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E-cigarettes’ harms unknown

Sharon Kirkpatrick (Letters, Oct. 30) says it’s “incomprehensible” that the public should have concern over electronic cigarette use in a public place.

It is equally hard to understand why we shouldn’t. These are made by the tobacco industry, whose products cause the death of 438,000 Americans each year, hardly an industry to entrust with our health and well-being. The FDA warns that e-cigarettes contain toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. The health effects of secondhand exposure to the vapors released are not known.

Kirkpatrick took Olive Garden patron Jan Moore to task for quietly noticing when the restaurant manager asked a guest to leave because he refused to put an e-cigarette away while in the restaurant. She told Moore to “get a life.”

I know a bit about Moore’s life. She is a registered nurse and asthma educator. She has cared for children and adults with asthma for 18 years. She knows the harm and complications secondhand smoke and vapors cause. She works to make the air cleaner and safer.

E-cigarettes are merely devices to hold smokers chained to the addiction and as bait to lure kids ever closer to tobacco addiction.


Education more than a test score

In Indiana, we have reduced education to a test score. That school grade equals the scored performance of all students who passed or failed the state’s grade-level tests (ISTEP+), primarily in language arts and math. The exact way the current A-F system determines the school grade is not clear. That score has become so important and the system so punitive that the focus of instruction has shifted to ensure that students are prepared to pass the test. Students are given tests at regular intervals to collect data on performance. Data cover classroom walls where student work used to be so that the performance of students is visible to all. All for a test that will not really show the breadth of student’s knowledge or progress in reading, writing or math. It will show how well that student can take a test. It will be used to label a student as a success or a failure and to label that student’s school and teacher as a success or a failure.

A test score is a simplistic and inaccurate measure of a child, a school, a teacher, an education. Instead of asking for the school’s grade, we should be asking: Is the school a welcoming place for children to spend six hours a day? Does it have a staff of caring, credentialed professionals who have chosen teaching as a career and strive to help all students learn? Is it a place that fosters the joy of learning?

Then we should ask why Sen. David Long, Speaker Brian Bosma and the State Board of Education are in such an all-fire hurry to publish school grades from a flawed system that they have said needs to be fixed and that many districts in the state have said they will not use. Something else is going on.


Schools’ board’s practices corrupt

Gov. Mike Pence and State Board of Education member Daniel Elsener, using tea party tactics, started this fight in the Department of Education, hiding behind alleged accountability. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Pence packed boards with pseudoindependents and Republican radicals who would never be elected by any group of informed voters. Elsener has made Marian University the bastion of charter schools, using state dollars and administrators reeking of Republican privatization favorites and manipulation. The new board and governor then assign $5 million for the new board to become the new Gubernatorial Educational Tearoom Division. They then falsely accuse duly elected Superintendent Glenda Ritz of slow release of worthless school grades while hopelessly unsupervised and incompetent ISTEP+ contractors actually cause the delay, then secretly ask for and receive partisan Republican legislative leadership transfer of this lawful task to the formerly independent Legislative Services Agency, now polluted with hopelessly Republican influences.

Such tactics are usually associated with tea party attacks on President Barack Obama. Partiers cannot stand any Democratic victory and will corrupt lawful practice to get their way. Kids and the people do not matter.