Letters to the Editor: Is Taking Away Financial Aid for Drug Use Fair?

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I am totally mortified at Salar Jahedi's column on people who take illegal drugs ("A Drug-Free Berkeley," July 5).

I don't know where to begin, except to say that if Salar thinks marijuana smokers are dragging this country down, he should think again. I have been to Holland, where the Planet of the Ape drug policies we have are repudiated. Holland has decriminalized marijuana and has made it safe to procure (unlike in the U.S. where you buy from sleazy people). Holland also has one of the highest gross national products in the world. Their unemployment rate is lower than the unemployment rate in the U.S. Teen drug use in Holland is only a fraction of the that of the U.S. They also don't have drive-by gangster style shootings like we do. I could go on.

What I do in the privacy of my home is none of anyone's damn business. That's what is suppose to make America great, not fanatical crusading drug warriors with an ax to grind.

Finally, the drug warriors seem to also think that alcohol is a good drug. You watch the superbowl with commercials promoting Budweiser and then other commercials linking marijuana smokers to Osama bin Laden. The hypocrisy is out there for the world to see.

If we are going to prohibit substances, let's prohibit alcohol. It has caused more death and destruction that any other drug combined. Besides, I despise alcoholics. But the drug warriors coddle them and feel sorry for them, while marijuana smokers face the brutality of the American criminal justice system.

If Salar and his controlling drug warrior friends want harsh drug laws, please move to Singapore or Malaysia. But please, don't trash American freedoms with your drug warrior hysteria. Just leave me the hell alone.

Sean Porter

New Orleans, Louisiana

In his most recent column, Salar Jahedi states, "The government is by no means obligated to support the habits of law-breaking individuals. In fact, an individual who knows that his financial aid will be cut off if he is caught smoking and decides to smoke anyway is not the most studious of students. Either that, or he is ready to provide for his own education."

Not true. Students who smoke in spite of the law are doing what they believe they have the right to do. Why should the government be able to attack harmless pot smokers who actually want to attend college while rapists and murderers can still get financial aid? Shouldn't we want kids these days to want to go to college?

The problem in this country these days is education. We pay our teachers low salaries. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush just signed a new budget for education that gives himself a nice little raise but cuts back credits students take in high school. This doesn't make sense to me.

I say the first priority of the government should be education. And when we go off and punish students that actually want to learn, it upsets me horribly. These kids actually want to go to college. They're not sitting at mom and dad's house smoking all day while accomplishing nothing. They're in school. Let them do what they want within reason as long as they're learning. The best way to shape a great country is good education, and we are moving in the wrong direction.

We need to start realizing cannabis is a part of our culture and people will toke up no matter what. Spending billions of taxpayers' dollars to keep pot smokers behind bars is ridiculous, and it needs to stop.

Our country and schools need to focus on more important things; weed is not one of them.

B. Moore

Gainesville, Florida

I support firmly Salar Jahedi's position on a drug-free Berkeley ("A Drug-Free Berkeley," July 5). After all, Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time in Italy and he didn't accomplish that by letting people do whatever they wanted. Fascists have always gotten a bad rap by the liberal media. State authority means more than life itself and anyone who dares to go against the authority of the American state deserves to be forced into permanent illiteracy and sentenced to a lifetime of menial servitude.

So let's tear up the Bill of Rights, put on some nice clean brown shirts, and go out and beat up some potheads.

Patricia Schwarz

Pasadena, Calif.

Inspiring Writer

I just finished reading Tag Savage's movie review ("Sandler's 'Deeds,'" July 5) It is the most appalling, irreverent, disgusting, shameful, insidious and inappropriate piece of journalism I have ever read. It is also the best piece of journalism I have ever seen in The Daily Californian.

Tag Savage is clearly an original, but if you had more Tag Savages, you might be on to something. After reading this article, I might consider

becoming a regular Daily Cal reader, and perhaps I'll forget about the time when UC Berkeley Chancellor Berdahl's statement regarding squirrels made the front page.

Give Tag Savage a slap in the jaw and then a pat on the back. Keep up the good work.

Nick Williams

member, UC Berkeley Academic Senate

Weighting GPAs Revisited

In response to your editorial proposing to eliminate the weighting of advanced placement course grades as an equity issue, Mike McCarthy suggests instead that every California high school be required to offer more AP courses ("Letters to the Editor," July 7).

That would be a terrible solution, and it comes from letting the tail wag the dog in thinking about AP courses. The purpose of AP courses is not about making college admission decisions; it's to allow exceptional students to advance to college-level work in an area that's of special interest to each student. When we make multiple AP courses the normal expectation for all good students, the result is a short-changing of the high school curriculum and, often, the dumbing down of AP courses.

When I was in high school, for example, I had a special love of mathematics, so I took the AP math course. In other subjects, I took rigorous and demanding honors courses at the high school level. If my high school had felt that in order to get me into a good college they had to rush me through every subject, I would have ended up less well-prepared for actual college work.

I would prefer a policy that allows preferential weighting for one AP course, to encourage excellent students to push themselves in their strongest areas. But high schools should teach AP courses only to students who really want and need that level of study in a particular area, not because their students are anxious about college admissions.

Brian Harvey

UC Berkeley professor

Evaluating Pledge Decision

The media frenzy regarding the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance has been an embarrassment. Where is the sober reporting of facts and informed commentary that viewers so desperately need, especially in the midst of a controversy?

Within hours of the court ruling the US Senate condemned the decision, President Bush declared it "ridiculous," and the members of the House of Representatives defiantly recited the pledge in front of hoards of news cameras. Meanwhile, news commentators were voicing their opinions and pollers were pounding the pavement. Are we to believe that all those who are sworn to represent the people and report the hard facts had actually read and digested the 32-page decision and were informed enough to make these decisions in so

short a time?

Upon closer review of the court's actual decision, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is not declared illegal. However, the California statute requiring teachers to lead the compulsory recitation each day is. For those who believe this is unprecedented, it is important to note that the court reached a similar decision in 1943, declaring the compulsory recitation a violation of the First Amendment.

Unlike the oaths taken in courtrooms across the country, there is no alternate pledge in schools without the words "under God." And though the U.S. currency contains the words "In God we Trust"-which does seem out of place on money, of all things-no one is forced to pledge those words every time he or she receives or spends money. And if any member of Congress feels that his or her rights are being violated by having to recite a prayer before each session-which has always seemed out of place to me in a supposedly secular government-then he or she has the right to take the issue up at the next session.

What is at issue here is not only the separation of Church and State, but the freedom of conscience. A state cannot force its citizens to say or do anything that goes against his or her conscience. Freedom of conscience is at the heart of all our most precious freedoms. If only our fearless and over-zealous leaders had taken the time to read the court's decision, perhaps they would have realized this. But they forgot that leading doesn't always mean speaking or taking action before anyone else. Sometimes it requires actually thinking first.

Tora Chung

San Francisco, Calif.


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