Letters to the editor

Oct. 16, 2013 @ 01:25 PM

The importance of geography

Kudos to The Herald-Sun for providing a clear introduction to the Common Core State Standards [27 August].  While you cited English and mathematics, the changes embodied in new social studies standards may be among the most far-reaching. They give enhanced status to the subject most often underrepresented in American K-12 curricula -- geography.

Sadly, many people have interpreted falsely that geography is primarily a knowledge of locations. It is so much more. 

Within an integrated social studies program, an understanding of geography is vital for a proper understanding of historical processes and events.  Standing alone, even with the youngest children, geography examines the interaction between people and their environment and people and people.  With more mature students, human geography, for example, attempts to provide a scientific analysis of people’s social and economic behavior. Geography investigates the distribution and exploitation of resources and seeks to answer who gets what? where? and how? It deals with fundamental human conditions such as development and analyzes the basis and patterns of human inequality.

While geography does not guarantee growth of international understanding, no person will develop a sense of international understanding without a firm grasp of locations, an empathy with the peoples that inhabit specific locations and an appreciation of their modes of living.

Locational knowledge is vital, but only a starting point. Any school curriculum should contain a continuous and progressive geography program that emphasizes skills, ideas and the development of empathetic and positive attitudes toward other people and toward the environment. 

Peter Travers


After-school programs need our help

We’ve heard a lot about problems in American education. We can each do something about it. After-school programs need our help.

For five semesters now, I and some other EMC Corp volunteers have been running a Lego robotics apprenticeship at Neal Middle School in Durham through Citizen Schools. The kids get exposure to computer technology, learn teamwork and get to see that all sorts of people become engineers. I’m convinced the experience will help them become successful adults.

Other volunteers have created Citizen Schools apprenticeships that match their own interestsm such as urban gardening, dance and conflict resolution.

With our state’s continued challenges in public education, it is important to help our kids in every way we can. I encourage everyone to contribute time to an after-school program. For more information on Citizen Schools, find them on the web or come to the Citizen Schools Lights On Afterschool program this Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Neal Middle School, 201 Baptist Road, Durham.

Dan Oldman


John Hood’s logic games

After criticizing John Hood's logic in a letter published two months ago, a patron personally wrote me wondering if I'd ever written letters objecting to columns by "NC Policy Watch or other liberal organizations".
Well, No.  I may find fault with the priorities and the effectiveness of arguments posed by such organizations, but none compete at the level of bald-faced assertion as sometimes does John Hood.  I remain suspicious that Hood is offering academic exercises.
Hood begins his Oct. 13 column by stating, "Obamacare is going to collapse."  He does follow with many discouraging points on which I agree.  We have good reason for concern for how smoothly the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be executed.  The law clearly leaves disparities remaining in our system even when fully functional.
But Hood never clarifies his meaning of "collapse," or what this catastrophe looks like.  Instead, he posits deregulation as the consumate cure for managing the [fill in the blank] whatever that won't be "simpler and universal."  Who thinks health care ever is simple or universal?  One of Hood's enlightened steps on the solution path is:  "Create viable high-risk pools to subsidize those with expensive preexisting conditions in the most rational way".
Care to clarify terms, Mr. Hood?  Does viable mean "private"?  Does rational?  The ACA involves private insurance companies (not a socialist, single-payer plan) and significantly, it covers preexisting conditions.
I seek a viable and rational means to educate myself on issues without the logic games Mr. Hood loves to flaunt.

Jim Eshelman