You report (“Maine’s ACT scores up slightly as test takers top national averages,” Aug. 18) that students in Maine who took the ACT exam scored higher on average on all exams than the national average. Maine’s scores have also increased each year since 2006.

Although such results appear positive, it is likely they are also meaningless. Of all the states in the country, Maine had the lowest percentage of students taking the test, just 10 percent.

And which 10 percent would that be? In all probability, those most likely to do well on the test (which is more popular in the West, just as the SAT dominates in the East).

There were eight states in which at least 95 percent of the students took the test.

If Maine were one of those states, the results might mean something. But with only 10 percent of students taking the test, the results are, in all probability, of absolutely no significance.

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island

 

USM a better school now than its former parts were

 

If colleges and universities did not change, few of us would actually be in them, as teachers, staff or students.

Classes would still be in Latin (which might be fine for some, but difficult for most of us). Curriculum would be based on preparation for the ministry, dealing with inherited land, and perhaps the ability to write angry screeds.

In their time colleges and universities of that nature may have served a useful purpose.

The University of Southern Maine, and public higher education in Maine in general, however, have broader goals than those.

L. Morrill Burke’s column, “If USM is to be a teachers’ college again, why all the frills?” (Aug. 14), represents a misreading of President Selma Botman’s June 25 column and a misconception of the changes at USM. It also suggests the importance of real literacy.

We may and should argue over the nature and timing of change. In the process of restructuring, people at USM have been doing so, generally respectfully. President Botman has provided intellectual leadership in that discussion.

The best structure for preparation of K-12 teachers is one example of a serious and debatable matter. How to preserve and foster growth in liberal arts, and also to prepare for employment students who have no trust funds on which to live, is another issue.

Honestly, regarding Mr. Burke’s view, it is amazing that anyone is still engaged in the battle over the merger, 40 years ago, of Gorham Normal School and the Portland university. Let’s move on.

Eileen Eagan

Associate Professor of History, University of Southern Maine

Portland

 

Scontras column on debt raises issues to ask about

 

Regarding Dean Scontras’ column about our multitrillion-dollar debt (“Total national debt tops $75 trillion, with more being added daily,” Aug. 16), I have questions.

How can we admit there’s a problem when all we’ve ever known is a Congress who spent more than they’ve collected since 1969?

How can our leaders, who know the nation’s needs, obligations and perils, tell us there would be no problem if only we confiscated more from small businesses and the wealthy? Yet, if we taxed everyone more, would our problems truly disappear?

Conversely, if local, state, federal and bureaucratic government agencies slashed budgets to reconcile the balance sheets, how high would unemployment figures soar?

When Scontras references unfunded liabilities, does he realize we don’t understand why they’re unfunded? Because we know that we’ve been mysteriously taxed in so many areas to cover those liabilities throughout the years.

Where did that money go? It couldn’t all go to our military-industrial complex, as many would like us to believe.

The reality of our problem is incontrovertible. But will we have to starve and hurt more good people to solve these problems?

Our current leaders will not acknowledge that we have a spending problem. However, if we have one, it is because we did not extract enough money from other people to address it.

Now Congress won’t even propose a budget until after the November election.? Why? The people in Congress aren’t bad people. They simply don’t see the problem.

Our leaders are heedless of the most catastrophic financial crisis since World War II, largely of their own making. Yet in the last two years, instead of making it better, Congress made it worse.

If they’re not part of the solution, then they’re part of the problem. Dean Scontras clearly wants to tackle this problem. What have we left to lose that we haven’t already lost?

Elizabeth Hetz

Kennebunkport

 

I found it interesting that Dean Scontras did not name one specific cut in spending throughout his entire column about runaway government spending.

How is it that someone who is running to be a leader for southern Maine does not actually take the lead in suggesting specific spending cuts?

Let him tell his possible constituents what he wants to cut and the actual dollar amounts if he wants to be truly taken seriously. Otherwise, complaining about wasteful spending is empty rhetoric and not someone worthy to engage.

Please, Dean, tell us how you would balance the budget.

Peter Greene

Portland

 

If marijuana’s a medicine, why put sales taxes on it?

 

Before I read the article (“Taking pot out of the shadows,” Aug. 16), I was not aware that this prescription drug will be subject to Maine state sales tax.

I was never in favor of the legalization of marijuana for any reason, but since it was legalized for medical reasons, I don’t think it should be taxed.

I’m thinking that the politicians who voted for this are really desperate for new tax revenue for the state of Maine.

Why else would they put this extra financial burden on the people who are suffering with pain? What is next? Taxes on all prescription drugs?

Of all the states in this country, I don’t think California is the one Maine should emulate.

Albert Allen

Alfred