No More TestsEditor: A recent Gallup survey...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No More Tests

Editor: A recent Gallup survey of 231 semifinalists in the "Thanks to Teacher" competition asked what was essential for achieving the goals President Bush has established.

The teachers identified higher parental or societal expectations and more school and community partnership as most essential for achieving the president's goals. Identified as least essential was more testing.

So what has the Maryland State Department of Education, under the leadership of Superintendent Joseph Shilling, decided to do? Introduce the Maryland School Performance Testing and data-gathering program on top of the Maryland Functional Testing program that was established by David Hornbeck, the previous superintendent. It appears the only thing the growing educational bureaucracy knows how to do is test -- they do not know how to deal with education problems.

An increasing amount of tax money is being spent to evaluate student performance and students are spending an increasing amount of time being tested rather than learning. Local school systems are spending more time preparing students for the tests as opposed to teaching the established curriculum. The growing testing mania must come to an end if real learning in school is to happen. With the limited availability of funds, it is more prudent to direct those funds to learning rather than more testing.

Ray Hofmann.

Baltimore.

Fight for What?

Editor: I am concerned about the military presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf and not quite sure what we are defending. Having had an almost four-year stay as a member of the armed forces in World War II, I have a strong liaison with the troops in Saudi Arabia.

We worried about the "domino effect" in Vietnam but the years following the close of that disastrous period in our history have not witnessed the feared sequels. Now we are about to engage in another such episode.

Are we fighting for the freedom of the people of Kuwait and deaf to the cries of oppression in other areas of the world? Is this merely a struggle for Arab oil which the United States could do without?

The gasoline crisis in the 1970s pinpointed that we should find an alternate product to fuel our automobiles. An effort to produce alcohol from carbohydrates was initiated but was stillborn.

We are now about to sacrifice the lives of a great number of young people that we may operate the over-sized vehicles we really do not need.

If we and our allies restricted the use of gasoline, the Arab states could not find customers. In addition, if all trade with Iraq were stopped, they could not sell their gasoline and could not supply themselves with the instruments of war.

Remember that the United States and its allies, particularly France, have sold vast quantities of armaments to these Persian Gulf nations in return for petrodollars. Some of this material may be used upon our troops.

Recall that Kuwait was a member of the oil cartel which mandated an earlier rise in the price of gasoline. If necessary, the United States could return to gas rationing as it was observed during World War II.

Let the United Nations and not the United States enforce an economic blockade of Iraq. Many of our allies have counseled continuing negotiations, but President Bush seems determined to find another means of settlement.

If war occurs, both sides will lose a tremendous number of lives and suffer great economic loss. Bring the troops home and spare the world these untoward results.

We have the technology to create other ways to run our vehicles and the time to do so is now. As a Christian nation, we should be willing to have a verbal face-to-face confrontation rather than use deadly weapons. I believe that a majority of United States citizens subscribe to this idea.

Joseph M. Miller.

Timonium.

The Enemy in Us

Editor: What has become of the "American spirit"?

The peace-at-any-price, honor-devoid proponents of capitulation are a stain on the pride of our nation.

It remains beyond understanding how we can have a fine and proud group of people like our military willing to defend our principles while being told that their sacrifice is useless. Those who would have us hide under the sand of Kuwait or Iraq have no spine to compare with those who fought and died to allow them to continue their cozy and free way of life.

The United States was born of confrontation and a willingness to stand firm against dictatorship and those who would destroy us. Will it now die of chronic cowardice and gutless blindness toward anything that threatens our immediate comfort?

Ronald L. Dowling.

Baltimore.

The Real Amish

Editor: With respect to your Dec. 1 editorial, "Life Without the Amish," you displayed a commendable sentiment for such risibly patronizing reasons that one wonders if you have lost your sense social consciousness, or perhaps are operating from another planet.

Rather than lament the departure of a socio-religious group that values Godliness, work, and family, you maintain we will miss their quilts and organic farming. Instead of noting their adherence to moral and religious tenets that fosters a virtual absence of crime, drug use and violence, you worry that tourists will no longer drop in to purchase Amish wares.

If the extent of our appreciation of the contribution of the Amish to our societal well-being treats only seeing "quiet men in wide-brim straw hats" and horse-drawn carriages, as your piece maintains, you not only have missed the boat, you haven't even arrived at the right pier.

Ray Pardue.

Catonsville.

Judicial Feather

Editor: The appointment of Judge Andre M. Davis will prove to be a remarkable feather in Gov. William Donald Schaefer's cap.

Judge Davis' outstanding list of credentials is obvious to peers. As a lay person, I observe that Judge Davis has truly enhanced my ability to stand up and fight for my rights.

Sharon D. Whittington.

Baltimore.

Homework

Editor: In response to your recent article on the "homework crisis," the solution seems clear to me: parental involvement.

There is no need to argue with a 13-year-old about homework. Turn off the TV. Open the books, sharpen a pencil and clear off a space on the kitchen table. Help, watch and listen to your child do his homework today and every day.

Perhaps the parents who have problems with teen-agers today are realizing the result of lack of discipline in early years. If you aren't in control of your three-year-old you won't be able to direct homework habits 10 years later. Discipline is not spanking. Discipline is structure, guidelines and clearly defined expectations.

Start early and don't give up. You don't have to be a beast to instill good work habits, just be firm and consistent. Homework teaches responsibility, and parents who aren't responsible enough to get their children started out right in school are avoiding their duties as parents. That example is not lost on their children.

!Katherine H. Smothers.

Severn.

Lionel Barrymore as Charles Keating

Editor: I know Theo Lippman often writes "tongue-in-cheek" pieces that are not meant to be taken seriously. However, his column comparing Charles Keating with George Bailey hit close to home.

"It's A Wonderful Life" has been one of my all-time favorite movies for a long time. It saddens me (but does not surprise me) that people might see no difference between what Charles Keating was trying to do and what George Bailey was trying to do. The inability to make that distinction is why so many bank owners, developers and stockbrokers are facing criminal charges and jail terms.

I can't speak to the specific causes for the downfall of Lincoln Savings & Loan, but I do see significant differences between today's scandals and what happened in "It's A Wonderful Life."

First and foremost, it was obvious that George Bailey did not personally profit from the real estate speculation that his savings and loan did. He was clearly one of the town's community leaders, yet he barely earned a living wage from all his hard work. He did not pay himself an exorbitant salary or have a company car for his personal use, as Mr. Keating and others seem to believe they are entitled to have. He especially did not use company profits to wine and dine local officials so that banking regulations and zoning laws could be circumvented. George Bailey did not even really enjoy the work he was doing, but saw it as something that needed to be done. I don't believe that Mr. Keating's approach to the savings and loan business could be characterized as selfless or community-minded.

The other major difference that I see is that the Bailey S&L; existed for the purpose of making loans to local townspeople who could not get them from the bank. Those people who deposited their money there knew the uses that it was being put toward and knew that it was a somewhat risky venture. However, except for a moment of panic during the Crash, they believed the results were worth the risk.

Today, it is nearly impossible to even know what projects your banks are investing in, and it is often questionable whether such projects benefit your community. Do we really need more condos, more shopping centers?

What was an S&L; like Old Court doing investing its money in Florida real estate and Texas oil ventures? George Bailey was not in the S&L; business to make his depositors rich, and people understood that going in. He was also not interested in making huge profits out of the homes that he helped to build.

I imagine that nothing like the Bailey S&L; would be allowed to operate in today's regulatory environment. Instead we have non-profits like the Enterprise Foundation and St. Ambrose Housing Center to make loans for low-cost housing. We also now have government programs like Maryland Mortgage Revenue Bond and FHA insurance to encourage banks to make loans to low-income people without taking any risks.

If the villain in the film, Mr. Potter, were alive today, he would not force the Bailey S&L; out of business. He would do better to run it himself and milk it for all it was worth. In my updated version of "It's A Wonderful Life," Charles Keating would be played by Lionel Barrymore (Potter) and would at least go broke if not go to jail.

Roy A. Kiewe.

Baltimore.

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