Email letters, June 28,  2013

As infernos rage in Colorado, it’s Irresponsible to set off fireworks

I’m confused. Did the Garfield County Commissioners not just allow the sale of fireworks from June 29 until July 5?  On the front page of today’s Post-Independent I read that the commissioners have now put fire restrictions in place that ban the “use of explosive material.”  Two messages? 

Come on, folks, support our firefighters, first responders, Forest Service personnel and everyone else who will be affected in the event of a major fire, and that includes you.  No fireworks … nowhere.   


Certain college students really don’t need to take higher-math courses

I was in attendance at the meeting the other night hosted by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The discussion turned to the different math thresholds for college STEM students (those majoring in a field of science, technology, engineering or math) versus non-STEM students. A non-STEM student might be someone majoring in journalism, the liberal arts, etc.

One of the audience members took issue with having the different math thresholds in response to my question asking about non-algebra-based math for non-STEM students. This audience member was insisting that all college students should be required to learn at least Algebra 2 while they are in college that is essentially high school math. As a former high school and college math instructor, I beg to differ.

First of all, let me state that I approve of high school math standards that require students to take at least Algebra 2 so that if these students decide later to become STEM students, they will have the math background to do so.

However, once a student goes to college and decides to become a non-STEM student, I don’t see a need for him or her to take algebra-based college mathematics to get a degree. As part of a well-rounded education, I feel it’s important for all non-STEM students to be required to take a college math course or two. But let it be something like a statistics course or a math course more related to real-life applications.

It shouldn’t be remedial math either. It should have the rigor of a college math course without having to be algebra-based, which, for most non-STEM students, does not have any relevance to their major.

Many math people at the college level, including the audience member mentioned above, have a bias when it comes to teaching algebra-based mathematics as the only college-level math that can be taught.

This type of mathematics is extremely irrelevant to non-STEM majors and it is also a death knell for anyone who is extremely, right-brained. I know many right-brained people who have lived productive lives and have become upstanding members of our communities without having to learn any algebra in college. We need to get over this bias as a math community.

Finally, let me say that I am against all remedial math courses at the college level. Offering remedial math courses at institutions of higher learning only enables a failed K-12 curriculum.

At Colorado Mesa University as well as most other Colorado universities and colleges, Math 030 and 060, are offered as pre-algebra remedial classes. These math courses are not even high school level math.

So, basically, we are teaching grade-school math at
the college level, and students get grades for them. That is ridiculous. Offer remedial instruction or tutoring, yes, but don’t call them courses and don’t give students grades for them.

But first, the Colorado Department of Higher Education needs to have a huge makeover. They are the big enablers and a huge roadblock to common sense higher education.


Grand Junction

Federal government must provide civil benefits to all legally married couples

Robert Burkholder’s Friday offering, “DOMA decision shows court is divorced from God’s law,” serves as a useful point of departure for analyzing the Supreme Court’s rationale for striking down the “one man, one woman” provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

First, as a matter of our law, because the Northwest Ordinance predated ratification of the Constitution, sentiments expressed in the former are subsumed in – and do not “trump”—the plain text of the latter, much less of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Second, the Supreme Court’s 1885 definition of marriage in Murphy v. Ramsey as “the union of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony” – with emphasis on “one” – applied only to the statutory criminalization of polygamy.  Because that case did not address “same-sex marriage” at all, its dictum definition has no legal force today.

Third, since 1885, the federal government has increasingly utilized marital status as a convenient shorthand for conveying legal and financial benefits to spouses under civil law – presumably, to promote the stability of family units. 

More recently, some religious denominations have realized that same-sex couples are not biblically excluded from “the holy estate of matrimony.” and that the “Golden Rule” does not countenance discriminatory denigration of God’s LBGT children.  Meanwhile, several states have recognized that “gays” also form stable families worthy of taxpayer support.

Thus, in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court rejected DOMA’s “traditional” (religious) definition of marriage, first, because – absent evidence of “injury”—traditional marriage requires no “defense” (even though House Republicans wasted $28 million combating imaginary “harms”), and, second, because—even though Burkholder, private religious groups and the states remain free to embrace “traditional marriage” – the federal government cannot constitutionally deny equal civil benefits to legally married, same-sex couples.

Grand Junction                 


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