The media's role
Re "9 more killed in Afghan protests," April 3
I was touring in Egypt last September when the Koran-burning story was originally reported. The story was being continuously repeated on cable news channels. I wanted to cringe when I was out in public; what must these people think of us?
The media blitz was still on when I returned home. U.S. generals, politicians and State Department officials all expressed the view that the Rev. Terry Jones' irresponsible actions could have deadly consequences. I believe that the irresponsible reporting in the media's continuing effort to create sensational news is what leads to deadly consequences overseas.
The original story should not have been considered newsworthy even at the local level. Of course, this type of sensational reporting does create more news, as evidenced by The Times' April 3 article. Jones got his 15 minutes of fame.
The challenges of teaching
Re "Singled out for skills, he's now a role model," April 3
As a retired teacher, forgive me for saying "poppycock." The only "news" about the teacher collaboration at Broadus Elementary School is that administrators let it happen. Teachers already seek, invite and at times demand collaboration.
My experience spanned at least seven accreditations at four schools. The most important goal was "collaboration time." Teachers despaired when meetings and opportunities for collaboration were absorbed instead by administrative work.
If you want to know who the effective teachers are, try asking the kids. At one of my schools in the early '90s, students produced an underground evaluation of the faculty. Teachers who were quite popular did not necessarily rate highly, and two stood out with ratings that said, "Not always nice but you learn every day." It was a revelation that I never forgot.
Bravo to both Miguel Aguilar and The Times for focusing on the kind of teaching that I hope is a prediction of things to come: teaching children to think. What better equipment can be given to children than the ability to think critically? It's not on the what that needs to be learned, but the why.
I feel encouraged to know that attention is being paid — on the front page, to be sure — to this important issue.
Re "Teaching is tough sell amid layoffs," April 4
How about reporting that teaching is a tough sell thanks to poor treatment by society, including The Times? The paper brands teachers as ineffective based on test scores and then puts some of them on the front page. Radio show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou are emboldened to ridicule teachers.
Has another profession ever been this disrespected? Who would sign up for this job in the future?
My children are interested in teaching, but I have told them over and over again to teach in college, where students still have a degree of responsibility for their educations. Don't allow yourself to be scapegoated teaching K-12.
This tells half the story. Just getting a credential these days — especially at a Cal State campus — is an exercise in frustration as you deal with a muddled bureaucracy that seems to be primarily set up to deter would-be applicants with incessant demands for paperwork, endless certificates of this and that and increasing fees. What you get at the end is just a ticket that maybe entitles you to apply for a job.
I'm not a teacher, but I'm married to one, which for many years meant that I had to earn for two, as her wages never really covered the expenses of going to work. Now I have to watch my son enter the system; once again I'm paying for certifications, courses, exams and much more.
Heaven only knows why they do it. All I know is that I'm fed up with politicians, talking heads and bureaucrats.
Prop. 13 inequities
Re "Time to tinker with Prop. 13," Column, April 3
Steve Lopez may be right, but whoever tries to change Proposition 13 better be wearing flak protectors. I voted against Proposition 13 because I thought it was bad public policy. It turned out to be much worse than anything I imagined in 1978. Today I am an octogenarian still living in a house I bought 40 years ago by the grace of Proposition 13, which I know is still bad public policy.
Anyone who would tinker with Proposition 13 had better begin by correcting the undeserved benefits given to industrial and commercial property owners before they even begin to think about the residential inequities, which pale by comparison. I and others will go ballistic if anyone tries to address residential inequities before dealing with the far greater commercial problem.
Charles M. Weisenberg
I agree with Lopez's contention that there is an inequity in the amount that different owners of houses are taxed. I agree completely that Warren Buffett's case, in which his house in Laguna Beach is taxed $2,200 per year while his house in Omaha is levied at $14,000, is unfair. The obvious solution is to lower the tax on the house in Omaha to $2,200.
Why is it that tax proponents always want the fairness to be achieved by increasing taxes? This is similar to Gov. Jerry Brown's promise of "fairness" by having Californians vote on a tax increase, but not allowing them to vote on a tax decrease. Are we Californians dumb enough to fall for this scam?
Richard W. Lillie
Re "Telling of Holocaust's horrors," April 2
It is certainly true that Elie Wiesel's is an extraordinary life. Even aside from his role as a symbol of Holocaust survival and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning champion of human rights everywhere, he is one of the most eloquent writers ever to put pen to paper.
Still, his success is also a reminder of what the world lost in the Holocaust. In my own family, I lost two great-grandfathers: Jakob Korn of Borowa, Poland, and Naphtali Zilberberg of Chodecz, Poland; my grandfather Aaron Silver's brothers Szlama, David and Noach Silberberg of Slesin and Chodecz, Poland; my grandmother Regina's sister Golda Szczeciner Kaminer of Warsaw; their spouses and children; and hundreds of cousins.
How many of them — and of the other 6 million who perished in the Shoah — might also have lived extraordinary lives?
Stephen A. Silver
'Tea party' signs
Re " 'Tea party' welcomes a shutdown," April 1
I often wonder about the "tea party" members who paint protest signs. Some of them say, "What part of 'broke' don't you understand?"
My reply: What don't you understand about the government's budget being fundamentally different than your household budget? When you can't pay your bills, your services get cut off. Nobody cuts off Uncle Sam.
If you owed, say, $100,000 to a creditor or the IRS, you'd be in serious trouble, facing civil suits, collections or even jail time. But if a Fortune 500 company has hundreds of millions in losses per year, they keep on doing business. Why? Because their creditors don't shut them down -- just like the government.
Mr. or Mrs. Tea Partier, your personal financial strategy just doesn't apply outside your home. What part of real-world economics don't you understand?