May 15, 2013

Letters to the editor: Maine public schools have proud history

A few years ago, I bought a book titled simply "A Journal of a Young Man of Massachusetts." A work of nonfiction published soon after the War of 1812, it tells of a doctor who was one of the crew of a privateer captured by the British and then sent to England to spend the rest of the war in Dartmoor Prison.

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First-grade teacher Ashley Martin discusses the book “The Circus Ship” with her students at Coffin Elementary School in Brunswick last fall. A reader says that Gov. LePage’s criticism of public school teachers shows a lack of respect “for a profession so necessary to the fabric of the republic.”

2012 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

While on the way to England, the doctor spoke with a British official who asked him how many of the prisoners could read and write. He was told, all of them, and that it was a rare thing to find a person, male or female, who could not read and write.

The British official opined that New England must be full of so-called "charity" schools. When told that there were no "charity" schools, or very few, he expressed disbelief.

The doctor explained that among the requirements for a Massachusetts town were a tax to support teachers and a school that was open to every child, there being "no distinction, promotion or favor, but what arose from talent, industry and good behavior."

I've been pondering these words as Gov. LePage continues to denigrate public education, especially teachers.

I am a product of that public school system and believe I got a well-grounded education, starting in 1934. I often think of my teachers during those Great Depression days, and marvel at their dedication to their profession.

I am a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy and served in the Merchant Marine and Navy. I earned a graduate degree at a university outside of Maine and served in the federal government for 30 years, in the U.S. and overseas. No one ever looked down on my Maine educational experience.

This governor lacks respect for a profession so necessary to the fabric of this republic. To erode the effectiveness of public schools is to attack one of our most sacred traditions.

Robert G. Bent
Scarborough

Rush to arm oneself reflects fear of out-of-control world

Is it really about the guns?

I've been listening to the battle over gun control, wondering how such small changes in regulations could cause such a big argument.

I have friends who are rushing out to buy guns because they fear they won't be able to buy them in the future (even though they'd all pass the background checks with no problem).

Their reaction isn't logical, and these are logical people.

So, what's really going on?  

It's not about owning a gun, I decided. It's about gaining some control in a world that was turned upside-down by the economic explosion.

My friends had worked very hard and achieved a comfortable, stable, middle-class life that should have taken them through retirement.

Instead, the wizards of the financial industry unleashed their weapons and shot millions of holes in that stability, decimating millions of lives.

And, unfortunately, the government can't get its act together to plug those holes, so the fears linger and grow.

My friends think their guns will give them some power over the future -- perhaps to protect themselves against the world or perhaps, if things get worse, to shoot the squirrels in their backyard for dinner.

The Republicans in Congress have figured this out and decided it was a lot easier to give people more guns than it was to fix the underlying economic problems in this country.

Time to stock up on squirrel meat.

Beverly Wood
North Berwick

Elderly depend on programs that fund drugs, health care

With all the problems that older adults and challenged individuals in this state face, it is the job of our legislators to protect Maine's most vulnerable populations.

I am fully aware that this is a tough economy, but it is even tougher when one is frail, elderly, alone and in pain.

Many seniors in Maine have been watching and are continuing to watch as their hard-earned Social Security benefits are debated over and over again in Washington.

Any savings many at-risk Mainers may have had are long gone in the face of soaring costs for utilities and food. In the last 10 years, hunger among older adults has increased by an unbelievable 80 percent.

Social Security is the only source of income for one-third of Mainers age 65 and older. Many older Mainers rely upon every dime, every penny, to get them through each month.

These are individuals who have no choices. They have nowhere else to turn. The state has alternatives, but these are Maine residents who do not.

These are the residents who need for their voices to be heard, and so I am writing on their behalf: Please do not cut the Drugs for the Elderly or the Medicare Savings Program.

These are the programs upon which many of our most at-risk Mainers rely to stay in their own homes and communities, where we know they want to be.

Vanessa McGrath
AARP Maine communications volunteer
Portland

Backers of cigarette tax hike will be rejected at ballot box

Once again, the Legislature is threatening to raise money by taxing the working poor.

Another tax on cigarettes would make it even harder to survive -- of course, they are depending on the working poor being too busy surviving to mount a protest, which is why they are not proposing a tax on liquor. Go after the poor, as always.

This time, however, we will be taking the names of those who vote for this unfair sin tax, and when elections come around, you can be sure that the 25 to 30 percent of Mainers who still smoke will be voting.

Politicians, ask yourselves if you can afford 25 percent of the voters voting against you, no matter where you stand on any other issue.

J.T. Nichols
Portland

Motorist's quick thinking helps save beloved pet's life

I would like to thank the young woman who stopped on busy Brighton Avenue at about 6:30 the evening of May 3.

Our dog Lucy got loose (a section of fence in our yard had collapsed).

If this driver had not stopped her car and held on to Lucy until I came running, with leash in hand and distraught look on my face, we may have lost Lucy. And she could possibly have caused a car accident.

Thank you so much!

Rick Zaccaro
Portland

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