3 Magic Words
Editor: Amidst all the hurley-burley of rhetoric about the education dilemma it was refreshing to read in Alice Steinbach's column the conviction of Tracy Kidder that "public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid -- the teachers."
Good teaching can, to a degree, be proscribed and emulated. It still remains, however, an art form, not a science. Unless the teacher can put himself on the line, the lack of this elusive catalyst precludes failure. No guts, and there will never be the glory of hearing and saying those three magic words, "Oh, I see."
Myrtle C. Lobiz.
A Few Solutions
Editor: I am so tired of reading about Band Aids applied to the open wounds of our ill society. The reader who suggested off-shore drilling as an answer to our becoming oil-independent doesn't understand that oil is a finite commodity -- eventually we will run out.
The loggers who want to cut down 200-year-old trees are also only postponing the inevitable. So is the government that thinks a tax hike will rid us of a deficit. Right! If you believe that, I'll bet you believe the toll over the bay bridge was temporary and Memorial Stadium would stand forever. I suggest that solutions are more in order. Example:
Problem: Overuse of oil, pollution, over-cutting of trees for paper.
* Outlaw the use of plastic containers, bring back the refillable glass bottle.
* Any grocery item that can be stocked in bulk should be, such as cereals, kitty litter, etc., and people should buy permanent containers to take to the store and get filled.
* Bring back privately owned cloth shopping bags, ban the use of plastic and paper shopping bags.
* Make it law that all grocery stores -- whether national chains or not -- must buy local produce when in season, thereby halving shipping costs.
* Have the "newsboys" pick up old newspapers when they deliver the new and pay them to deliver it for recycling.
* Double funding to solar energy research, particularly solar vehicle research.
* Give tax breaks to energy companies or towns or people who erect turbo windmills to create power, and so on.
For every problem, there are solutions, but the deeper we get into debt, both individually and as a nation, the harder it's going to be to find them.
Lynda Case Lambert.
Quayle Is White
Editor: Of all the things that disturb me about Paul Glace's letter (Aug. 28), the greatest is his belief that the "black community" is somehow more likely than is the rest of the population to accept mediocrity in its role models. I am black, as are many of my friends and neighbors. None has expressed to me any great love or respect for Marion Barry, and even those who feel that he was entrapped still abhor his substance abuse and womanizing, not to mention his lackluster performance as an executive.
In characterizing support for Nelson Mandela as blind idolatry, Mr. Glace has completely missed the boat. One does not have to share an individual's political position in order to support his right to have one, or to celebrate his release from unjust imprisonment. I believe the virtual deification of Oliver North more aptly describes blind idolatry.
Mr. Glace's comment on excellence in leadership is most interesting. There have certainly been more than enough incidents of malfeasance, corruption and immorality among white politicians, businessmen and religious leaders. Are only black leaders expected to be above reproach? I would not presume to judge the "moral principles and social responsibility" of the entire white populace based on its election of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew to high public office. And speaking of mediocrity in role models, what better example is there than Dan Quayle?
Kathryn D. Waters.
Editor: The media recently disseminated reports about a run on gas masks and food hoarding in Israel. Yet a recently published poll conducted in Israel between Aug. 20 and Aug. 22 revealed the following:
When asked if they hoarded food for emergencies, 5.7 percent of the respondents answered yes and 94.3 percent answered no.
Twenty percent of those polled said they prepared an emergency shelter in their homes; the other 80 percent said they did not. Two percent said they tried to obtain a gas mask or protective clothing against chemical weapons compared to 97.8 percent who did not.
One wonders about the quality of the information reported by the media.
Editor: I am appalled at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland General Assembly for allowing the Tobacco Institute and Bruce Bereano to bully them into holding up the non-smoking regulations for retail stores.
Smoking and second-hand smoke are serious health issues; people die from it.
It is the state health department's ultimate responsibility to protect the 72 percent of Marylanders who don't smoke from those who do. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene should have banned smoking in all public places years ago and (( should tell the Tobacco Institute to go jump in a lake.
Shelley D. Mogul.
Editor: I recently returned from England. Gas prices during my visit came to over $4 a gallon. On British Broadcasting Corporation's World Service recently it was announced that another 10 pence a gallon (19 cents) would be added, raising the price to about $4.20 a gallon.
Gasoline on the continent is also very high. In comparison we are very cheap, thus I can see no reason for complaints over our own prices.
R. L. Gross.
Editor: The recent trial of Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and his subsequent acquittal has elicited a wide variety of reactions. Prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, it was in the forefront of local issues in media coverage, and one was almost weary of hearing and watching television reports of the case's progress.
What troubles me about the case is that it was turned into an issue of race and entrapment, and that the real issue was pushed aside. The real issue was the culpability of an individual -- in this case the mayor of the nation's capital -- on charges of drug abuse. Instead of answering that central question, the trial was turned into a three-ring circus, and the whole drama has made a mockery of the American legal system. True, Marion Barry has been acquitted, but he is certainly not "not guilty." It is sad that we, as a society, seem to see nothing wrong or shameful in adultery, drug abuse and hypocrisy, all of which the defendant indulged in, in generous doses. The moral of this charade seems to be "do it but don't get caught; if you do get caught, get a smart lawyer."
Washington has the dubious distinction of being the "murder capital of America," because of drug-related killings. The Barry trial will ensure that it retains that title. It is difficult to envision the youth of that city being influenced by anti-drug campaigns when they have such a larger-than-life role model to emulate.
The people of Colombia have every right to be outraged at a
nation which insists on "a drug war" by Colombia, resulting in the assassination of several judges and officials, and then lets off a prominent drug user with such a meek reprimand.
Editor: As I look over the editorial pages lately, I see many differences of opinion as to whether we should be involved in the action with Iraq, as well as theories explaining why we are involved.
I hope that all those people out there waving our flag recognize that our past wars haven't been fought to defend the flag, but the differences of opinion that we find on these editorial pages.
Michael W. Hartley.
Flags of Illiteracy Signal Defeat
Editor: The distressing report that our high school students still can't read shows a decline in a skill necessary for responsible adult living. Poor reading habits are not surprising in a youthful society wedded to television and a larger society in which cohesive family life continues to fragment.
Forty years ago, a literature professor decried the proliferation of television viewing in this country, calling roof-top aerials "flags of illiteracy." His remark seems justified in the light of the SAT results.
One would not be hard-pressed to discover that in many homes hardly a book is found. Yet in an equalitarian society, with a
mammoth public school system, we expect all our citizens to read since they are required to make intelligent choices as to the governance of the country.
Over 2,000 years ago, Plato urged that the state would be best served by the educated, meaning those who read. He addressed the subject of reading in both the Republic and the Laws, where education is found to be the most important function of the government. His Academy fostered learning with a purpose to direct the student toward truth and values. The alternative was condemnation to a life of error. In this event, the tyrant could manipulate the uneducated simply by appealing to the baser appetites.
True democracy demands the participation of well-read citizens. How else can the complexities of contemporary civilization be grasped and analyzed? How else can our basic rights be safeguarded? It is through an intelligent citizenry that the Platonic ideal of a better state is made possible. Unless a person chooses to read, he or she may live in a situation of voluntary ignorance. In ancient times this meant slavery.
A principal aim of Plato's Academy was to develop a "harmonious" person, one whose intellectual powers were focused on truth. He held reading an essential tool toward achieving that end. Indeed, even at the time of Pericles, who died when Plato was a child, books were in abundant supply at Athens. Elementary school students read portions of Homer, Aesop and Hesiod.
In a recent public interview, the American economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman remarked that the present crisis in the Persian Gulf was serious, yet transitory. He then cautioned that an even greater crisis faces us: the failure of America's education systems to properly instruct our children and the failure of our homes to provide a climate in which to nurture enlightened future citizens. The test results, reflecting inadequate reading habits among our high school students, is bitter fruit and very near the heart of these failures.
Robert Patrick Adams.