Editor: Your Moscow correspondent, Scott Shane, recently reported that Moscow party chief Yuri Prokofiev "held up the Voice of America as a model for government control, saying that the U.S.-government broadcaster is subject to censorship and cannot take stands critical of the U.S. government."
For the record, the Voice of America is not subject to censorship. It is subject to a congressionally mandated charter which, by law, requires broadcasts to be "accurate, objective and comprehensive."
Those words are taken seriously by people at VOA. And the Voice of America is taken seriously by the millions of people around the world who tune in every week.
Joseph D. O'Connell Jr.
The writer directs VOA's office of external affairs.
Learning by Law?
Editor: James A. Morrisard is right in his opposition to President Bush's voucher system for correcting our flawed school system (letter, March 9). But he is mistaken in supposing that substituting an enormous federal bureaucracy for about 50 smaller ones will make things better. Bigger is not better -- only bigger. Arthur Wise in his short, powerful book, "Legislated Learning," reveals one of the principal causes of the growth of poor teaching: the bureaucratic model of school organization.
It is possible, to be sure, to pass laws that seem designed to solve social problems. Legislatures do it daily. Only those close to the problem, however, can bring about steady improvement in an ongoing system.
Legislation sets up the means to litigate or distribute funds or levy taxes or build highways and so on, but it will never be able to enforce laws demanding quality performance by trained professionals. Some of us in the field agree with Mr. Wise that the system of hierarchical control blocks collegial classroom teachers from inventing effective ways to improve learning. (See Feb. 13 Sun letter by Patricia Wajbel on the new, state mandatory testing system that is supposed to improve pupil performance).
As another aside, if tests could cause desired change, hospitals would do away with their pharmacies, splints, bandages, etc., and stock up exclusively on thermometers, stethoscopes, and X-ray machines. Right?
Nearly every proposal for school reform I have seen over the past 35 years makes the same, bureaucratically consistent assumption: Teachers are defective drudges who are not to be trusted to do a respectable piece of work. Don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that every school teacher is a gifted scholar. What I am saying is that in a system so biased, it is inevitable that it brings about the very thing it tries to prevent.
Until our people become able to recognize that nurturing the growth of bureaucracy to improve schooling is to believe in magic, smoke and mirrors, we will continue to suffer ill-served dropouts and under-educated high school graduates.
Editor: Sen. Mary Boergers must think she is living in Fort Apache, the Bronx, instead of in Kensington. According to an editorial in The Sun, she claims that assault weapons are "terrorizing" her.
Strange. I've lived in Kensington for nearly 14 years and only three blocks from the senator. Crime is not rampant. People are not being mugged. Houses are not being looted. Drug pushers do not inhabit the street corners. Bullets are not whizzing overhead.
Indeed, I serve on the Kensington Estates Civic Association's traffic and security committee. I have been instrumental in establishing the neighborhood watch program on the very block where Senator Boergers lives.
The police tell us that violent crime is practically non-existent in this quiet, suburban neighborhood and that what crime occurs is mostly juvenile in nature. Many people leave their cars unlocked at night. This neighborhood is far more terrorized by speeding automobiles than by assault (or any other) weapons.
Save the Park
Editor: I find it unbelievable that anyone would want to develop the beautiful Black Marsh Park. The type of facilities these people want to put in the park are already available in the area. To fill the park full of concrete, boats and buildings will destroy a unique wildlife habitat. Also, with Maryland $500 million in debt, I cannot believe that our elected officials are considering spending millions of dollars on a project that is certainly not needed and probably not wanted by most people.
Kurt S. Willem.
Time Will Tell
Editor: Theo Lippman's ideas (March 9) on finding a name for the recent war in the gulf was most interesting. Strangely, I have been pondering the same dilemma. Let me add some fuel to the fire.
This is the first war carried on TV as it happened. Maybe it would be appropriate to call it the War of the Networks or maybe (for the most complete coverage) the CNN War. Most of the action we saw might best be expressed by the Scud and Patriot War. The problem with this, of course, is that it could be confused with a football game.
At least one of our wars has been named for our enemy, the Mexican War. Another named for national geography, the Korean War. Even anatomy has figured into war names with the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739), when the unfortunate British Captain Jenkins had his ear severed by the Spanish and was told to take it home to the queen. He did and the result was a war in his honor.
We could call the gulf war World War III. Enough nations were involved, but we have been saving that one for the next global catastrophe. Maybe we could just call it the War of 1991. This would be in line with the War of 1812, but 1991 isn't over yet so who knows? This could be the first war to be named by the enemy, the Mother of All Wars. (For them it was.)
Only time will tell what name we will find in history books for this war. Maybe The Sun could have a contest.
Alfred L. Peterson.
Editor: Dare a citizen speak in the face of a flood of war hysteria?
Hubert Yockey's recent letter to the editor displayed great euphoria over victory.
Did anyone think that Saddam Hussein would not unleash every vile and destructive measure possible if he was being beaten and ejected from Kuwait? The oil and smoke might be in the mouths of those who favored rushing into war to destroy him.
Saddam could have been boxed in and contained by United Nations forces so that he would go no further. Kuwait could have been negotiated. If Saddam had gotten some concession to save face, he would not have destroyed much of Kuwait with immense death and suffering. He would have been overthrown one way or another in time.
It is interesting that politics plays such a large part in Yockey's letter. Could it be possible that history will reveal that the real basis or reason for this course of action was political advantage?
Should we be jubilant about our ruthless bombing that killed 80,000-100,000 human beings while our losses were "light?"
The loss to every family that had a loved one killed is as heavy as it can get.
Editor: Letter writer Milton Albert, recalling the poem that opened the Bentztown Bard's column every day, relied on his inaccurate memory.
Relying on my memory, I believe it went:
It was only a glad 'good morning'
As she passed along the way
But it spread the morning's glory
Over the livelong day.
The poet was Carlotta Perry.
The "Bard," of course, was Folger McKinsey who turned out a poem or two every morning in The Sun and another one six days a week -- "Poem for Today" -- in The Evening Sun.
His lifetime output must have been greater than that of Keats, Shelley, Byron and the immortal Edgar A. Guest combined.
No Hypocrisy in Montgomery Board Actions
Editor: The editorial claiming hypocrisy in Montgomery County because the board of education chose now to address the budget crisis with administrative cuts and some reduction in instructional programs instead of an attack on valid employee salary agreements was pure bunk.
The board has not ignored the contracts. By the same token, it has not joined the bandwagon of critics who blame public employees, especially teachers, for the fiscal mess in which our county now finds itself mired.
We may have to review the contractual agreements with our employee organizations at some point if the county council says there is no money to fund those agreements.
At this time, the council has made no such declaration, nor do we expect such action before late spring. We hope the council does the right thing instead by approving additional county taxing authority and an override of the property tax limitation.
The council has the authority to set aside the tax limit because the voters expressly approved the one charter measure (of three on the ballot) that allows a seven-member majority of the council to make a decision to override the limitation. Therefore, there is a legitimate way out of the county's fiscal crisis, without junking signed contracts with trusting and loyal employees.
In the meantime, the county executive has given the board a budget mark of $715 million. The county council approved a new spending affordability of $697 million. The board's request is $762 million.
We have responded to the challenge by eliminating $20.2 million from the superintendent's proposed budget. The primary cuts came by eliminating 61.5 central and area office positions as part of a reduction of 159.9 jobs system- wide.
The board has now cut 118 central and area office positions in the last two years -- a reduction of 12 percent of the system-wide support and administrative staff.
Some instructional programs were also cut. The board eliminated outdoor education for 8th graders, mid-level interscholastic athletics, and half of all field trips, as well as a 20 percent cut in replacement and additional furniture.
The elimination of the 4th grade swim program, high school gifted and talented coordinators, the driver education day program, and a reduction in school maintenance cut 36.8 positions. We cut another 50.6 position requested for enrollment increases and three-fourths of the proposed improvements, including important class-size reductions.
We will revisit the budget as our own internal management efficiency study and a review by a citizens task force are completed.
Meanwhile, as the county government wrestles with its responsibility to find new sources of revenue to stave off the elimination of services and the destruction of employees' faith in contracts, we will continue to look for ways of saving money.
lair G. Ewing.
The writer is president of the Board of Education of Montgomery County.