Bridging the gap
Your profile of Gloria Ladson-Billings touched on an important topic ("The Next Civil Rights Fight," 12/6/2013). The achievement gap is real, and it is a very serious matter, both for the young people involved and for all of us. The issues of low expectations and lack of culturally relevant pedagogy are also problems. However, I would urge Madisonians not to be complacent and expect the schools to solve all of the problems involved.
Many of the problems low-income and low-achieving African Americans (the two do not always coincide) face in the schools originate in the larger community -- both local and national. A large and growing number of African American students in Madison schools come from families displaced in the "gentrification" of cities like Chicago. They arrive here lacking community and family ties, and often end up in isolated clusters of low-income housing.
We cannot influence the forces that are displacing families. We do have some agencies in place such as the Urban League and Boys and Girls Club, but the community as a whole might want to do more outreach to families that are displaced and isolated. City residents might have to be more accepting of low-income housing in their neighborhoods so that low-income families could be more dispersed and more integrated into the community.
There are also growing issues with school curricula that are very complex but worth mentioning superficially. These include government mandates that restrict curriculum and teaching methods, making it more difficult to adapt teaching to students' needs, interests and learning styles. There is also the unconscionable amount of school time devoted to test preparation and testing itself.
Dory Lightfoot, Interdisciplinary Institute for Research in the Social Sciences and Education
Stacy Paul and Joe Tarr are absolutely correct that peer support specialists (PSS) have a lot to offer consumers of mental health services ("Been There, Done That," 12/13/2013). It is also correct to say that peer support specialists are sometimes used inappropriately for their skills. They are incorrect on one point: peers specialists do not dispense medications; only pharmacists dispense medications. Doctors and nurses administer medications; the rest of us, including peer specialists in appropriate situations, deliver medications to clients in sealed, labeled packages. Peer specialists do not give medical advice, but they can offer a client their experience with a similar medication and validate the client's experience with side effects and how they have coped with them in the past.
Those of us who supervise peer support specialists have had a steep learning curve to match their skills with the needs of clients and the goals of the mental health program. However, their modeling of recovery ensures that the contributions of peer support specialists are here to stay.
Doug Kirk, Licensed clinical social worker
Your comment on Epic Systems is totally uncalled for ("On Being a Patient," 12/20/2013). Many of my neighbors work there and put in regular work hours, are handsomely compensated and enjoy perks unlike any other in a wide area.
I don't how many hours you put in at your work, but the part that consists of writing for a very provincial free publication probably taints your view of real-world employment.
Chuck Phillipson, New Glarus
Failure to launch
I find myself in total agreement with Larry Kaufmann's belief that Scott Walker is a shoo-in to be reelected as governor, but not for the reasons that he imagines ("Prepare for a Scott Walker Victory," 12/27/2013). The last thing that Walker wants to do is campaign on the issue of health care reform; attacking Obamacare will only serve to remind voters of his decision to reject federal funding to expand the state's Medicaid program, a move that will cost Wisconsin taxpayers millions in the near term and billions over the course of the next decade.
It's becoming increasingly clear that Walker would rather campaign on his notion of eliminating the state income tax. Of course, he has no more chance of actually implementing this change than he has of fulfilling his earlier pledge to create 250,000 new jobs. But his failure to meet his jobs-pledge goal taught Walker an invaluable political lesson. You can waltz your way into office making all sorts of outlandish claims, fail to deliver on them, and emerge with virtually no long-term consequences as long as you remember to mollify the base by attacking public workers and their collective bargaining rights, along with women's reproductive rights and Native American treaty rights.
Faced with this level of civic mendacity, I'm afraid that a dewy-eyed political neophyte like Mary Burke doesn't have a prayer.
Warren J Gordon
Larry Kaufmann has looked into the future and seen a sweeping victory for the Republican Party in Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C. So now what, Mr. Kaufmann? Beyond November 2014 will there be less unemployment? Will middle-class Americans have more money and stability? Will there be fewer abortions? Will our wars end? Will there be fewer gun massacres? Will there be less homelessness? Will all Americans have health care? Will our kids' grades improve? Will we have less divisiveness and corruption in government? What, exactly, will the Republican Party accomplish with their victories? Who will benefit from them? In brief, what, exactly, was your point?