As a parent with a child in the Baltimore City schools, I am extremely discouraged by the constant state of flux our political leaders and school administrators force upon our schools and the students they are supposed to serve.
The result is a lot of wasted energy when such energy would be better spent trying to make some real improvements. Instead of focusing the attention on improving our schools, each successive move seems designed to bring the entire system down to the lowest common denominator.
Only the latest example is the rezoning plan put before the school superintendent, Dr. Walter G. Amprey, and the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.
This plan directly threatens many schools in the city where principals, teachers, parents and students have joined together and have worked hard over many years to improve learning for children. Two of the most prominent examples are the Barclay and Roland Park elementary-middle schools.
I fail to see how losing some of the more effective schools in the city, thereby forcing families out of the system, will benefit the children of Baltimore.
A better approach would be to take the schools where students are performing well and use them as building blocks to improve all of the city's schools. In short, these schools should be used as models upon which to spread success.
It is incredible to me that a city that needs committed families and help for its schools seems most intent on destroying schools that work. Is it necessary to be continually starting all over?
In his Dec. 9 letter, Paul Morrison recognizes and welcomes the voice of reason in the Sandy Banisky article regarding the need for a cease-fire in the abortion war. I share his enthusiasm for seeking common ground among all parties concerned with abortion.
Unfortunately, your readers have been treated to another strident column by Cal Thomas, who identifies himself as pro-life. "No, we haven't lost," he writes, adding that " . . pro-lifers have only begun to fight."
Does this mean that he intends to continue warping the language with inflammatory phrases like "taking the life of her unborn child" or the totally misleading "abortion-on-demand position"?
It would indeed be tragic if we must again witness the excesses of pro-lifers blockading or bombing health clinics and harassing not only physicians who perform abortions but children as well.
A common goal that could be pursued in good conscience by all who believe that abortion is not the optimum solution to unwanted pregnancies is the elimination of the need for abortion.
Pro-choice people I have spoken with have assured me that they would be willing to work with anti-abortion people to promote programs which would decrease the incidence of unwanted pregnancies.
More effective sex education including and stressing abstinence, family planning and birth control services in communities both nationally and internationally are just a few rTC areas in which both sides of the abortion debate could make a positive contribution to the well-being of women and born children.
I would like to nominate for "Ebenezer Scrooge of the Year" The Sun's own movie critic Stephen Hunter, whose very negative review of the new "Muppet Christmas Carol" was, I thought, very misleading.
The movie is a marvelous, magical, beautifully photographed retelling of the story that has touched many a heart since Dickens' time.
The citizens of Victorian London are portrayed by a manic mix of human and Muppet characters, including rats, pigs, dogs and singing vegetables.
The producers have managed to preserve the solemnity of the original story, while adding original pieces of Muppet whimsy. The marble busts of Dante, Shakespeare and Moliere, made to look like Muppets, are worth the price of admission.
Hunter, in all his reviews, exhibits a sharp intellect and literate style, soured by a bleak, macho, cynical vision of humanity. Death, despair and destruction win his praise, while simplicity, idealism and glee are scorned.
He should try the movie again; perhaps the Muppet-ish spirits of the season will convert him to a warmer, more humanistic outlook, lest he become the most depressing movie critic in America.
It would be too bad if his bah, humbug review of the Muppet movie were to deter any moviegoers from seeing this delightful, funny film.
The Old Blues
When I was a member of the board of directors of Maryland Blue Cross, representing labor, from 1964 to 1973, there were no salaries, no bonuses and no expense money.
None of the board (excepting officers) expected to get paid anything for the couple hours they spent at the monthly meetings. It was considered a community service. I do remember getting a free lunch at one of the board meetings -- it was a club sandwich, a bit stale.
One year, 1971 or 1972, the officers reported to the board that Blue Cross had earned a substantial surplus for the fiscal year just ended.
After some discussion I proposed that we should use the surplus to reduce the premium rates for our subscribers. This motion went over like a lead kite. It was promptly laid on the table -- or buried under the table -- and we went on to other business.
I further compounded my felony by reporting this matter to the newspapers.
This apparently was considered treasonous, because the officers decided that this guy Van Gelder had to be quietly removed.
At a subsequent meeting, the board adopted a new rule: no member could be re-elected more than twice. This suited my case perfectly, as I was nearing the end of my third term. So a few months later, I was bounced off the board. I presume that the rule was later repealed.
In all those nine years I collected not one dime from Blue Cross; nor did I receive Blue Cross hospitalization insurance (My family and I were covered by a union health plan). I did receive a certificate of appreciation, suitable for framing and hanging on a wall.
You can imagine my amazement when I read in The Sun that the board members, since I left, have not only voted fabulous salaries for the officers, but $8,000 a year each for themselves, plus $800 for each monthly meeting they attend. This seems rather redundant, as that is all the work the job entails.
Meanwhile, the Blue Cross subscription rates keep going up.
Philip H. Van Gelder
Ban on Gays in the Military Should Be Lifted
The Sun has correctly endorsed President-elect Clinton's intention to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military (editorial, Dec. 6). Other voices have reached hysterical levels in their warnings about the future of the republic if this ban is lifted.
Opponents to lifting the ban caution that there will be mass resignations from the military, dancing will break out in the noncommissioned officers' clubs, morale will suffer, the barracks will be re-decorated by all the gay soldiers and privacy in the showers will become the big issue as tens of thousands of gay soldiers are drawn to the army as iron filings to a magnet. All nonsense.
If any or all of the above could happen, they indeed would have happened . . . decades, even centuries ago, because gays have been in the military since Caesar's legions returned triumphantly to Rome.
Mass resignations? Let's see if I've got this straight. Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns that a heterosexual 19-year veteran will resign a year early, forfeiting a pension and the opportunity to double-dip because the ban has been lifted as two homosexuals in his company (he knew they were homosexual before the ban was lifted) are guaranteed job security. Never happen.
The military will become a haven for gay activists with a political agenda? Again, won't happen. Those types of bottom-line agitators would never voluntarily submit to the structured, rigid lifestyle imposed on military personnel.
On the contrary, the kind of gay person who would choose the military as a career would do so for the same reasons that a heterosexual would -- opportunities to learn a skill, travel, challenge and advancement.
Lack of privacy in the showers? My experience in the Army was with known homosexuals in my company. In my three years in the Army, there was never one provocative or compromising incident.
Gays respected the privacy of heterosexuals, and straight soldiers respected the privacy of the gay soldiers, who, by the way, were the most "spit and polish" soldiers in the company.
The protestations of General Powell, Sen. Sam Nunn ,D-Ga., and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney notwithstanding, lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military will come to pass with the most minimal negative consequences.
Bill Clinton's got it right. Recognize that homosexuals are already in the military, doing a good job. Now give them job security. The issue is sexual behavior, not orientation. Any sexual misconduct will be treated on a case by case basis as was done with the Tailhook scandal.
There is an interesting irony here. The military is accepted as one of our most hidebound, reactionary institutions. Yet the Army was the first to fully integrate whites with African Americans. Indeed, the military is the most successfully integrated segment of our society.
It's again time to do the right thing.
Kenneth A. Willaman