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As a professional classroom teacher for 16 years, I am quite amused at the Independent's highlighting of state Sen. Michael Johnston as their centerpiece for education reform in Colorado ("Greater than, less than," cover story, Dec. 4). Also amusing was the Street Smarts column, detailing the troubling trends and difficulties in education, which are all hastened consequences of Mr. Johnston's "reforms."
While I grant him his knowledge of school funding, his understanding of the modern-day classroom is severely lacking. In fact, what is particularly amusing about the article is the impression that he has "worked with tough kids." Yes, he did. For two years. He was a teacher in the classroom for two years on the Teach for America program. He did his short time in the classroom, using it as a springboard to likely pay off his college loans and then leap up to the administration level.
His SB 191, mandating high-stakes testing as 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, with absolutely no accountability on the student taking the test, has created a daily miasma of stress on both teachers and students, an unprecedented focus on "teaching to the test" at the expense of P.E. and the arts, and has opened the door to the slippery slope of merit pay. The reality behind this law has resulted in districts hiring more irrelevant data collectors/interpreters/managers at the district level at the expense of direct classroom effects.
So Independent, I chuckle as you hold up this man as some kind of education pioneer and completely miss the direct consequences that have befallen the classroom based on his supposed reforms based on two years of actual teaching.
— E.W. "Chip" MacEnulty II
Recently the Regional Business Alliance presented an award to Wayne Williams for conducting "fair and clean" elections in El Paso County.
The only problem is Wayne did nothing to promote fair elections in El Paso County.
As a matter of fact, during the last election Wayne shut down voting at Centennial Hall, where most Independents and Democrats vote. He didn't open it up again until we activists threw a fit demanding fair access to polling places.
He was also asked to remove the group of people filming voters coming out of Centennial Hall. He refused.
After the recall, we were informed that Wayne Williams' former employee Alissa Vander Veen had voted outside of her district, which is being investigated as voter fraud. This doesn't seem like fair and clean elections to me.
In the end, Mr. Williams did the bare minimum to meet the new voting laws in El Paso County. He did not in any way, shape or form go out of his way to promote ease of voting.
The Regional Business Alliance, which is supported by public money from Colorado Springs Utilities, used this award as a ploy to endorse Wayne Williams as a candidate for Secretary of State. Colorado Springs Utilities belongs to all people of El Paso County, not just Republicans. The Regional Business Alliance (formerly the Chamber of Commerce) can never expect to serve our county if they insist on rewarding the cheaters and obstructionists in local leadership. They must work for the good of all to make our city and county amenable to businesses and grow jobs and prosperity in our region.
— Carolyn Cathey
New fear-filled year?
The end of another year is upon us, and I wonder how many people are in the mood to celebrate the holidays. Personally, I find it hard to think about festivities and the Christmas spirit when day after day our world seems to become more frightening and dangerous.
When I was raising my children, in the '60s, they had fire drills at school. Would anyone have had the remotest thought that we would have to prepare them for someone coming into their schools and shooting them? Of course not.
If I were raising children now, I would be afraid to send them to school. At the time of Columbine, I was working as a librarian at a local school. I had kids asking me if I thought someone would come into the library and kill us. That is horrific. No young child should have to live in fear every day of his or her life.
How the parents of the Newtown children can ever recover is beyond me. Now we have a young girl fighting for her life in Arapahoe County, survivors of previous shootings still feeling the effects of those, and who knows how many out there, hearing all of the publicity and perhaps thinking they can become media stars. It is a sickening and disheartening situation.
Yes, many responsible people have guns, like to hunt, want protection for their families, etc., but can't we reasonably try to come up with some partial solutions to this problem? Better regulations? Better background checks? Shouldn't we all want this awful situation to stop?
It's hard to feel festive and happy, to look with enthusiasm at another year approaching, when life has become so fraught with danger. Can't this be the year we do something about it?
— Sally Alberts
Not Nixon's plan
You have to love it! The article by Jim Hightower, in the Dec. 11 Independent ("Obamacare was a GOP idea," LowDown). A small fact: The GOP and Richard Nixon did want the private insurance companies to get together, for a more national health insurance option. They did not include the government running the operation.
That is the part Jim seems to have left out, along with the fact that the GOP plan would have required bipartisan congressional acceptance. In short — it would not have been rammed through in the middle of the night and been passed to then see what was in the law.
This current idea is in no way even close to the original. This is controlled by the government, not private insurers. The private insurers are mandated by government law(s) that are being constantly ignored or changed by the man in the White House. We have been and are being lied to about how Obamacare is to work, and from what we have seen so far is not working.
We will pay the price for this government-run failure, and that is the truth.
— Ron Patterson
Coming off gluten
Gluten can cause health problems ("Your brain on grain," Appetite, Dec. 11), but so can quitting. I think everyone should at least try it for a month or two, but be alert for withdrawal symptoms and other major changes.
Gluten can affect many things, like hormones and blood sugar, and it's uber-ubiquitous in our Western diet. It can also create addiction in some people, so going gluten-free is not something to be taken lightly. Proceed, but proceed with caution.
— Steve Suhre