For math proficiency, teach students to add better

In response to "Student math doesn't add up" (July 12) and the three responses that followed, I would like to reiterate a basic suggestion correctly made by Liz Bowie and bypassed by Higher Education Secretary James Lyons that proficiency in arithmetic is key. Please don't get distracted by the sociopolitical demand for more college math courses, because the result of not addressing the fundamentals is the situation addressed correctly by April Kerns (July 14).

I have just ended 39 years of teaching in a top Baltimore County high school, and for the last 20 years many of us have asked the curriculum offices and our administrators to address the basic arithmetic, graphing and spelling deficiencies presented to us. This is reading, writing and arithmetic. This is long before trigonometry, calculus, AP English, etc. Let me suggest that if you want more success in high school and college, demand memorization, remove the calculators (especially graphing calculators) that are enfeebling the minds of very capable students from classes prior to Algebra II, put away the cell phones, and pick up a good book.

Dave Phoebus, Baltimore

Cats (and humans) deserve mercy from churchgoers

I was glad to learn that a solution was reached regarding the situation between North Baptist and a group of feral felines ("Church relents on cat feeding ban," July 19). It didn't seem very churchlike of the people to protest the fact that some were feeding the cats on the property and complaining they "bothered" parishioners. How would a kitty "bother" them by coming up and mewing? That hardly seems threatening.

At any rate, it was nice to see this story end well. It is not the animals' fault they are hungry and homeless, and it is a shame that there are so many of them (as there are the human variety).

Cheryl Herman, Pikesville

Influence of health insurance lobby prevents real reform

If anyone wonders why health care reform is so hard to come by in our country, look no further than the two elephants mating in the parlor. The first is the profitability of the health insurance industry. The second is the degree to which just about every lawmaker in Washington is beholden to that industry for his/her campaign financing.

Nobody gets sent to D.C. these days without a boost from some insurance lobbyist or other, so the hands of congressmen, senators and even presidents are tied when it comes to any law change that even hints at cutting into insurance profits.

The situation of a sixth of our people is becoming desperate. It will have to become far more dire before our lawmakers put a meaningfully amended care system in place. It will take a while, but I believe it can happen.

The presently discussed plan clearly isn't it, but we'll have to try it despite its seemingly low potential. This is how Americans do things. As it has been said before, Americans can be depended on to do the right thing, after all other options have failed. So hang on and pray that you don't get sick for the next decade or so.

My condolences to those who can't last that long.

Thad Paulhamus, Baltimore

Consider justice, not special interests

It seems to me that all the talk about being bold and courageous when it comes to health care reform has been just that - talk.

What angers me the most is how quickly and easily enormous payouts were made available to failing banks, with little or no accountability to taxpayers, yet Americans are dying every day while Congress runs in circles trying to please the insurance industry and make it appear they're doing something about health care reform when they're not.

Those charged with making the decisions about this issue should employ the social contract theory espoused by John Rawls' in Justice as Fairness. Legislation should be written "behind a veil of ignorance" so that "no one is advantaged or disadvantaged" by the plan. Legislators, like the people, should be willing to accept whatever potential outcome results; in other words, they should truly be able to put themselves in the same situation as that unemployed or underemployed American with a pre-existing medical condition or chronic, severe or debilitating illness.

As long as Congress remains insulated from the moral consequenses of its decisions, there will be no substantial progress on this issue. As long as Americans and their representatives continue to view health care as a commodity in the capitalist free market and not a human right, we will continue to suffer as a country and a people. It's long past time for a single payer national health care system.

Susan Bearns

Cronkite coverage overzealous

Before you can confer sainthood on Walter Cronkite, he has to pass through the preliminary steps of Venerable and Blessed.

Alfred Funk, Timonium

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