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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Children send letter to Bush

I came across this AP article in a local newspaper:

WASHINGTON - Gretchen Mohr has never earned a paycheck, but she knows enough to get worked up about what teachers make. So she wrote to President Bush.

"We couldn't live without them," she wrote. Teachers are "paid like dirt. It's disgraceful."
Strong words from a 10-year-old, but this one had done some homework.

"I saw an article, and it had numbers on how much money each job makes," said the fifth-grader at Alan Shepard Elementary in Long Grove, Iowa. "A tattoo artist made more than a teacher! I just think he should raise their pay a little."

Nearly 4,000 students from every state and the District of Columbia have written Bush to express their hopes and concerns about the country. Their notes have been assembled in what organizers are calling the longest letter in the world. It will be unspooled across half a mile of the National Mall on Thursday.

Handwritten by students who were in the third or fourth grade last spring, the letters address issues that are timely, touching and sometimes troubling.

Armonte Butler of Washington, D.C., asked Bush to stop drug abuse.

"I have people in my neighborhood, a lot of them, in my apartment building, and it's like, we can smell it in the hallways," Armonte said in an interview. The 10-year-old asked for more money for his school and neighborhood. He figured $10,000 would do it.

Lisa Castore of Cranston, R.I., wrote that she wants professional football and baseball leagues for women. She would like better security across the country. "I would like to know, how safe are we really?" her letter says. It also pleads for cleaner air and water.

"Sometimes when I'm walking down the street, I smell really bad smells, and that's really gross," the 10-year-old student at Oak Lawn School said in an interview. "I'm pretty sure that's considered a form of pollution."

What can Bush do about that? "He's probably the most powerful man in America," she said. "If he hears about it, he can do something about it."

One school in every state and in the capital participated in the letter-writing project, sponsored by Pilot Pen Corporation of America. In Kentucky, it was Lakewood Elementary in Cecilia. The children picked their own topics, which included oil spills, taxes, rain forests, parking spots for the disabled, diabetes and smoking.

"We get to see that they're not always worried about Barbies and playing tag. They have serious concerns," said Curt Dudley-Marling, chairman of the elementary education section of the National Council of Teachers of English, which has helped with the project.

"Through writing, they can tell us how they see the world, and that's important," he said.
Colorful copies of the student's letters have been bound into a scroll that will be unfurled on the Mall. The originals will be sent to White House officials, who have not yet seen the letters but have been invited to attend Thursday's unveiling.

Ashley Attaway, 10, of Anderson, S.C., asked Bush: "Please, if you don't mind, when is the war going to end?"

Her grandfather was in the Vietnam War and now she wants all U.S. troops in Iraq to return safely, explained Ashley, who attends Homeland Park Elementary.

She also noted that her grandfather is in his 50s and he's "still here!" That might get a chuckle out of the 59-year-old president -- assuming, of course, that Bush reads Ashley's letter or any of the others.

This is just great. We are teaching our third and fourth graders to complain about the government and to rely on it to make any changes. What happened to self-empowerment and the "you-can-do-anything-if-you-put-your-mind-to-it" attitude? I think that a better school project would be, for example, volunteering to clean the local park if they are concerned about the environment.

Also, it is interesting how the teachers let their students stay so uninformed. I would imagine that there are quite a few people (and probably half of them Democrats!) in the "chain of decision" (or whatever you want to call it) between Bush and the teacher that deserves better pay. Why aren't the students sending letters to them also?

Another thing: what makes them think that Bush has all this power? Do they remember that we still have the senate and congress?

You might think that I am being hard on ten-year-olds, but I am only five years older than them. If they want their problems to be seriously heard, then they must be prepared for serious criticism as well.

So why hasn't Bush done all of these things yet? Maybe it's because he is not a dictator. He is a president. Over the years the Presidential powers have not changed that much, and, for the most part, neither have the issues. If you continue the thinking of the letter-writers, we wouldn't have had any of these problems now if Clinton had only done his Presidential duty.

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