Compromising can help make inclusion workIt's easy...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Compromising can help make inclusion work

It's easy to understand why so many parents and teachers are against inclusion. Fear and discomfort always accompany major change.

It's not so easy to understand why they feel the process is being undertaken too quickly. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the ultimate goal of special education has been the mainstreaming of its children.

Last week, one of the television networks featured a school in Johnson City, N. Y., where a program of inclusion had been implemented. Special education students, some in Level V, interacted with those in the regular curriculum. Teachers, parents, administrators and children agreed that the experiment was working well.

All attributed its success to this fact: When the special education students were moved to regular classes, the resources, human and otherwise, used in the special curriculum laboratories moved with them.

Regular students bonded with the newcomers. Both groups adjusted to a changed environment. Both developed an appreciation of individual differences.

The time for compromise is at hand. Surely School Superintendent Stuart Berger and those opposed to his tenure want to see children being educated in the least restrictive environment.

Could the superintendent entertain less sweeping changes this fall and establish a pilot program at just one school? And in establishing that pilot program, could he use the children of parents who support the changes he wants to make?

Could parents opposed to the change visit a place like Johnson City and see inclusion in operation? Could workshops be conducted for them, with the superintendent "showing and telling" exactly how the reorganization will benefit all children?

Magdalene B. Fennell

Baltimore

What a headline

I was disturbed on two accounts by your June 24 article titled "C&P; proposes to link schools with fiber optics."

First, your article leaned too far toward portraying this plan as an altruistic gift by a benevolent utility.

It is no such thing, no matter what C&P;'s publicists would have us believe. It seems instead to be a self-serving means of expanding technology, for which big business will bill the taxpayers (via our children). If past experience is any guide, that technology will be useful and available only to the best and brightest students.

This brings me to my second concern, which is that your article perpetuates the belief, widely held in America, that education dollars should be spent on making the bright kids even brighter. This approach leaves the average high school graduates unable to read well, unable to write well, unable to even approach mathematics.

Britain, Japan and Germany know that an approach like ours is short-sighted and therefore focus on teaching all their kids well. We should do the same.

What a headline it would be if C&P; volunteered to donate the $30 million toward reducing class sizes or increasing teachers' salaries.

Mark Mollenhauer

Baltimore

Distrust fund?

The message of President Clinton's June 17 news conference seems to me to be a rehash of prior conference messages, with slightly scaled-down tax increases and spending plans in order to appease opponents.

One of the most disturbing elements of the president's plan is his creation of a "deficit reduction trust fund." Why in the world do we need a "trust" fund in order to reduce the deficit? Why don't we just take the money as it comes in and repay the Japanese for the money they have lent us? Why should we keep it in a "trust" fund and continue to pay interest on it?

There can be only one answer to that question. By keeping the money in a "trust" fund, the government retains control of the money and can continue to spend it simply by depositing IOUs into the "trust" fund. What this policy succeeds in doing is destroying the meaning of the word "trust" and replacing it with the word "distrust."

If President Clinton wants to improve his image with the American citizenry, he should start coming at us head-on, no matter how painful, and stop presenting plans and ideas that treat us as if we were all suffering from dementia.

Ellis M. Woodward

Baltimore

Upper Cretaceans

Seeing the new movie "Jurassic Park" reminded me of some lessons from my high school science course.

The gigantic herbivorous sauropods such as Brontasaurus were indeed creatures of the Jurassic Period (180 million to 135 million years ago).

The Jurassic Period was the second and middle period of the Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and when coniferous plants first appeared.

However, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largest and fiercest of the great carnivores, first appeared well into the Cretaceous Period, the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era (135 to 70 million years ago).

Tyrannosaurus Rex actually came relatively late in the Cretaceous Period, the so-called Upper Cretaceous Period when grasses and cereal grains first appeared along with modern insects.

Thus to properly depict Tyrannosaurus in the movie, the title should have been "Upper Cretaceous Park."

James B. Denny

Baltimore

The arrogance of power in Baltimore County's schools

I have been active for 25 years in Baltimore County public education as a parent, volunteer, PTA president and member of the Central Area Educational Advisory Council. This year, I have watched an atmosphere of fear permeate our schools and community.

This fear is not being foisted upon the community by some cabal of inept and disgruntled teachers or by an imagined conspiracy against the superintendent and school board. Instead, it has grown from the ineptitude, arrogance and inappropriateness of the decisions being made and the manner in which they are implemented.

The fear touches parents, teachers, administrators and students, all of whom care deeply about the future of our community and the school system which is at its heart.

This year we have seen what appears to be change for its own sake, regardless of need or probable benefit. It has not been reasoned and well thought-out; it has simply been imposed.

We have a new superintendent who has purposefully ridden into Baltimore County like a knight on a white horse.

There is, however, one problem: This damsel-in-distress of a school system did not need to be rescued. It needed nurturing, support and recognition of its strengths as well as its weaknesses.

We have not seen that nurturing approach but rather the arrogance of power by those appointed to serve.

While the leadership of the school system touts its openness to parent input and its concern for the welfare of children, we see parents being shut out of the decision-making process, valued school programs being eliminated or altered beyond recognition and professionals who dare to question fearful for the future of their careers in Baltimore County.

Instead of seeing the system become more democratic, it has become more closed, taking a "my way or the highway" approach that, sadly, leaves many Baltimore County parents and teachers viewing the "highway" as the more attractive option.

Our public schools are at the heart of our community. Loss of faith in them will signal an irretrievable downhill slide for Baltimore County.

What young family will choose to buy a home here? What business will choose to locate here if our public schools are not supported and respected?

Those with the courage to raise questions or object to the pace and nature of proposed changes have been ridiculed this year as "fearing change." This is a smoke screen designed to stifle any meaningful discussion of options.

Most people acknowledge that change is an inevitable part of life but prefer well-considered, consensus-driven evolutionary change to abrupt, imposed revolutionary change.

Consensus-building, however, does not appear to be a priority of the current leaders of this school system.

Instead, we see a dictatorial approach, seeking to bring about rapid, ill-considered and ill-conceived change that reflects no sense or understanding of the history of the Baltimore County public schools and the needs of its students.

This school system, this community and, most of all, the children of Baltimore County deserve better. They deserve a school system in which they can take pride, and this has not been a proud year.

We can do better.

Phyllis Ettinger

Timonium

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