Jaime Escalante; healthcare reform and seniors; cutting hours at libraries

Escalante’s lessons

Re “Jaime Escalante 1930-2010: Maverick fought for academic equity,” Obituary, March 31

I was saddened to read of the passing of famed teacher Jaime Escalante. He reminded us of universal truths about education:

An excellent teacher can make a huge difference in a child’s life; poor children, like children everywhere, are capable of high achievement; even the best teachers need the involvement of the student and the support of the family; student achievement is affected by “administrative turnover and cultural differences.”

Escalante showed us the way to a good education for all. Now it’s up to the nation, and our newspapers, to acknowledge what we know.

Linda Mele Johnson
Long Beach

In the early 1980s, I was sitting in a small office at USC along with other members of a student-aid fund board awaiting the arrival of a student applicant from Garfield High School. She had rushed, explaining she was late from having to retake an AP calculus exam.

During the interview, she blew us out of the water. Subsequently, we discovered a veritable gold mine of academic talent coming from the classroom of one particular teacher named Jaime Escalante.

Over the years, we gladly supported these talented students who had been driven by this dynamic teacher to see far beyond their own environment and community.

Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I came to know Escalante through the students who came to us. I also knew he was doing something very right when we saw some applicants drop offers from us because they’d been accepted to another top school.

James Lee
Santa Monica

Getting older, needing care

Re “What’s in it for our seniors?” Opinion, March 30

Improvements in the healthcare reform act that will lay the groundwork for renovating the nonexistent long-term care system can’t come too soon.

As the primary advocate for my 90-year-old mother who is sliding into the ravages of Alzheimer’s, I navigate community- and hospital-based systems to do my best to see that she can access resources to be reasonably comfortable and safe.

Creating a public, voluntary long-term care insurance program and expanding home and community services will not only benefit seniors, it will benefit their caregivers’ health through expanding the resources needed by these seniors.

Maria Heckman
La Crescenta

The opinion article addresses important misperceptions about healthcare reform programs that result in quality-of-life and economic benefits.

Our Medicare system was designed for acute, short-term care, but as we grow older, so does the need for continuous care for multiple chronic conditions.

Though we may not all agree on how to pay for newly passed healthcare legislation, we must recognize that coordinating care of Medicare beneficiaries will reduce emergency room visits and unnecessary hospitalizations. This will reduce costs and focus our healthcare system on providing services that enhance function, wellness and comfort.

Incentives to treat Medicare beneficiaries in their homes with a multidisciplinary team of professional geriatric care managers and in-home caregivers who collaborate with healthcare, social service, legal and financial providers will assure continuity of care and fill gaps in the care plan to support patients and families.

Eric C. Rackow
New York
The writer is chief executive of SeniorBridge.

The value of music

Re “The trouble with easy listening,” Opinion, March 26

Steve Almond rightly claims that the easy omnipresence of music has devalued it. Milan Kundera, the brilliant Czech-French novelist, complained that music has become background sound, and he suggested that even speech no longer had a privileged position.

I think that the cellphone has done to speech what the iPod (and its progeny) has done to music; it has turned speech into jibber-jabber, the background noise of many people’s lives.

I’ve noticed that when my students leave the classroom -- a place for the speech of thought -- many at once flip open their cellphones to wash away thought with the mindless hum of “social networking.”

Technology is not only the superhighway of information; it is also the morphine of schmooze.

David Eggenschwiler
Los Angeles

Groovy article by Almond. The other side to his nostalgia trip is the whole quality-versus-quantity thing: Listening to iPods as background music is sonically inferior to the “old way.”

When I listen to music, I want to be immersed in the best CD (or vinyl) recording available, with high-end speakers and a capable receiver, with everything balanced to near-perfection with a calibrated microphone.

The tiny earphones and MP3 files of iTunes are no match for audiophile sound.

Not surprisingly, I don’t watch movies on a computer screen either. It’s that quality thing.

Rocky Midyett

I can think of other examples of value lost with the ease that technology has provided.

When my children were small, the showing of “The Wizard of Oz” on TV was a major event to be anticipated and then savored.

Now readily available any time, its fantasy, mystery and simple special effects are overshadowed by such fare as the new “Alice in Wonderland” -- yet it is still a classic icon.

As an artist, I know the value and creativity of the tactile experience of the pen, pencil or brush as it touches and creates on the paper or canvas. The digital art produced now -- while effective and attractive -- seems stagnant and flat. Its superficial value is fleeting as the observer looks toward the next innovation.

We have gained, but so much has been lost.

Marty Wilson

The commentary took me back to a time of rug indentations on my elbows; it was a design created from hours of listening to records while I was sprawled on the shag carpet with my chin resting in my hands.

It was years later -- while setting up a listening center for my first-grade students -- that I realized that listening to those albums while staring at the lyrics actually taught me to read.

Julie Borkin
Long Beach

Making the best of library cuts

Re “Libraries cut hours, days,” March 27

Question: If city library hours are to be shortened, or libraries closed one day a week, why would that day be Sunday? Why not a weekday?

School trips still would be possible four days a week, and surely at a time when working schedules (for those fortunate enough to be gainfully employed) deviate so commonly from the traditional Monday to Friday, Sunday may be the only day when many can go to their public library.

Tony Barnard
San Pedro

Hopping mad at rabbit merchants

Re “A downtown rabbit rescue,” March 28

Thank you so much for running this story. Seeing people selling animals like this is sickening. I hope they’ll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I also hope this story educates people that buying these animals perpetuates terrible cruelty. There are thousands of bunnies available for adoption at rescue groups.

Buying any animal from a vendor when shelter animals die every day is just plain stupid.

Rory Freedman
Los Angeles