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Indentured Service and TrackingThis communication addresses two...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Indentured Service and Tracking

This communication addresses two unfortunate actions recently taken by the Maryland State Board of Education, namely, the requirement that every high school student in the state perform 75 hours of public service before graduating, and the establishment of a policy that tracks college-bound students in one curriculum path and vocational students in another.

I am not opposed to students performing community service on a voluntary basis and firmly believe that the school systems around the state should encourage and enable such service, but I cannot accept or support the concept of mandated service.

As has been stated by several other reactors to this action, the term "indentured" cannot be separated from the results emanating therefrom.

What is the educational or scholastic value of performing annual labor for 75 hours as a public servant?

Is it supposed to teach some kind of special discipline? Suppose that no acceptable assignment can be identified for a student. Will that student be forced to carry out whatever is given to him or her?

What if the student refuses to carry out an assignment because it is considered to be demeaning? Can that student not graduate? Will there be a right of refusal?

This whole thing could backfire and get the various county school systems around the state in a world of trouble.

Despite the fact that many would deny that there is a racial element to tracking, I could never agree with the deniers. To establish dual curriculum paths whereby students must choose between vocational and college-bound tracks so early in their development is to place them in the untenable position of making a career decision of "blue collar" or "white collar."

As a consequence, students immediately become labeled and stamped by this imposed decision that they must make long before and they are in position to do so.

When one considers the large numbers of college students who do not declare majors for one or two years, how can one expect a high school sophomore or junior to know what direction he or she will take so early in life?

Is it possible that one of the purposes of this policy on tracking is to decrease the number of students entering college in Maryland?

Is there a budget factor here involved? Certainly the number of students entering college will be reduced by this policy.

Owen D. Nichols, Ed.D.

Silver Spring

The writer is chairman of the African-American Festival of Academic Excellence, held annually in Montgomery County, and retired vice president for administration and secretary of Howard University.

Term Limits

Patrick Ercolano's column on term limits in The Sun of Aug. 15 totally misses the point of why this country needs a catharsis of the politicrats.

This imperial group is not representing or communicating the views of the majority of citizens on all government levels.

The long-term incumbents are being controlled by the money that gushes into their campaigns by out-of-state power groups and local power groups like teacher and government employee unions that control the local elections.

Term limits will break this coziness and reduce the financial stranglehold on power with new blood and new ideas. True representative government will result.

Edwin E. Edel

Crownsville

Logging Phase-Out

I am writing to comment on Tim Wheeler's article of July 22, regarding the Baltimore task force that is reviewing a management plan for buffer lands surrounding the city's three reservoirs.

While the article clearly describes what led to the task force's creation, I would like to clarify a task force recommendation on a five-year phase-out of logging.

The article quotes a nearby resident expressing his concern that a phase-out of logging operations could mean "nothing left." On the contrary, under the five-year phase-out, only minimal numbers of trees would be cut under clearly defined guidelines.

For the most part, trees permitted to be cut under our recommendations would include those considered hazardous to public safety. Examples would be trees blown over by weather conditions, or those that impact on trails or pedestrian areas.

No trees would be cut in areas of high environmental value or within sensitive areas, including steep slopes or stream-buffer areas.

Task force members strongly supported the goal of maintaining the ecological integrity of the buffer lands, to ensure quality drinking water for area residents. As a group, we supported the five-year phase-out of logging as a step toward that goal.

Cathy Olson

Owings Mills

The writer chairs the Watershed Management Task Force.

Shortfall

I am outraged by O. James Lighthizer's lackadaisical response to a potential $12 million shortfall in his department's accounts receivables budget.

Had the sum been $12,000, perhaps one could shrug it off easily. If a loss that large is so easily dismissed, there is no wonder that taxes rise by insupportable degrees.

My suggestion would be to drastically reduce Mr. Lighthizer's budget. He admits $600 million is too much for him to be able to track.

It would be wise to give part of his budget to education, so that future generations will be better equipped to handle large responsibilities, such as government budgets.

Mary Jane Reed

Baltimore

Bush Is Not The Problem

Make no mistake, I am a lifelong liberal Democrat; I have never voted for a Republican for any office high or low, and I am not about to start now.

Despite this, I cannot understand the electorate's disdain for George Bush, who is, by my lights, the best Republican president of my lifetime. By every objective measure, George Bush is one of the most experienced, most qualified, most capable presidents in this century.

He governs with a sensible, restrained hand. He's doing as good a job as a Republican possibly can. Why, then, is his approval with the public at record lows, why is he held in such open contempt by so many of us? It's simple: We don't want experienced, qualified, capable presidents. We want Daddy.

Consider the contrast with the most popular living Republican: Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan was, by my lights again, an embarrassment. By every objective measure he was unqualified to be president, and his governance was characterized by bumbling, incompetence and phoniness. Yet we loved him.

Why? Because he was able to exude a warm and avuncular presence that reassured and inspired the nation. So we forgave him everything -- like the drunken ne'r-do-well father who beats his wife and cheats on her and never has a job, but who always brings presents home for the kids and tucks them in at night with comforting bedtime stories told with charm and wit. The kids know something's wrong, but they love Dad no matter what.

In the early 1980s the Republicans intoxicated themselves with fantasies about a "political realignment" in which they would become the majority party for decades to come. The Republicans really believed it because they had somehow convinced themselves that it was their ideas that prevailed in the "Reagan Revolution."

The current Republican haplessness is just the hangover setting in. In electing Ronald Reagan the people did not vote for the philosophical idea that less government is better. They voted for the Reagan promise that less government would mean more goodies for them (Mr. Reagan told the better bedtime story).

If the electorate becomes convinced that more government will yield more goodies for them, then all of a sudden we will see a miraculous resurgence of big-government liberalism.

Presidential elections are rarely about ideas or political philosophies or issues. They are about personalities. Ronald Reagan was a successful president because he was a shameless storyteller who told us what we wanted to hear.

George Bush, for all his merits, just doesn't have the gift for blarney. And that is the real reason why we will never forgive him for disappointing us and why we will not reelect him president, no matter how much he deserves it.

Larry DeWitt

Baltimore

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