Shuttle retirement lamented

I recall President John F. Kennedy stating our country had the capacity, drive, and intelligence to put a "man on the moon." I also witnessed the event come to fruition on television as my heart raced with pride. What a brilliant step in world history, to see astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. Last week, however, I witnessed the space shuttle being flown piggyback over Washington on a Boeing 747 as it was retired from service, ending our manned space program. I watched and shed a silent tear as I saw another retreat by our leaders.

The space program was one of the most daring efforts to take place in our time. The program created millions of jobs, boosted our economy, and had us swell with pride with each new accomplished step. The technical fallout from the space program has changed and improved our lives. I would stop work to say a silent prayer as our astronauts were launched into space. I saw the failures too, but the program marched on. Now, we have abdicated our place to Russia, or China.

What happened? Are we now a nation of wimps, incapable of performing great feats? Is the phrase "can do" just words, or is it a call to action? I don't believe we have lost the power to control our destiny, but we are certainly on the wrong track. We have become talkers, rather than doers. We must demand from our leaders actions, and not just words, or vote them out of office. Please think before you pull the election levers. Vote for action rather than decadence.

Arthur Hill, Philadelphia

Like mother, like daughter?

I must say I am astounded that Monica Yant Kinney can write such a scathing attack on the Roman Catholic Church's rebuke of the nuns ("Vatican's rebuke of nuns ignores their good work," Sunday), and then further along in the article mention that her daughter will soon receive her first communion.

If the church is as dismissive of women as she claims to believe, why would she turn her own precious daughter over to it? That stuns me.

As the years go by, I would like to hear the double-speak she and Catholics engage in when it comes to their love/hate relationship with the church. It took me 61 years to get out from under the oppression of the church, so I did enough of my own double-speak.

I hope it takes younger people, such as Kinney, a lot less of their valuable time and spiritual energy than it did me.

Marguerite Sexton, Jenkintown,

Hunger for compassionate leaders

The movie The Hunger Games can be viewed through many lenses. Scott Holleran ("Film's dystopia rings familiar," Friday) sees it as a warning about the dangers of big government. I see it as a warning against allowing government to be hijacked by people motivated by greed and materialism. To me, it is a warning about what can happen when government provides no services to the poor, no compassion for the weak, and no justice for the oppressed.

Shelly Beaser, Bala Cynwood

Goal is affordable college costs

The Obama administration agrees with Muhlenberg College president Peyton Helm that our overarching higher-education goal is to ensure that all students are able to receive a high-quality education that prepares them for lifelong success ("Which colleges are worth the price?" Wednesday). To further this effort, we're making smart investments with taxpayer funds and providing a number of consumer protections and accountability measures.

We disagree, however, with Helm's suggestion that we seek to increase undue reporting requirements or set educational standards at colleges and universities like his. We do believe in making reporting transparent. Families need to be empowered with clear, simple information on the likely financial returns for their investment in college so they can choose wisely and exert market pressure on costs.

Taxpayers also deserve to know what they are getting for the significant public investment Americans are making in higher education. The fact is our administration has more than doubled Pell Grant funding to help our nation's low-income students attend college and nearly tripled college tax credits for the middle class. We've capped federal student loan payments at 15 percent of income. We are committed to making the real returns for this investment transparent to all Americans.

It's no wonder families are worried about paying for college. Over the last eight years, the sticker price for tuition and fees is up more than 43 percent in Pennsylvania, after inflation. But since President Obama took office, after accounting for financial aid that includes grants and scholarships, the net price families pay for college has stayed flat. At Muhlenberg College, the net price is down more than $2,000 over the same time.

That said, college costs are still way too high, and there are limits to how much middle-class families and the federal government can pay. We need a stable, better-functioning higher-education marketplace. Pennsylvania and the rest of our states need incentives to stop cutting higher-education funding and expecting middle-class families and Washington to backfill the loss. College access, affordability, and success are a shared responsibility. The Obama administration will continue to do its part. We trust colleges and universities will do the same, and we hope states will also do their fair share.

Martha Kanter, Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education, Washington

Charter wrongly depicted

Once again, you chose to publish an article about Truebright Science Academy Charter School based on innuendo and full of unnamed sources ("Turkish-linked charter is stirring allegations," Thursday).

Behind the speculation and the misleading headline lies the fact that Truebright has never been informed of any federal or state investigation, nor have officials been asked to provide information for any alleged investigation.

The timing of the article, on the day the school's charter was up for renewal by the School Reform Commission, was unfortunate and we believe intentional.

Under a sensationalist headline, your reporter ignored important facts conveyed by Truebright officials, and instead chose to take the focus away from education and safety at the school. Located in an area plagued by crime and the district's minority dropout crisis, Truebright provides a safe learning environment. Ninety-seven percent of the first senior class graduated, and 100 percent of those graduates were accepted by postsecondary institutions.

Truebright provides opportunities students would not have at district schools, and it's unfortunate that the unsubstantiated allegations in the article detract from the accomplishments of our students.

Bekir Duz, CEO, Truebright Science Academy Charter School, Philadelphia

Comcast must market program

Our children and our communities need access to the Internet. Your editorial Tuesday, "City's digital divide can be squeezed," places the blame for Comcast's failure to enroll more than 463 households in its low-cost Internet program on everyone but cable officials. They say it is a lack of digital literacy, but that's not true. I am a parent with a child at Wister Elementary School who is eligible for free lunch, and I value and want Internet access at home, but when I called for the program, Comcast said I was not eligible.

My daughter knows a lot about computers from school and needs access at home to the Internet to do her homework. Also, my daughter is a part of a mentoring group in the neighborhood and she needs the Internet to do research about future jobs and what education it takes to get those jobs. This is essential for her and other children to make their future better. This program has the potential to help our children and communities get connected to the Internet, but Comcast is not doing enough.

It is not the responsibility of the Philadelphia School District to do Comcast's job of outreach for the program. Our schools have lost full-time nurses, school police, and support staff, and Comcast wants to place the responsibility for marketing its program on our schools in a financial crisis. It is time for Comcast to do more to make this program work for low-income families that can't afford it.

Yvette Swain, Philadelphia