Don't brainwash kids with Pledge of Allegiance

ISSUE | PLEDGE

Don't brainwash kids

What Mark Smith recalls with pride I find deeply disturbing for a nation that is dedicated to freedom of speech and thought ("Vision behind sometimes controversial Pledge," Monday).

Smith recalled his 2-year-old son solemnly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which he had learned at play school, when they drove past an American flag. At that age, the child could barely speak full sentences, let alone make a decision about his beliefs and digest the propaganda of pledging allegiance to the flag of a nation "under God" that supposedly provides "liberty and justice for all."

For Smith, a university professor, to be proud of the brainwashing of his toddler is shameful and even un-American.

Rather than use public and private schools to force a politically charged, theist pledge on our innocent children, we should spend that time teaching real lessons about the values, history, and complexity of our great melting-pot nation.

Likewise, we parents should teach our children to think for themselves, not fall victim to propaganda. If our deeds and those of our nation match our stated commitment to liberty, justice, and equality, we will earn their allegiance without the need for brainwashing.

|Michael Homans, Gladwyne

ISSUE | JOB BARRIERS

Licensing is needed

I agree with the headline on Mark V. Holden's commentary "Resolve to lower job barriers" (Monday), but I disagree with the proposed means. The barriers should be lowered through job-training programs, trade programs at the high school level, and scholarships, not by eliminating licensing. Those licenses set a minimum standard for skilled professions.

I would not want an unskilled worker installing my water heater or wiring my home. I want my children's teachers to have years of training before beginning their careers, and even the barber needs some knowledge of health before taking scissors to my hair.

Does Holden want to go back to a time when members of his profession could just hang a shingle and practice law? Licenses protect the welfare of the public.

|Gloria Schor Andersen, Voorhees, amgovern@aol.com

ISSUE | U.S. BUDGET

Pay for war up front

Early in the first Iraq war, I asked: If war was really necessary, why not initiate a special tax and involve all citizens ("If we must fight, we must pay," Sunday)? Why send troops with poorly armored vehicles? Why tell Americans they don't need to change their lifestyles (and can continue dinners out, movies, golf)? Why ask only troops and their families to sacrifice?

The cost of that war, including the cost of long-term medical care, could reach trillions of dollars.

With the way we paid for that war, our grandchildren, and maybe their children, will still be paying the interest. Congress should do its job.

|Robert Turnbull, Hatboro

ISSUE | HEALTH CARE

Obamacare works

A letter writer complained that her high deductible was "health-care hell" ("Obamacare hurts," Dec. 22). No, it isn't. Health-care hell is when a preexisting condition, even a trivial one, makes it impossible to get any insurance - something that is no longer an issue, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

|Jean A. Kozel, Eagleville

ISSUE | ENERGY

Spare U.S. parks, wilderness from drilling

Joseph Mason's call to lift restrictions on natural gas, oil, and coal production on federal lands ignores important perspectives on this policy issue ("Tap potential of resources on U.S. lands," Dec. 23).

As a nation and world, we must move toward increasing use of energy sources that are neither harmful to the environment nor polluting. We must be a much better steward of the environment in the next 75 years than we have been in the previous 75.

Also, energy markets are characterized by oversupplies rather than shortages, due in part to energy conservation and more energy-efficient cars, appliances, and buildings.

Finally, removing restrictions on energy exploration and production on federal lands would tragically and probably irreversibly change the nature of these lands. Our national parks and wilderness areas have been set aside for enjoyment and personal renewal. The clear-cutting of areas, erection of structures, and creation of roadways required for energy production would profoundly alter the character of these areas.

I agree with environmentalist Lynn White, who, referring to the destruction of the wilderness, maintains that we must reject the axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.

|Gerald D. Klein, professor emeritus, Rider University, Elkins Park, kleinger@rider.edu

Fossil fuels come with a price

Joseph Mason's commentary was alarming and unbelievable ("Tap potential of resources on U.S. lands," Dec. 23). As a family physician, I see every day the toll that fossil-fuel energy takes on our health in the form of asthma and pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. The costs cannot be ignored.

The chairman of Lloyd's of London has said that climate change is the No. 1 issue for the massive insurance group, and our military has warned that climate change is the top "threat multiplier." How, then, do fossil fuels make us more secure?

If we want jobs, security, and prosperity, let's heed the leaders of 195 nations, our most conservative economists, and Pope Francis and put a price on carbon, returning the revenue to taxpayers. Perhaps that will produce a check for Mason: a reality check.

|Dr. Daniel Wolk, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, Narberth

ISSUE | CONCUSSIONS

Movie is a start

The story of a forensic pathologist and his concussion research has been made into a major motion picture, Concussion, starring Will Smith ("New film role for NFL: Villain," Dec. 24). But I doubt it will change the debate very much.

Protocol seems to emphasize evaluating a football player ex post facto, or after he has suffered a suspected injury. And when the team's medical staff somehow determines the player did not suffer an injury, he is simply sent back in until there's another incident.

There seems to be little concern about the hundreds of sub-concussive hits a player might take over the course of a season.

The good news is that this respected researcher, Dr. Bennet Omalu, recommended that minors simply not be permitted to play contact sports. And that is at least a start toward a safer and saner solution to a very serious problem.

|Joseph Carducci, Pittsburgh, carducci@hotmail.com

ISSUE | N.J. LAND PRESERVATION

Bill could have major impact on Pinelands

The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill this month that targets preserved farmland, open spaces, and public lands, especially in the Pinelands. This bill, which is awaiting action by Gov. Christie, would expand low-intensity use of Pinelands agricultural land and would set a terrible precedent for abusing conservation easements. We are concerned that this will turn farm fields into ball fields.

Our lands could be opened up to all types of uses. Supporters say it is only temporary, but they also say it can be year-round. These easements should be dealt with only by the Pinelands Commission.

This bill also would change the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan and eliminate public input on it. We are concerned that this will undermine the Green Acres and Farmland Preservation programs, plus planning and zoning.

Many of these areas could be turned into sod farms, which use pesticides and sewage sludge to grow grass. The Pinelands is one of the largest sources of fresh drinking water on the East Coast. It should continue to be protected from activities that threaten its water, habitat, and wildlife. This bill would allow for the sale of development rights and large commercial events that could have major environmental impacts on the Pinelands.

|Lee Snyder, Pinelands issues coordinator, New Jersey Sierra Club, Medford