March 6 Mail: The Second Amendment, the Roots of Violence, Embracing Difference and More

A New Point to Consider
I’d like to doff my hat to Greg Bell for his well-thought-out commentary on the Second Amendment [“The Second Amendment is Invalid,” Feb. 27]. I’ve been trying to slog through the madness surrounding the gun control debate, and this provided me with a new point of view and a different approach to consider. I applaud his bravery in writing the piece, to say nothing of Folio Weekly’s willingness to print it, particularly in light of the “’Murika, HELL YEAH!” mentality that pervades society today. Jacksonville remains a staunchly conservative area, to my deep regret, and I fear Mr. Bell will likely be horsewhipped (figuratively, I hope) for daring to speak aloud a view so out of step with his chosen place of residence. I wish him the best of luck, and hope to read more such well-written and thoughtful pieces in the future.

Sean Thursby

The Real Roots of Violence
In “Screening Jacksonville’s Violence” [Feb. 27], the article failed to focus on the real causes of violence in Jacksonville and throughout other urban areas as well. Briefly mentioned in one paragraph lies the real problem. It’s not poverty, and it’s not the “challenges” of public education. It is the breakdown of the family in the black communities. This is the reason young black males don’t graduate from high school. Being the “Homicide Capital of Florida” is nothing new for Jacksonville. Until the black community addresses and attempts to solve and control the real problem, the violence will continue no matter what new gun laws are implemented. It’s not the law-abiding citizens creating the carnage in urban areas — it’s the young, uneducated black males. Why is this fact so difficult for the media to recognize?

Wes Niehaus

You Said It All
Thank you, Richard Danford, for that excellent Backpage Editorial about Jacksonville in Folio Weekly [“The Importance of Embracing Difference,” Feb. 13]. As one who has lived in this city since Calvin Coolidge was president, I can say you absolutely said it all.

Such a great piece of writing but, more importantly, you know where we were in the past, and you did not overlook the people, living and dead, who forced the changes.

Tears come to my old eyes as I wish so very much that Rutledge Pearson could somehow, someplace read what you have so eloquently written.

At my age, I love to tell my grandchildren how bad it was in the 1930s, when my white father came home from the cigar plant with pneumonia and died in one week without medical attention. There was no Obamacare, no nothing for poor people in those days, but it was much worse for the poor black families. Those were not “the good ol’ days,” and much remains, even today, to make better days for thousands of poor black families in Jacksonville.

I was glad, however, to see your upbeat ending which beautifully echoes Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.

Clarence Sears

Teaching: An Act of Rebellion
The day of reckoning is near for educators in the Sunshine State. Fear is the instinctive response to the doom and uncertainty that are born inside of us the moment our students pick up their pencils or log onto their computers.

No matter how administrators and educators try to game the system, they end up getting played by the system that appears to be designed to consign public schools to a status lower than the local brothel, with much less respect from the community.

No amount of practice, preparation or previewing can ever promise success for our schools or students, because the system has already been crafted to demonize, degrade and denigrate men and women who care about students but live and work with targets on their backs.

FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) is a monster, not because it was born that way. Originally intended to diagnose students’ needs in the classroom, FCAT has morphed into a handmaiden for elected and appointed officials to destroy what little joy there is in the teaching profession.

Data and accountability are nice, but they are used far too often by the party in power in Tallahassee because they know that opposition is toothless, impotent or in hiding. Every Election Day that comes and goes further cements the lust for power that our so-called leaders place ahead of truly serving our state and our future.

It is only inevitable that schools have become testing factories in which district and school officials are reduced to being overseers who have no choice but to monitor and micromanage a chain gang busting rocks in unison for an ever-shrinking piece of hard bread and sip of tepid water.

No matter what we educators do, it will never be enough, so why bother? It’s easier for suits to justify their jobs by telling us how horrible we are than it is to say that we truly are trying and need a break.

Teaching may not be as bad as being in prison, but at least the average convict gets a fair trial. FCAT, however, is our judge, jury and executioner.

John Louis Meeks Jr.

Pay for the Best Talent
I noted that the new chief of governmental affairs and community outreach position for Duval County Public Schools pays $110,000. I’m sure that that salary is justified by DCPS, in that it would be “difficult” to get a competent employee for that position for fewer dollars.

Wouldn’t that same logic also apply to the hiring of teachers in our system? To get the most competent teachers in the classroom, a six-digit salary would surely help.

But if there is not a connection between offering a desirable salary to find and hire the best people for any job, then why not put all district employees on the same pay scale as teachers — or put all teachers on the same pay scale as those of the elite executives?

Pat Lewis

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