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Teacher evaluations will not be a cure-all

I saw our governor on the news the other day saying he would send out a teacher evaluation to be used if New York State districts didn't get their act together and come up with something he would approve. This is a tempest in a teapot not worthy of all the attention it is drawing on almost a daily basis. Those pushing this latest assault on teachers have done little to no research to find out what it takes to become a teacher.

I realize this is being driven by Congress and I also realize whoever came up with this never consulted anyone in education to first find out if it's necessary. No one who is teaching walks out of college with a diploma and gets a full-time job with permanent tenure. There are steps along the way for incompetent teachers to be weeded out by administration with no recourse. Perhaps districts need to look at this process again if they feel there are too many people working for them who shouldn't be.

As a country, we seem to have all jumped on the Bill Gates and "Waiting for Superman" bandwagon that suggests all of the problems in schools these days are caused by bad teachers. Let's get real and include poverty and lack of parental involvement in any discussion of failing schools. Poverty makes learning difficult for a number of reasons, and all school districts feel the effects of low-income parents working several jobs to make ends meet, making it difficult for them to be active participants in their children's education. Let's not pretend that a new evaluation that punishes teachers will solve a school district's problems with low student performance.

Anne Duffy



Editorial cartoon was in poor taste

Adam Zyglis must have been stumped for his Feb. 12 editorial cartoon. I believe it was very distasteful to use an unknown ailment that is most devastating for high school girls, and that appears to be increasing, as a tool to amuse readers. His message, "media frenzy," didn't help either (considering that he is one of the media). With all of the negative happenings in the country, it seems there would be many more useful subjects in his editorial cartoon pool.

Ann E. Weidman



Curmudgeons share narrow-minded views

A recent My View column advocated the prompt replacement of famous curmudgeon Andy Rooney, stating that he was "the luckiest man in the world" because "he was an octogenarian, but millions of people listened to him." The writer also laments that nobody -- including his family -- listens to him and his coffee klatch, self-described budding curmudgeons.

The writer, a retired schoolteacher, stated that curmudgeons correct myths that "make us less human and less thoughtful." Unfortunately, he believes that one "fallacy" he needs to correct is that "President Obama, Tiger Woods and Spike Lee are African-American." Obama and Woods had one parent of African or African-American descent. Lee is African-American, studied at a historically black college and dedicated his life to cinema that addresses the African-American experience.

Many mixed-raced Americans are proud of their African-American heritage. Increasing diversity of the American population has made the issue of identifying people for census purposes an exceptionally complex one. Implicit in his ignorant and insensitive comment is that the writer has solved this multifaceted issue, and found a formula to define African-American-ness, and that many Americans are wrong about their own identity.

One of the biggest problems with curmudgeons is that in their effort to draw attention to themselves, they resort to provocative, narrow-minded, oversimplified and erroneous rhetoric. Fortunately, many octogenarians are listened to because they provide us with sage wisdom and thoughtful guidance, inspired by experience and reflection, and not a senseless regurgitation of discarded and archaic ideas.

How sad if a generation of the writer's students was subjected to these small-minded views. Perhaps his own family would provide him an audience if his antiquated ideas had some value.

Jonathan Lacey



UB students offended by misogynistic tone

As an non-tattooed female student attending the University at Buffalo, I was offended by Lisa Khoury's article that appeared in the Spectrum. My problem with it was not that she expressed her views that she personally found tattoos distasteful, but that the tone of the article was misogynistic.

She called an entire class of women classless based on one factor: the presence or absence of a tattoo. It was not women with tattoos she offended with her article, it was women in general she angered by pushing outmoded stereotypes.

As a journalism student at UB, I am offended that The News couldn't be bothered to actually explore the issue at hand. Certainly, some of the mail Khoury received was atrocious, but many of the comments, both those that were left via Facebook and those left on the Web page of the Spectrum, were honest discourse about how the readers felt after reading her article. But instead of looking at the totality of the comments, the writer of the article "UB Ink" is categorizing all of the commenters together as writers of "hate mail."

That's exactly the sort of painting with a broad stroke that got Khoury in trouble with her readers.

Erin Maynard



Hamburg officials must reduce taxes

I am looking at my Town of Hamburg tax bill for 2012. My taxes have risen 4 percent since last year. They have risen 12 percent since the Republicans took over the town government, despite the fact that the Republican supervisor keeps saying that town taxes have not gone up.

I don't know what he's talking about. The News reported that the supervisor "has sent letters to the governor " in order to deal with town costs that increase and town revenues that decrease. Now that's an imaginative way to deal with budget problems. Write some letters to the governor. Did he ask for some cash or just that the state should pick up part of our expenses?

What about the $800,000 budget cut that the lone Democrat on the Town Board proposed and that was summarily rejected by the Republican hierarchy? I've heard Republicans claiming that they are the party of "fiscal responsibility." That must be why they voted the supervisor a $7,500 stipend for being budget officer. Now that I've written this letter, will I get a raise too? Or just in my tax bill?

John I. O'Day