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Head Start WorksLinda Seebach's Opinion * Commentary...


Head Start Works

Linda Seebach's Opinion * Commentary piece "Fallacy I: Head Start a 'Successful Experiment'" (Feb. 28), claims that Head Start doesn't work, and that I said so, too. But she's wrong. What I said in my column about Head Start is that it works, we can make it better, and we should make it better.

President Clinton's proposal to expand the program gives us a good opportunity to think about how to improve it. But Seebach PTC uses my suggestions for improvement to call for an end to Head Start.

In doing so, she illustrates precisely the point I made in my column: Honest discussion of shortcomings and needed improvements in promising programs is often used to sabotage those programs.

Seebach doesn't consider the possibility that a program can be both successful and in need of improvement. People who work in education or social services understand that this is the most accurate characterization of most programs most of the time. The nature of the issues and problems we deal with means that there are few unqualified successes. We are constantly looking for ways to do a better job.

I suggested that efforts to expand Head Start be undertaken with a view to correcting some of its problems: inexperienced, untrained staff; high turnover due to low pay; insufficient time spent in the program by the kids; and segregation by socio-economic class.

I also offered some proposals, which Seebach ignored, for addressing these defects.

It would be irresponsible to our society and to the kids who need help to dump more money unthinkingly into programs that could be improved.

But it is equally irresponsible to try to squelch debate about such improvements by calling for the end of a program like Head Start the moment we admit that it may not be perfect.

Albert Shanker

Washington, D.C.

The writer is president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Relative Wealth

Carl Rowan's statement (Feb. 23) is correct. There has never been a transfer of wealth "from the rich to the lazy poor" in United States history -- not under Roosevelt's New Deal, Kennedy's New Frontier or Johnson's Great Society, and certainly not under Reagan/Bush, when the poorest 20 percent of families got less than 5 percent of national income, while the richest 20 percent got nearly 45 percent.

In truth, transfer of wealth is working the opposite way; the poor transfer their meager resources to the rich.

In Maryland, mostly poor buyers of lottery tickets transferred last year about $325 million to the state. With keno this year, the amount may rise to nearly half a billion dollars, which comes mostly out of the pockets of the poor and remains in the coffers of the rich. Thus, both poor and rich are happy -- the poor with their fantasies, the rich with the fortunes they have not had to transfer to the state because the poor generously picked up the tab.

"Them as has" not only gits but also keeps.

Jack L. Levin


Why Wait?

I believe that the Brady Bill will cause more problems than it solves. The idea of a waiting period of five days to ensure that the buyer isn't a felon or deranged is pure idiocy.

Would a convicted felon be that stupid to go to a gun shop when he can find other ways of getting his hands on a gun?

And how do you actually figure out if a person is deranged or not? Unless he just got out of the mental hospital, there's no way to prove that he is actually a sick lunatic.

All this is going to do is encourage illegal gun dealers to make a fast profit.

The crime rate won't really go down, and I very much doubt the number of victims will decrease. Guns will be exchanged just as much as drugs are, and the police will just have extra work to find these illegal smuggling.

And who is this really going to hurt? The common citizens of America. The American people who think they need handguns for protection from all these criminals.

They will be forced to wait five days, while the criminals can have access to a gun whenever they want.

Is this fair? The American people have their right to guns.

What's the harm of waiting five more days? A lot can happen in five days.

Andre Lee

Ellicott City

Reagan Ideologue

During her tenure in the Reagan/Bush State Department during the early 1980s, Jeanne Kirkpatrick was the author of the genocidal, "anti-communist" policy implemented by the United States throughout Central America which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Most of those killed were not "communists," but simply poor people struggling non-violently to stop brutal oppression by oligarchies of large landowners and the military.

Thus, Ms. Kirkpatrick's diatribe against Nicaragua in the Feb. 15 edition of The Sun must be seen as the distorted view of an ideologue.

After all, through the illegal arming of the contra army, Reagan/Bush and Kirkpatrick caused the destruction of the only Nicaraguan government that had ever provided its people with health care, education and hope for the future.

Harold H. Burns Jr.


Meaning of Unity

I would like to suggest that your staff writer Angela Winter Ney do more research before she makes sweeping statements about what Unity is.

In her Feb. 14 article, she leaves the reader with the impression that a course in miracles is the foundation of Unity.

It is not. Unity is an interdenominational church that teaches the commonality and value of all religious thought.

Unity is Christian in that it is dedicated and committed to advancing the teachings, life and demonstrations of Jesus Christ in today's world.

The closing statement of Ms. Ney's article that "some of its teachings deny a person the right to make decisions" is just simply laughable.

Barbara Dersch


False Economy on Children

Maryland's pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds at risk of failing in school is a documented success and a sound investment.

Children who complete the program not only are less likely to fail a grade, to be referred to special education, or to drop out of school, but they also score significantly better than a control group on every measure of academic success.

The governor's budget calls for an expansion of this program, so that Maryland can provide it for 38 percent of the eligible children. This means that 4,400 additional children would have a much better chance to realize their academic potential.

The General Assembly is planning to cut back on this proposal, not because it isn't a wise investment which saves at least $3 for every $1 put in, but because Maryland's plan to have 95 percent of children enter first grade ready to learn doesn't need to be realized until the year 2000!

Can we really afford to wait?

Patty Pollard


The writer is president of the League of Women Voteres of Maryland.

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