Views in brief

July 23, 2009

Standing up to Fred Phelps

THANKS SO much for the good reporting about such brave people refusing to be silenced in the face of bigotry ("Seattle faces down Westboro bigots"). I grew up in Topeka's Westboro neighborhood and went to school with Fred Phelps' kids. He was an abusive jerk then, and continues to be an embarrassment to his neighbors.

The only good thing I can say about him is that he has made a very conservative city into an overwhelmingly pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender place. No one wants to be like Fred!
Nancy Baker, Lawrence, Kan.

Twisting what socialism means

THE PARTY for Socialism and Liberation's (PSL) position on China is completely contradictory. They claim that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the last defense for socialism in China, which the PSL define incorrectly as state ownership of the means of production, as all Stalinists do.

Yet the CCP has played the leading role in the introduction of private and foreign capital into China and dismantling the state sector, all the while ensuring control of the country by a single ruling party. This process has been praised and applauded in the Western press for some decades now.

Deng's slogan in the late 1970s was "To get rich by hard work is glorious." The New York Times in 1994 praised China in words that were typical for the period:

There is not an adjective that soars high enough or detonates with enough force to describe China's economic explosion or the promise of its future. One fifth of humanity...are now fully unleashed in an epic pursuit of material wealth.

Thus, the PSL find itself in the company of strange bedfellows in its support for China's ruling party.

As Dennis Kosuth says, the differences are sharp and clear ("The Tiananmen Square debate"). The International Socialist Organization defends democratic workers' power, while the PSL defends bureaucratic capitalism in a country whose ruling elite does not even claim to be socialist any more.

I recommend people read Ahmed Shawki's articles on China ("China: From Mao to Deng" and "China: Deng's legacy") from the International Socialist Review.

That should clear up things for any one who still wants to apologize for China's ruling class.
Paul D'Amato, Chicago

Helping universities be competitive

DEREK IDE'S letter mentions Higher Ed Holdings several times, and in so doing, may give readers an erroneous impression about Higher Ed Holdings' impact on curriculum ("The business of education").

Here are the facts. Higher Ed Holdings supports faculty at state universities to help them convert their courses for online instruction. The quality of the curriculum depends entirely upon the individual universities and their professors who develop and teach it. When students enroll in online classes, they are enrolling in the university and they earn their degrees from the university.

Higher Ed Holdings does not grant degrees. Higher Ed Holdings' stated mission is to help state universities become more competitive and reach high-need underserved populations. Higher Ed Holdings provides services to respected universities around the country.

I would like to direct you to another article that appeared in Inside Higher Ed more recently entitled "The Evidence of Online Education" which states that "online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning." The article is based on the findings of a new meta-analysis report released in June by the U.S. Department of Education.

Another good resource is a report entitled "The College of 2020: Students," which appeared in Chronicle Research Services, also in June of this year. That report states that "colleges that have resisted putting some of their courses online will almost certainly have to expand their online programs quickly."

In addition, we welcome you to visit our Higher Ed Holdings Web site, where professors and deans from state universities describe their work in developing and teaching their online programs. We appreciate your interest,
Anna Martinez, Higher Ed Holdings, Dallas, Texas

A government that stoops low

NO AMERICAN government should allow torture, assassinations, kidnapping, overthrowing democratically elected governments, or domestic spying on innocent Americans that haven't broken the law.

Some people think our government should participate in these actions under certain circumstances.

Just because the ''bad guys'' do [or try to do] these bad things doesn't mean that the ''good guys'' should stoop to their level. We should have a government that supports democracy, human rights, and civil liberties at home and abroad.
Chuck Mann, Greensboro, N.C.