Limit the Catches
Editor: The public has always had a love affair with commercial fishermen. The people who brave the elements to ply the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and reap its bounty of oysters, rockfish and crabs have captured our hearts, minds and pocketbooks. If this wasn't the case, why would Maryland taxpayers be paying the commercial fishermen about $1 million a year since 1985 to not catch rockfish?
In most cases, when an industry ruins a natural resource, such as when watermen's gillnets drove striped bass populations to abysmal levels, the industry is forced to pay some form of restitution. Not so for watermen. Instead, we paid them not to fish. In addition, we paid for their over-harvest by not being able to catch fish ourselves.
Now the state biologists tell us that we can start fishing for rockfish again and they're allowing the commercial gillnets to return to our estuary.
History tells us that we should expect the commercial over-harvest to occur again. Another moratorium will result, and the public of the state will once again both be paying the watermen not to fish and paying by not having the opportunity to fish themselves.
A thinking person would believe that the state should be encouraging the development of the aquaculture industry to provide fish for the restaurants and fish markets. But fish grown on farms is nowhere near as emotionally appealing as wild fish harvested by watermen.
The watermen captured by Norman Rockwell prints, and portrayed in "Beautiful Swimmers" and "Chesapeake," are in large part gone.
While a man plying the waters of the bay will be an image that we appreciate, we must begin to realize that the nets used now are gillnets, the same nets used to ensnare dolphins, birds and whales on the high seas.
The watermen will always be part of the image we have of the bay. But when it comes to rockfish, we are going to have to start thinking of them as something of the past whose over-harvest cannot be tolerated in a conservation-minded society.
Harvey O. Riley.
Editor: Your editorial cartoonist, Kal, has done it again. What a talent! His piece depicting a figure dressed in the garb of a puritan riding on the back of an artist trussed up wearing blinders with the title, "American art lurches forward into the 17th century," really hit the bullseye. I laughed all morning. Keep 'em coming, Kal!
Editor: If George Washington were alive to see this year's federal budgeting process, I imagine he'd wonder why he worked so hard.
According to the history books, he and other revolutionaries were fighting against "taxation without representation," whereby the early colonists' hard-earned income was subject to taxation by a government which provided them with little or no civil benefit. I contend that we, the voting-age members of this generation, are guilty of the same breach of responsibility.
By consistently electing and re-electing Democratic and Republican congressmen and women who repeatedly fail to balance the budget or even come close, we end up taxing the next generation, most of whom are not yet living.
They will inherit our debt, and have to spend their hard-earned dollars just to pay the interest on our loans. If we could ask them how they felt about this, their response would probably be less than positive.
The only legitimate answer to this problem is to take the budgeting process into our own hands. When Congress votes on the Fiscal Year '92 budget, we have the chance to learn our representative's true stance on several budget-related issues.
Is she willing to vote for additional income tax revenue? Is he willing to vote for cuts in defense or Medicare expenditures?
Does he believe that this year's Social Security information should be reported on this year's financial statements? And most importantly, is he or she satisfied with spending more money than we have in our bank account? This is all valuable voting information.
It is time that we give political mileage to those willing to practice responsible accounting practices, despite the potentially painful side effects. We must re-elect those willing to do whatever it takes to balance the budget, and we must unseat those whose commitment wavers.
Our failure to manage the budgeting process not only injures those of us who stand to benefit from our own tax contributions. It robs from the earnings of our children, whose piggy banks we undoubtedly bought on credit.
Editor: Recently I received a notice with my gas and electric bill. It indicated that BG&E; was asking the Public Service Commission to allow them a 12.1 percent rate increase. This means that each year BG&E; would get about $197,504,000 more.
Last week The Sun fortunately provided some additional information on why BG&E; wants more money: $44 million for Calvert Cliffs, $21 million for the interest on loans to buy power when Calvert Cliffs' reactors are down, $60 million for new power purchases, advertising, wage increases, and executive bonuses.
The PSC staff suggests "a compromise of $98 million dollars." Pretty good potatoes if BG&E; uses the typical bargaining tactic of "ask for the sky -- then take less."
The PSC staff also recommends adopting BG&E;'s proposal to increase the standard monthly service charge from $3.50 to $5.00. This would hurt low-income people the most. Why not charge more for excessive use?
The BG&E; Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility labors under a cloud of Nuclear Regulatory Commission restrictions brought on by accidents, leaking valves and mismanagement at the plant. For many years BG&E; stressed electricity production over safety issues to the detriment of plant workers and residents of the surrounding area. Why does BG&E;, or the PSC for that matter, expect consumers to not only pay for BG&E;'s poor management of Calvert Cliffs, but to give them bonuses for it?
Frank L. Fox.
Schools That Work
Editor: Your editorial, "20 More School Days?" Oct. 5, made a sound argument for the state's allowing local school boards to launch their own experiments to teach more effectively, rather than mandating the addition of 20 days to the school year.
On the same page, a letter from James Cornett, also opposing this 20-day addition, pointed out several differences other than the school calendar between the contexts of Oriental and American teaching.
Some Baltimoreans were privileged a few days ago to learn much more about these differences in a talk by Prof. Harold W. Stevenson of the University of Michigan, who has studied school children in two American cities and representative cities in China, Taiwan and Japan.
He tested children in the first and fifth grades on the mathematical concepts presented in their own textbooks. The studies also included interviews with parents, teachers and children, and observation of teaching styles.
The appalling results, in brief, were that in the first grade American children overlap Asian children in their standings on the tests (that is, the highest American group is equal to the lowest Asian group). But by the fifth grade, all the Asian children do better than any of the American children.
The exciting and encouraging results, for me, were the guideposts to what needs changing in our system. American parents are perfectly satisfied with mediocre achievement. Asian parents, though their children are doing very well, expect them to do better.
Asian school days are longer and their schools are cold and bare, yet Asian children like school while American children dislike it. This could be because the long school day in Asia is broken for the children by recesses between classes, the end of the day is given to clubs and extra-curricular activities -- and they have a solid sense of growing competence.
Only three percent of their time is spent in seatwork, in contrast to 24 percent in American schools. Much of the time is used in problem-solving in small groups, the children reporting results to the whole class for their evaluation. Asian teachers stress peer evaluation while Americans rely largely on teacher evaluation.
Asian children are not "tracked" or separated by ability, and in their small groups are deliberately mixed to include a range of abilities. Everyone is expected, helped and encouraged to succeed.
In addition, teachers are given time to prepare lessons, grade papers, recoup energy and confer with other teachers to share ideas. They have only two class-teaching hours in a day.
It is not money or class size that is the key. American schools spend far more than the Asian schools and most have smaller classes.
Many of these ideas -- high expectations of all children, small-group problem-solving, sharing of ideas among teachers, much personal teacher-student interaction and encouragement, parent involvement, support and freeing-up of teachers, enthusiasm for education -- were brought out in the PBS series on American "Schools That Work" in September.
It is not that any school should adopt the Asian methods wholesale, but that we have some models of what does work. It is time to distribute this kind of information and concentrate on bringing these strengths into every school. Then I agree: Let each school system build its own best package.
Cynthia Earl Kerman.