Early education: a path out of poverty
Thank you to columnist Matthew Hansen for so succinctly summing up the benefits of investing in early childhood education (Feb. 4 World-Herald).
In doing his research, Hansen found that we get more than just a return on our investment. Children who receive high-quality early education can find a path out of poverty and a chance at a life they choose, a chance to become productive citizens and contribute to society.
This in itself is worth the price of investing in early childhood education.
Linda Walters, Omaha
Early education a value from yesteryear
When I read the column asking whether early childhood education really works, I found myself saying, “Really, why are we even questioning this?” I don’t have a degree, but after raising my own children and working with many others, I cannot understand why anyone could not see the benefit.
When I look back at what my great-grand- parents and grandparents accomplished with limited formal education, I don’t understand why we cannot connect the dots and see that the children of those generations had wonderful early education.
From birth, children of the late 1800s worked by their parents’ side. I learned my colors and how to count by my grandmother’s side on a quilt she made. It is sad that today some child care must be left to others.
I applaud the Susan Buffett Foundation and the Holland family’s support of early education but think it should be taken a step further. Education in schools and prenatal treatment should include information about infants’ rapid brain development.
Georgiann Conn, Omaha
Necessity drives the 5-paragraph essay
Regarding the Midlands Voices commentary on the five-paragraph essay (Feb. 5 World-Herald): An old poster pictures a chimera of a five-paragraph essay — a head, body and tail — labeled no bite, bulky body and limp tail. How did this mode of writing develop?
During World War II, too few American soldiers had the requisite reading and writing skills for modern warfare. The country needed more troops with high school diplomas. As a result, after the war, high school populations swelled, with few students headed to college.
In response, pragmatic teachers developed the five-paragraph essay to make their grading load manageable. But the five-paragraph essay is form-driven, rather than idea-driven, and college-level writing requires the latter mode. Further, the five-paragraph essay, which is plastic rather than generative, assumes the writer knows his or her content before starting. But writing is a method of discovery, not a box for transporting an idea.
The solution to teaching writing well is providing smaller classes. A quick computation will illustrate why: number of students multiplied by grading time multiplied by essays per semester. The answer explains why the five-paragraph essay remains in the classroom.
Susan Stein, Omaha
Ashamed of exclusionary thinking
I was recently part of a group discussion with a woman considering a move to Omaha. When she asked about diversity, the group proudly listed growing minority populations.
But then I began to feel guilty about misleading the woman with too rosy a picture and mentioned that Omaha’s African-American population has the highest homicide rate in the U.S. What happened next was typical. The group reassured the woman that this statistic is irrelevant because they do have some problems in north Omaha but that this is a small part of the city.
I’ve lived in the area nearly all my life and have heard this sentiment repeatedly. I am ashamed to admit that I have probably said something similar. But this time I actually heard what was being said — the categorizing of a population as an other and the dismissing of that category as irrelevant.
We know this type of exclusionary thinking is dangerous. But do we realize it when we think this way about our fellow Omahans? Can we admit it? Can we alter the image of Omaha that we project to include all Omahans and every part of Omaha? Can we forgive each other for having engaged in exclusionary thinking for so long?
If we can’t do these things, does it matter how much money or manpower we devote to improving our alarming homicide statistic?
Lora Mae Frecks, Omaha
Gun laws not to blame for homicide rate
Regarding Helen Gillespie’s letter about Omaha’s black homicide rate (Feb. 2 Pulse): This has nothing to do with our gun laws. Our gun laws are strict enough. Criminals who have time to run around shooting at others are no more going to follow any new laws than the laws they already disregard.
Folks are free to disarm themselves, but do not seek any law to infringe on my right to life. Wake up and smell the roses, or smell them at the next funeral of an innocent victim. But do not presume to make me one.
Carrie Conradson Halford, Fort Calhoun, Neb.
How do we find balance for firearms?
I’ve seen a billboard somewhere that says “Guns save lives.” While that may be true in some circumstances, such a sweeping claim cannot be made. Guns also take lives.
We need to figure out a state of balance in which innocent folks are not caught and destroyed. I wish I knew how.
Carol Sanderhoff, Omaha
Crossroads project needs more thought
It sure appears that Crossroads Village developers Rod Yates and Fran Krejci just swallowed the canary (Jan. 31 World-Herald). Could it be that the city got out-negotiated?
Shouldn’t the status of the existing restaurant tax — which Mayor Jean Stothert so vehemently opposed — enter into these discussions as a part of our total tax obligation, not to mention the issue of funding a public library in this project?
The City Council should ask some serious questions, get some clarity on this “once-in-a-lifetime” deal and determine how much liability Omahans are willing to take on.
Sonny Boffa, Omaha
Library, park elements seem half-baked
After one wades through the hyperbole and euphemisms from the developers and politicians, it appears that the plan for the proposed Crossroads Village has been rushed to the public with sketchy details cloaked in “we can’t tell you now, but trust us it will be good” promises.
I hope the City Council demands more information before selling out the farm. For starters, the proposed library footprint appears to be smaller than many of the city’s neighborhood-sized libraries. It’s almost as if it’s an afterthought. How does that fit in with the library system’s master plan, and how do we fund it?
And what the developers are calling a “park” would be better if it extended to Dodge Street for better public access.
If I’m going to buy a car, I don’t want to hear just that it has four wheels and rolls. Show me the design and the options and what’s under the hood.
Justin Ryan, Omaha
Casinos fail to reduce property taxes
Property taxes do not go down with the coming of casinos.
I have lived in Iowa all my life. If anything, these taxes go up. The money they generate goes for everything but. Do not think that having casinos lowers property taxes.
If you like to gamble, that is the only asset to having casinos in your state. Oh, and there is more fancy outdoor art all over.
Theo Ilene Dooley, Council Bluffs
Casinos would keep money in state
We Nebraskans could have a chance to once again vote on casino gambling since State Sen. Russ Karpisek has introduced legislation along that line. I ask Nebraska to carefully consider a yes vote. Our legislators need to get their heads out of the sand and move this bill forward.
All states bordering Nebraska are using our money spent in their casinos to benefit their states when we could be using it right here.
If we are to defeat gambling in our state, then we should also reject the lottery, all scratch-off tickets, keno, bingo and any other forms.
People are going to spend their own money as they wish, so why not keep it in Nebraska?
Daniel L. Dilla, Lincoln
Tobacco doesn’t belong in drugstores
Kudos to the CVS pharmacy chain for taking the bold — and obvious? — move to stop selling tobacco.
Hopefully, other health-minded retailers will follow suit. It has long irritated me that otherwise well-meaning drugstore clerks chirp the admonition to “Be well!” while standing in front of a wall of cigarettes at the checkout stand.
Steve Paschang, Omaha