June 14, 2013

Letters to the editor: Orwell warned us about this

Have you read "1984" recently? A regime always on a "war footing?" Always ready to fight the enemy?

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The people of a free country should be able to debate whether our security apparatus will help us keep our freedom or lose it.

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Maybe we need a hard-headed businessperson to ask: What are we getting for the billions we invest in intelligence activity? Safety and security or just the illusion of it? Is it a form of guaranteed employment, as it's the U.S. military that protects England, Germany, Italy and all of Europe, for that matter.

Let citizens of a free country decide if this is a good investment of resources. Show us the numbers, as they would in any corporation wanting the support of its stockholders.

Or will Big Brother say, "Trust us"? That hasn't always worked very well in the past.

William R. Laidley

South Portland

National defense requires well-educated recruits

I was pleased to read the recent commentary about business leaders discussing solutions to Maine's skills gap ("Maine Voices: Immigration reform must help address the skills gap in critical fields," May 24). As a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, I am also alarmed that the skills gap is negatively impacting the future strength of our Armed Forces.

The Department of Defense estimates that 75 percent of the young adults in this nation do not qualify for military service, primarily because they are too poorly educated, physically unfit, or have a serious criminal record.

Here in Maine, 16 percent of our students do not graduate from high school on time. Of those who do graduate and try to join the military, 19 percent cannot score highly enough on the military's exam for math, literacy and problem-solving to enlist. Both the military and the private sector are seeking many of the same skill sets and are running into the same challenging deficits.

For years, each state has had its own particular educational standards and assessments of student achievement. As a result, there is a lot of confusion about how students really are doing. Common, rigorous standards and assessments aligned to those standards will help. Given the mobility of military families, common standards across states can reduce subject matter gaps and repetition.

The Common Core State Standards adopted by Maine and 44 other states give us all a clear path forward to address this problem.

I applaud Maine's business leaders for stepping up to insist on common standards and assessments, and offering multiple pathways to add more rigor and relevance to students' learning. Such action should improve the applicant pools for both our businesses and our military, and strengthen our national security.

Richard W. Tuttle

retired brigadier general, U.S. Air Force

West Bath

Restaurants should be proud to display grades

According to a story in the Maine Sunday Telegram ("Oversight of Maine restaurants diminishes, just as complaints rise," May 19), Dick Grotton of the Maine Restaurant Association "opposes posting letter grades at restaurants, saying they can be misunderstood." He should share his thoughts with the governor, who has established such a system for our schools. While I don't support the school grading system because it's too hard to quantify the quality of a school, as a former restaurant owner, I do support letter grades for food establishments in Maine. Our small restaurant in New Mexico was 90 miles from the nearest city, but was inspected at least once a year, and we were proud of the A rating on the front door.

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