Nancy Grasmick, state superintendent of Maryland schoolsstated that the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program is measuring performance according to some tough expectations for the year 2000.
During the week of May 11, students in grades 3, 5 and 8 in all Maryland schools, spent approximately two and one-half hours per day challenging "Nancy's test." At the same time, thousands of teachers spent many hours challenging the confusing directions to "Nancy's test."
Prior to testing, administrators faced the challenge of obtaining the various paraphernalia to support "Nancy's test."
In short, a great deal of time and money has been directed to supporting "Nancy's test."
How difficult is the task faced by those taking the test? As a test proctor for the eighth grade test during the last two years, I found the test challenging -- much too challenging for the majority of eighth grade students.
I will admit that there were questions I would have found difficult or impossible to answer.
Some of the vocabulary used in the test could not be found in the dictionary. Students were not allowed sufficient time to read the resource material and to think before writing a response.
I would like to see Superintendent Grasmick, Governor Schaefer and all members of the Maryland State Board of Education take the entire eighth grade test.
Then I would like to see their group score published in the newspaper in the same manner that the school results will be published. It must be remembered that people will never see their individual test results.
In addition, I would hope that a group of parents would volunteer to take the test in order to understand what their children are being required to endure.
For the majority of eighth grade students, a feeling of total frustration descends upon them by the last day of testing. Teachers have worked all year to help students develop a positive self image; "Nancy's test" serves to destroy that.
Don't take Ms. Grasmick's word for what the test is intended to do, and don't take my word for what I believe the test has done. Ask the principal at your child's school to show you the test and spend some time reading the questions and working out the answers, never forgetting that third, fifth or eighth grade students are required to take this test.
A reasonable challenge is one thing; an impossible task is another thing entirely.
The Next President
I am appalled, as are many thoughtful citizens, at the so-called coverage by the media of the presidential candidates. There is little substance and a great deal of what can be classified as character assassination.
While the faults of an incumbent in the discharge of his duties in office must certainly be scrutinized very carefully, this does not extend to his personal life that has no bearing upon his function in office.
There are many things that I don't like about George Bush, but my opposition to him is based upon his very poor record in office as regards both domestic and foreign policies.
With reference to Bill Clinton, I am certain the Bush forces will smear him just as they did with Michael Dukakis. They are experts at this kind of campaigning. Therefore, I don't believe that the people will support him.
Which brings us to H. Ross Perot. Even discounting the defects of the other two candidates, Mr. Perot is superior to them. Concerning faults, the only ones that could be found in Mr. Perot are two ludicrous charges that appeared in your paper by supposed pundits: He is trying to buy the presidency, and he lobbied the government for his interests.
Concerning the first charge -- from whom is he trying to buy the presidency? He has not offered me nor anyone that I know any bribe to induce us to vote for him. And even if he would want to bribe the public to vote for him, $100 million dollars would be a mere drop in the bucket in order to accomplish it.
Even a stupid person can understand that he is talking of spending that money for the purpose of publicizing his ideas.
The second charge is just as ridiculous. Unfortunately, all who do business with the government find that they cannot rely upon the quality and price of their products or work alone. Therefore, they find it necessary to lobby. While Mr. Perot deplores this situation, he is not that foolish as not to do his own lobbying in order to protect his business interests.
On the positive side, he is a successful businessman, he is knowledgeable in domestic and foreign affairs, he is beholden to no one and he is not a career politician who depends upon his political office for either his livelihood or his prestige. Therefore he is free to think and act in the best interests of the country as a whole. In short, he will be a statesman rather than a politician.
I am for Mr. Perot, and I talk him up wherever and whenever I can. I expect him to be the next president of the United States.
Manuel M. Poliakoff
Sierra Club Shouldn't Support Abortion Rights
The Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club has recently announced its plan to campaign in favor of the pro-abortion legislation that will come before the electorate in a November referendum.
I have often wondered at the inconsistency in liberal and environmental thinking when it comes to the issues of abortion PTC rights. The liberal tradition in Western Civilization has been a noble one. It has fought for human rights, for dignity and freedom, for respect and toleration of others who are different. In short, those who belong to this tradition have always shown concern for the downtrodden, the poor, the disenfranchised, and for those without a voice. The conservative trend has been the opposite: to reserve the world's goods for privileged groups while excluding others.
In the last century, the environmental movement has advocated rights for the natural world, and rightly so. The sphere of ethical responsibility is widening to include animals and other non-human beings. For those in the environmental camp, it extends to future generations as well.
Many environmentalists correctly espouse the moral position that future generations have a right to a healthy environment and that the current generation has a responsibility to those future generations. Yet some of those same people inexplicably deny some members of the future generation (who are already in the womb but not yet born) the right to life itself.
Environmentalists rightly favor protecting species such as the northern spotted owl. I assume they also consider it immoral to destroy the eggs in a spotted owl's nest. Yet some of these same people advocate the right to destroy the gestating egg (the fetus) in a human female's nest (the womb). These are interesting moral contradictions.
Other environmentalists argue that abortion is useful in controlling the world's population. This is probably the basis of the Sierra Club's stance and arises from a legitimate concern over population pressures.
As a committed environmentalist, I share this concern. A rapidly multiplying population places heavy demands on the earth's resources, depleting them so that future generations will have a spoiled and impoverished world in which to live. Most environmentalists therefore advocate birth control and family planning; some include the right to abortion in this.
Sierra Club members should ask themselves honestly, though, "How many women really have abortions in order to preserve the environment?" The truth is, most women have abortions because they don't want the child. Period. Environmental ethics are not involved in their decision.
I bet that those who champion abortion rights out of an ethical concern for the earth do not hesitate to drive their cars, cool their houses or turn on their many appliances, all of which harm the environment more than a child.
The Sierra Club would do much better to advocate prevention of pregnancy rather than freedom to terminate it. By advocating the latter, it contradicts its own principles and seriously undermines its legitimate activities.
The real solution to environmental degradation is a dramatic change in our lifestyles and a transformation of our rapacious economy. Even if we could keep the world's population at its current level, or reduce it somewhat, we will still deplete the earth's resources in short time if we don't drastically alter our way of living and our wasteful consumption habits. Abortion as a means of keeping the population down and saving the earth is a fool's idea and has no legitimate place on the Sierra Club's agenda.