Join Us at the WallThe Vietnam Memorial...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Join Us at the Wall

The Vietnam Memorial stands in memory of the men and women who gave their lives in a useless conflict, one that still rips at the very fabric of our great nation.

The war has been over technically for some 20 years, but the fighting continues to this day among Americans -- between those who fought and those who were against our involvement.

Once again we have been drawn onto a serious crossroad in the history of America.

What crossroad?

About three weeks ago I read an article about two individuals who were sending 350,000 post cards to veterans plainly referring to President Bill Clinton, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as a hypocrite.

What war did either of these two individuals serve in? I hope the president will come to the wall and show our fallen brothers and sister the respect that they deserve.

The monument was erected for all Americans to visit, not just those who were for or against the war. It's like our flag: Everyone can salute it, not just a certain few.

No matter what happened in the past, it is just that -- the past. The president should be just as welcome at this memorial as the lonely homeless American or handicapped indi vidual who could not serve his country.

Granted, it may have been a misguided war, for which no one should have had to fight and die. But this is the real world; it happened, people did fight and die because our country asked it of them.

After 20 years, what lesson have we as a nation learned? Have we become a nation of blind robots that stagger around in the gray mist of our minds waiting only for the end to come? How long are we going to allow this war to continue to divide our people and our nation?

The war was everyone's war and everyone's tragedy because 58,000 Americans had to give their lives. Let the fighting finally stop.

Bill Cole

Lou Varacalle

Baltimore

Always watchful for historical revisionist waxing-on about the Vietnam war, Mike Littwin's column "Time for Clinton to Play His Part in Our Long Tragedy," May 5) caught my eye.

Since I seldom read his usual drivel, I was reminded again why I should not.

Littwin argues that the flap over Clinton's planned appearance at the Vietnam Memorial on Memorial Day is nothing more than a bunch of fanatical veterans taking a mindless, divisive stand, and that Clinton should be "man" enough to ignore them and do his presidential duty by appearing.

Somehow, Littwin figures, Clinton's appearing can atone for his own sins and salve a nation still torn by recriminations.

His admonition that "it is his duty as president" has a hollow ring, since it was the incompetence of one former president and another former president's abuse of office that made the Vietnam war such a fiasco for the U.S.

When Littwin advises us that Clinton "should have said then (during the campaign) what everyone knows he believed to be true: "Like many of my generation, I thought it was a bad war, an I pursued all legal avenues in order not to go to Vietnam," his credibility is sorely tested. Clinton's hiding behind excuses and half-truths and his waffling show that the man understood the unworthiness of his youthful actions. Littwin's gratuitous "everyone knows" is pitiful.

We have residing in the White House a pathetic coward whose self-interest is so focused on number one that the only anguish he suffered in those years of the draft was how he could avoid serving without tarnishing his potential for a political career. Hardly the high-mindedness Littwin and other apologists attribute to Clinton.

North Vietnam's strategy in its war of aggression was to defeat the superior forces of the U.S. by manipulating world opinion, the press and, ultimately, U.S. public opinion.

North Vietnam's strategy of encouraging and exploiting the U.S. anti-war movement is well documented in published accounts.

That the Vietnam war lasted over 10 years and ended with the U.S. withdrawal and subjugation of the South Vietnamese people is testimony to the success of the North Vietnamese strategy.

Had a president done his duty and conducted the pursuit of U.Sinterests in Southeast Asia properly, many of the 58,000 killed would still be alive.

If Clinton has any sense of propriety, he would not disgrace anmemorial to the fallen heroes of previous wars. He would stay away.

He should hide with shame in the remembrance that by his actions he is as accountable for many of the names on the wall as were the North Vietnamese' bullets.

Phillip W. Worrall

Glyndon

Are Teachers Scapegoats?

Ten years after "A Nation At Risk" report was issued and a week after a series of editorials (May 2-May 9), letters and articles on education, my feelings haven't changed. We each have an obligation, as members of society, to ensure that the younger generation will be ready for an "Information Age."

If we want our children to listen, we must say something. If we want them to talk to us, we have to listen. If we want them to be readers, they have to see us writing. If we want them to write, we have to read. These are the building blocks of literacy skills -- the tools they will need to manipulate information. Turn off the television and practice those skills with the people around you.

No one is excused from this responsibility. Our children desperately need living positive models of literacy. They need to see us as lifelong learners, they need to hear us engaging in intellectual discourse, they need to know that we value what we are telling them to value. Tell them what you care about, what makes you angry, what makes you laugh.

Listen to them when they want to tell you the same. Our children are only little once. Communication skills will help prepare our children for a world we can only guess about.

Tell a story to someone. Go to the library and get a good book.

Start today.

Anne Werps

Perry Hall

The average Maryland teacher salary is $40,000. Most of us consider that a decent, livable wage, particularly when earned over nine months rather than the 12 months the rest of us deal with.

The Sun rightly noted the dwindling number of students entering the math and science fields, including professions in the engineering field, with all the various specialties. As a taxpayer and as the spouse of an engineer, I'd like to point out some harsh realities for all the misguided souls out there who seem to think that teaching is an underpaid profession.

The nation's engineers, from structural to nuclear and all the other complex engineering fields that drive our technology and advancement, are a sorely under-appreciated, poorly paid and generally ridiculed lot of diverse and essential, necessary professionals.

In addition to having a licensing requirement, engineers must spend their educational years devoted to higher mathematics and sciences that most students stay away from due to difficulty, among other things. Their professional careers are then spent performing vastly complex tasks, and their education generally continues to keep pace with technology.

They are the geniuses behind our myriad "things" -- both amazingly complex such as a ship that puts a man on the moon -- and classically simple, like a zipper. School teachers have little to complain about, particularly the pre-collegiate level generalist teachers . . .

For all this talent, we the public pay remarkably little respect to engineers. Though they're true professionals, we joke about their pocket protectors, consider them mainly a bunch of "dweebs" with thick glasses, and we don't encourage our kids to become (( engineers.

It's no wonder when the ridicule starts early, and teachers do little to enliven the early minds toward math and science.

And on top of those insults, they're not paid near their true value. My spouse, with an education in engineering management and almost 20 years direct experience, is lucky to get paid $40,000 per year. He makes less today than three years ago. The facts are, engineers get paid very little in comparison to their actual worth and level of expertise.

The nation's teachers are able to whine and complain about pay rates as our children sink lower down the educational scale than less advanced nations.

They resist all attempts at making accountability a part of their job description and are directly responsible for the incredible drop in the numbers of students pursuing math and sciences careers. I say our nation's engineers are the real heroes. They deserve better pay and the type of acclaim we now heap on relatively pointless sports figures.

Teri L. Hagberg

Perry Hall

In his recent commentary, "Learned Helplessness" (May 5), Baltimore School Superintendent Walter Amprey suggests that teachers are programming students for failure by a conditioned thinking regarding teaching and learning.

He says the trend can be reversed and, according to him, we can "revive" our schools by "a belief system called 'Efficacy' [which will] give us the language we need to inculcate our beliefs." With this rather convoluted statement Dr. Amprey has reduced the problems of education to mere semantics. All we need is a new language code to change prevalent attitudes and practices: "The efficacy of effective effort."

What this "belief system" does is place the entire burden of teaching-learning on the teacher.

It is somehow irrelevant that there are inadequate resources, poor management, antediluvian curricula and low teacher morale. That students come from dysfunctional families and single-parent homes is also unrelated to what happens in the classroom.

I find it rather ironic that at the end of his commentary he draws a parallel to The Wizard of Oz and the innate abilities of students -- that Dorothy always possessed the power to return to Kansas.

More relevant to Dr. Amprey's commentary is the scene where the Wizard, that consummate humbug, desperately spins the knobs that shift the mirrors and emit the smoke and bellows: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Arthur L. Laupus

Columbia

Making Punishment Fit the Crime

When it comes to criminal justice I hold two beliefs: one, a person should be held accountable for his actions; and two, the punishment should fit the crime.

If someone is convicted of murder in the first degree then that person should pay the ultimate price for his actions. He should be allowed his right of appeal but, failing acquittal, should forfeit his life for the life that he took.

In the case of a robbery where no one is physically injured, I believe the convicted felon should be forced to pay for his crime in a way most beneficial to those from whom he stole: He should pay full restitution for his theft no matter how long it takes. (Ideally this would apply to people like Jeffrey Levitt and Michael Milken as well as the poor slob down on the corner).

In cases of violent rape where the victim is mentally and physically traumatized, I believe the guilty party should serve many years of hard time in prison. With a little luck, he'll suffer at the hands of his fellow prison inmates the same experience he forced upon his victim.

Lawrence A. Gillette was convicted of rape. He had sex with a woman apparently without her consent. Was she physically injured in any way? Apparently not. Was she emotionally traumatized? That is a question only she can answer; however, apparently she was unconscious at the time of the offense so there is a question as to whether or not the event was burned indelibly into her psyche.

Was Mr. Gillette wrong? Yes. Should he be punished? Absolutely. Did the circumstances of his act match the brutality that we normally associate with the word "rape"? I don't think so. Should he be punished as though it were?

If you believe as I do that the punishment should fit the crime then you have to feel that Judge Thomas J. Bollinger made an even-handed decision in this case. Yes, he has made some inflammatory comments that have with good reason angered many individuals. OK, so he's not politically sensitive. That doesn't change the facts in this case.

If the two state senators and the woman's law group mentioned in an April 29 Sun article are so anxious to reprimand someone for his judicial conduct, I suggest they take a good look at Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., who sent Pamela Snowhite Davis to prison for two years for smoking pot. Now there's a punishment to fit the crime, eh?

Greg Belcher

Baltimore

Despite a disinclination to participate in public controversy concerning a judge, I am constrained to write regarding current criticism of Judge Thomas J. Bollinger.

I have had opportunities to observe Judge Bollinger closely, both in earlier phases of his career, including as opposing counsel, and in his present capacity. I found him straightforward, sincere and scrupulously fair. I do not write, however, to defend him or to express an opinion as to his recent rape case sentence, which seems to have so inflamed some people. My concern is with a more disturbing consideration.

We pride ourselves that our governmental system is one of laws, not men. We proclaim the critical need for an independent judiciary as an indispensable element required to make that system work. Yet the moment a particular decision displeases a significant segment of our society, loud voices demand dismissal of the judicial officer who, like Judge Bollinger, whether wisely or not, had the apparently inexcusable temerity to call a case the way he saw it

Our judicial system plainly contemplates societal components. Community views are reflected through participation of juries. Public opinion likely has a significant place in selection of judges.

But use of public sentiment as a weapon aimed at bringing about not only disapproval of a judicial determination, but application of sanctions against its author, as now apparently is being done with respect to Judge Bollinger, surely should not be countenanced.

The inescapable consequence of such a tactic, patently designed to affect future judicial conduct through extrajudicial means, presents a threat to a truly independent judiciary too grave to ignore.

The mere suggestion that a judge should fashion a judgment dependent upon potential public reaction to his decision is destructive of the concept of a government of laws, rather than men. Administering evenhanded justice is not yet the functional equivalent of participating in a popularity contest.

When, like Judge Bollinger, a member of the judiciary deals with a situation, however sensitive, in a manner within the ambit of his authority, premised upon what is before him and without regard to supposed public views not part of the judicial record, we should not seek to pillory him.

We should welcome his willingness to exercise that "independency and uprightness of Judges" that Article 33 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights proclaims to be "essential to the impartial administration of Justice, and a great security to the rights and liberties of the People."

Let us, for our own sakes, be discerning enough not to disparage a judge for doing what he is supposed to do, just because we may not approve of or agree with what he does. Good sense, as well as good law, should require no less.

Benjamin Lipsitz

Baltimore

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