Below are excerpts of e-mail responses to the May 6 “Half a Six Pack” questions (an abbreviated form of “Six Pack to Go”). Each question has five responses from readers. (Sorry, but Russ serves as the “gatekeeper” - he determines the five answers to accompany each question.) In order to make this a reader-friendly feature, some lengthy answers submitted by readers may have been shortened.
1) Did you do a double-take or a triple-take when the "street renaming committee" recommended Toledo Express Airport be named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? I am not sure how serious the committee is about the airport. If your charter is to rename a street, where does an airport fit in? I believe it is a way of gaining rebound support for whatever choice of streets is now offered. The whole ordeal is becoming a study in incompetence within a committee. One word: ludicrous. Could we please just get on with life and forget about what to name the streets or the new bridges yet to be built? This business of naming a street is far too complex for anyone to understand in simple terms. The African American history is so filled with injustice and mistreatment by the white Americans - from slavery itself to the ghetto-izing of their people through inferior education and discrimination - that the chip on their shoulder is not likely to go away for another 100 years. We cannot understand what the black thought process is because we have not lived with this humiliation during our lifetime. I believe the object is to put MLK in our face, not just in the black neighborhood. I find it interesting that the street renaming committee knows there will be difficulty getting their job done without a lot of flak from interested citizens. Much easier, therefore, to put the heat on the port authority. How can they possibly say no without appearing insensitive, uncaring, and, possibly, racially biased? Why don't we just name the bridge after MLK and get two things done at once? No. I expected some such maneuver. After all, this is Toledo, home of the buddy system, the muddled mind, where we get hit time and again with foolishness. After awhile, we say "what the heck" and let the zealots have their way.
2) Weren't you taken aback by the enormity of President Bush's missile-defense proposal? Yes. Bush must owe some huge favors to a few military contractors. Only Cheney's energy plans (dot the country with oil wells) is a more obvious payback program. I am appalled but not surprised by Dubya's plan. He's a '50s person in a '00 decade/century. My parents were both extremely grateful (and brave) to emigrate to the USA (mother from Ireland, father from Sweden) and all it offered. But I swear, may they rest in peace, I am seriously considering reversing that by emigrating to Sweden. I know, Sweden has a tax rate somewhere around 90 percent, but the money is spent as it should be - on cradle-to-grave humanitarian services. I question if the missile-defense system is really needed and, if so, to what extent. While I can see the reason for it . . . is there a threat from an all-out missile attack? You talk about spending our money! What has been proposed is really not feasible. How do we pay for all this and a tax cut too? Hey, this is America. The politicians have been spending our money like water flows over Niagara as long as I can remember. The philosophy of the government, local to national, is that "it ain't our money, let's spend it."
3) Unless you walked a mile in 25-year-old Bob Kerrey's shoes, isn't it hard to be critical of him for sharing a horrific secret after 32 years of silence? I never served in Vietnam, although I was the right age. Call me lucky. Call me a coward. Call me an anti-war protester. Or call me a student with a deferment. I know many people who served in 'Nam and, while politically I was against the war, I have great empathy for what they went through. I can't imagine what it was like to be 19 or 20, far away from home in a place where you could not identify your enemy. Killing women and children is certainly not an admirable act, but understandable given the confusing, chaotic circumstances. Bob Kerrey and all his fellow soldiers have already paid a heavy price for what they were involved with. Absolutely! War is something I hope I never experience, nor would I criticize someone who did serve our country doing what he thought would either save his life or his buddies. How can we, with our 2001 sensibilities, second-guess something that happened 32 years ago? The world is different today. I am not being critical. However, if he did nothing wrong, why did he wait 32 years to spill the beans? And why is this story coming out at this time? This one is really tough. The images of Good Morning Vietnam (the movie) will always stay with me. Here were a people innocently living their life. Suddenly, bombs were being dropped on them and villages were mini-Holocausts without a scintilla of understanding on their part of what was going on. I don't want to blame Bob Kerrey any more than anyone else does, but I hated the fact that we were there in the first place. Bob Kerrey is a good man, and he was a good senator. Yes, it is hard to criticize. This sort of thing has happened in every war, I am sure, and I don't know what I would have done.
Your time in the classroom shows in your interest in the TPS contract. It is good that you are keeping the issue of reform alive, because no one else seems to. Don't give up. I have always been bothered by the public/governmental sector's aggressiveness in comparing pay to the private/business sector in an effort to gain sympathy for higher pay. But the comparison is absent when the issue of accountability or job security is discussed. It all ties together. If you want the pay, then accept the risks. Real educational reform is not as simple as having teachers evaluated every two years by principals who may not understand good educational practice themselves. Real educational reform involves systemic changes in the way aspiring teachers are educated, beginning teachers are trained, experienced teachers are kept current with professional practices, incompetent teachers are either improved in their performance or are removed from the profession, and the manner by which schools are administered. I am an elementary school principal. I was a sixth-grade teacher for 15 years before becoming principal. The comment in your column that schools should be run more like a business is way off base. When I call for telephone repair service, I am told that I will have to wait until the next day for service. Imagine me telling a parent to wait until the next day for me to help solve a discipline problem. How long do you wait for a dentist appointment? Imagine having a teacher tell you, as a parent, that you will have to wait a week to talk about a child's homework. Businesses close at a certain time every day. I can't begin to count the number of calls I have received in the evening from parents with a concern. Don't tell us to run our schools like businesses unless you want to receiv the same kind of service you get from too many businesses. I fully agree with you. I have respect for board member Terry Glazer, who has stuck with his beliefs that there must be reform, including teacher accountability and increased parental involvement. I wish there more people out there like Mr. Glazer. Amen. Your column was right on. As long as the union runs the schools, teachers will never be held accountable and children will always get short-changed.
Questions posed by readers: Are you surprised that the mayor is pushing for an out-of-town owner to take the last restaurant space at the Docks? If we're serious about reducing highway deaths, wouldn't we have at least a few ambulances patrolling the highways in addition to all those cruisers? If gas does hit $3 per gallon, how many truck/SUV owners will be parking their rigs for awhile? Is the short life/miserable death of the XFL a sure sign that the American public isn't as dumb as most media execs think?
Russ Lemmon's column appears Sundays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.