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Opinion | Move to the South and Change It?



To the Editor:

To Margaret Renkl’s challenge — “Don’t Like the South’s Politics? Move Here and Vote” (Opinion, July 20) — my response is that I don’t have to and don’t know why I would. I may not be able to vote in the South, but my money can.

One thing we have learned from Donald Trump is that every elected office is a national office. I am happy to contribute to good candidates even in states other than my own.

It is my way of nationalizing every election in the South and fighting back against the entrenched regional interests and narrow political perspectives that are at large there. If more voters nationwide made every contest their own, the entrenched local politicians could not compete.

Richard W. Poeton
Lenox, Mass.

To the Editor:

I am so grateful to Margaret Renkl for her essay encouraging liberals to move to the South and vote. I hope some will.

As a lifelong and fairly liberal Southerner, I have been battling despair and hopelessness as I have watched so many of my neighbors fall for the lies spouted by a sore loser ex-president. The divisiveness he has promoted is just making America mean — not great.

I have been saying I need to move to a more liberal area, and if it weren’t for my children and grandchildren all living nearby, I would have.

Thank you, Ms. Renkl, for helping me remember other good reasons to stay home and work for change.

Chandler Rosenberger
Suwanee, Ga.

To the Editor:

Margaret Renkl urges more liberal voters to move to the South. She must know that in choosing a home people decide based on what is best for them. Any family that could someday have members of childbearing age now has to consider where they will all be safe.

If people already living in the South vote against the health and safety of their citizens, they cannot expect others to move in to save them.

Carlene Boisaubin
Eggertsville, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I love Margaret Renkl’s essay. It is all so true about what we found in the South when we moved there five years ago because of a granddaughter. Southern hospitality is a real thing. Neighbors will help with a lost pet or a flat tire any time of the day or night.

We are balanced liberal voters who want to respect each person regardless of their politics. I sometimes wish that the Trump signs weren’t so large or that the pickups would remove their large Confederate flags, but I have never met a mean person in five years.

We plan to become snowbirds soon, with Colorado in the summer and the Florida Panhandle in the winter. I’ll be looking for more of you who think like Margaret Renkl.

Marcella Rejoice Ruch
Colorado Springs

To the Editor:

Margaret Renkl accurately points out many virtues of the South. Beauty, hospitality and kindness do abide there.

However, as a mother of two daughters who reside in Nashville, I now live in fear of what might happen if one of them suffered a pregnancy complication and was denied lifesaving care because of the recent Dobbs decision.

I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Renkl and caution, “Liberals, run for your lives.”

Carrie Montague
Sparks, Md.

To the Editor:

My parents both came from Kentucky, so I spent a lot of time in the South when I was young. I laughed when I read the author’s description of Southerners as being generous and always willing to help if your car breaks down or whatever. My observation was that might be the case if you’re white and if they perceive you to be Christian and heterosexual.

I wouldn’t live in the American South for any amount of money.

Glynn Chesnut
Glendale, Calif.

To the Editor:

Like Margaret Renkl, I am a Tennessean. I am a Southern Democrat who is continually flummoxed by the sheer lunacy of many of our neighbors and fellow citizens here in the Volunteer State and beyond.

I find her take on today’s America to be spot on, but not mean or spiteful. In today’s desert of introspective thought and concern for the commonweal, she offers us an oasis of cogent perspectives.

Kudos to her for her willingness to succinctly address these thorny issues from here in the belly of the red South. And kudos to The New York Times for hosting her essays and all the other works from your blue-ribbon writers.

Matt Thomson Sr.
Jackson, Tenn.

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Lashes Trump Over Capitol Riot, Saying He ‘Lacked the Courage to Act’” (news article, July 26):

President Biden lets Donald Trump off too easily. Perhaps his actions were far darker; perhaps he had planned the insurrection and was waiting to take control. We need to stop being naïve and consider that his plans might be far more dangerous to our democracy.

Pat Alexander
Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I think President Biden has it wrong. Trump had “the courage to act” … in his own self-interest!

Brant Thomas
Cold Spring, N.Y.

To the Editor:

We far too easily misrepresent the former president. He did not lack the courage to act against the mob attack on the Capitol; he lacked presidential stature. In choosing not to act, he failed the office of president.

Harold A. Maio
Fort Myers, Fla.

To the Editor:

“Endemic Covid-19 Is Looking Brutal,” by David Wallace-Wells (Sunday Opinion, July 24), overlooks one of the most perilous aspects of endemic Covid-19: increased cases of long Covid.

Too often, long Covid is buried under media coverage that counts infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations as the markers of the pandemic. We can’t predict the full impact of long Covid in coming decades, especially as the number of affected individuals continues to rise.

Long Covid sufferers are adults of all ages, and even children. They are parents, scholars, athletes and valued community members. Most of them once led full and active lives but now spend days housebound. Many can no longer work but have been denied disability benefits.

Comprehensive Covid journalism begets comprehensive Covid policy. We simply cannot discuss endemic Covid without including long Covid. Otherwise, we discourage action against a mass disabling event with impacts that we have only just begun to measure.

Emma Zimmerman

To the Editor:

I am old enough to remember when there was prayer in schools. While my elementary school class recited the Lord’s Prayer, I mumbled or stayed silent, knowing that it wasn’t my prayer.

Justices, please don’t make my grandchildren feel the same discomfort. These are public schools. They belong to everyone.

Burt Solomon
Arlington, Va.

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Adnan Syed of ‘Serial,’ Newly Freed, Is Hired by Georgetown University



Adnan Syed, who was freed in September after he spent 23 years in prison fighting a murder conviction that was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” has been hired by Georgetown University as an associate for an organization whose work mirrors the efforts that led to his release, the university has announced.

Mr. Syed, the subject of the 2014 podcast and pop-culture sensation that raised questions about whether he had received a fair trial after being convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, will work for Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time of Ms. Lee’s death in Baltimore, has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The university said that Mr. Syed, now 41, will help support programs at the organization, such as a class in which students reinvestigate wrongful convictions and seek to “bring innocent people home” by creating short documentaries about their findings. The program, founded in 2016, “brings together leading scholars, practitioners, students and those affected by the criminal justice system to tackle the problem of mass incarceration,” according to its website.

Georgetown University, which is in Washington, said that in the year leading up to his release, Mr. Syed was enrolled in the university’s bachelor of liberal arts program at the Maryland prison where he was incarcerated.

“To go from prison to being a Georgetown student and then to actually be on campus on a pathway to work for Georgetown at the Prisons and Justice Initiative, it’s a full circle moment,” Mr. Syed said in a statement. “P.J.I. changed my life. It changed my family’s life. Hopefully I can have the same kind of impact on others.”

He added that he hoped to continue his education at Georgetown and go to law school.

The new job this month culminated what has been a remarkable year for Mr. Syed, whose case has again received widespread public attention after a flurry of recent legal activity.

In September, Mr. Syed was released from prison after a judge overturned his murder conviction. Prosecutors said at the time that an investigation had uncovered various problems related to his case, including the potential involvement of two suspects and key evidence that prosecutors might have failed to provide to Mr. Syed’s lawyers.

In October, prosecutors in Baltimore dropped the charges against Mr. Syed after DNA testing on items that had never been fully examined proved Mr. Syed’s innocence, officials said.

Ms. Lee’s family filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals after prosecutors dropped the charges.

On Nov. 4, the court said in an order that the appeal could be heard in court in February.

Marc Howard, the director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, said in a statement that Mr. Syed’s “commitment to the program and to his education was clear from the moment he stepped into the classroom.”

He added that Mr. Syed “is one of the most resilient and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and he has so much to offer our team and the other students in P.J.I. programs.”

In a Georgetown University article about the hiring, Mr. Syed said that he was in disbelief when he first saw a flier for the program.

“It became this domino effect to see us be accepted,” he said. “It made it become something real in the eyes of others, that there are opportunities. There can be a sense of hope: a sense of hope that things can get better, a sense of hope that I can work hard and still achieve something, a sense of hope that I can still do something that my family will be proud of.”

His attachment to the school was evident on Sept. 19, when he walked out of prison for the first time since he was a teenager.

Amid a throng of reporters and his supporters, Mr. Syed walked down the courthouse steps in Baltimore, smiling. He gave a wave.

And in his hand, he carried a binder with a Georgetown sticker. His graded papers and tests were inside.

Read the full article here

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At Berkeley Law, a Debate Over Zionism, Free Speech and Campus Ideals



“Supporting Palestinian liberation does not mean opposition to Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” the group said in a statement to the Berkeley law community. Members of the group did not respond to messages seeking an interview.

After learning about the bylaw, Mr. Chemerinsky met with the university’s Hillel rabbi and spoke with several Jewish students, but, aside from concerns within the law school, the reaction was relatively muted, he said.

That changed, he said, after Kenneth L. Marcus, the civil rights chief of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration, wrote about the bylaw in September in The Jewish Journal under the explosive headline “Berkeley Develops Jewish Free Zones.”

Mr. Marcus wrote that the bylaw was “frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night,” and said that free speech does not protect discriminatory conduct.

The article went viral.

Mr. Chemerinsky said he learned about Mr. Marcus’s article, which he described as “inflammatory and distorted,” while he was in Los Angeles for a conference. Mr. Chemerinsky said he typed out a response to the article, which was appended to it, and then didn’t think much of it. That afternoon, he was deluged by emails. At an alumni event that night, the law school’s perceived hostility to Jews was “all anyone wanted to talk about.”

In an interview, Mr. Marcus, a Berkeley law school alumnus, said that he was contacted by law students there who were concerned about the bylaw. He said he spent weeks trying to support them and wrote his article after Berkeley did not “rectify the problem.”

Not allowing Zionist speakers, he said, was a proxy for prohibiting Jews. The provisions, he said, are “aimed at the Jewish community and those who support the Jewish community,” even while acknowledging that the policy could allow Jewish speakers and bar those who are not Jewish.

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‘Better Defined By Their Strengths’: 5 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences



“People with learning differences are human,” wrote Deanna White, a neurodiversity advocate and parent learning coach in response to a question we posed on LinkedIn. “Unique individuals and wonderful humans that are better defined by their strengths. So stop focusing on the weakness.”

We invited our social media followers across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to weigh in on the most effective way schools can better support students with learning differences.

Responses ranged from shifting educators’ mindset—like highlighting student strengths—to more far-reaching changes that would require schoolwide or district support.

Focus on students’ strengths

There are many ways of encouraging students to play to their strengths, as educators Winston Sakurai and Phyllis Fagell demonstrated in an August 2022 article by Education Week Assistant Editor Denisa Superville.

They detailed how they shared their own learning struggles as a way to connect with their students. Their personal successes show students, who may be struggling academically or socially, that anything is possible.

Here’s what other educators had to say.

1. Help them understand their learning strengths and challenges and growing them as strong self-advocates.

2. Devoting time and money to developing teachers’ abilities to differentiate.

– Amy S.

By having high expectations and giving them exposure to high-quality materials and experiences, even ones that seem “above them.” They will shock us with their insights every time.

– Angela P. 😒😒🥴

Meet students where they are

In a 2015 primer on the topic, EdWeek Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks wrote about how “differentiated instruction”—the process of identifying students’ individual learning strengths, needs, and interests and adapting lessons to match them—became a popular approach to helping diverse students learn together. Respondents largely agreed.

Time to work with every student. If you can meet with a child for a bit of time to help with exactly what she or he needs, it might ignite both learning and understanding.

Alison K.

So many ways…start with environment, a.k.a. The Third Teacher.

  • Reduce obstacles

  • Increase supports

  • Meet kids where they are

(h/t @drncgarrett)

Matt R.

Small class sizes, strong positive teacher/student relationships, differentiated instruction, and reflection.

Yvonne E.

Smaller class sizes

In a 2017 Opinion essay, former teacher Marc Vicenti wrote about “the daily wear and tear on educators when trying to juggle a full teaching load and meaningful relationships with lively young people who all have different needs and experiences.”

“We can either choose to be less effective in our practice or exhaust ourselves—neither of which is beneficial to students or our own well-being,” he wrote.

Smaller class sizes are one way of mitigating the risk of burnout while working to meet each student’s needs.

Small classes, small schools, local control. I am the principal in a pretty small school in a small community and I know every child, and every family and we can build programs to meet our students’ needs. A country run or state run school system can’t do that.

Ryan G.

Increase funding to actually lower the student-to-teacher ratio. This allows teachers to give more time to the individual.

Cathleen W.

Fewer standardized tests

Standardized tests have long been criticized for narrowing instruction and for holding all students to the same standard when “students enter school at varying levels and learn and grow at different rates.”

The backlash against standardized testing renewed interest in alternative ways to evaluate students’ learning progress, like “performance assessments—the idea of measuring what students can do, not merely what they know”.

STOP standardized testing.

Dawn W.

Fewer standardized or timed tests, teaching to mastery, not according to a schedule.


Give students a voice

Sometimes it’s best to go to the source to discern how to best tackle an issue. Giving these students a voice can not only empower them in their learning, but also help educators understand how to have the biggest impact.

Ask them how they learn and what helps. Give them a voice!

Grisel W.

Yes! Listening to what students need and giving them a voice is something we need to do for all students, but especially those who need more help in the classroom.

Victoria D.

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