Letters: Bill Gates, Math, Makah Whaling Melissa Block reads listener reponses to Wednesday's program. We hear thoughts on Robert Siegel's interview with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. There's also criticism of our report on a math curriculum for youngsters in Massachusetts, and of our story on charges of illegal whaling against a group of Makah Indians in Washington state.
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Letters: Bill Gates, Math, Makah Whaling

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Letters: Bill Gates, Math, Makah Whaling

Letters: Bill Gates, Math, Makah Whaling

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

And we have some of your comments on yesterday's program.

Many of you responded to my co-host, Robert Siegel's, interview with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. He was in Washington to testify at a hearing on improving the nation's ability to produce new technology. One vexing problem: How to hire the best engineers?

Mr. BILL GATES (Chairman, Microsoft Corporation): Sixteen percent of the students at the top U.S. universities are foreign born, and we compete with others to hire those people. In the past, they were allowed to stay in the United States, but now that these quotas have been hit, they have to leave the country.

BLOCK: Well, Jeff Walter(ph) of Austin, Texas was disappointed by the interview. He writes: The main flaw in Gates' argument was that the super graduates that he implied were the only recipients of H1B visas actually occupy a minority of active H1B visas. Many H1B workers are normal folks who could be replaced by U.S. citizens. There's a huge pool of engineers and programmers in this country working behind retail counters through no flaw on their intelligence or work ethic. After layoff and months of unemployment, the H.R. departments at places like Microsoft, subscribe to the myth that they've forgotten everything they ever knew and are no longer desirable experienced employees.

Also yesterday, NPR's Claudio Sanchez brought us the story of a math curriculum in Massachusetts that's gotten a lot of praise. It exposes three and four-year-olds to the world of numbers and algorithms.

Andrew Weiss(ph) of Raleigh, North Carolina thought that sounded familiar. I was taken aback by your report on teaching to preschoolers, he writes. It suggested that teaching fractions and multiplication to that age is a cutting-edge breakthrough for this country. My wife is a Montessori preschool teacher and I was on the board of a Montessori school, I know first hand that such schools have been teaching preschoolers mathematics for years. This is nothing new.

Finally, a few comments on our update about the case of five Makah Indians from Washington state. They have a treaty right to hunt whales but now face federal charges of illegally killing a gray whale, and the hunters stirred mixed emotions within their community.

What your report neglected to mention, writes Gary Cooke(ph) of Richland, Washington, was that the whale killed last September was hunted from a powerboat and shot with a high-powered rifle. I don't recall gunpowder and motor oil being important ingredients of Native American coastal culture.

This is from Tony Cump(ph) in Stanwood, Washington. A lot of traditions are just that - tradition, not current practice. The Makah have roads that can take them to grocery stores, butcher shops, even to Seattle in a few hours. This was a despicable act, not a needed thing.

And Al Lowman(ph) of Edgewater, Maryland had some questions for us. When did the Makah apply for the hunting permit? What government agency is responsible for granting it? It could have been a whale of a story if you'd gone a little deeper.

Please send us your comments. Go to npr.org and click on Contact Us at the top of the page.

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