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    Letters

    04/01/2001
    on 11/1/02.

    WEIGHING IN ON PUBLIC SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS
    Textbook selections
    I applaud the efforts of State Board of Education member Dan Montgomery to address the issue of the state's textbook selection process (Nov. 26, "Education board isn't doing things by the book"). As Montgomery points out, publishers are caught between proposing a factual text that meets the state's curriculum standards and, at the same time, not offending the sensibilities of those who would prefer that we not teach facts they don't like.
    Unfortunately, our current textbook selection system is driven by money, and publishers who want their books selected must satisfy some very vocal groups. Legislation requires that the SBOE select textbooks that are factually correct and adhere to Texas' curriculum standards. It's then up to the local school districts to determine which books to use from the state-approved list. The SBOE blatantly violates its duty and defies legislative intent. Why should we continue to entrust our children's education to a group of people who willfully ignore the law?
    DONNA HOWARD
    Austin
    Howard, a Democrat, unsuccessfully challenged Montgomery in the Nov. 5 election.
    Correcting errors
    I am the reviewer who recommended rejection of a textbook on American government, to which Dan Montgomery seems to be referring, that taught that the Constitution could be "amended" by acquiescence to practices that violate it. The publisher did not agree to correct that error until the day of adoption because the author withheld his consent until that day. The publisher finally agreed to the change, nearly at the last minute. The State Board of Education would have had to reject the textbook or allow it to continue to misinform our students.
    The SBOE has enabled expert citizen reviewers to discover errors in textbooks and suggest corrections. Some have mischaracterized this process as yielding to demands by social conservatives for content changes that support their ideological agendas. The reviewers have been focusing on real errors, which have been numerous and serious.
    In this case, the misrepresentation of how the Constitution is amended was not just an error; it was a deception. It will now be corrected.
    JON ROLAND
    Austin
    Facts over ideology
    Citizens for a Sound Economy's Peggy Venable made some good points about educating school children (Nov. 27, "Giving our children right tools for learning"). She said parents should be involved in education. However, parents should not override scientific knowledge because of religious ideology.
    Parents who don't like the geological fact that the Earth is millions of years old or that fossils formed millions of years ago should be educated on the subject instead of having that idea removed from textbooks.
    Parents need to be involved in education, but experts should be the ones to decide what is a factual error and what is not.
    MARK JOHNSON
    Austin
    Most charter schools good
    As a private educator and a father who chose several charter schools over the local school system for my children's education, I have seen the positive difference between charter schools and public schools. The Austin American-Statesman's ongoing campaign elucidating the failure of a few charter schools is an attack on a decent solution to a terrible problem: the politicization of education by the public school technocrats and the gradual distraction from true education that has come from it. The charter school movement is one a solution that works.
    It should come as no surprise that a percentage of charter schools will fail. Those examples of financial failure on which the American-Statesman hangs its ideological hat are a small fraction of the charters. Most are successful. I would like to see comparable figures of Texas' public school mismanagement touted by the American-Statesman's editors.
    KEVIN TAYLOR
    Austin
    Idea for a courthouse
    One of the greatest eyesores downtown -- next to the Intel shell, the Comptroller's Office and the Post Office -- is the half-block due north of the existing Federal Courthouse. What a novel idea. Condemn that half-block, and build an annex onto one of the better-looking buildings in downtown.
    Naw, that's too logical and probably less expensive for taxpayers.
    KENNETH E. HOUP JR.
    Austin
    Giving to Israel
    Once again in the name of anti-terrorism, Israel asked the United States for an additional $4 billion in military aid and more in loan guarantees to bolster its economy.
    Since we know that the financing of the settlements on the West Bank and Gaza is done with American money, will this administration tell the Israelis that any aid to Israel must carry the stipulation that none of it directly or indirectly can be used to finance, maintain or otherwise support any Israeli settlement on the West Bank and Gaza? The United States is obligated to do this under international law and under a whole slew of U.N. resolutions, which it hypocritically demands be observed in Iraq but not in Israel.
    PETER J. RIGA
    Houston
    More pressing dangers
    Is anyone angry about the Department of Public Safety's "Click It or Ticket" campaign but me?
    They can just go ahead and mail me the traffic ticket.
    We all know the greatest cause of traffic accidents is a combination of high speed and tailgating, or drunks. So what are our law officers doing about this? They're writing more seat belt violations, of course.
    The "Click It or Ticket" campaign is absurd in protecting us from ourselves instead of from those really out to hurt us. Those sworn to Serve and Protect have turned instead to Nag and Harass.
    Sure, children should always be buckled in. But, wearing seat belts as adults in a land of purported liberty, we adults get to choose. So just mail me the ticket right now. And if a summons to sit on jury in a case of seat belt violation, I will acquit. Police need a reminding that there are real dangers to confront.
    R.F. MASON
    Lewisville
    Better places for events
    Why does every little event in Austin have to take place be in the middle of the street? We have a city coliseum, parkland all over across town, an exposition center, and even an unused airport. There are other places in Austin These are all places to have book fairs, marathons, hoop nights, etc., other rather than in the middle of some a street.
    I read recently that there are even was some fools that want to have a marathon on an active runway at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Why can't they run on the perfectly good unused runway at the old airport? What is it about showing off in the middle of the street and blocking traffic that is so attractive?
    The City of Austin needs to learn to say no to these idiots. What next? Are they going to shut down Interstate 35 for tailgate party?
    RODGER BARNES
    Austin