Kudos, But . . .
Editor: Kudos to the researchers led by a team based at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center who have possibly identified a gene to identify susceptibility to colon cancer. Similar genetic testing may soon be able to determine proneness to other diseases thought to be hereditary, such as alcoholism.
The results of such testing may have a very negative effect however on the already problematic American system of private health insurance, if health insurers are permitted to require or even consider such test results in determining whether to insure individual.
Insurance companies are already privy to centralized medical data banks for the collection of information regarding medical histories of individuals.
Perhaps the time has come for the Congress and state legislatures to consider protecting individuals from insurance companies' ability to selectively avoid risk by considering genetic proneness to disease.
Jerome James LaCorte.
Editor: Baltimoreans can thank Howard Head for more than sports-related improvements. He is responsible for an enhancement enjoyed by everyone.
A frequent New York-bound train traveler, Howard Head wanted a visitor's first impression of Baltimore to be clean, bright, and welcoming. He donated money to Baltimore City, and with Amtrak's cooperation the colorful Baltimore mural at Penn Station was repainted.
He also gave money to install benches on the platform so travelers could wait in comfort. I think it is agreed that Mr. Head's objective has been achieved.
Editor: I was saddened and ashamed to see Arthur Hirsch's article "Marylander wins world muskrat-skinning crown." The article began with " . . . 25 bloody carcasses to enthrone Ted Abbot as king -- king of the muskrat skinners."
Mr. Hirsch then went on to explain in great detail how a muskrat is skinned and provided helpful advice from previous winners of this "coveted" title.
How this barbaric event can be treated with such praise is inconceivable to me. Every creature on this earth deserves respect both in life and death, but apparently this not the case in Dorchester County.
Does this article accurately represent what we want our children to learn about the animal world -- that it is permissible to rip the skins off dead animals and to award trophies to the fastest skinner? Or that this foolish competition "is a monument to a dying art"?
Our only hope for a non-violent world is to teach our children to cherish all the inhabitants of our planet. This article, indeed this whole event, is several steps in the wrong direction.
Melanie A. Cook.
Editor: Thank you for the excellent coverage that we received in The Sun during the gulf crisis.
The maps were helpful and the flag and the bow were nice.
We look forward to The Sun every day.
Hazel B. Sanner.
Editor: The Sun editorial -- "Police Pact: What Took So Long?"-- implies that citizens in the Baltimore metropolitan area have been somehow short-changed by the lack of a written police mutual aid agreement. As I have stated previously, we will sign such an agreement. However, nothing substantial will be noticed by our citizens as the result of such a pact.
For years the Baltimore City Police Department and Baltimore County Police Department have carried out mutual law enforcement programs and activities. Our departments regularly share information on crime, crime resistance, training programs and other matters of mutual interest. On a daily basis our officers and detectives share information and cooperate in investigative
matters with their counterparts in the county.
You need to know that both city and county officers have for months been sharing "real time assistance" in both information and manpower regarding the string of armed robberies experienced in the city and Baltimore County.
Curiously, several major breaks in this on-going case have come from police agencies which are located outside of Maryland. Major arrests were made in Newport News, Va., Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia. Police from Baltimore City and Baltimore County are involved in these investigations, even though there currently is no mutual aid agreement in place between these agencies. Cooperation among law enforcement agencies is of paramount importance if we are to provide superior services to our citizens.
What a mutual aid agreement will do is formalize a method of extending equipment and human resources during an emergency. And, it will clarify the officer's authority to make arrests, which already exists under the "fresh pursuit" doctrine, when a jurisdictional line is crossed.
A police mutual aid agreement is a good idea and will soon be in force. However, both jurisdictions have been cooperating in that model way for many years. To believe otherwise, is to be misinformed.
Edward V. Woods.
The writer is police commissioner of Baltimore City.
Editor: I noted with sorrow the passing of John Walton, retired professor of educational administration at the Johns Hopkins University and former president of the Baltimore City school board. Dr. Walton chaired my dissertation committee, and I always considered him both a friend and a mentor.
I saw no mention made of his work as an author.
His writing like his mind ranged over numerous topics with remarkable originality and clarity. He had a lifelong interest in history and his first book was a biography of John Filson, the man who popularized the image of Daniel Boone in order to sell land Filson owned in Kentucky.
Dr. Walton's book, "The Discipline of Education," broke new ground when published in 1963. At the time, few individuals in academics considered education to be a true discipline.
Dr. Walton argued that education certainly was a discipline in several common uses of the term. He observed that the study of education has a unique purpose (the full development of the individual) and some unique content (e.g. curriculum theory), although perhaps no unique methodology (as is true of most other disciplines with the exception of science and mathematics). The concern with education as a discipline certainly anticipates the current efforts to define the body of knowledge of education.
Two more works should be mentioned in passing.
jTC One was "Administration and Policy-Making" (1959), which was the first book-length treatment in any field of study which dealt with the relationship of the executive function to policy creation and implementation.
The other book was an extraordinary work humbly titled "Introduction to Education: A Substantive Discipline." In this work he developed such concepts as the "politics of culture," "a discipline of disciplines," "education as leisure" and a concept which was later used by Herbert Simon in a way that earned a Nobel Prize -- "the intellectual limits of rationality."
One seldom has the good fortune to have a friend with a truly original, creative and insightful mind. It was my great pleasure and privilege to have known John Walton.
Paul D. McElroy.
No Sacred Cow
Editor: Re the editorial March 24, "Free-Speech Bedfellows": What is the very raison d'etre of the university? Not just the mere imparting of knowledge, but the cultivation of reason, objectivity, judgment; the instilling of certain civilizing principles -- respect of man for man, of one human being for another.
Universities exist not to produce mere "walking dictionaries" as Kant put it, but men of character, of decency and humanity. The university is no place for savages, for Neanderthals. The business of the university is precisely to dispel ignorance and prejudice and bigotry. To allow universities, citadels of enlightenment, to become bastions of hatred and hooliganism is an absurdity and an outrage.
We legislate individual libel laws in recognition of the fact that a man's good name is his most prized possession. What distorted rationale countenances the libel of entire groups, the sullying of the good names of millions?
To First Amendment armchair purists, the issue may be academic, but to countless individuals, the damage done solely by reason of group identification is real -- the denigration, the defamation, the intimidation, the fear, the shame, the humiliation. People have the right to be left alone, free of such harassment.
Free speech is a priceless right, but let us not make it into a sacred cow, an absolute to be worshiped at the expense of other basic human rights. The foot-in-the-door argument against group libel laws is the same specious argument spouted by the NRA against gun control.
Lines can be drawn between vicious vilification and reasoned argument and criticism.
Hate-mongering actually subverts the very purpose of free speech: intimidation chills, inhibits free expression, thwarts open discussion; the inflaming of passions blinds to reason, chokes off rational discourse.
There is a dangerous underestimation of speech's effects. Speech does not operate in a vacuum, does not seal itself hermetically off. Verbal assault forms a continuum, with physical assault. The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers; it started with the unleashing of harangues of hatred, unfettered, unrestrained, effectively dehumanizing fellow humans.
We are a heterogeneous society, comprising differing backgrounds and cultures, races and religions. There is a vital state interest in promoting an atmosphere of civility, a decent respect and consideration for one's fellows -- in nurturing community, not exacerbating divisiveness.