ISSUE | STATE STORES

Why promote sales?

If State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks) thinks privatization of the State Stores is wrong because "alcohol continues to be the No. 1 drug of addiction" and poses a public health and safety problem, why are his arguments based upon increasing sales and, presumably, consumption ("Math supports modernization of liquor sales," April 9)?

|Stefan Keller, Huntingdon Valley

ISSUE | EXCHANGES

Harmony, not strife

Recently, I traveled with 200 of my Muslim brothers in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association from across the country to London to visit the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mizra Masoor Ahmad. He advised us to return with a message to encourage people to establish a relationship with their God. He also advised us to proactively share the true, harmonious teachings of Islam with others at home. He himself has spoken in many places, including on Capitol Hill, urging leaders toward reconciliation and rejecting injustice.

Members of our group have taken this advice and started "Stop the CrISIS" events across the country, aimed at conveying the correct teachings of Islam. Unlike the caliph of ISIS, who desires bloodshed and havoc, this leader desires peace and harmony.

|Nameer Bhatti, Muslim Writers Guild of America, Blue Bell, nameerb@gmail.com

ISSUE | TESTING

One size doesn't fit

Once again, the state's standardized test schedule looms large for children and their teachers. How I wish Pennsylvania would develop a more accurate method for evaluating the progress of its students and the effectiveness of their teachers.
By now we are familiar with "No Child Left Behind", in ill-advised concept from the beginning. All children in a cohort do not begin in the same place, and frankly, are not equal in capability. More about that in a moment. How much more effective it would be to measure students' performance at the beginning and the end of the academic year. Thus, a child could demonstrate that he is not being left behind, and that her teacher has done the job.
Now-about equality. Each and every child has talent, but the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests measure only a limited range. They place no value on artistic or athletic ability and give no credence to the fact that children arrive at school from a variety of backgrounds.
Real life, for which schools are supposedly preparing children, requires cooperation and collaboration-group effort that utilizes a variety of talents and problem-solving strategies. People who leave school with low self-esteem because they have not “measured up" have a strike against them.
The screening approach I am advocating is not a perfect one, but I believe it is better than one-size-fits-all testing that demeans children and their hard-working teachers. I feel certain that the people who have developed the PSSAs are capable of devising appropriate grade-level assessments.

Once again, the state's standardized test schedule looms large for children and their teachers. How I wish Pennsylvania would develop a more accurate method for evaluating the progress of its students and the effectiveness of their teachers.

By now we are familiar with "No Child Left Behind", in ill-advised concept from the beginning. All children in a cohort do not begin in the same place, and frankly, are not equal in capability. More about that in a moment. How much more effective it would be to measure students' performance at the beginning and the end of the academic year. Thus, a child could demonstrate that he is not being left behind, and that her teacher has done the job.

Now-about equality. Each and every child has talent, but the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests measure only a limited range. They place no value on artistic or athletic ability and give no credence to the fact that children arrive at school from a variety of backgrounds.

Real life, for which schools are supposedly preparing children, requires cooperation and collaboration-group effort that utilizes a variety of talents and problem-solving strategies. People who leave school with low self-esteem because they have not "measured up" have a strike against them.

The screening approach I am advocating is not a perfect one, but I believe it is better than one-size-fits-all testing that demeans children and their hard-working teachers. I feel certain that the people who have developed the PSSAs are capable of devising appropriate grade-level assessments.

|Catherine Conahan, Havertown

ISSUE | URBAN DESIGN

Apply paddles to the beating heart of the city

I agree with Inga Saffron's criticism of the proposals for JFK Plaza, and find that same lack of gravitas is affecting a lot of modern urban design ("Waiting for a design to LOVE," April 10).

Few have registered disappointment at the newly redesigned Dilworth Park, which shows a failure to take advantage of such an important place in the city. Not only does the restored plan suffer from a scanty imagination, but it does nothing to improve the subsurface access and concourses, which are not only ugly but physically threatening to the public.

The same lack of imagination applies to these new designs for nearby JFK Plaza. On one end, the great Art Museum provides a goal for the traveler; at the other end, the start of that journey will be, well, nothing. The original design for LOVE Park had both gravitis and fun: The fountain was a perfect frame for both Robert Indiana's LOVE statue and the Parkway, and multiple-level architectural elements made it a nationally renowned attraction for skateboarders (beloved by planning legend Edmund Bacon, who understood what urbanism was all about).

Let's step back and rethink this, please.

|Ronald B. Levine, Philadelphia, levineresearch@aol.com

ISSUE | MAYORAL RACE

Novice candidate a fresh face in the crowd

While I rarely get involved in politics, I know mayoral candidate Doug Oliver to be an upstanding man. Although he doesn't wear it on his sleeve, he grew up disadvantaged, knows the plight of those who are disadvantaged, and doesn't cater to the party bosses.

It's time for a change, and someone like Oliver is fresh and would never discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or politics. Oliver is the next generation, and Philadelphia is certainly way overdue for real change.

|John Beekman, Malvern

ISSUE | TAXING SHALE DRILLERS

Pa. should stick with the impact fee

Our business and industry trade group agrees that Gov. Wolf's plan to set an artificial price floor on the cost of natural gas is a sign of overreach ("Gas tax can't ignore prices," April 7).

Pennsylvania already has a tax in place - the impact fee, which equates to a 3 to 4 percent severance tax. This competitive rate has spurred the industry's growth and generated more than $630 million for counties, allowing local governments to invest in key infrastructure and general improvement projects.

In addition to paying millions in interest on a bond to subsidize special-interest industries, Wolf's plan would cap the amount being sent to local governments, with more revenue going to Harrisburg.

|Gene Barr, president and chief executive officer, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Harrisburg

ISSUE | VETERANS' CARE

Improving access to mental health services

I'm proud that my representative, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.), recently proposed legislation to allow veterans to seek treatment for mental health issues at facilities outside of the Veterans Affairs network. An astounding number of veterans are committing suicide, and the majority of them never step foot in a VA hospital. MacArthur's plan is a commonsense solution.

|Velina Riggi, Burlington