Pubdate: 03 January 2000
Source: Gainesville Sun, The (FL)
Copyright: 2000 The Gainesville Sun
Contact:  P.O. Box 147147 Gainesville, FL 32614-7147
Fax: (352) 338-3128
Author:  Richard J. Melker, Gainesville


It is always exciting to hear from Earl "Chuck" Carlson, even if only
through The Sun (Speaking Out, Dec. 13).

Many of us are fortunate to know Chuck as Dr. Carlson, a former language
arts teacher at Ft. Clarke Middle School. Although I knew he served in
Vietnam, I was unaware that he was "Sky Chief Six", commander of a
helicopter company.

It is typical of Chuck to emphasize the courage and bravery of those who
fought covertly in Laos and Cambodia while minimizing the heroism of the
pilots, including himself, who inserted them there. As always, his writing
is poignant and thought provoking.

At some point after the war, Chuck moved to Gainesville and taught my sons
to communicate the English language succinctly. He was striving to instill
a strong dose of responsibility and self- accountability in his students.
He demanded a lot and gave of himself, especially to those working on the
school newspaper. He was a unique and courageous teacher.

Unfortunately I saw Chuck lose some of his spark over the years, possibly
from the frustration of diminishing support for his uncompromising efforts
to maintain high standards. Whatever the reason for his retirement, I'm
happy to know that he is well in his latest incarnation.

What is the connection between these events in his life and this letter?
Two things:

First, when it comes to education, politicians still don't get it. They get
the "F". Chuck could teach them a thing or two. Our recently elected
governor comes to mind as his first pupil, but the problem is far greater
than any single politician.

All politicians need to spend a day as the teacher in a classroom or try to
live on a teacher's salary (as well as be subscribed in an HMO or wait
their turn in a hospital emergency department).

Teachers are among the lowest paid professionals in America and our
students are among the least educated in the Western world. We live in an
era of unimaginable opportunity, yet we must import 100,000 computer
scientists for lack of college graduates with computer skills. In Florida,
no one wants to pay taxes for education, and few have concluded that if we
don't, we will end up dumping far more into entitlements and new prisons.

The proposed changes in education are elitist at best. In a time of budget
surplus, we must recommit to building the best education system, especially
in primary grades. Programs must be implemented to intervene even before
children are old enough for Head Start. We must educate our children who
are having children.

Our schools need more teachers and the restoration of other professional
positions, especially mental health workers and counselors. But first and
foremost, we must attract the best and brightest educators by paying far
higher salaries and restoring respect for this most noble profession.

Second, America continues to fight a covert war, not unlike that which the
CIA financed in Thailand during Vietnam -- one that history (and
Prohibition) tells us we will surely lose. It corrupts the very foundations
of our society and drains unimaginable resources for which we pay dearly,
especially with our civil liberties.

Bosnia? Kosovo? No. The only war fought on United States soil since the
Civil War has been the drug war. Further, America is insidiously and
inexorably being drawn into the conflict in Columbia.

Our involvement is not unlike the early days of Vietnam when we sent
advisors, "humanitarian aid" and weapons. Will history repeat itself? Most

If we truly want to win this war, we must reduce the demand for drugs at
home. This can only be accomplished by intensifying research into the
causes of and treatments for drug dependency and by eliminating the
helplessness and hopelessness that drives so many underprivileged into the
drug culture.

Drug dependency is a medical disease and must be treated as such. No longer
should jail time be meted out to those who can't afford treatment or abuse
certain drugs, while others, equally dependent but with more resources,
receive treatment in detoxification programs.

Drug dependency and recidivism rates are similar across all socio- economic
groups, yet we wage war only on those who are least able to help
themselves, and in so doing finance the drug cartels in Columbia.

So what hath Chuck Carlson wrought with his incisive article? An
opportunity to recognize a true patriot, a prayer that we and our leaders
dedicate ourselves to providing quality education to all Americans, and for
the sake of our children and our children's children, the hope that our
leaders will rethink their failed strategies for ending the longest and
costliest war in our history.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart