Union addresses dropout rate

The national statistics tell a terrible story: Three out of every 10 students in America who attend a public school as a ninth grader this year will drop out before completing their senior year.

In Illinois, the news is no better. Our state’s high school graduation rate is 74 percent, but only 52 percent of Hispanic and Black students graduate.

The saddest part about these statistics is that this is a problem we can fix. The question is, “Do we have the will?”

On Oct. 3, the National Education Association unveiled a 12-point plan to effectively address the dropout crisis, including early intervention so those most likely to drop out are identified in time to help.

We must create schools that meet students’ needs and present a stimulating and relevant curriculum. We have to create educational opportunities that go well beyond the traditional idea of what a school is and how it operates.

We urge you to support NEA’s plan by becoming a partner in the fight to stop the epidemic. There is information on how to get involved at www.nea.org. You can also help by voting for candidates who support public education.

Great public schools are a basic right for every child. If we all do our part, we can ensure that every child takes full advantage of that right.

Kenneth Swanson
Via e-mail
Kenneth Swanson is president of the Illinois Education Association.

Fighting sickle cell stigma

There’s quite a lot of stigma toward sickle cell anemia. People can feel guilty because they carry a gene so they choose not to talk about it. But they need to talk about it to start breaking down the barriers and stigma.

Many physicians and scientists, both Black and white, have complained that restrictions against Blacks with the sickle cell trait was senseless.

The trait has been cited to keep Blacks out of the Navy’s submarine service. Blacks have also been charged more for insurance if they had the trait. Chemical industry theories have been expounded for years that sickle cell trait carriers were at special risk in the chemical workplace. Dupont Co. said in 1980 that it routinely gave a pre-employment blood test to all Blacks to determine who might be a sickle cell trait carrier. Today that would be condemned as racial profiling.

Misinformed screening programs and inadequate planning on the part of the medical profession resulted in unnecessary stigma and discrimination. From this confusion a great suspicion arose in the African American community that the sickle cell screening policy was another instrument of genocide.

People are sensitive about screening but you now can be enrolled in a program and start to care for your baby with sickle cell anemia.

J.R. Perry III
J.R. Perry III is a sickle cell anemia activist and works for a cure. He has a son who was born with this disease.

Gordon Monroe, 87

It has been my intent for some time to get the word out regarding my father’s death to his Internet community. I know you represent a vast array of organizations, publications and individuals. In his later years, those he knew through Internet correspondence, readers of his numerous editorials and “Thin Book” publications, became the primary source of his intellectual community of teachers and learners, contributing to his spirit of health, wisdom, and will to live. He was a great father, husband, son, orator, writer and world idealist. I am grateful to you all for being a part of his community and contributing to his fruitful and joyful life. If you wish to honor his name and memory make a contribution to the local civil rights group “Kansas Equality Coalition.” Please contact me for the address: monroemsw@kc.rr.com.

With vision for peace and justice,

Megan Monroe
Westwood KS

Forever in Iraq

Let’s face it: U.S. troops will be staying in Iraq for a long time, no matter which party controls Congress. Both parties are effectively managed by corporate America, and this brazen Iraq adventure has proven a bonanza for the military-industrial complex, that central expression of corporate political power.

We already know that any serious talk of leaving Iraq is impatiently dismissed by mainline Democrats. And neither party seems to care much that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis express a strong desire for the swift departure of U.S. forces, whom they blame for the ongoing carnage.

Reportedly now, the White House is considering whether to depose the impotent Maliki-led Iraqi government in favor of an emergency “salvation” junta, which would establish martial law backed by U.S. troops. The fact of a December deadline imposed by the International Monetary Fund requiring that new laws be enacted governing ownership of Iraq’s oil riches provides an exquisite urgency to this task.

No elected Iraqi leader would survive signing away his nation’s supreme resource to foreign interests. Thus the need to arrange for an unelected strongman, such as the cat-like Amed Chalabi, who was after all the Pentagon’s original choice for that unsavory role.

Colin Powell once famously cautioned about invading Iraq. “If you break it, you own it,” he opined. But, the loyal general probably wasn’t told that this was exactly Bush’s plan all along.

Cord MacGuire
Boulder CO

FDR’s government

Regarding Brian Hokanson’s “Take back Congress” letter (PWW 8/19-25): During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, personally more conservative than Herbert Hoover, adopted the liberal policies of his wife, Eleanor. From it came the New Deal: Social Security, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Projects Administration (WPA), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and other “alphabet” programs, some of which were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Wagner Act put the federal government on the side of labor rather than an adversary. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 requiring a 40 hour week, eight-hour day, plus time-and-a-half for overtime pulled us out of the Depression and made recessions since then relatively mild: overtime pay kick-starts the economy.

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis MO

More on Chile

Hi. I’m from Chile, Latin America’s most neoliberal country, and I want to know how you see our situation here.

Pablo Ernesto Vera Lisperguer
Via email