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City Hall's bullies

Council aims to send a message to would-be dissenters

An unseemly business became even more unseemly this week, when it was revealed that the Medford City Council is prepared to sue its former attorney for up to $27 million in a fight over retirees' health benefits. While the council has not covered itself in glory on this issue, the latest announcement makes it look like a bully at best.

Former City Attorney Ron Doyle alleges that the city broke state law by failing to give city retirees access to an insurance plan comparable to the plan offered to workers.

In response, the City Council has tried to get Doyle's law license revoked, and now says if it is sued by the retirees, it will sue Doyle for a like amount.

In other words, they're going to teach him a lesson and send a message to other current and former employees: If you mess with us, we will make you pay.

Unfortunately, that's not surprising, given the atmosphere in City Hall, where absolute obedience is a requirement for continued employment. It continues to surprise us, however, that the good people on the City Council look the other way as employees and former employees are mistreated and bullied. There are members of the council who have grave reservations about the actions toward Doyle, but they have not had the courage to step forward and make them public.

Instead, the council pushes forward to make an example of Doyle and to send a message to other employees that dissent will not be tolerated. It is a sad and tawdry business they are engaged in.

Kindergarten lessons Educators proclaim that kindergarten is no longer about playtime, cookies and milk, and that even the youngest of students are expected to reach academic goals. But is that a good thing or just further evidence that our educational system is becoming even more test-driven?

The push to ensure that No Child Is Left Behind has struck at the earliest stages of public education, essentially removing from the system what was intended to be a transition year.

Kindergartners get their first taste of what it's like to trade the home environment for a more formal setting. It's their year to be assessed while they adjust to the regulations of school, socialization with a large number of peers and what is expected for the next 12 years.

We seem to have abandoned our belief that readiness is an important component of successful learning and replaced it with the belief that the sooner the kids hit the books, the better they'll do on standardized testing.

Certainly, mastering the basics is a key part of kindergarten, and we should push reading in particular. But in the rush to impress federal and state regulators, we should not forget that kindergarten is also a place where kids begin to understand the world around them.

That world could use a bit more playtime, cookies and milk.