Letters to the Editor: January 27 – February 2, 2011

Opposes Plan to Charge $ for IB & AP Exams


Writing in response to Superintendent Dr. Berlin’s request that the public weigh in on the proposed school budget for FY 2012, I wish to express my dismay at the proposed introduction of “a charge of $50 for every International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement exam taken by students.”

Not only does this tax on students to take an advanced class conflict with the concept of a public education, but is contradictory to the school board’s resolve to “keep cuts away from the classroom”. While George Mason High School tries to constantly increase student participation in the IB program, this new fee will discourage students from attempting more rigorous courses and ultimately inhibit them from reaching there potential. The IB and AP classes are taken with the expectation that a student will be taking the exam at the end of the year as the entire class is a preparation for the exam. While $50 per exam may sound like a small amount it will quickly add up for students taking the full IB course load of six classes during their junior and senior years for the completion of the IB diploma. These students will find themselves having to pay $600 in order to take what for many Mason students are the appropriate level classes. This $600 is not including fees for sports and other extracurricular activities which IB diploma students are required to participate in for community service hours, which are not paid. The time commitment necessary to complete the service hours requirement also inhibits an IB diploma student from working a part time job to pay for these fees and to save for college.

In the end, these fees on students will produce the opposite environment than which the school system intends to create.

Andrew Emmons

Junior, George Mason High School


Did She Mean All Opposed to Her ‘Knock it Off?’


In her Letter to the Editor last week calling for civility in public discourse, Donna Byrne managed to give the impression that “civil discourse” meant that those who disagreed with her were “trouble-makers and bullies” and that they should “knock it off.”

As evidence for her position, she described her experience at a town hall meeting hosted by Congressman James Moran and Gov. Howard Dean in the summer of 2009. She indicated that it was attended by people who were “rude, lewd… and mean-spirited” and that there was even some of that elusive “spitting.”

I attended that same meeting and find that her description is wildly off-base. There were thousands of people there and it resulted in a debate that was intense with people on both sides of issues such as Obamacare involved and if a few people got too aggressive they were hardly representative of what occurred there.

I think that Congressman Moran and Gov. Dean would agree with me since at the end of the meeting, one of the anti-Obamacare questioners thanked Moran for holding the event and taking such a variety of questions and Howard Dean praised everyone for their interest and participation. He even said that it was what a town hall meeting should be and what America was all about.

Some people calling for civil discourse don’t seem to have a clue as to what “civility” and “discourse” are. It would be great if some liberals would stop telling people they disagree with to essentially shut-up and instead to actually start discussing the issues.

Margaret M. Whitehead

Via the Internet


Gun Control Means More Children Will Die


In her diatribe on gun control Ms.Thomas asks, where’s the beef? She longs to protect the children in crime-ravaged communities on the one hand and yet longs for gun control on the other. Achieving complete gun control will only result in more children dying, not less-for as the bumper sticker proclaims, “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”. Combine this with gangs and poverty and drugs and the streets of most cities will be 24/7 turf battlegrounds where collateral damage rules–and if a gun won’t take-out your enemy a Molotov cocktail or a homemade bomb will, or as she said “….in the hands of those determined to kill”.
What a lot of the chattering class seems curiously unwilling to accept is that their cherished First Amendment rights and others cherished Second Amendment rights are, in a free society,mutually dependent and inseparable. How can that be? Well, the simple technology needed to manufacture guns dictates that guns of every sort are here to stay, for good or for bad, legally or illegally, and that removing these tools from the hands of the law-abiding serves only to spur abuse by the criminal class. It is a simple, easy to understand fact that for less than seven dollars anyone can go to any hardware store and purchase all the materials required to assemble a simple zip gun and “for a few dollars more” automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines, ammunition, and IED’s can be easily manufactured for sale on the street from scrap metal and common chemicals using information in the public domain. Google homemade guns and watch the videos and read the articles. Buck up, please, and face it-the technology genie is out of the bottle and neither the Government nor any political faction can ever put it back. Attempts to outlaw guns seriously distracts from the truly important problem of dealing effectively with any sort of armed criminal activity.

Emotional editorials demonizing any established reputable technology do little to address problems resulting from the misuse of that technology and a reluctance to enforce existing laws.

John Lucas

Wolf Trap


10 Years Ago Home Values ‘Skyrocketed’ 10%


What a difference a decade makes! Last week’s “Back in the Day” noted that 10 years ago, property assessments “skyrocketed by over 10%…”

Last year, while my assessment remained the same, the tax rate skyrocketed by over 10%. And yet another hike is being being considered for this year. Financial challenges from other jurisdictions notwithstanding, I pray that city leaders will abandon this Marie Antoinette attitude and consider the burden they are placing on homeowners.

While the astronomical tax rate is not the primary reason, it is one reason that I plan to leave Falls Church this year.

Julie Warnus

Falls Church


Conn, Meserve Worked Tirelessly On Art Show


The Falls Church Arts annual Show was co-chaired by Debby Conn and Marty Meserve who worked tirelessly for weeks to make it such a huge success. The photograph in the paper did not include Ms. Conn and it should have. Ms. Meserve was out of town and could not attend the opening, but Debby certainly was and should have been acknowledged.

Terri Rea

Falls Church


Moore Family Hailed for Support of Mason Sports


Your January 6 article on the passing of Jacques J. Moore correctly saluted Mr. Moore, his grandson Joe, and Moore Cadillac for their support in lighting the stadium at George Mason High School. As co-chairs of the George Mason High School Athletic Boosters’ “Light the Stadium” Committee, we were privileged to work with the Moores and Moore Cadillac on that project. Without their significant financial backing and the contributions, large and small, of many others in the Falls Church area, the lighting of the fields in 2004 would never have occurred.

Although the six year stadium naming rights lease for Moore Cadillac expired this fall, we think the enduring legacy of such support is that private fund-raising for public purposes can be done in a manner that enriches our communities. At the time, some questioned whether the lease would unduly commercialize our schools. Yet, aside from its stadium signage, Moore Cadillac never invoked or used its array of commercial rights under the lease that was carefully vetted with both the School Board and City Council. Instead, its contribution was provided in the best sense of community involvement – in a selfless manner without strings or attachments.

Thank you to the late Mr. Moore, Joe Moore, and Moore Cadillac for their support of our schools and their sports programs and for a worthwhile lesson in civic virtue.

Joel Hamme

Falls Church

David Mowbray



How Long Will Violent Language Be Contained?


The debate over the role played by Sarah Palin and other right wing Republicans in the shooting rampage that shocked Tuscan, Arizona was given significant editorial space in the News-Press in columns by David Brooks, Paul Krugman and our own Nicholas Benton. Brooks made the case that any possible thread of cause and effect is “extremely murky.” Krugman was not surprised by the gun-burst. He could see the hatred building, based on right-wing extremist threats and wild talk of rescuing our country from socialist tyrants. Benton documented front-line observations of the “…vitrol that we hear inflaming the American people…”

Extreme violent language excites action and commitment, especially among people who are distressed. Orwell pointed out is his book, 1984 that “language creates reality.” The further truth is that the political parties, Republicans far more than Democrats, have designed careful strategies for politicians to use the same words over and over to create reality for their positions. For example, the health care debate this week in Congress is described as the “job-killer” bill and “budget-buster” while, in fact, the health care legislation creates jobs and saves a trillion dollars over ten years. (Consider the desperation of a person who heard these words and believed them when he was out of work and facing his own budget crisis.)

It is not possible to directly connect the actions of gunman Jared Loughner with the “cross-hair” web site of Sarah Palin. What we do know is that Congresswoman Giffords was “targeted” by Mrs. Palin. She then received death threats. Her office window was shattered. We do know that the troubled young man chose her over thousands of others he could have tried to kill.

Words have consequences. I am personally willing to give Sarah Palin the benefit of the doubt and say she didn’t mean to actually shoot Ms. Giffords or the other victims. But that is precisely what happened. The test is whether she refrains from using violent language in speeches and on the internet in the future.

Bob McCan

Falls Church


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