The War on Cameras
Police, in their duties as public officials, should always be recordable as a general principle ("The War on Cameras," January). I agree with Jim Pasco of the national Fraternal Order of Police that "at some point, we have to put some faith and trust in our authority figures." I figure that point is when the police stop being so arrogant, stop abusing their authority, and stop committing crimes in the course of their duties.
It occurs to me that as a protection against the wiretapping laws, citizens need to Mirandize the cops that they may be being recorded in a public place.
Public Education's Silver Bullet
In her interview with school reformer Terry Moe ("Public Education's Silver Bullet," January), Shikha Dalmia asked, "One argument that can undercut all these [teachers union] arguments is superior student performance in the new schools. How do students in these schools perform?" Professor Moe's response: "Research has shown that online education is at least as effective as classroom education."
Technology is not showing improved student performance? We're interested in spending even more money just so teachers unions can be eliminated? That is not a convincing argument for expanding technology in or out of the classroom.
When I was in high school, handheld calculators were just being introduced; those of us in science classes were still using slide rules. Has the widespread use of calculators made students any smarter in math? In my experience, the answer is a resounding no. As a substitute teacher in North Carolina for four years, I routinely saw seventh-graders using calculators for simple two-digit addition problems. As a math teacher in a private school, I find that some of my algebra and geometry students panic when the batteries die in their expensive calculators. The last panic happened when an Algebra II student was faced with the daunting task of dividing 91 by 14.
There are computers in almost every classroom. Smart boards are all the rage. Technology may be the bullet that takes down teachers unions, but it is not a guarantor of higher grades in any subject. The main factor in student performance is not teacher qualification, unions, or accountability; it is a student's willingness to learn. Only when a student takes an interest in the subject at hand and is willing to apply that knowledge will our schools see higher grades and better performance in the highly competitive world in which we live.
CORRECTIONS: In "The War on Cameras" (January), Radley Balko reported that Patrick Thompson pled guilty to a misdemeanor after being charged with recording police in Illinois. He actually never pled guilty to any crime. A new district attorney was elected while Thompson's charges were still pending, and he dropped all the charges against Thompson after taking office.
In "The View From the Sidelines" (February), Matt Welch referred to "more than $1 billion in largely indiscriminate stimulus/omnibus spending." The figure should have been "more than $1 trillion."