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'Unschooling,' Terry Maketa, health care for veterans, and more 

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Innovative public schools

Reading your feature on "unschooling" and Proprius as a resource center ("The end of school," cover story, May 28), I noticed that again, public education is presented as being the same thing everywhere. This couldn't be further from the truth.

While there are districts and schools that are test- and standards-centered, are stagnant, function on external motivation, and are conveyor belts of curriculum, there are also pockets of dynamic innovation provided by districts and schools that are creating thinkers, problem-solvers, and self-advocacy in learning.

In 1992, with Colorado Department of Education grant funding, I created such a school in Cañon City, and it has been operating for 20 years as a district elementary school of choice. At Cañon Exploratory School, students experience a balance of traditional instruction and self-directed, project-based learning. The school culture is based in personal responsibility and nurtures each student's intrinsic desire to learn while recognizing the wide diversity of learning styles and timelines.

Even though Cañon Exploratory School is required to give all of the same standardized tests as any other elementary school, its focus is on students, their interests and their ownership of what and how they learn, which ultimately results in consistently good test scores!

It is unfair to assume all public schools are failing. We need to recognize and promote models that are working, that are out of the norm, and the districts that have the courage to provide choices, as well as the teachers who have the creative spirit to continually seek improvement.

— Molly Merry

Retired teacher/principal

1995 Colorado Teacher of the Year

Colorado Springs

The wrong direction

When my sister was little, she used to cover up the lies she got caught in telling by insisting to our mother that, "It happened in Dragonland, Mom!" Dragonland is, of course, a make-believe world, and good cover for a fantasy that one might happen to believe.

One must wonder if the founders of Proprius are also living in Dragonland.

Patrick Farenga, another "unschooling" believer, states that "until the modern age" children learned in the unschooling style. Methinks that Farenga is unfamiliar with history.

Before the modern age, the vast majority of children got no education at all. They were too busy working on the family farm, or in the factory. The wealthy got an education, but in seminary schools or universities, both of which are highly structured. And those little schoolhouses farm children attended in the early 20th century? Also structured, with standard classes like math and letters.

Kids receiving an "unschooled" education are missing out on some key life lessons. The real world is structured, organized around timetables, due dates and performance evaluations. Traditional school prepares children for the fact that the people they will work for will require them to work at specific times and in specific ways.

We could choose to believe in Dragonland, where all jobs are free-form and "chill," but that is just not reality.

Now, I don't believe that traditional education is perfect. Our system is too focused on standardization, testing and rigid structure. But a foolhardy leap in the complete opposite direction is not the answer, either.

— Monty Hall

Colorado Springs

Farmer Pam

To Pam Zubeck, re: the sheriff ("County investigates Maketa," News, May 28): Well, it took some time for those seeds to take root, but you certainly deserve the credit for planting those seeds!

Good job.

— Richard (Dick) Reisler

Monument

Itchy knees

I was talking with my academic friend Frank Lee Effete yesterday, and I said, "Did you read about all that alleged heavy breathing down at the Sheriff's Office? Sex galore!"

Frank said, "If investigative reporters Dave Philipps or Pam Zubeck come after you, you'd better wave a white flag. Just admit everything, and take your punishment. By the time I got to the part about licking and sex toys, my knees started itching!"

I agreed. "A nude model? Alleged sex-toy marketing? I'm just hoping that the sex toys were not quality-tested, using any Sheriff Office members as testees."

"Yeah," he said, "Sounds like a lot of funny money business down there, too, that needs to be penetrated deeply into. Time to get 'em all under oath so that any lies could be prosecuted as perjury."

We both nodded sagely. Effete said, "President Clinton claimed falsely under oath that he did 'not have sex with that woman,' and the Republicans impeached him for it. Now the sheriff says he did not have sex with those women, plural. We'll see. The sheriff is a major Republican, and maybe turnabout is fair play."

"Well," I surmised, "I predict a veritable flood of applicants for Sheriff's Office jobs now, not only because of a lot of vacancies coming up, but trips to Vegas, sex toys, and easy promotions."

"Count on it," Frank said. "I'm tempted to apply myself!"

— Larimore Nicholl

Colorado Springs

Broken promises

As a psychotherapist, former social worker, and former Red Cross worker on military installations, I am outraged at the debacle regarding services at our Veterans Affairs facilities. These are veterans of my country, these are tax dollars I paid for their care, and a demonstrated lack of integrity in the way my country has handled the promises it has made.

What is more outrageous is that our elected representatives have responded by, yes, once again starting investigations and appearing in front of the media in finger-pointing states of outrage. This is an emergency, people. It doesn't matter that VA care has always been slow ... veterans are hurt, emotionally devastated and dying now, as you read this.

Here's the worst part: Our nearby military community of five installations is within driving distances of hospitals, mental health facilities, and walk-in clinics. A new stand-alone emergency room is peppering my neighborhood with ads in the mail. We have open beds, available emergency care, available walk-up care, available pharmacies, psychotherapists with openings, and medical experts in nearly every specialty. You can guess where I'm going ...

I am asking that each of you contact our elected officials and demand that private and nonprofit providers be offered rates equivalent to those of Medicare for immediate treatment of emergency care, and wait times similar to those offered non-vets for non-emergency care. Sure, it may cost more ... but we shouldn't back away from meeting the promises we have made to our vets.

In the meantime, perhaps the VA can hire people with experience in the kinds of medical and psychological care our vets need, and revamp this system to meet the standards already in existence in the private-public sector. This will enable us to determine what it costs to actually deliver the service we promise.

— Karen Marshall Gershanov, Psy.D.

Colorado Springs

It's the parents' job

Today, I was forced by new government regulations to pay $2 for a child-proof safety bag in which to carry my green medicine 14 feet from the dispensary door to my car.

Evidently the state fears that some child is gonna mug me and take my marijuana, but if one does, at least he won't be able to get the bag open and poison himself.

Maybe we should require child-proof alcohol containers. A kid can break a glass bottle, so child-proof lids are not enough. We need aluminum bottles, too. Even if that drives up the cost of booze, it's well worth the cost, if we can save the life of even one child.

And wine, it looks a whole lot like grape juice. We can't have kids accidentally drinking wine because they think it's grape juice, so we need to make the wine producers alter their product so it doesn't appeal to kids.

What about these labels with pictures of marshmallows and cotton-candy on the vodka bottles, and the beer cans with Broncos colors? We can't have kids drinking vodka because they think it's birthday cake or chocolate-covered cherries; or drinking beer because it will help the Broncos, or help the kid be a Bronco someday. These products have got to go.

Can we stop at alcohol? We need child-proof safety-barriers along all the streets and roadways to make sure that no child is ever harmed by chasing a kitty or a rubber ball into traffic. That is going to cost a lot of money, and everybody's taxes are gonna have to double or triple — but we are talking about protecting children and no cost is too high.

Unless maybe it's the parents' responsibility to teach their children not to eat dirt or play in traffic.

— Gina Douglas

Colorado Springs

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