Exchange Is Educational
[Re "Can China Help Fill — and Fund — Vermont's Public Schools?" March 28]: As an educator passionate about developing international opportunities for Vermont students, I would like to add as an afterword to Molly Walsh's piece some of the educational benefits Vermont schools can find in developing foreign exchange programs.
A well-designed exchange program prepares future global citizens for our increasingly connected world. Welcoming classmates from other countries helps our students develop intercultural competence, reinforcing those skills naturally through daily interactions between peers. These exchanges open up opportunities for students and teachers to learn from the perspective of another culture in a personal, meaningful way.
At Stowe, our exchange program arose in order to connect students learning the Chinese language with same-age peers from China; this year, the Lamoille South Supervisory Union board voted to commit future revenue from the program directly toward a Chinese Language and Culture Fund that will facilitate the development of the Chinese program and its expansion from Stowe High School to Peoples Academy High School.
The F-1 student visa model offers a unique opportunity for schools to shape exchange programs in a way that benefits each school community. Once approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the school controls student selection. Schools can use the F-1 visa model to develop a specific academic program, add diversity to the student body and reach other school-specific goals. There is much to be explored; I encourage interested school leaders to reach out, connect and share ideas.
"Conservative Senator Peg Flory to Hang Up Her Spurs" [March 28] couldn't have been a more aptly named news article.
This woman is everything that's wrong in politics. She's a hateful, mean-spirited person who fails to find anything in common with decent, civil-minded people who only want a better way of life and recognition as a loving human being. The image of her spurring a horse instead of leading it is an image that I find appropriate. Why try to encourage and nurture civil rights when you can sink a sharpened heel into a side without any regard for pain and suffering?
Not unlike King Sisyphus, who labored in an endless and futile task, Flory squandered time and monumental effort to deny a basic human right given easily to so many man-and-woman couples: the right to marry a same-sex partner. Her comment that she has "no problem with homosexuality" shows her inability to see marriage as anything but a sexual issue — or even to refer to gays in a modern vernacular.
The fact that her contemporaries could only muster the weak comment that they "respect" her says it all. She's an ogre who will not be missed by anyone who values civil and united discourse.
Big Brother in Vermont
[Re "Trigger Warning: Business Is Brisk for Vermont Company Trying to Stop School Shooters," March 14]: Among Seven Days' standard fare of hemp-fiber kite manufacturers, kombucha Champagne bubblers, local haberdashers, homegrown politicians and high-wire musical acts, we now have a report on a new local firm, Social Sentinel, that makes its living monitoring children's social media communications through artificial intelligence algorithms in the name of "school safety."
Frankly, the title of the article should have been "Big Brother in Vermont: Spying on Children Is Brisk Business." The establishment of a privatized "thought police" monitoring communications is very disturbing, further demonstrated by the doublespeak from CEO Gary Margolis, who implies he could have prevented the Parkland, Fla., tragedy while also saying that school shootings are not going away. The FBI certainly had all the information on the supposed murderer, so mere information did nothing, especially when witness accounts by teachers and students of that tragedy — that there was more than one shooter, that the shooter was wearing full body armor, that there was a live shooter drill that day and that there were police outside the whole time who did nothing to help — are now suppressed by the media and our elected reps as being "conspiracy theories."
What is perpetuating school violence is exactly these attitudes that cannot envision schools without violence, because violence is big business, from movies and video games to F-35s. Too much trust, principle and love have been lost — like the one-room schoolhouses that made Vermont a more civilized place.
I salute Dick Vaughn for recognizing the value of workers with disabilities and for his desire to hire them [Side Dishes: "Level Grounds," March 14]. However, the community at large, and the disability community in particular, would benefit more if his plan included hiring both disabled and nondisabled workers.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was enacted to address employment challenges facing people with disabilities. Prior to its passage, most individuals with intellectual disability (ID) were un- or underemployed. Many were isolated in sheltered workshops where most workers had a disability, were paid below minimum wage and had little expectation of competitive integrated employment (CIE).
WIOA and CIE secure the dignity of economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. CIE occurs in environments where individuals with disabilities work alongside, and are reimbursed at rates comparable to, nondisabled coworkers. Although Vaughn's plan contemplates paying at least minimum wage, he apparently plans on hiring only individuals with ID. Consequently, his employees will be denied the opportunity to work alongside nondisabled friends, peers and neighbors, reminiscent of the days when individuals with ID were segregated in sheltered workshops.
I realize Perky Planet is not intended to be a sheltered workshop. However, I am concerned it is not CIE. It could become so if Vaughn tweaked his business plan by also hiring workers without disabilities.
Callahan works in Vermont Legal Aid's Client Assistance Program