Forum: June 20: Soccer for Americans; Cursive and Learning; Danger in the Streets

Give Soccer a Chance, America

To the Editor:

I had to heave a deep sigh when I read the article on the World Cup (“Watching the World Cup Is Un-American,” June 17). It is sad that such an incredible sport gets this type of rap in our country. I would argue that soccer is the sport of the world and should be “American” for very good reasons. Americans could learn quite a bit if they thought about why.

First, unlike football, it is an inexpensive game to play. Grab a ball and some cleats and you are ready to go. I have seen kids in Africa play barefoot with a ball of string, and kids in the streets of Philly play with a ball of trash. You don’t have to invest in heavy equipment to have fun and get in shape. Second, soccer is a game of fitness, athleticism, speed and agility. Play does not stop for commercials; it is fluid, continuous and heart pumping. That’s unlike football, where so many players weigh over 300 pounds and would be hard pressed to run for 90 minutes. Look at our obesity rates versus the world’s. Sports matter. Americans need to do less sitting and more playing, less watching and more doing.

And finally, I love soccer because it unites us all: male and female, child and adult, rich and poor, black and white, Christian and Muslim. Soccer has a truly global reach. Soccer is a language that crosses cultural, social, religious and gender barriers. It should be American to be inclusive. American football, unlike soccer, is not an Olympic sport as it is too exclusive. To me soccer is truly American, because anyone has a chance to play and be great if they work hard and run for the goal. So, if you are not a fan, take another look at the sport. Even better, go try it.

Heather Wittmann


Cursive and Better Learning

To the Editor:

A Valley News editorial and a letter from Paul Keane (“American Guinea Pigs,” June 10) hail new research that shows cursive writing enhances children’s brain development. That’s interesting.

In 1919, Samuel Orton, M.D., was called to create a Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Finding that so many intelligent children referred for mental health problems were non-readers, Orton overcame their disabilities by utilizing four pathways to the brain: seeing, speaking, hearing and writing. He continued his research in New York where he became professor of neurology and neuropathology at Columbia University.

Because Orton collaborated with teachers, his clinical work has evolved into a classroom standard. One teacher, Romalda Spalding, found her children with disabilities did better using Orton’s techniques than children in her regular classes. In 1957 she published a teachers’ guide (now in its fifth revised edition) called The Writing Road to Reading. Children begin first-grade writing manuscript letters, easily joining them later for cursive. With patient, precise instruction, every child, even those with weak motor skills, writes neat, legible letters, which, except for “a” and “g,” look just like the letters they see in books.

In the same patient, precise manner, the children then learn the 70 phonograms (26 letters and 44 letter combinations) representing the 45 basic sounds of English speech and blend them into our 1,500 most commonly used words. They hear teacher’s dictation (no copying), say what they hear, write what they say, and see (and correct) what they write. Written language talks to them. They hear ideas. They think. They write sentences. They read — and love it.

And so do taxpayers. Reading teachers and work books gone, special education needed only for the few truly disabled. But not here. When an Upper Valley teacher tried to use The Writing Road to Reading, her principal made her stop because “It’s too structured.” The school was committed to partnership in learning, where teachers and kids have fun together so learning can happen. Orton’s method, instead, uses excellent teaching to show children that fun, and brain development, reside in the hard work of learning. This is a fundamental pedagogical truth.

Thomas Graves


Danger in the Streets

To the Editor:

One of the joys of life in a small town is walking to work each day. I walk from my home near Hanover’s Ray School to my teaching job, totaling more than 700 miles during a single school year. I do this for various reasons: preserving our environment, saving money and maintaining my health. Although walking to work is a healthy option, it isn’t very safe. The major intersections on Park Street are especially hazardous. There are walk signals, but I note that many drivers don’t know about section 265:11 of the New Hampshire statutes: “There shall be no right turn allowed for any vehicle while a steady or flashing walk signal is being displayed.” The problem of drivers ignoring the walk signal in their hurry to make a right on red is so severe at the Lyme Road intersection that I prefer jaywalking across Lyme Road over endangering my life at the controlled intersection. Insanity!

When you are stopped at a light with a flashing or steady walk signal, please relax and wait. No pedestrian should have to guess your intentions or make eye contact to know whether it’s safe to cross.

Eric Dennison