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Achieving mediocrity

      I applaud your writer for defending public education ["Defending public schools," Aug. 11]. As a father of three who are enrolled in a public school in downtown Orlando, I am keenly interested.

      I sympathize, too, with the plight of the school system in dealing with the largely underfunded mandates of the president and our governor. However, I also recognize that the mandates have given our own school leadership political cover. So long as you are dealing with No Child Left Behind, or the governor's A-plus requirements, there is no longer a need to achieve what many feel is the reason public schools generally exist: to teach all children to reach their potential. Yes, Orange County without a doubt has too many students failing, too many students dropping out. This is a significant issue. However, I am writing because it is neither the only issue nor, in my opinion, the highest priority in education.

      If our society is to remain competitive with those of the rest of the world, we must continue to strive to educate both world leaders and a highly productive citizenry to back them up. If our goal is nonfailure, that is surely all we will achieve. We must not cease the dialogue (which I haven't heard on the school board level in a long time) about how to actualize the potential of all students across the board.

Brock McClane, Orlando

The wind beneath his tent

      Re: "Into the wild" [Aug. 4]: Emily Ruff is now one of my heroes.

Joseph Japes, Orlando

A woman with balls

      A friend told me about Emily Ruff's article about her foray into living off the grid that appeared in your Aug. 4 issue ["Into the wild"]. I read it online and really empathized with this young woman. She has more balls than most of us. This is something that I have fantasized about in the past. I was wondering if you could send me a copy of this issue as I cannot find it anywhere now. I would like to add it to my sustainable/alternative/counterculture living files.

      Thanks for publishing works like this and keeping in tune with us "abnormal" folks!

Tim Walsh, Orlando

Back to basics

      Let me tell you, my wife and I have spoken of a similar adventure, only in a travel trailer ["Into the wild," Aug. 4]. The main difference is this lady did it: got off the grid and out of the grasp of the money-hungry communities of apartment and house owners. They feel they can do what they want even though you pay and pay and pay! It never seems to be enough. You work to live and they get you coming and going. Low wages and high rents and expenses. It sucks!

      We applaud her courage and will to do what some of us need to and should do: Get back to basics!

Scott J. Politano, Orlando

Shame on W

      George Bush's mother said, when hearing the body count from Iraq: "Why should we hear about body bags and death? It's not relevant." And Barbara Bush went golfing the day after her daughter, Bush's sister, died.

      Bush didn't have much of a role model for a mother, did he? It is really interesting that just now, a mother who is able to express her grief has put Bush in a corner. There is a thundering, embarrassed silence from all those who wanted this hideous war, yet can't answer Cindy Sheehan's simple question: Why was it necessary for my son to die?

      Thank you, Cindy Sheehan, for simply asking Bush to explain himself. A mother's disappointment is the most powerful remonstrance I've ever known. Maybe it is time someone told George Bush to be ashamed of himself.

      Sheehan has succeeded in starting the murmuring that the emperor is naked, and the press is finally starting to look behind the curtain. President Bush will never meet with Sheehan, because she will also ask him why his own kids haven't joined the fight. And he has no answer to that very simple question, either.

Donald Feinberg, via the Internet

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