I am writing in response to President Clinton's education plans. I believe that this proposal is a big step in the right direction.
As every person in America undoubtedly knows, students in this country are falling behind several other nations in international tests. This proposal could very likely remedy this situation by finally taking the first step in "learning from the enemy."
Essentially, Mr. Clinton's plan is a composite of several European school systems. For instance, the nationwide examination at the end of 10th grade is reminiscent of the baccalaureate of France, and the vocational education provisions are similar to those of Germany.
America's education system seems more intent on cultural and economical harmony than on actually teaching the students. Since the schools refuse to adopt foreign nations' policies of a more intense education program, we must do what no student wants -- add another year of school.
The main reason that I support this proposal, however, is the idea of streamlining students to particular areas of study after the 10th grade.
By this time, students usually have a vague idea about what general field they wish to specialize in, so this is the ideal time to begin specialization.
Apprentice programs will allow students to discover first hand what is involved in a certain occupation. Finally students just out of college will not run into the circle of needing experience to get a job, but needing a job to gain experience.
Overall, this plan is extremely beneficial to the nation. The only pitfall would be the states' tradition of regulating education.
I do not believe that individual states would object to such a helpful system, however, since it is so imperative in keeping our country's status as a top economic power.
Finally, after 12 years of debate over inane issues like prayer in school, the education system actually has a chance of improving.
I wish to commend Del. Gerry Brewster of Baltimore County for his introduction of a House of Delegates bill on family law, which facilitates the process by which child-support payments can be withheld from the wages of a non-custodial parent.
As far as I'm concerned, non-support of children is a veiled form of child abuse, which, among many things, prevents children from being properly fed and clothed.
Their physical health care is ignored and their mental health is greatly impaired because these irresponsible fathers just don't care and have little or no love for their children.
And too often we fail to see the tremendous strain on the mothers who are trying desperately to hold the fractured family together.
Mr. Brewster's bill will go a long way in easing the awful pain created by those dysfunctional fathers.
Thomas E. Dolan Jr.
According to a Feb. 28 Perspective article by Jane M. Orient: "In Canada, you don't have to pay to get medical care. In fact, you are not allowed to pay."
Dr. Orient is wrong. Every Canadian is obliged to buy health insurance if he or she can afford it. The difference between Canada and this country is that there the insurance costs a lot less, the government is the sole provider and the poor are insured free of charge.
If the Canadian health-care system is like a limited-access highway which often jams up, as Dr. Orient says, what shall we say about the American system?
It's a fast highway, but that's because it's a privately-owned turnpike with very high tolls. As long as you can pay the tolls, you've nothing to worry about. But if you run short of money, you're forced to abandon your car. Don't bother waiting for a bus -- there isn't any.
We're going to hear a lot more from defenders of the sacred right of Americans to pay large sums of money for medical services that cost less elsewhere. Don't believe everything they tell you.
I was disappointed to read Roger Simon's commentary (Feb. 8) on what a waste of money Amtrak's new high speed tilt train is.
Mr. Simon certainly is a member of the "I want it now" generation, and he has no idea what infrastructure costs are in the 1990's.
If this new train is reliable, it could save Amtrak millions of dollars by increased efficiency, as the time saved could further utilize each train set for additional frequencies. More round trips per train set is just one more way to reduce Amtrak's need for federal funds.
What Mr. Simon failed to mention is the possible cost to build a monorail or maglev system between Washington and New York. So far no one has a real estimate for such a system, but it could be in the tens of billions of dollars, which is a far cry from this proven technology that Amtrak is testing at a fraction of the cost.
Is it necessary to travel to mid-town New York from downtown Baltimore in less then 1 hour and 50 minutes? When one considers the trip time to the airports, that travel time is competitive to air travel.
Let's put our money in proven and sensible transportation alternatives, not in Mr. Simon's Disney World approach.
Changing Hunting Seasons
I read that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources intends to cut back on the number of geese-hunting days. It made me remember an article I had read previously about the proliferation of mute swans along the Chesapeake Bay.
These swans are not native to the bay; they are upsetting the ecological balance by chasing our native terns and ducks.
Furthermore, they are stripping off the underwater grasses by their voracious feeding, thereby destroying the natural habitat of crab and shellfish, which are very important to Maryland's seafood industry and the health of the bay.
Why not solve one problem with the other?
I suggest that the Department of Natural Resources change Canadian geese-hunting to mute swan-hunting. This way, we kill two birds with one stone.
Baltimore President Clinton earned considerable political capital in seeking to involve widespread citizen participation in the political process.
Yet in devising a health care plan that offers the access he is advocating, the very professionals responsible for the most direct care are left out of the planning.
The American Medical Association sought a seat at the table in exchange for dropping its opposition to key elements of universal health care, only to be summarily rebuffed.
Now, I raise my voice as a nurse and health policy planner to include a nursing representative in the inner circles of the task force led by Hillary Rodman Clinton.
The reason is that there is no other health professional as intimately involved at every stage in the delivery of health care as are nurses.
Simply, nurses know what is efficient without diminishing the quality of care and what is effective without increasing the cost of care.
We know all too well as nurse practitioners the long-term savings derived from a wellness approach designed to keep people healthy from the earliest signs of life through a long and productive lifetime.
We know all too well from our hospital experiences how testing procedures can be revamped to limit costs and how constancy of care by nurses can be emphasized to enhance the recovery and expeditious discharge of patients.
If we are to be identified as a special interest as the basis for our exclusion from the planning process, let it be known that we are proud of the special interest role we play as patient advocates.
That is precisely the point. We have no other interest than to ensure the best of health for all of the people.
Barbara R. Heller
The writer is dean of the School of Nursing, University of Maryland at Baltimore.
Schmoke's Black Political Base Disputed
A disturbingly common trend evidences itself among many of the recent articles and editorials concerning Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's potential bid for Maryland governorship. The assumption is frequently made that he has the explicit support of a collective black community.
Just as there can never exist a collective, cohesive white community, there is, obviously, no one black community. Therefore, a solid bloc of support for Mr. Schmoke among African-Americans cannot be taken for granted.
As a registered voter and African-American, I find it insulting and demeaning to be continuously referred to as the collective mindless mass of "the black vote" over which Mr. Schmoke, purportedly, holds sway.
Political analysts as well as journalists underestimate the black voters' ability to independently gauge a candidate's worthiness and make the responsible decisions that it entails.
Further underestimated is the strong undercurrent of discontent (not to mention disenchantment and disgust) with Mr. Schmoke and his administration among all segments of Baltimore's population, most especially African-Americans.
Mr. Schmoke, who showed so much promise and potential, seemingly refused to rise to the powerful challenge of overcoming his own petty egotistical obstacles to "jump start" this city into its rightful place as a 20th century urban leader.
Looking closely at Mayor Schmoke's support base, one is quick to glean that only the more elite members of Baltimore's black population form a strong, allied backing. And why not? He is cast of the same mold which continues to represent and support the hierarchical autocratic realm of Baltimore City agencies.
His concern for the problems of the underclass and other unfortunates may be truly genuine. However, this concern has not yet translated into any concrete decisive actions that could potentially provide the long-term solutions that are necessary.
He acts only when it is politically expedient for him to do so. Otherwise we, the people, are left to drown in the inept, insipid morass into which Baltimore City government is slowly deteriorating.
It goes without saying that Mr. Schmoke won the 1991 mayoral re-election because he had no viable competition. Thus, by default, he became the lesser of two innocuous evils.
Speaking as a member of the ubiquitous "black vote," I would find it to be truly a sad state of affairs if this unfortunate occurrence were to repeat itself on a statewide level.