Since the views of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler and the other candidates for governor on closing the achievement gap ("Gansler calls for all-day preschool," Oct. 1) were discussed in your newspaper without presenting mine, I think it's only fair to let your readers know about my proposals on the topic also.
As someone who has been a teacher for almost 40 years, I find Mr. Gansler's ideas to be off the mark.
Here are some educational principles:
Anyone who knows anything about education knows that the first seven years of a child's life are the critical years in the development of the child's personality.
Anyone who knows anything about education knows that the best teachers of children, particularly from birth to age 7, are the parents or sincere surrogate mothers and fathers.
Anyone who knows anything about education knows that the reason why so many of our youth today are lost and confused is due to the disintegration of the family as an American institution.
Anyone who knows anything about education knows that until we deal with the breakdown of the family, the problems will never be solved.
In light of the principles presented, here are my proposals.
Recognize elementary school teachers. Elementary school teachers play an extremely important role in the child's formative years. I would implement an incentive program for the purpose of encouraging good elementary teachers to remain in the profession instead of pursuing higher paid administrative positions. That means more pay for dedicated elementary classroom teachers.
More home schooling. Because of the deplorable state of public education, I would encourage parents to home school their children. For those feeling ill-equipped to do so, help would be available through the volunteer corps. I realize we live in a materialistic society. However, that is the problem. We need to put more emphasis on spirituality and moral values and place less emphasis on materialism.
Call to action. Within the first 200 days of my administration, I would assemble a series of conferences with every church and synagogue leader in the state of Maryland enlightening them on the urgent need to inspire their congregants to get more involved with our children. They need to reach out to business leaders urging them to become drawn into and take a permanent interest in those who need help. This help consists of two critical elements. The first is financial — assisting with funds to enable the child to reach the goal of completing a vocational or academic program leading to a job. The second is social — spending time with the child. When a child comes home from school, a parent, surrogate or mentor should be there to hug his or her son or daughter and to spend at least one hour every day discussing the child's school day experience.
To complement the efforts, support, and work from religious institutions and the business segment, we need to call on others such as college students and retired individuals to get involved and give of their time to serve as volunteers and mentors.
The family breakdown has also been caused by the entertainment industry, which glorifies violence and sex, the media that refuses to tell the complete truth about our moral breakdown and a polarized society in which secularists and those who are religious have failed to effectively reach out to one another.
The idea of using revenues from casinos, as Mr. Gansler suggests, is appalling. The mere fact that the state helped get the casinos up and running is sending a wrong message about the decadence of institutionalized gambling. Don't we have enough gambling with our lotteries? Aren't too many people already losing their shirts because of their addiction to gambling?
In the last 30 years we have squandered billions of dollars on public education with programs that do not work — programs that have resulted in additional burdens to the taxpayers.
What will my proposals cost? Not one cent extra for the taxpayers. With the help of people I can trust, we will re-prioritize the budget and cut out a lot of wasteful spending.
My proposals call for us to develop more united families and a more truly United States of America.
Ralph Jaffe, Baltimore
The writer, a Democrat, is a candidate for governor.