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Let the Ideas Flow

To the Editor:

I agree that works of art and literature in schools shouldn’t have trigger warnings (“Trigger Happy,” editorial, May 22). But have you ever wondered why “political correctness pervades academia and in many cases perverts its purpose”?

Do you really think academia is a cauldron of contempt and disparagement toward differing points of view? I would say exactly the opposite.

How loud do people have to shout to get their point of view considered? People of color and women, to name two groups, are hoarse. But by the time anyone hears them saying, “Our point of view isn’t even acknowledged, much less considered,” they’re labeled politically correct.

Do you really think offering a point of view that doesn’t conform to the majority’s damages learning? Do you really think educational dysfunction is the aim of people who ask that we or their classmates or students or teachers see another point of view?

Don’t you wish someone had clued you in before you unknowingly launched into a “three people meet at the gates of Heaven” joke right after your listener’s loved one had died? That’s a trigger warning. So put it in its place.

No schools — not one — use these trigger warnings, outside of professors and class leaders warning students in some cases. Is it terrible that the idea, or all kinds of politically correct ideas, is up for discussion? I’d rather not restrict the flow of ideas to those with which I’m comfortable, familiar and in agreement.

Gene Cassidy

Wilder

The Railroad Is Part of White River

To the Editor:

I take exception to most of the reasoning regarding the location of the railroad in White River Junction and the apparent “inconvenience” to some of its residents as described in “Police Target Trespassers; Hartford Residents Look for a Way Around Railroad Properties” (May 27).

Matt Bucy should retract his comparison of the rail yard to the Berlin Wall. The wall was built to separate people (East Berlin from West Berlin), but the railroad has been an integral part of White River Junction since 1848 and its main industry for many years, as well as the principal source of development.

If the railroad companies want security on their properties, then they should provide it and not depend 100 percent on the local police department.

Why are there no strategically placed signs regarding trespassing and the penalty for doing so? How about security cameras to scan the area as are now used by most companies? Have the railroads employed the local police to furnish security for them? We do not wish to know all their secrets and security measures (if any), but we should have knowledge of them. They seem reluctant to divulge that.

The rail lines are an inconvenience to people on Latham Works Lane and other areas because of their location. Crossing the tracks and the rail yard is a shortcut to downtown. That has to be an accepted condition. Since when was a business required to provide crossing privileges of its property to local residents, especially one where a person’s life and well-being could be in jeopardy?

The railroad has been here for more than 160 years and had it not been, there probably would not be a White River Junction. Be grateful and accept it.

Gordon M. Stone

West Lebanon

The Problem With Charter Schools

To the Editor:

Though I support equitable public choice and governance in education, public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors enter what they consider to be an “emerging market,” the charter school movement. Valley News columnist Steve Nelson (“Big Money Threatens American Education,” April 6) referred to the Walton Family Foundation and the Gates Foundation seeking “to privatize education and turn it into another free market commodity.” Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that “(w)hen it comes to K-12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone.”

As a national marketplace for hardware, software, textbooks and even taking over the running of a school, education becomes a private good or commodity.

These actions beg the questions: Are there key practices for which the public needs to be directly engaged? What are the risks of transferring such responsibilities to private enterprises?

Given the emphasis on test scores as measures of success, most schools aim for the highest possible scores. To achieve this outcome, charter schools tend to select fewer students with disabilities, fewer English learners, and a less poor population of students than their surrounding public schools.

Despite this selection bias, charter school performance has not met expectations. Some examples: In 2013, Ohio charters were deemed inferior to traditional schools in all grade/subject combinations. In Louisiana, about two-thirds of charters received a D or an F from the Louisiana State Department of Education in 2013. In Wisconsin, a majority of charter schools failed to meet state expectations in 2012-2013

Charter schools were originally formed to collaborate with public schools, experimenting with strategies for working with difficult-to-teach kids and sharing these lessons with public schools. But competition and the free market system have prevailed. Michael Sandel at Harvard observes that the concept of markets has expanded into parts of our society that have traditionally been governed by non-market norms.

The risks are serious. Once a public service or asset is privatized, we, the public, lose the ability to have a voice in decisions affecting that service or asset. Are we willing to support schools no longer controlled by a government accountable to the public?

Bob Scobie

Hanover

Do the Math

To the Editor:

I challenge the big-mouth politicians who oppose raising the minimum wage to try living on $7.25 per hour for six months. Do the math. That’s $15,950 per year, probably with no benefits. And all we hear is, “Oh, it’s going to cost jobs.”

John Arrison

Weathersfield