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Let's encourage students to reach for the top

I am writing in response to the March 28 Forum article by Gregory Peaslee of UPMC ("Young People Need Skills, Not Always a College Degree"). I am the mother of children who will soon be in ninth-grade and sixth-grade and realize that in the blink of an eye, I will be discussing career options with them as well.

I too want to direct my children to meaningful and challenging work when the time comes; however, low-paying jobs such as nursing assistants, home health aides and pharmacy technicians is not the direction I will be steering my children. I was greatly disturbed by Mr. Peaslee's statement directing our children to be prepared with skills "not necessarily in the jobs they think they might want, but in the jobs that will be needed." These low-paying jobs, however "meaningful" they may be, are not the jobs that will guarantee "success," as Mr. Peaslee indicates.

Since when should we direct our children to jobs they might not want? For work to be "meaningful" you should pursue something you enjoy. I will encourage my children to both go to college to ultimately have a host of job opportunities available to them that are afforded only to those individuals with a college degree and not sacrifice their future to fill a void in our economy!

I notice that Mr. Peaslee signed his letter "senior vice president and chief human resources and administrative services officer for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center." I wonder where Mr. Peaslee would be today if his parents offered the same advice that he is promoting? I also wonder if Mr. Peaslee has children and if he will be offering this very same advice to them, to accept some low-paying "meaningful" employment instead of obtaining a college degree and shooting for the stars!

KATHRYN MAYER
Robinson


Fund the corridor

How encouraging to read on the March 29 Perspectives page the inspiring and sensible piece "Governors for Rail" by Govs. Bob Riley, Republican of Alabama; Haley Barbour, Republican of Mississippi; Ed Rendell, Democrat of Pennsylvania; Phil Bredesen, Democrat of Tennessee; and Bob McDonnell, Republican of Virginia.

These five governors from two different parties have gotten together to promote the "Crescent Corridor," which would get the truck traffic off our roads. Their five states have joined together in a public-private venture that will seek the modest sum of $300 million in federal funding to develop the corridor.

They say this offers the "demonstrably good idea" the president is looking for to create jobs. Let's hope that Mr. Obama reads The Washington Post, where this first appeared -- or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- and fronts the project the cash it needs to get started quickly.

Is it necessary to persuade Congress? Probably. He can do that.

CORNELIA SMOLLIN
Whitehall


Re: patient welfare

I wish to respond to the March 28 Forum piece by Robert J. McCartney ("Sleepy People Make Lousy Doctors"). One would surmise after reading his opinions that physicians are insensitive to the welfare of patients and hospital administrators are motivated to squeeze as many hours as possible out of physicians in training to save money.

The genesis for hours restrictions dates to March 1984, when an 18-year-old college student suffered a cardiac arrest and demise as a result of an errant use of medications ordered by physicians in training. New York State authorized the Libby Zion Law in 1987, which basically places limitations on the hours worked by a resident staff and obligates the physician "on call" to be physically present in the institution.

In 2003 this became law for all institutions of medical training in the United States (American Council for Graduate Medical Education). Eighty hours is the limit and there are specifics, which can be seen in detail on the Internet.

Concern regarding this mandate is not limited to "older" physicians. In October 2009, an article was published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, "Why Resident Hours Must Be Flexible: A Young Surgeon's View." Jacob Moalem, M.D., cites the dearth of information demonstrating improvement in patient safety and the growing recognition of the prevalence of errors due to miscommunication during patient "handoffs."

Your readers got only "one side of the coin," and I feel that it is the obligation of the writer to provide a broader view of the issue.

ED KELLY, M.D.
Upper St. Clair


Offensive to most

As harmless an article as it may seem to be, I have to admit I was offended by the March 21 Forum piece "Ban the 'P' Word" by Lucy Fischer. After reading the first paragraph about how "... the 'N' word [is] often used ironically by African-Americans but considered racist when spoken by whites," I felt it necessary to inform the "distinguished" professor who wrote the article that she is so wrong in her statement about African-Americans and the use of that word.

So, let me set the record straight: The majority of African-Americans do not use this word. I do not, and I do not know anyone who does. The word is used often by rappers and comedians and some folks on the street, but in no way should that lead anyone to believe that all blacks believe it is OK to use the word, but not OK for whites. After all, blacks were the ones who campaigned to get rid of the word, but everyone seems to forget about that.

I would think a "distinguished" professor would have common sense enough to know that even we African-Americans vary in our opinions about the use of the so-called "N" word (among many other things).

NATALIE THOMAS
Swissvale


Theory vs. reality

In the March 21 Forum piece "Ban the 'P' Word," the subheadline asks "What exactly is it that Americans have against smart people?" I don't presume to speak for all Americans, but I would like to take a shot at answering the question.

We have nothing against smart people (professors) when they lecture students in school; it is when they begin venturing outside into the real world that I start to push back.

One of my favorite sayings came from my Physics III professor who explained that "We can't solve real problems; they're too complex. So we simplify them until they're meaningless, then we solve those." I suspect that's true in areas outside of the physical sciences as well, but I'm not sure that's as well understood by the professors who lecture us uninvited. Yogi Berra understood as he succinctly explained, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

If I want a theoretical understanding of an issue I will gladly seek the input of a professor. If I want a practical and usable understanding I will probably look for almost anyone else. I don't object to professors or smart people -- I do object to professors and smart people telling me that I'm not smart enough to understand their higher reasoning and superior intellect. When I'm interested in their opinions for running my life, I'll ask. The smart people would be wise to not be holding their breath.

R.A. STEVENS
Penn Hills


Trying this boy as an adult is a tragic injustice

Regarding the case of Jordan Brown ("Boy Faces Murder Trial as Adult," March 30): Insane. Insanity! Trying this 12-year-old as an adult! A greater crime has already been committed by the state in locking up this boy for one year instead of keeping him with his father and mandating counseling.

But, no. Judge Dominick Motto has made himself both judge and jury -- before any trial. How? He has decided that there is no possibility of the boy being helped. The judge says a psychologist's determination that the boy is at low risk for future violence is "extremely vague." Besides, Jordan refuses to take responsibility. And this passes as justice? Or even common sense? How about simple sanity!

Where is the outcry? Who in Western Pennsylvania can feel "justified" by all of this? Where is the outcry from the pharisees still among us?

I, for one, will cry with this boy. I will cry for this boy. I will cry for us, because I am a small part of "us." I have contacted my state representative to see if we can prevent this injustice -- done in the name of (a meaningless) "Justice!" What will you do? Watch and wring your hands?

WALT WEAVER
Canonsburg


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We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.



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