Letters for the week of November 14, 2018

Open hearts to open space

This election make me think. I’ll bet there are conservative voters in Lynden and surrounding rural areas that think liberals don’t understand or care about farms.
It should be noted that a lot of us urban dwellers greatly appreciate agricultural enterprises in Skagit and Whatcom counties (and elsewhere). It would be in our collective best interests if local agricultural thrives.
In that respect our views are not so different.

—Darrel Weiss, Bellingham

A healthy balance

While I agree with much of what Clyde Ford has to say about theCommunity Food Co-op losing its community roots—dropping quality products with little reason, missing opportunities to truly “go local,” and generally appealing to a lower common denominator in its selection of products, inordinately featuring highly processed “natural foods”—I disagree with his conclusions.
First of all, it is not at all easy for carnivores to find organic, high-quality and ethically produced meat products elsewhere. Our local Food Co-op is performing what for many of us is an essential service that was almost completely lacking in Bellingham before they picked up this function unless you were lucky enough to know a conscientious farmer.
Second, if one were to subscribe to a completely vegetarian and nutritious diet, one could delete the vast majority of products offered at the Co-op, subsist on the offerings in the produce and bulk departments and eat quite well.
I’m not sure what more they can do to serve vegetarians.
Ford’s call to reverse the trend toward carnivorous offerings and go full vegetarian is just another form of elitism and discrimination.
Can we strive for balance and call it good?
If there was a demand for the sort of community-supported grassroots cooperative he is wishing for, it would exist.
Personally, I eschew the vast majority of highly processed and packaged offerings at my local co-op, but I have to appreciate that their business model allows me to get what I need at a reasonable price point. If I were sufficiently motivated to create change in my natural food supplier, I’d join the Co-op team or start from scratch.

—Rich Chrappa, Bellingham

Direct instruction defines basic education

Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institute defines direct instruction (or basic education) simply as “just plain teaching” when one studies current methods of teaching in public schools here in the United States.
This historic and effective technique has been opposed by contemporaries who promote education as “fashionable beliefs and attitudes—political correctness—rather than to equip students’ minds with knowledge and develop their capacity for independent use of logic and evidence.” Modern educators see teachers as “facilitators on the sidelines, letting students discover and create  knowledge themselves.”
This contemporary, prevailing idea in training methods has been stubbornly maintained. Even so, several isolated school districts within the United States have successfully raised scholastic standards in reading and mathematics using direct instruction as the basis of their reform. Such successes have not been endorsed or even considered by current teachers, unions, or state bureaucracies as they threaten their careers and agendas.
Can we seek and discover a consensus as to what we define as basic education before determining what improvements are needed as required by our state’s Supreme Court?
Does basic education mean a raise in teachers’ salaries to incentivize them (and therefore the WEA)? Does it mean bigger and more glamorous school buildings (window dressing) that grace the local landscape? Does it mean more equipment (sports and social media)? Does it even mean increasing classroom size? Does it mean more elaborate landscaping with trees that unfortunately are not properly maintained?
I say no! I submit that it should be the use of Sowell’s “just plain teaching” or direct instruction to define basic education. The revenue from the taxpayer (or the property tax payer) constitutes an effective investment; it builds core knowledge and common sense in the future leaders and other professionals of our country.

—Gerald Hulbert, Sumas

A matter of life and death

La Crosse, Wisconsin, is the healthcare advance directives capital of the world. That’s a verifiable fact.
Advance directives lay out and document wishes for end-of-life care, and designate a responsible peson to make decisions for a patient if they can no longer speak for themselves.
La Crosse County, with demographics similar to Bellingham, has achieved an astounding 96 percent advance directive completion rate, compared to Whatcom County’s disappointing 21 percent.
La Crosse reached that impressive record through persistence and broad community involvement that normalized advance care planning discussions, by making them a routine part of life.
I believe Bellingham and Whatcom County can match La Crosse’s success.
National Healthcare Decisions Day, always on April 16, is a 50-state initiative to provide clear and consistent information on healthcare decision-making.
Last year, Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed April 16 as Washington Healthcare Decisions Day. The day recognizes the need to encourage individuals to discuss and record choices ahead of time regarding future medical treatment—and to have those wishes honored.
I urge Mayor Kelli Linville to proclaim April 16, 2019 as Bellingham Healthcare Decisions Day. Then support the city proclamation with activities to inspire, educate and empower the public about the importance of ACP.
I also urge the Whatcom County Council, public health department, county medical society, medical facilities, physicians, nurses, senior centers, service organizations, large corporations, small businesses, institutions of higher learning, WWU’s Palliative Care Institute, Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, Northwest Life Passages Coalition, attorneys, tribal leaders, patients, families, and high school students to act locally and participate in NHDD and BHDD activities.
On April 16, no one in our county should be able to open a paper, view the internet, watch TV, walk around a college campus, visit a coffee shop, see a physician or a lawyer, go to a healthcare facility or grocery store, attend a city or county meeting without being confronted with the topic of advance care planning.
Let’s get started!

—William E. Lombard, MD, Bellingham

Contemplating end of life

My husband and I are retired healthcare workers who are always open to new ideas and new perspectives on this great adventure of living and dying. Because of that curiosity, I was pleased (and amazed) that the Rotary Club of Bellingham recently hosted a 13-week series of talks titled, “Contemplating End of Life.”
Rotarians welcomed non-members to the talks, so I attended several of them.
An important takeaway for me, was that I learned that PeaceHealth Medical Group is a repository for advance directives for anyone, even those who have never seen a PeaceHealth physician, have never been a patient at St. Joseph Hospital, and do not have an electronic medical record at PeaceHealth.
You may wonder why this is important. I have an advance directive, but my doctor is a Family Care Network physician. I also travel frequently. If I had an accident or serious illness while traveling, the hospital where I was receiving care would contact the closest hospital to my home address to determine if I had an advance directive on file to try to ensure that my stated wishes are followed.  Voila!  PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center!
This invaluable, free service from PeaceHealth gives me comfort, knowing that they will create an electronic medical record for me solely to file my healthcare advance directive.
Contact Hilary Walker, advance care planning program coordinator, to find out how to file yours.

—Barbara Aiken, Bellingham

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