened bunch. How about some
pathological left-wing gangsters? No, doesn’t fit the worldview... Let’s
go with some former members of the U.S. military, special ops, Marines...
yep, that’s the ticket. As if you can find these morally deprived folks on
any street corner willing to abandon their core values, blindly following
unlawful orders in exchange for a buck.
Thus we witness Avatar, a visually rich and entertaining piece that
ultimately brands this particular group of military veterans (and their
corporate masters) as insane lunatics that thrill at the prospect of
butchering gentle native people.
It is oftentimes difficult to take such simple minded military bashing
seriously. If not for the blatant worship some Americans display for the
political and celebrity elite, I would be happy to ignore the genre
altogether. But alas, we have an admirable system of governance that
actually encourages people to embrace opinions and vote in elections.
History teaches us that if such negatively biased points of view are
allowed to reign unchecked, ignorant folly could be the result.
The reality regarding the rescue of oppressed people, is that the job
never gets done by celebrities on stage; it most often only gets done with
the blood sacrifice and honorable conduct of the “average Janes and Joes”
of our U.S. military wading into the fray. Ironically, the best chance for
the Na’vi people depicted in Avatar to obtain relief from oppression, is
to call upon the United States Marine Corps for aid and assistance. ho-ah!
The Na’vi people depicted in Avatar have a saying, “I see you,” which
means something like, “I see into your heart.” So, to my brothers and
sisters of the profession of arms (currently serving or former), I and
many countless Americans see you and say, be proud of your military
heritage and THANK YOU.

David Page, US Army, retired • TC

Nothing wrong with
Beagle tweets
Regarding James Carpenter’s letter, “Overwired Hipsters,” (1/18) in a
Huffington Post article entitled “Who’s a Hipster?” Julia Plevin argues
that the “definition of ‘hipster’ remains opaque to anyone outside this
self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle.” She claims that the “whole
point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled.”
Mr Carpenter should not to take himself too seriously, as anyone who read
the article, “The Great Beagle Chase” (1/4) could see the “levity of Lima”
for what it was intended in this world of otherwise tragic, fear-inducing
While Mr Carpenter might have some background on his dismal
interpretation, I can attest that Gary Howe (the owner of the lost beagle)
also has a background for his technologically-inclined one. You see, there
was a time when Gary and I growing up did not have a house to come home
to; a time when children were supposed to have snacks and hugs waiting. I
worked since the age of 15; made a home for us at 17; and Gary thus
graduated and went out into the world not knowing what “not having” meant.
He gained a “non-government paid” degree, learning three languages,
obtaining a 20% down mortgage, and is now apparently “tweeting and
(By comparison) Mr Carpenter’s best effort might be to stock up on
duct-tape, inflatable rafts and batteries from Walmart.

Julie L Howe • via email
Prison chat
On Wednesday, January 27 at 5:30 there will be a Q&A session presented by
the League of Women Voters on prison reform at the TC District Library.
The panel will be composed of Phillip Rodgers (my sentencing judge), Dave
Pratt (warden at Camp Pugsley), a representative of the Michigan Parole
Board and Barbara Budros (TC City Commissioner) will moderate.
My concern is the $2 billion per year Michigan spends on the prison system
which still results in a 50 -70% recidivism rate. Did you know that
one-third of all State workers are employed by the Michigan Dept. of
Corrections? Did you know Michigan is one of only two states that spends
more on prisons than on higher education? We could easily cut $500-600
million per year from that budget and simultaneously reduce recidivism.
I’ve seen the waste within that system and it is beyond imagination.
Unfortunately, there is only one way to witness this mess first-hand
and I don’t recommend that as part of the learning experience.
Please bring your questions and come watch the fireworks!

Gary L. Singer • via email

Commies on the run
The former senator from Massachusetts must be rolling in his grave as the
voters of Massachusetts have spoken... God bless each and every one of
them in their votes for Scott Brown.
My faith in America has been restored with the repudiation of the gang of
socialists and communists running things in Washington as of now. America
can ill afford this gang’s agenda. Let’s hope our own senators Levin and
Stabenow heed the alarm bells this vote is sounding and rethink the entire
agenda they are attempting to steamroll us with..God bless America! The
tide has turned!

Brian Spencer • TC

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