Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
I am writing after hearing some very disturbing news last night about a change in curriculum at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. As a former student, substitute teacher, and assistant coach at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, I must express my frustration and absolute dismay in hearing that there will no longer be a requirement that all students take a course in government before they graduate from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. I sincerely hope this is not true.
As a child, I grew up intrigued by the political process, due to the high interest my parents had in government and politics. My father, Ed Coogan, was a teacher of government at the high school before I was born and later became an attorney and a lifelong politician on the Island. My mother has always been active and interested in local as well as national politics. I was extremely excited to learn more about the political process in Duncan Ross's government class my senior year, and in fact, because of Mr. Ross's class, I could not keep myself away from government classes in college. I ended up majoring in government at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
I truly believe that without that base in the political system from senior year of high school, I would have been way behind the other students in my government classes at Wesleyan.
After college, I was so captivated by my studies that I pursued legal studies and an interest in health care policy at the George Washington University Law School and School of Public Health. Health care in this country is one of the top issues being focused on by our presidential hopefuls this year, in this huge election, and every single one of your students will at some point have to deal with trying to figure out the health care system in this country for their own care or for a family member. In Massachusetts, it is mandated by our state government that all citizens have health care coverage. Do these 18-year-old graduates from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School understand how the state government mandates this? Or how they will ensure they have health insurance coverage after they are out of their parents' homes? Will these new graduates be able to understand and maneuver their way through the maze that is health care in this state and country?
I am now working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as associate counsel to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, a major committee at both the state and national level. I would guess that the students graduating from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School would have no idea what my committee does or why it is so important to their lives as well as the lives of their families. In my current job, I have my hands on legislation impacting the citizens of our state every day. Understanding the government process is crucial, not only for someone interested in working for the government, but for each and every citizen of this state and country who want to have a say in how their country works.
Mr. Ross's government class did not teach me everything there is to know about local, state, and national government, but it gave me a base in civics that is truly crucial to understanding the way our country is run. A government course in your final year of high school is also crucial to enabling our youth to make intelligent determinations of where they stand politically, rather than simply following political ideologies pressed upon them by family or friends, when given the information; they are able to formulate their own ideas and political preferences.
When students leave the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, they are usually 18 or about to turn 18, the year you are first allowed to vote. How is it possible that we can expect our country to change for the better if we are not imparting to our youth the ability to understand their right to vote and all that right enables them to do within their local, state, and national governments? It is critical that 18-year-olds understand the basics of civics, the basics of their right to vote, and how they can make a difference in their lives and the lives of other citizens in their town, Island, state, and country. It is also vital that students learn the basics of civics when they are capable of understanding the process and when they are just reaching the age of voting, when they can appreciate that their voice matters, in senior year of high school. Most of your students will not leave the high school and obtain degrees in government or political science, but all of your students should leave the high school with a basic understanding of their government, how it works at each level (local, state and nationally), and the knowledge and skills to take part in the government of their country.
I hope that government remains a required course for graduating seniors from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
Nell Coogan, Esq., MPH
More illegal than before
To the Editor:
Joseph Moujabber has put forward a plan to replace his infamous "Garage Mahal" with a massive extension, larger and more intrusive than the illegal structure it was supposedly designed to ameliorate. Michael Vhay, Mr. Moujabber's attorney, has suggested that the new plan would satisfy neighbors and town regulations. On both counts, we believe Mr. Vhay is incorrect.
In a historic district characterized by modest, single-family bungalows with gracious front porches, Mr. Moujabber now proposes to double the size of his house, adding a suburban-style attached garage, two outdoor decks and a looming, three-story tower that appears to have been designed more as a bargaining chip than an architectural feature. Incredibly, this has been presented by Mr. Moujabber as a "compromise."
Your editorial referred to the tower as a "sore thumb." We actually see it as more of a gigantic middle finger directed at Mr. Moujabber's neighbors, the town of Oak Bluffs, and the Island as a whole. Even without the absurdly inappropriate tower, Moujabber's planned addition violates a long list of Copeland Plan, Cottage City Historic District, and zoning regulations. The neighbors, needless to say, are not satisfied. It is now up to the Martha's Vineyard Commission to come up with a forceful and decisive response to Mr. Moujabber's latest architectural gesture.
We look to the commission to do the right thing. The future of the North Bluff depends on it. If Mr. Moujabber is allowed to build his McMansion, there will be nothing to stop any other home owner in the neighborhood from doing the same.
The Naparstek Family
Belleruth, Aaron, Abe and Keila
A distorted view
To the Editor:
I have been living in the neighborhood of the proposed Bradley Square project for more than 30 years. I am opposed to this project as presented, because of the added buildings' sizes. If the buildings were downsized to blend with the area and contain their needs, it would be more acceptable.
From this position, I would like to address the letter published May 1, entitled "Surprise opposition." I am greatly offended by remarks made by one Holly Alaimo, (and others) about my neighborhood. Her statements about this area are her recreations of events which occurred many years ago. I do know that in my 30 years of living in this neighborhood, a drug raid did happen and became history. There has never been a flop house. There are no rented shacks with no running water, and her insensitivity to an unfortunate death as deceitfully mentioned, as well as the above listed statements, show that her views are warped, which serves no good purpose except to upset a peaceful neighborhood. She believes by her written thoughts, no matter what improvements come to the neighborhood, for her there will always be a lowlife.
Stephen W. Lewis
A pleasure, at risk
To the Editor:
Last Wednesday evening, I had pleasure of attending the Spring All-Island Band Concert for grades 4-8. Beginning students, those who have played for a few years, and seasoned jazz performers all took the stage, to the delight of parents and friends.
Fabulous teaching has yielded impressive results.
I thank Ms. Schilling, Mr. Tileston and Ms. Chapman for their dedication, talents and efforts. As I discovered that evening, the All-Island Band has been part of every school for more than 40 years. I left the concert with a sense of shared pride and yet concern for the future.
All instrumental band programs at the Oak Bluffs Elementary School will be eliminated if the upcoming override does not pass. As we in Oak Bluffs head to the polls on May 28, I ask you to support this instrumental program with a yes vote for the Oak Bluffs School override. It will be the second question on your ballot.
A bright spot
To the Editor:
It was marvelous to read about Duncan Pickard's achievements in the student government at Tufts University. I first met Duncan when he was a sixth-grader at the Oak Bluffs School and was impressed by his combination of intellectual curiosity, talent, and genuine kindness. Since then he's left a distinguished trail of achievements, from the Eagle Scouts to excellence in drama and journalism. It's interesting but not surprising to learn he's bypassing a summer of Island fun to study Arabic in Yemen. For curmudgeons who grouse about the faults of today's youth, individuals like Duncan are a reminder that there are plenty of bright spots in the next generation.
A need for change
To the Editor:
Barack Obama, an articulate, accomplished and hugely intelligent black man, is running for president of the United States, and this could be the first time that a man of color may become the leader of the free world.
However, his bid for the presidency may be cut short by the fanatical words of one religious leader. No matter how hard he tries to disassociate himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the media and the country seem destined to condemn him for the words of this religious zealot.
Being condemned for the words of another is unfair, and being judged by the actions or statements made by a person other than you is ludicrous. In fact, being pre-judged in this manner is the very foundation of prejudice, and when this destructive process is applied against people of color, it is racist.
The words of one fanatical religious leader are not those of Obama. Obama's words are words of "change," to move America forward and away from the destructive, elitist political leadership which has perpetuated policy that has put our great country in our current precarious state.
Higher gas prices, higher food prices, and higher commodity prices are real. Shortages of wheat, grain and corn, too, are real. The declining dollar also is real. Tragically, the war in Iraq is real as well. What is next?
We must remind ourselves that the source of the problems that plague this country and many other countries is rooted in elitist thinking, fanatical religious clerics, and power-hungry egotists. Thinking such as this is contrived.
Obama's "mission of change" is a desperate attempt to alter those destructive forces in this country and around the world. He understands that change is the only path to provide our children and the children of the world a future with stability and with peace.
We must remind ourselves that at this very point in time globally, the United States's stature is being quickly diminished and is becoming just one cog in the wheel of the earth. As other nations' economies prosper and as globalization takes hold, it is inevitable that the United States's superiority will be challenged.
The billions of people in the emerging markets and emerging nations who all want what we have are representative of a world of color. The browns, the blacks, the yellows, reds and the hundreds of colors in between all want a friend in the White House. They want a person they can respect, a person of character, of genius, of intelligence, of moderation, a person they can negotiate with, and most of all a person they can trust.
When one presidential hopeful chose the words, "obliterate them," the earth quaked. Leaders and peoples around the world quietly speculated who will be next on the "Hit List."
No, rhetoric will not solve the United States's nor the world's problems. To change the world, we will need intelligence, diplomacy, compassion, understanding, and mutual respect. Threats will only beget more threats.
And no, should Obama become president of this great nation, it will not be the first time that we will have a president of color. In fact, all our presidents had color. It is just that their color was white.