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Letter to The Editor
Capitol Press
April 1, 2005

Students Speak Out For Wolves

I was amazed at your rant in the March 25th edition against the students from Sunnyvail Environmental School who testified at hearings on wolf management in Oregon. Your main points seem to be that the hearing was to discuss "technical administrative rule language," that "12 or 13" year olds are not mature or knowledgeable enough for the job, and that these kids will not be affected by the decision being contemplated.

In the same edition, however, you praised the FFA's annual essay contest, published one winning essay and referred readers to your web site where one can find winning essays in every age group - including "12 or 13" year olds.

So let me get this straight - it is OK for FFA kids to write about complex technical matters like Spotted Owl Management and timber economics but it is not OK for students at an "environmental" school to study such issues and testify at a public hearing?

Is there an inconsistency here? Does the Capital Press really believe that public hearings should be limited to "people who are knowledgeable experts or who are directly impacted." And who pray tell should decide who qualifies as a "knowledgeable expert" or, for that matter, who will be "directly impacted"?

I can vividly remember when the students of Tulelake High School were marched into the auditorium of the school in 2001 to participate in an anti-ESA rally lead by Congressman Wally Herger. The president of the FFA was one of the speakers. Of course she condemned the ESA - just as she had been taught. In other venues I've heard nine year olds testify about how the Spotted Owl and mean environmentalists had taken their Daddys' jobs.

Close reading of your anti-kids-at-hearings editorial reveals that some of the Sunnyvale School's students testified against allowing wolves to return to Oregon. In Tulelake most of the students who were forced to attend the hearing left as soon as the school bell signalled they were no longer required to be there; no FFA student testified in favor of giving water to endangered salmon. I wonder which institution - FFA or Sunnyvale School - did a better job at presenting all sides of the issues to their students.

As a teacher I believe that challenging students to think and write about real life issues is essential if we are going to have well informed citizens prepared to participate meaningfully in our republic. As a citizen I believe it is the right of every citizen, regardless of age or level of knowledge, to testify at public hearings if he or she so desires. I have listened to plenty of cowboys talk absolute nonsense about salmon, for example, but I respect and support their right to do so. Rap music not withstanding, the students of Sunnyvale School deserve the same respect from the Capital Press.

Felice Pace
Klamath, CA

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