I strongly disagree with the idea that science whiz kids who win competitions like the Intel Science Talent Search are from economically privileged families ["Sharp division on science contests," Letters, Jan. 19].
Samantha Garvey, whose family was homeless, was a national science prize finalist. The many kids whose parents are immigrants from places like China, South Korea or India aren't rich either.
What these students lack in financial resources, however, they compensate for in intellectual and spiritual wealth. By contrast, many of their fellow students are simply more interested in smoking pot, drinking beer, watching sports on TV, playing video games, hanging out in the car behind the shopping mall, and waiting for that million-dollar record company contract or NBA deal to magically fall from the sky.
The students who win contests come from homes where books, science, art, religion, philosophy and community voluteerism are more important than celebrities, athletes and gadgets; where family outings are to museums, libraries, historic sites and church, rather than to the mall.
Let's stop blaming talented and brilliant "overachievers" because "underachievers" have parents who care more about who wins the Super Bowl than how well their kids do in math.
Paul Manton, Levittown
Seeking help with shoveling snow
My husband and I are among many seniors who live on my block ["Plows block driveways and endanger residents," Letters, Jan. 12].
In the past, when snow came, we used to be able to shovel, use a snowblower and do whatever needed to be done.
At this time of our lives, the chore of shoveling is now dangerous and upsetting. It has to get done, and safety is our main issue.
Could there be some hotline set up for seniors to seek some help in this area? I do recall that years ago there were a lot of youngsters with shovels looking to make some money. They are now nowhere to be found.
It is frightening now to see the snow fall and think of the task ahead of us. How can our government help the seniors on this issue?
Rita Berlin, Bethpage
Killing deer and mute swans on LI
Those who advocate for or against culling our deer population have probably forgotten why this population was much lower a century ago ["How to tame LI wildlife?" Letters, Jan. 26].
Ecologists have a name for our deer problem: fragmentation. Huge swaths of forest have been destroyed for development. We have developed our original forest land into a checkerboard of buffer zones -- open lots, backyards, etc.
White-tailed deer chomp along the edges of these areas because penetrating light increases the growth of vegetation. More food equals more deer.
The same concept applies to golf courses and Canada geese.
Tom Stock, Babylon
The idea that we can restore our environment to the days before mute swans is preposterous. There are an estimated 2,200 of these swans in the wild in New York, more than half on Long Island. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced plans to eliminate all of them from nature -- by shooting them, destroying their eggs and nests, and capturing a few to live in captivity.
The DEC says swans are an invasive species, although the agency admits they've been here for at least 130 years. The agency says the swans can be aggressive toward people in protecting their young, a trait we admire in other species, including humans. And the swans displace other birds and plants. The last idea involves a faulty premise.
One of the tenets of Darwinism is that nature is always changing. Species move around, and the number in any given area will rise and fall. The causes may be very cold or mild winters, very hot or cool summers, drought or great rain, and hurricanes and nor'easters, not to mention fast-changing bacteria and viruses.
Given all this, our ability to make predictions about the state of nature, with or without swans, is extremely limited. Add to that the fact that humans brought the swans here.
The repulsive DEC plan to kill off our wild swans is based on wrong thinking and should be abandoned.
Richard Gambino, Sag Harbor
Should students receive bonuses too?
Should "highly effective" students receive a share of the $20,000 bonus that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposes to give teachers deemed "highly effective"? These students help contribute positively to the rating a teacher receives ["Delay curriculum, teacher bonuses," Letters, Jan. 22].
If Cuomo likes the idea of running a school like a business, maybe he should also propose that children produce resumes and be interviewed by teachers. If the interview goes well, and the teacher is impressed by the kid's record, the child can be hired as a student. If not, the student could be "let go."
Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of children on the streets with nothing to do all day.
Debbie Cuttitta Pekoff, Bellmore
Editor's note: The writer is a public school teacher.