Forum, June 10: Don’t Expand VA System; Support the Co-op; Brain Benefits of Cursive; Lebanon School Board Caught Off-Guard

Don’t Expand VA System Now

To the Editor:

Sen. Bernard Sanders has introduced legislation to expand VA medical services. I disagree. The VA hospital system does not need more doctors or space. It should concentrate on its core function, the expert care of service-related physical and psychological injuries, as it once did. The VA has good doctors, but I do not need the VA to take care of my age-related infirmities. If, however, we as a community should decide otherwise, then give me and my fellow veterans a piece of plastic that will pay any doctor a reasonable fee to take care of my ailments. Co-pay should be means adjusted, of course. Veterans groups will complain, VA doctors and administrators will complain, medical schools will complain (the VA is a cherished venue for students and residents in training, and for adjunct faculty), and populist politicians will whine. Health care will not suffer.

Many of us are familiar with the Dartmouth Institute, a local and highly visible health policy think-tank headed by several well-published and politically well-connected former and current VA doctors. They are in an ideal position to carry out a serious cost-benefit analysis of VA health care delivery (which has never been done), just as they have written critically (Los Angeles Times, Washington Post) on the effectiveness and costs of several segments of our general health care system. Let’s challenge them to do that analysis and wait for the published results before we invest in an unwise, unnecessary and costly expansion of VA medical facilities.

Walter W. Noll, Major, Medical Corps, U.S. Army Reserves

Professor of Pathology Emeritus, DHMC


Kenyon Picks Over the Facts

To the Editor:

The latest iteration of Jim Kenyon’s ongoing and baseless vilification of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society (“Co-op and Competitor,” June 4) is notable in part for its focus on the irrelevant and the trivial. A busy pediatrician who served on the board uses a nanny to help take care of her kids. Some items at the Lebanon store have been moved. A policy of asking members to show their membership cards was implemented but later rescinded. If this is the worst Jim Kenyon can come up with, the public can be reassured that the Co-op is on the up-and-up.

In fact, though, there is more reassurance to be found in Kenyon’s column because he also persists with his habit of ridiculing the Co-op for doing the right thing. A long-overdue renovation project at the flagship Hanover store is launched; Kenyon calls it a “gamble.” The Co-op strives to serve blue-collar and wealthy people alike; Kenyon sees a bunch of limousine liberals trying foolishly to run stores “that Cesar Chavez would have patronized.” The bottom line improves even when sales decline and Kenyon sees a futile effort to compete with the Belgian conglomerate that opened a new supermarket in Lebanon a couple of years ago.

Finally, Kenyon persists with the canard that the Co-op is more expensive than the supermarket chains and claims to prove it by purchasing a whopping five items at both the Co-op and a local chain grocery store. Good grief! You don’t have to be Cesar Chavez to see this campaign for what it is: sour grapes.

Donald M. Kreis


The Co-op Helps the Community

To the Editor:

A recent Jim Kenyon column targeting the Co-op Food Stores left out a lot of valuable information (“Co-op and Competitor” June 4). In our society, we don’t learn much about the cooperative business model, so it’s understandable that this model is confusing. Essentially, a cooperative is a business that is voluntarily owned and democratically run by its members. Rather than existing to generate financial profit, it exists to meet the need of its members. A patronage refund won’t make you rich, so if you’re looking to make money from an investment, you’re better off taking a gamble in the stock market. However, if you’re looking for social and environmental returns from your money, a cooperative is a very worthy investment. You see, we are not here to be the cheapest grocery store in town. We’re here to give our members a choice to make a difference when they shop. In Kenyon’s shopping comparison, he forgot a few other things that were in that Co-op basket. For all of that extra money you paid, you also invested in donating thousands of pounds of fresh produce to Willing Hands to help feed the less fortunate in our community. You supported a group of Co-op staff volunteering to cook a Listen dinner. You helped ensure that a single mother working at our grocery store had health insurance for herself and her child. You supported small farmers, both locally and afar, in getting fair prices for the food they grow for our communities. In just one small purchase, you’ve invested in so much more than a breakfast. You’ve made a valuable contribution to your community and you’ve used your dollars to help create a better food system.

So while you may think that is too much to pay for this benefit, I will gladly continue to shop at the Co-op because I am proud of the things this business represents and especially of my fellow staff who go above and beyond every day to make sure your money creates a better community.

Amanda Charland

Co-op Member and Employee


American Guinea Pigs

To the Editor:

School boards and school teachers across the country are using American children as guinea pigs in a dangerous brain experiment, solely because they have been seduced by millions of dollars of “carrots” offered by the U.S. Department of Education to states that adopt the Common Core Curriculum and its assessment test. There are 47 such money-hungry states including Vermont.

The Common Core prescribes that children in public schools be taught keyboarding and technology skills, but it is absolutely mum about the teaching of cursive.

The result is that, desperate to have their students pass the Common Core test encouraged by the Education Department, schools are reducing the time spent on cursive, if not dropping the teaching of handwriting entirely.

I suppose this would simply be irresponsible rather than unethical on the part of American educators, if the New York Times had not published results last week of brain research done on children while they engaged in practicing handwriting compared with children who engage in practicing keyboarding.

The result? Brain scans show that children who practice cursive fire three different areas of the brain, while those who engage in keyboarding fire only one. “The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex. By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.” (“What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, New York Times, June 2, 2014”)

Why are parents across America silent in the face of this unauthorized, unethical experimentation with their children’s brains ?

I suspect that like the rest of us (myself included), parents are engaged in the mass worship of the false god of computer technology.

We need to snap out of it before we raise a generation of brain-impaired children.

I say begin by lifting this digital curse on cursive.

Paul D. Keane

White River Junction

A Failure to Anticipate

To the Editor:

I’m sorry to hear School Board Chairman Jeff Peavey say he was “shocked” by the resignation of Lebanon High School Principal Nan Parsons (“Turnover Continues In Lebanon” June 5). “We didn’t see it coming” he said. School board members are put in place by voters to see things coming. If you can’t see what’s going on in our schools, why on earth are you even there? Any school board members who “didn’t see it coming” should resign.

Mike Peterson