Approving charter school applications is a hard balancing act. On the one hand, charter schools afford students a chance to immerse themselves in subject areas that engage their curiosity and accelerate their learning. On the other hand, the money allocated to support them in their local school system travels with them to fund the charter schools of their choosing.

Knowing that many public school teachers, administrators and politicians believe that enabling charter schools will deplete their already stressed budgets, it is understandable that they might oppose the proposed Baxter Academy for Technology and Science.

However, the objective of education is to advance the knowledge of students and prepare them for lifelong learning. At a time when schools across America are struggling to raise the performance of our children, doesn’t it make sense to allow kids with ambition to pursue academic excellence?

Many kids are caught in classrooms where the pace and understanding of the slower students hold back those ready to move forward at a faster clip. Classrooms also have become the venue for delivering non-academic social services that are necessary for many but not for all.

We need Baxter Academy and other topically focused schools to engage the best and brightest. Baxter Academy will not deplete the ranks or budgets of surrounding towns, as they have capped the number of students they may accept from any one community.

Rather than fret about the funding formula and political power, decision makers should work to make this and other charter schools a stellar success.

Tony Payne


‘Freedom’ stories inform readers of unsung heroes

Your front-page articles in honor of the Fourth (“Four stories of freedom”) was just so refreshing. You found folks who are focusing in ways we don’t always think of when it comes to “freedom.”

What a pleasure it was for me to be back in my home state for a few days and be reminded of what a great place Maine is.

Hazel Upton Hopkins

Abingdon, Md.

Look at alternatives to, impact of teen drinking

I am not only a parent but also a grandparent. I am commenting on the article in the June 25 paper (“Is it safer for teens to drink under parents’ watchful eyes?”). I have my own generation and two others in my family. I question what kind of parties these parents are chaperoning.

Get a book of parlor games: Charades, Categories and lots of entertaining pen and pencil games.

Most schools have music programs. I know several families where the kids bring their instruments and have jam sessions. Some practice string quartets, planning to play for their parents some evening.

How about putting on pop music and dancing? Why give a party where the guests are “invited” to sit around talking to each other while the parents watch? What a set-up for trouble.

Young people are full of energy. They need something to do and they particularly want to be together. In my late teens, I went to many parties at a medical school where we all sang.

If today’s parents are entertaining their own friends, don’t they have a special menu and some interesting conversation with their guests? Isn’t that more imaginative than a drinking party? I hope so.

When I grew up, my husband and I had a glass of wine with dinner and served cocktails when we were entertaining. Many of our friends returning from World War II had serious alcohol addiction problems, so I know what that can be like. But their lives hadn’t been normal.

Fortunately, my children and grandchildren have not had to drink to forget their troubles or to amuse themselves. We’re moderate beer and wine drinkers.

Margaret T. Hollingsworth


Writing to you as a pediatric neuropsychologist and parent of a teen, I appreciate your article on teen drinking.

However, this article was based on opinions, not facts. The past decade has produced a wealth of research on teen alcohol use. Parents need facts.

It is a myth that teens can “learn to drink.” Teen brains are still developing, especially parts of the brain involved in reasoning, decision-making, memory and learning.

Scientific research now shows that alcohol affects developing teen brains differently than those of adults.

After binge drinking one night, teens show deficits in attention, learning and memory for three days. Cognitive skills are affected even in teens who drink but don’t get intoxicated.

Drinking also affects athletes, disrupting the protein synthesis, muscle growth and muscle repair necessary to build strength.

Teen drinking has other consequences. College students who binge drink once a week are more likely to get depressed, miss class, fall behind and drop out. Teens who drink are more likely to become alcohol-dependent, while those who wait to drink until their brains have matured are more likely to drink in moderation.

A person who starts drinking at 21 has a 7 percent chance of becoming dependent, while someone under age 15 who begins drinking has a 45 percent chance of becoming dependent.

It is not enough to keep teens from drinking and driving. One-third of underage drinking deaths involve alcohol poisoning, suicide, violence and unintentional injuries, not driving. Alcohol abuse contributes to two-thirds of teen sexual assaults.

There are many opinions about teen drinking, but parents need facts to make wise decisions to promote positive adolescent development.

Ellen Popenoe, PhD, MPH


If corporations are people, jail them for lawbreaking

I read with interest about drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline pleading guilty to criminal and civil violations of U.S. law concerning its misleading advertising of some of its drugs.

The company will pay $3 billion in fines, and that may be an appropriate penalty. I only wish that Deputy District James M. Cole had considered some jail time as well.

Since the Supreme Court effectively decided that corporations are people in the Citizens United decision, I think that, in this case, the corporation should go to jail.

What does that mean? I suppose we should lock up the entire board of directors and the management at least. If corporations have personhood, why are they not treated like people?

Lary Shaffer


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