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EDUCATION IS A BIG DEAL

THE BALTIMORE SUN

From: Valerie Cooper

Elkton

To: Robert Robusto

Bel Air

This letter is written in response to your comments in The Harford County Sun, Dec. 29, "It's no big deal."

While you are certainly entitled to your opinion about pornography, I found your response to the survey question to be careless,immature and irresponsible.

First, I am a health educator. Sex education is not pornography. Nor is pornography sex education. For youto imply that the two are even remotely comparable is ludicrous and ignorant. The purpose of sex education is to give young people the necessary information to make smart choices.

Second, sex is a "big deal." Those who take a carefree attitude toward sex are not being very intelligent. Irresponsible sexual behavior has always had its consequences (unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases). But now, it is more serious. Sex can result in AIDS, and that means death.

Last, although health is a mandatory graduation requirement in Harford County, the unit on teen pregnancy, AIDS and STDs is not. All parents have the opportunity to preview any and all materials and elect, if they wish, to have their child not participate in the unit.

With all the information in the media about the seriousness and high incidence of the occurrence of AIDS, I am shocked to learn that thereare still adults with attitudes such as yours.

I, as well as other educators and parents, can only hope that young people are getting the message that irresponsible sex is dangerous and hope that your opinions do not influence any impressionable young person's mind.

Inclosing, I would like to invite you to sit in on any of my sex education classes for two reasons. One is for you to witness that learningactually does take place, and two, to have you do some learning as well.

THE FACTS, PLEASE

From: Kenneth E. Heselton

Joppa

The misleading headlines in your paper fail to annoy me. They are not, however, as deceptive as the boxes requesting comment on the proposed adult bookstore legislation. The impression you now present on that issue is false.

Originally, you indicated there would be "new restrictions" on adult bookstores. Now the attention-getting little box indicates the county is about to "ban" them. Why do such imaginings slip into print? Is it because you don't want to confuse your readers withthe facts?

A large segment of the public may now believe the county government is proceeding to ban adult bookstores. That perception you generated (intent undefined) with your little box. Do citizens ofthis county have to go to the library and read the proposed legislation so they will know the truth or (could it be possible) can you print it?

A citizen can normally identify a misleading headline when reading the accompanying article. It is impossible for someone to discern the truth when all he or she can learn about an issue is embodied in one deceptive sentence. To suggest a "ban" is forthcoming is so false that it forces reiteration of my earlier question -- are you one of the deceivers or simply one of the deceived?

PERMISSIVE EDITORIALS

From: Jim Cannon

Edgewood

With regard to your editorial advocating the much-touted, politically correct solution of education our children concerning condom use, "What our kids don't know about sex can hurt them," The Harford County Sun, Jan. 26, I have two comments.

First, condom education is not a solution; it is a placebo. Lloyd J. Kolbe of the federal Centers for Disease Control is quoted by the National & International Religion Report as saying, "We can't expect a one-week (sex education) course in high school to change the behavior of an entire population."

He concludes that it will take the united efforts of parents, families, schools, religious organizations, health departments, community agencies and the media. In my estimation, condom-use education by the public schools will not be effective in significantly reducing the problems caused by teen sex. What itwill give is more "how-to" information to an age group which is not sufficiently mature to adequately use the information. The result will be more sex, not safer sex.

Second, while I agree that sex education which emphasizes moral purity is an important aspect of educating adolescents, I take strong exception to attempts by the government or the media in the name of "the good of society" to dictate to me asto who will provide sex education to my children.

Call me a parents' rights activist, but I do not want a morally passive school system with its supposedly neutral terminology (i.e. "sexually active" vs."sexually immoral") providing sex education to my children unless they do so in accordance with a moral values system I can support.

Sex education is value-intensive; adolescents will be exposed to the values of the system. These values presently say "You're old enough todecide whether or not it's OK to have sex. Go ahead if you want to, just be safe."

I strongly disagree! And as I, not the school system, bear the legal (as well as moral) responsibility to raise my children, my moral values and parental rights should be respected.

I agree with Kolbe's conclusion that it will take the united efforts of parents, families, schools, religious organizations, health departments, community agencies, and the media. But a truly united effort flowsfrom a central, high-valued philosophy. The only philosophy that canproduce the results we desperately need is a moral ethic that we adults not only preach, but practice, as well. It is the moral ethic that sex with anyone other than one's heterosexual marriage partner is wrong and harmful to oneself, one's loved ones and one's?community.

The spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is, at its root, not a medical problem but a moral problem with tragic medical, psychological and sociological consequences.

If American societyvalued and emphasized a moral ethics such as the one I have stated, we would see a tremendous decline in the 1,000,000 teen pregnancies each year, teen abortions (most of the 1,400,000 American women how had legal abortions in 1989 were white, under 25, and unmarried), the 3,000,000 cases each year of teens with sexually transmitted diseases,etc. These statistics clearly demonstrate that we, as a nation, havedeveloped an ostrich mentality, not because some resist condom education in classrooms, but because this nation refuses to address the real moral problems we are facing.

In the Dec. 12 Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger wrote an editorial, titled "The Joy of What?" in which, according to NIRR, he "condemns the moral license associated with the so-called sexual revolution and laments recent highly publicized scandals involving public figures." He concludes with an appeal that more people in a position of responsibility be "willing to come forward and explain, in frankly moral terms, that some of the things that people do nowadays are wrong."

I, for one, have had my fill ofeditorials which advocate the application of a "condom education" and other Band-Aid approaches to quell the plague of sexually transmitted diseases among our teens.

Next time, Mark (Guidera, editor), use your talent and public access to do something really radical. Follow the lead of Daniel Henninger and write your next editorial on the need for moral purity in America.

CHEMICAL-FREE SENIORS

From: The Rev. Celine A. Burke

Parents for Project Graduation Committee

Chris Cuneo

C. Milton Wright High School Class of '92

Bel Air

It has been found that most teen-age alcohol-related deaths occur on graduation evening. In response to this sad fact, the parents and Class of '92 at C. Milton Wright High School are sponsoring a chemical-free graduation party aboard the Lady Baltimore on graduation night. The students will be asked to sign a contract that says they will remain alcohol- and drug-free for the 24 hours around graduation.

We are encouraging all members of the senior class to take part in this party. Our fee for this evening is only $15 per student, while the true cost of the evening is really $40. In order to make up the difference, we are sponsoring a number of fund-raising activities.

It has been brought to our attention that some civic organizations would like to help sponsor this event. If your organization would like to knowmore, call C. Milton Wright at 838-2145.

We will arrange for student volunteers to come and speak to your group.

LOW SCHOOL STANDARDS

From: Terence A. Weaver

Bel Air

If the stakes weren't so high, it would be laughable watching the Harford County Board of Education debating the issue of weighted grades, as if implementing them would demonstrate a genuine commitment to excellence in education.

While the general public might not be aware of the punch line to this little joke, high school students throughout the county know it quite well. As the school system's leaders have labored over how many percentage points should be required of a minority of students to earn each grade, our high schools have been using a grading policy that requires the majority of students only to do average work during one quarter of each school year and poor work on a final examination in order to pass a course.

Harford County's grading policy assigns a numbervalue to each quarter grade and to the final examination grade. Final course grades are determined by doubling the number for each quarter, adding the number for the final examination, and dividing by nine.If the resulting number is above one-half of a percent, it is adjusted upward to a value of one, and the student has passed the course with a D. In short, a student may earn a C in the first quarter, do nothing for the remaining three-fourth of the year, earn a D on the final examination, and pass.

There is, of course, a way for a student with these grades to still fail a course. The policy allows teachers to file "grade exceptions" with their principals, stating their reasons why students should fail.

Principals then have the authority toaccept or reject teachers' recommendations. Some teachers regularly file such exceptions, feeling it a professional responsibility to hold students to a reasonable level of achievement. Principals approve the recommendations for the same reason. Why, though, should these teachers and principals be expected to place their values above those ofthe system which employs them?

It is the Board of Education and the county-level administration who have failed in their responsibilities by adopting the policy in the first place and in subsequently ignoring its shortcomings. They misdirect the public by debating relatively minor issues, while sending the message to the professional staffin the schools that students are to be passed if at all possible.

This trend seems certain to become more pronounced as the Maryland School Performance Program begins holding schools responsible for failure rates. The public will probably see these rates decline as the system simply requires less of students to pass. In the end, young people entering the work force are given the impression that working one-half a day out of every four and putting in an hour on pay-days is enough to succeed in life.

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