Forum, May 11: School Choice; Panther Sightings

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Reasons for School Choice

This is in response to Steve Nelson’s opinion column of April 30, “School Choice Is a Dreadful Choice,” which I thought illustrated well much of the emotional perspective behind the “public school” side of the argument.

We on the school choice side are not at all anti-science, or necessarily religious, but merely believe that parents, with their young children, should have a right to decide what to do with their money as well as with their lives.

When America was young, it used to be the case that most of the leading families were white, Protestant and Northern European. In time, many of these families became wealthy, some moving to the upper class, some to the upper middle. And with time, demographics have changed so that the old “white America” no longer exists.

It no longer exists, but the families and individuals still do. We have a right to congregate with who we want, to nurture our families in a manner we see just and appropriate, even though this may not square with the standards and practices of the liberal upper class, who so often believe they have discovered the answers to issues of society and education. Here too, on this side of the debate, there exists many old families, and it’s a credit to them that they are strongly concerned with societal betterment. Yes, public city schools will still be funded, and will move forward, but perhaps not strictly on the course, or to the degree, that they would desire.

John G. Lewis

New London

Panther Sightings in Barnard

When I attended South Royalton High School in the 1940s, we heard about panther sightings in the Randolph area. It seemed they were usually sighted in some farm pasture and went on about their business and soon were out of sight. Included in the description of the creature was “it had a long, rope-like tail.” Randolph’s weekly paper, The White River Herald, printed reports of big wild cats with “the long rope-like tail.”

My grandfather, Newman Leavitt, of East Barnard, wrote a letter to the Herald. He said, “You fellows in Randolph do not seem to know what to do about the panther. Why don’t you send him over here to East Barnard? We boys know what to do with a big wild cat like that!” Of course he was referring to the “Barnard Panther” that was shot in 1881 near Aiken’s Stand. That was a huge panther and weighed 182 pounds. It now resides in a museum in Montpelier.

I saw a panther down in the lower part of my field in mid-December 2003. I used my powerful binoculars and got a good view of the animal sitting there near the brook. I said aloud to myself, “That is the head of a cat!” Then it stood up, broadside to me, and leaped over the bushes and brook with its, “long, rope-like tail” streaming out behind it. It was soon into the woods and out of sight.

In mid-January 2006, I was on snowshoes up in my pasture near my apple trees. I came across cat-like tracks in the snow. I called several family members and they all came with cameras, rulers and we had an interesting time checking out those tracks. My brother, Bud, took his ruler, chopped out a circle of crusty snow with the cat track inside and put the track in my freezer. One nature expert from Barnard said there was “No question! It was a cat track!”

Marian Leavitt Whitaker

East Barnard

Bring Science to Farming

In Washington, D.C., and across the nation, men and women of every field and discipline marched in a movement meant to remind the public that, even when the public dismisses facts like climate change, we must embrace science in our society. At the very same time, Vermont dairy farmers grappled with budget concerns over the planning and provisions for the 2018 Farm Bill.

While science and the Farm Bill are rarely thought of together, it’s time we do. While science has always been an integral part of agriculture, many advances like GMOs, pesticides and livestock antibiotics have caused controversy in Vermont and New Hampshire. But science can lead us to healthier, less dichotomous advances as well. By adopting sustainable farm practices that incentivize more productive soils and discourage monoculture, we can eat and grow better foods. Encouraging greater research and development in agriculture will further these initiatives, but support cannot come from grassroots activism alone.

In its current form, only 9 percent of the Farm Bill is set aside for crop insurance, while a mere 6 percent is provided for conservation efforts. The vast majority of its funds support nutrition assistance programs aimed at keeping low-income urban populations fed. Like every past iteration of this bill, rural farmers and urban constituents are fighting over each other’s share of the subsidies.

Rather than continuing this decades-old trend of trying to appease both farmer and consumer, it is time to consider a change. I encourage everyone to write to your representatives and ask them to support greater subsidies toward sustainable initiatives in the 2018 Farm Bill. We must embrace our scientific minds and engineer new solutions to these problems, both in the fields and in our cities. As we look for a new way forward, it is science to which we should address our attention.

Michael Baicker


America Is Lost

We are a lost country, a broken, confused and cowardly country, a country that has silently witnessed atrocity. Terrible things have happened here of which no one will speak. It remains taboo, but the silence is painful.

If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand how human beings could remain mute for so long. I’ll never understand how such things could be allowed to occur. What have we Americans become? There is a price to pay for avoiding realty. There will be consequences. There are always consequences.

Neil Meliment


Adding Up the Energy Numbers

This is regarding the Valley News article regarding the Dartmouth College Heating Plant (“Dartmouth Plans to Cut Oil Reliance,” April 23).

After I read the article, I made some calculations. The 3.5 million gallons of No. 6 fuel oil used per year contains about 500.5 billion Btu. At an overall plant efficiency of 70 percent, about 350.4 billion Btu arrive at buildings, of which 51.2 billion Btu is electrical energy; total electrical use is 222.5 billion Btu.

This means thermal and electrical energy to buildings is 299.2 and 222.5 billion Btu, respectively, for a total of 521.7 billion Btu. The specific energy requirement of the 5 million square feet of buildings for heating, cooling and electricity is 521.7 billion Btu divided by 5 million, equaling 104,334 Btu per square foot per year, which means they are “energy hog” buildings.

Efficient buildings, using many smart design features, would use less than 20,000 Btu per square foot per year. Efficient buildings with solar panels and heat pumps and energy storage could produce enough energy to be energy neutral, or energy surplus for most of the time of the year.

If wood chips were used to provide just the of thermal energy (299.2 billion Btu per year) to the buildings, then, at 7.6 million Btu per ton of woodships, 39,368 ton per year would be required, or about six truckloads per day.

If sustainably harvested at less than 0.5 cord per acre per year (about half of the annual growth rate), it would need to be harvested from about 15,750 acres, which means it would need to be hauled from an area with a diameter of 50 to 100 miles.

Willem Post


A Cure for the Blues

Still have a bad case of post-election blues? Still waking up with apocalyptic nightmares? Worried about environmental destruction? Does malfeasance in the White House and Congress have you down?

I’ve recently found a remedy that is working wonders for me, and it’s yours for the trying: Bernie Sanders’s recent book, Our Revolution!

After just one night’s reading, I dreamed that Bernie was president and that rational ideas were emanating from Pennsylvania Avenue.

I woke up refreshed and feeling optimistic. The next night, reading further, I was exposed to a buffet of optimism and good will. After lights out, I dreamed again that a real populist was resident. Reasonable people served in his administration.

Efforts to improve the lives of 99 percent of my fellow citizens were being proposed. There were no more vicious attacks with words, missiles or bombs. Sweet dreams.

Again, the next morning, I awoke with the sensation that all was well with the world. I began reading Our Revolution almost a week ago and I haven’t felt this good since Inauguration Day 2009.

And, as an English major and former journalist, I was delighted to discover that Sen. Sanders is an excellent writer who presents his story and ideas as clearly as he speaks. Without bravado or falsity. He even gives credit to lots of other people.

I borrowed my copy from a library, but it’s well worth the cover price. In fact, I plan to buy a copy to keep handy, so I can highlight and notate its pages of proposals and information.

So, for a good night’s sleep and a brighter tomorrow, read Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders.

Douglas R. Shane


Merci, France

Vive La France! Once again, France came to the rescue of our nation.

This was my weekend! I even chose the winner of the Kentucky Derby prior to the race. These two events have given me hope!


Linn Duvall Harwell

New London