Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on report showing participation gaps in Advanced Placement course:
Advanced Placement courses offered in high schools across the country are touted as a way to benefit students in several ways.
One is to present students with the type of rigorous course work that will help them develop their minds. Another is that taking Advanced Placement, or AP, courses will help prepare them for the kind of studies they will face as they pursue higher education. One more benefit is that students scoring high enough on an AP course exam will receive college credit, increasing the odds that a student will complete his or her college education on time and save money in the process.
One key for students to take advantage of those potential benefits is simply having the opportunity to take the courses. But those opportunities aren't always there, as a recent report by the College Board points out.
The "10th Annual AP Report to the Nation" said that low-income students accounted for 27.5 percent of 2013 graduates across the nation who took at least one AP exam. That's an increase from 11.4 percent in 2003. Another barometer is that an estimated 57 percent of all low-income graduates in 2013 took at least one AP exam.
In West Virginia, though, the numbers weren't so promising. While nearly 52 percent of the state's students receive free or reduced lunches, low-income students made up 16 percent of exam takers, according to College Board data. That means less than a third of low-income students took an AP exam, a far lower proportion than the national average.
It's encouraging to hear that the state realizes it should do better and is working toward that. Let's hope the policies and practices they are developing will yield more opportunities — and more success — for students who have shown they have the potential to take on more rigorous academic challenges.
News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on hackers:
The discovery during the height of the Christmas shopping season that the debit and credit card numbers of 40 million Target customers had been stolen was extremely unsettling to anyone who believed brick and mortar stores offer a higher layer of protection from cybercrime than Internet sellers.
However, this brazen attack may not be a one-time success during a busy holiday season; experts warn it could be the tip of the iceberg.
The issue has caused such concern Congress held several hearings on the matter during the past weeks.
In addition to the 40 million debit and credit card numbers stolen from Target customers, the company said thieves also were able to obtain other personal information, such as names, home addresses and telephone numbers, from an additional 70 million customers. Michael's, a crafts store, also was hacked in December and department store Neiman Marcus had been successfully hacked for several months before store officials in January realized it was happening.
Credit card companies may offer protections for consumers whose information has fallen into the wrong hands, but for some, it may take years before they are able to clean up the financial mess left behind. And even when people do escape unscathed from having their information stolen, their confidence is shaken.
Security experts say several changes should be adopted by both retailers and credit and debit card issuers. A recent report by Verizon Business Solutions said only 11 percent of businesses have adopted industry-standard security measures. Certainly that would be a place to start.
Credit cards always have been popular with consumers. And with the growing number of people using direct deposit of paychecks, debit card usage is growing every year.
Unfortunately, in this age nothing will ever be totally safe from hackers. Consumers have the right to feel confident everything is being done to protect their personal information. Businesses should strive to make sure it is the hackers who are playing catch-up and not the other way around.
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on the fight for equality:
Outcast and underdog groups wage long struggles for acceptance and equality.
Black Americans strove for centuries -- first against slavery, then against segregation, and finally against subtle discrimination -- on their path to democratic rights.
Similarly, women campaigned for the right to vote, then the right to hold jobs and other hallmarks of fairness.
Now gays are waging the same effort for social progress, and they're winning, showdown after showdown.
Some gay couples filed a federal lawsuit to wipe out West Virginia's law against same-sex marriage, and U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers has ruled that they may proceed to trial. We hope they succeed.
The U.S. Census Bureau says West Virginia has nearly 3,000 same-sex couples, 500 of them with children -- but state law forbids them to marry.
Back in 2000, supported by fundamentalists, legislators passed a law saying only male-female couples may wed. Ever since, some Republicans and evangelical groups have sought to lock the prohibition into the state constitution, but Democrats in the Legislature have resisted.
Across America, morality is evolving rapidly, and many states are letting same-sex couples marry. We assume that this social change is unstoppable. It's just a matter of time until the whole nation recognizes gay rights. Rural, conservative places like the Mountain State lag behind the rest of the country -- but even they can't escape the tide of history. Fairness and equality will come.
Gays have come a long way since the era a half-century ago when they were thrown into prison because of their different sexual orientation. But they haven't yet gained complete human rights.
It's unfair to deny gays rights that are available to others, consigning them to lower status. We can't predict the outcome of either the marriage suit or the human rights change -- but we assume that gays eventually will win full legal equality everywhere, just as blacks and women did.