High school test sets too high a hurdle

To the editor:

I’m angered and frustrated by the fact that two-thirds of sophomores in our local high schools have failed the math portion of the proficiency test. (April 23: “Clark County School District sophomores bottom out on state’s math proficiency exam.”)

Most of us read that headline and think that the upcoming generations are either lost, stupid or both. The sad fact is that most of us adults wouldn’t pass the test either.

For the past six months I’ve mentored a senior at Cheyenne High School who has passed all of his classes, but has been unable to pass the math and science proficiency exams. The student is charismatic, smart, funny and a great communicator. He works two jobs to help support his family. His future earning potential will be hampered however if he can’t pass these tests. In an effort to help him during a recent meeting we started to review one of the exams. To my surprise the test was extremely difficult.

It’s not simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Nor is it simple algebra. The test includes sophisticated algebraic and geometric equations. It tests their skills on things that have no bearing to real world math application unless you decide to become an engineer. I would argue that less than 10 percent of the professional population with college degrees wouldn’t pass this test if they took it tomorrow.

The student isn’t an idiot by any stretch. His work ethic will eventually make him successful, but he will have to clear extra hurdles if he is unable to get a high school diploma. Legislators, I challenge you to take this exam and see if you’re currently qualified to graduate high school. Please don’t hold today’s students to a higher standard than you had.



Bad judgment

To the editor:

Mr. Candelaria uses the McDonald’s coffee spill case as an example of a stupid jury decision (“Frivolous lawsuits,” April 22 letter). Here are the facts of the

McDonald’s case” The injured woman was in her 70s. She wasn’t driving; her grandson was driving the car through the drive-through. The car wasn’t moving at the time of the spill the driver had stopped and was parked. The car had no cup holders and the dash was sloped so the only place the woman could hold the coffee was between her legs. When she tried to remove the lid to add sugar the coffee spilled on to her lap. She suffered second and third degree burns to her genitals and upper legs. She required extensive medical care including skin grafts. At this time McDonald’s was brewing its coffee significantly hotter than industry standards. Prior to this incident McDonald’s had received more than 700 complaints from customers who had been burned by their coffee but McDonald’s refused to lower the temperature of its coffee. All she asked of McDonald’s was that the company pay her out-of-pocket medical expenses, which amounted to about $20,000.00. McDonald’s refused to pay her medical ills and told her to sue. She sued. After the jury verdict McDonald’s lowered the temperature of its coffee and no more customers were burned.

Perhaps HPN will alter its practices so future patients are not injured or killed. Sometimes only a jury verdict will get a corporation to act ethically. Perhaps juries are not as stupid as Mr. Candelaria believes.



Legislating error

To the editor:

It’s fashionable to consider limiting the exercise of rights protected by the U.S. Constitution in light of the tragedies involving the shooting deaths of innocents. Legislators should be aware that their job is not to be popular but critically thoughtful in creating legislation, basing their judgments on information that relates directly to behavior not ideas that are several steps removed from behavior.

The idea of “mental illness” is not a direct link to behavior. Mental illnesses are opinions based on ever shifting values. The definitions of what makes up a ‘mental illness’ changes with regularity and is open to ongoing modification.

The evidence for this is plainly stated by the American Psychiatric Association in their publications. In each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now in its fifth version, mental disorders are added, deleted and changed.

This isn’t a foundation that laws should be written on. It’s a grave error to legislate using “mental illness” as evidence or justification.

To address the issue of who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase or have in their possession a deadly weapon such as a firearm legislators should look to evidence that points to behavior, not ever changing opinions about what is or isn’t a “mental illness.”



Movie ‘42’

To the editor:

I want to thank you for your column on the film “42,” the moving story of the African-American baseball player, Jackie Robinson. (“‘42’ has valuable lessons to teach,” April 20 editorial). For me, an American historian, the movie brought back countless memories of hatred and bigotry that many African-American “firsts” faced in their effort to bring about change in the United States.

There was, however, something far more personal for me. I could still see the face of a courageous man, Medgar Evers, who sat across from me at Campbell College in 1960 in Jackson, Mississippi, as we discussed a possible Easter boycott and ways to realize the ballot for black Americans in the South. Medgar’s life ended with an assassin’s bullet from a rifle as he opened the door to his home. And I could still see vividly the face of the mother of James Chaney, a young black boy slain along with white civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner when I walked past Mrs. Chaney’s home in Meridian, Mississippi in 1964.

It’s not surprising that these flashes of the past would emerge in the minds of any sensitive historian; the movie often provided the necessary cue. Indeed, if Jackie had not been spirited out of certain towns and places, bigotry could, as it often did in an America not so long ago, have taken his life.



No fooling around

To the editor:

Now that we have suffered another tragedy from people entering the country on student visas it is time we follow the Swiss example. I was a fellow at the University of Zurich and my time and visa expired in December. I was going to France to start another fellowship at the University of Paris in January. I had learned German but did not speak French so decided to stay in Switzerland until January.

I was notified to report to the police station — which I did. The office checked his computer and said: “Why are you here?” I said: “Because you told me to come.” He said: “No, why are you still in Switzerland? Your visa has expired?” I explained the situation and he allowed me to stay until January.

In Switzerland, when I was there, you could not even rent an apartment without a visa. Unlike America where you can buy a house even if you are undocumented. A simple starting point to prevent future tragedies would be for immigration agents to check on all the student visas and see that indeed they are still in school, progressing normally and when they plan to return home. This should easily be accomplished with these “documented” individuals.

In the great debate: if we are to grant amnesty to undocumented people in the United States, what about the documented ones that came here with documents?



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