History isn't about spewing facts

To the editor:

Recently, my divorce attorney gently snickered when I answered his question about my post-secondary education.

Why the snicker? My degrees are in history, focusing on American history.

In response to your Friday editorial, "History class," which was critical of proposed changes to public school history standards, I can assure you that no job or law school application has asked questions about the names and places of American battles of any century. More importantly, and more to the point of why I'm writing this, such a view obstructs a constructive conversation about how best to teach history to kids.

I taught American history at UNLV for three semesters, and I really, really did not want my students simply to spew facts at me. Instead, I wanted them to learn the relevance and meaning of some key facts, and then to show me they could convey that relevance and meaning in a clear and convincing way.

Sure, it would be cool for young people today to know the facts of the Great Depression. Even cooler would be for them to be able to speak and write about it well.

Employers, I think, place value on that ability, not on knowledge of important battles in our past.

Studying history is a means to an end: It can provide an opportunity for kids to master a much-needed set of skills. Let us focus on providing them a means for learning how to think critically, to synthesize data and to present it for others to scrutinize.

The end, however, is not that young people become more patriotic and less apathetic about all that has transpired before they arrived on this planet. The end is that our youngest citizens are ready to join us upon graduation as productive members of society, equipped with valuable, transferable skills.

Isn't that really what most folks would like our educational system to accomplish?

Cheryl Grames Hoffman


Class act

To the editor:

Most people who have lived in Las Vegas for some time know the contributions Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury has made for the benefit of this community. Without his guidance, we wouldn't have the Las Vegas Beltway or ways to pay for our expanding transportation infrastructure. We wouldn't have a visionary transit service that is gaining ridership by the day. We wouldn't have a flood control program that will save hundreds, if not thousands, of homeowners from the ravages of Mother Nature.

Say what you will about term limits, but it should be the voters who decide who takes office, not an elected body of attorneys ("State high court rules 21 ineligible," Saturday Review-Journal). If an elected official is not doing the job, vote them out of office. Plain and simple.

People don't realize the institutional knowledge that will be lost when Mr. Woodbury is forced from office because the Supreme Court ruled as it did. Shame on Secretary of State Ross Miller for bringing this issue up after candidate filing had all but closed. How many good candidates, who were waiting for Mr. Woodbury and others to retire on their own, now can't run because Mr. Miller chose to bring this issue forth without thinking of the ramifications it would have on Clark County? He effectively took the right away from voters to vote for candidates we believe in.

As for the Supreme Court justices, they have just made their case for judges to be appointed instead of being elected. They were afraid to do the right thing and allow these duly elected public officials to fill out their terms with dignity. Despite what many believe, we do have honest, caring politicians who make tough decisions every day so that Southern Nevada can continue to be prosperous.

I, for one, am still going to vote for Mr. Woodbury in the Republican primary and I implore others in his district to do so as well. For all he's done for Clark County, Bruce Woodbury deserves a fair shake and to be treated with the same class that he exhibits every day. I just wish there were more public servants like him.

Doug Bradford


This is 'news'?

To the editor:

In what at first appeared to be a news article from The Associated Press that you published in Sunday's edition, headlined "Senate Republicans block measure on aid for poor," the second paragraph read as follows:

"Although a dozen Republicans support the measure, most voted with GOP leaders who would rather spend the time trumpeting their call to expand offshore drilling before Congress takes six weeks off." It seems to me that the Review-Journal could save a bit of money by simply printing news releases from the Democratic National Committee rather than paying The Associated Press for the same thing.

John Garth