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Talk of the town

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Maybe Texas ties aren’t so bad after all!

STATE PARTY Democrats must be fuming! New Mexico Democrat Party ex-governor’s papers going to Texas, hmm? Anyone else remember the “Tejano” slams against the then Republican candidate, Susana Martinez, a few years back?

I guess having ties to Texas ain’t that bad after all, at least not according to one recent very popular ex-governor.



Would a white president be disrespected?

IT STARTED DURING President Obama’s first term when, in September 2009, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” during the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress.

It continued March 3 when the Israeli prime minister addressed Congress at the invitation of House Republicans, who breached established protocol by bypassing the executive branch. And it continued March 9 when 47 Republican senators wrote directly to Iran in a blatant attempt to undermine delicate negotiations between the United States and Iran.

It is one thing to express disrespect for the holder of a high office. It is quite another to express disrespect for the office itself.

Is there really any doubt that none of these events would have occurred if the president weren’t black?


Santa Fe

Give diplomacy a chance over weapons

SENDING U.S. weaponry to Ukraine is still under consideration. It is, however, a very bad idea.

Any moves that inflame the situation in Ukraine should be avoided. Apart from the situation in Ukraine itself, U.S. and NATO policies since the end of the Cold War have needlessly and unwisely isolated Russia at a time when the U.S. and Russia need better – not worse – relations for cooperation on a host of issues, including nuclear weapons reductions; bringing peace, stability and security to the broader Middle East region; and addressing violent extremism and global climate change.

U.S. arms transfers into regions of conflict are short-sighted and have a spectacularly bad record of blowback and unintended consequences against our country and our allies – in Iraq and Afghanistan, to note only two bitter and current examples.

It’s hard to recall instances where such transfers brought about peace and stability instead of worsening armed conflict. Let’s give renewed diplomacy involving the various actors in the region a chance instead.



Look at wide-ranging objection to PARCC

IN YOUR MARCH 4 editorial (“92K students who took the PARCC aren’t wrong”), you made several fallacious assertions about the PARCC and the students of our state based on incomplete or inaccurate information, or unfounded assumptions.

First, you assume the test will provide valuable data “to ensure its members (students) get enough education to help them have choices about the future … .” Sadly, this is untrue. Given the numerous failings in its design and the rampant technical problems in administering it, the PARCC provides no more useful information than a yardstick that is bent and a few inches short.

Second, you suggest that students who were not outside protesting the PARCC accept the validity of the test – not so. Because schools have been threatened with dire consequences if participation rates fall below 95 percent, many students and their families have grudgingly chosen to take the test, in spite of their realistic concerns.

Third, your editorial abetted the fallacy, promoted by the Public Education Department, that protesting students and parents opting their children out are from failing schools and are doing so because the PARCC is hard. Besides being insulting to thoughtful, concerned parents and students across the state, this fabrication is disproven by data in the article “PARCC opt-out rates may hit schools’ grades,” by Jon Swedien (Albuquerque Journal, March 7).

The list of schools in that article with opt-out rates above 5 percent includes schools with a wide variety of letter grades – from across the metro area – representing neighborhoods of every demographic. In fact, schools with the highest opt-out percentages had an average letter grade of “B.” Students and parents from across the social spectrum, at schools of every type, can see the truth: PARCC tests do not provide an adequate measure of what students know; and they are a colossal waste of taxpayer money and a shameful waste of teaching and learning time.

PARCC testing offers neither educational benefits to students nor meaningful data to schools. I urge the Journal to stop attacking those who question the PARCC and ask the real question, “Why are New Mexicans from such a variety of backgrounds saying ‘no’ to this test?”



Current testing system complex, unwieldy

THE VERY PUBLIC brouhaha over the new PARCC test should give pause to the folks up in Santa Fe. No student should walk out of class or off campus, but this does send a very strong message that the burden of testing has frustrated just about everyone to the breaking point.

As a parent, I have opted my 11th-grade son out of the test. This, it seems to me, is the best approach I can take to let the politicians know that, as an educator and parent, I’ve had enough. I recognize there are potential consequences for my son and his high school.

It is appropriate to test students. Schools, parents and students should know where they stand in comparison to other students in New Mexico and the nation. This data can be used, not to punish teachers or schools, but to guide improvement.

The current test system, however, has become a little like this generation’s Vietnam: It’s so complex and unwieldy that no one really understands why we are doing what we are doing. It’s time to declare an end to the testing war, return to a simple two-day test that is manageable, and give classroom time back to the teachers and students.



How will we cope without good teachers?

I AM WRITING in response to the Albuquerque Journal editorial “PARCC protesters need own risk-reward analysis” (March 5) to point out a few problematic statements.

First, you write “there are all the hours outside of a school day … when students can exercise their right to peacefully protest and not face any ramifications at school.” Anyone who has looked at the history of successful protests has seen that the more successful ones tend to interrupt something, whether it be a work day, school day or other normal societal function, to be really effective. Without consequences for schools – e.g., students not showing up – are they really going to listen? Also, in an age where low numbers of young people turn out for elections, shouldn’t we encourage students to become more politically involved and consider this an important part of their education?

Second, you write, “And perhaps most importantly, skip the PARCC and sacrifice the opportunity to know if you are on track in reading and math, as well as the chance to put your teachers on notice that they may need to make adjustments to ensure you get there.”

Teachers are the best judges of which students are doing well and which ones need extra support. They work with them every week, having them engage in a variety of tasks tailored to their needs and backgrounds. Ultimately, they are a much better measure than a test that has cultural bias issues and has yet to be validated.

(Education) Secretary (Hanna) Skandera and the governor should engage in a closer risk-reward analysis and consider the impact of making these tests so high-stakes for students and teachers.

As a UNM professor who has conducted research at three New Mexico high schools this past year, I see teacher and student morale declining and talented teachers seeking to leave the profession.

How will our students ultimately be served when APS can’t find qualified teachers to replace them?



Don’t rush into 30-year permit for DoD

REPRESENTATION OF other points of view is warranted after reading Charlie Brunt’s article “NM deserts offer realistic military training” of Feb. 23, which extensively detailed Air Force aircraft and training on and over Cibola National Forest lands with no balancing journalistic attention to their impact on the Forest Service landscape and/or the people living near the training areas, which are now proposed for a 30-year permit.

As a Socorro resident and naturalist who has hiked the Bear Mountain area – unexpectedly coming upon sites used by the Air Force – I have seen the negative impact of military maneuvers on the vegetation and habitat of these Forest Service lands. Wildlife is additionally impacted by ground maneuvers using smoke grenades and live ammunition – remnants of which, some unexploded, lie scattered over the trampled and, in places, charred landscape.

Studies demonstrate that wildlife is also adversely effected by noise, air turbulence and “blasts of dust” created by aircraft. I have additionally come across ruins of the land’s long-ago occupants, some of which have been damaged.

A full environmental impact statement has been requested of the Forest Service, responsible for managing this area. What is its status? Would the Journal agree on the importance of assessing all these factors, plus a detailed analysis of alternative sites within New Mexico’s large Department of Defense acreage, before the current temporary permit is extended to 30 years?

I ask that Brunt or another journalist be assigned to “get the rest of the story,” interviewing Forest Service administrators and locals near the Forest Service lands proposed for expanded military use, and investigating the Air Force’s choices of alternative sites with similar characteristics that are already under Defense Department (control).



Control access to Bosque, control damage

PLEASE ALLOW ME to balance that deluge of support for stopping access to the urban park/forest.

Two weekends ago, my family enjoyed the new trail. We have a 5-year-old and a dog, and it was the first time we could explore the area and not get lost in the weeds and random trails.

People have always been going to the river, making their own multiple paths, creating more chaos and damage. You can’t keep people away. We stayed on the wonderful, well-marked, newly constructed trail, and saw six porcupine, a woodpecker, numerous water fowl and had a marvelous adventure.

The bosque is an urban forest – an urban park. It should be enjoyed by the urban inhabitants. By controlling access, you contain damage. I would suggest adding trash cans to encourage responsible usage.



Economics more trickle-up than down!

I JUST READ that the list of the world’s billionaires contains 1,826 names, up from 1,645 in 2014. That is a nearly 11 percent increase. Their combined net worth is now $7.05 trillion – $6.4 trillion last year – a 10 percent increase.

Break out the champagne! Let’s celebrate their prosperity. But, wait a minute. Their prosperity is not our prosperity. While they are jetting around the world eating caviar, too many of us have less and less.

Unless the world’s richest got their money the old-fashioned way – by operating currency printing presses in the basement of their mansions – it must have come from the rest of us.

Could it be that trickle-down economics is actually a myth? Could the great right-wing god, Ronald Reagan, have been wrong? Evidently, since money seems to be magically flowing from our pockets to theirs.

Trickle-up seems to be the economic reality. Too bad for us!



ABQ drivers need to improve reputation

I WAS TOUCHED and saddened to see and read about the terrible accident on I-40 on March 5.

I recently was involved in a hit-and-run accident very close to the scene of this accident. My point is Albuquerque is a very dangerous and scary place to drive.

I am frequently on the city streets and there is an almost wholesale disregard for traffic controls, whether speed or warning signals, yielding and stopping. In conversation with my insurance adjuster, Albuquerque has a particularly bad reputation for accidents.

Disregarding traffic controls has serious consequences, not only for those who disregard the laws of traffic, but also for all of us out there obeying those laws. You can do better, Albuquerque.



Let’s consider fission reactors

WE ARE YEARS away from having any commercially viable fusion reactors. I only wish we had them now.

In the meantime, fission reactors should definitely be reconsidered in light of global warming and other environmental issues.