Criminal control needed
President Clinton went on national television to unveil his newest plans to take aim at you, the law-abiding citizen. He made a call for passage of the Brady Bill.
If passed, this bill will create a national waiting period before you would be allowed to purchase a handgun. A waiting period may not sound bad, until you stop and think.
All the gun-control laws enacted in the past quarter century promised to reduce crime. But no city or state with gun-control laws ever experienced a reduction of crime in comparison to neighboring cities without such laws.
There are over 21,000 federal, state and local gun laws already on the books. In fact, Washington, D.C. has had a total ban on handgun ownership since 1975.
However, since banning handguns in the district, the homicide rate in that city has risen 200 percent, while the nation's rate rose less than 10 percent.
Now in Washington only the criminals are armed. Of special note -- just the opposite is true in Oregon. Violent crime there has declined since honest citizens have been allowed easier access to weapons-carry permits.
We do not need more useless gun laws like the Brady Bill on the books. These laws only restrict the honest citizen. Besides, it should be obvious by now, criminals will not obey the law anyway.
If a person commits murder, whether with a gun, knife or baseball bat, it is still murder. It is senseless to try to convict him for owning a gun, knife or bat. Since there is already a law against murder, it makes more sense to prosecute for murder.
And if found guilty, you put him in prison and throw away the key. Or better yet, capital punishment. We need swift, sure criminal control -- not gun control.
If you value your right to own a weapon for self- protection, I urge you to tell your senators and representatives to vote against the Brady Bill. Then join the National Rifle Association.
Robert L. Totten
Our president plans to keep ailing shipbuilders afloat by guaranteeing about $3 billion in loans and assisting in developing new technologies. He also announced that our federal government will assist the Big Three auto-makers in the development of an affordable, fuel-efficient, low-pollution passenger car.
In a democracy, industrial production ought to be market-driven. When our government gets involved with industry, the result is usually negative. Unless there is an emergency, Uncle Sam should not become a partner with any big business. The Constitution allows us to enjoy the pursuit of happiness, but it must not support the chase.
Stop testing, start teaching
Once again the State Board of Education has devised another test for our children to take. They think it will be the "magic wand" that will cure the ills of public education. When will they realize that tests do not teach children? Teachers do!
Twenty years ago, when I taught in the public schools, a battery of tests was developed to test every aspect of reading and phonics. There was a whole series of short tests for each skill, and each grade was to receive certain sets.
As a remedial reading teacher, I was in charge of counting out and distributing these tests. I spent hours on this fiasco.
I never saw any significant result or improvement because of this testing. All I saw was my valuable time taken away from the classroom and the very children I was supposed to be helping.
Now our children are required to take a writing proficiency test, a citizenship test, a functional reading test, a functional math test and midterm and final exams in order to graduate.
They also are expected to take the PSAT, the SAT, the ACT and various advanced placement or achievement tests if they want to go to college.
Even in the elementary grades, children must take several standardized tests which, in my opinion, waste valuable instructional time. I think it is about time children were required to attend class promptly, pay attention and learn.
As a parent and former teacher, I have seen many excellent teachers become discouraged. I have watched my own children excel with the help of wonderful teachers and struggle with incompetent ones.
I strongly suggest that the State of Maryland stop wasting money on "testing" and start spending money on "teaching."
Use this money to fund home visitation and truancy programs, give teachers the salaries that professionals deserve, hire teacher aides and librarians, weed out those teachers who are not doing their job and support the many excellent teachers who struggle every day to teach our children.
Ninth grade testing is too late. By then, you have already lost the battle and the child.
Better to learn reading than to abolish English
In his Sept. 30 letter ("English should be spelled the way it sounds"), Edward Rondthaler writes (or should have written, given his argument):
"Edjookaytors say thaat skoolz ar goeing too put mor emfasis on lojikul thinking. Thu noo teeching buzz-wurd iz 'thinking skils' aand it almoest mayks ay lot ov sens."
And he continues at length, culminating in a call for writing English words "as they sound."
Let us, for the time being, accept his figures (80 percent of English words not written "as they sound") and his argument that only English-language (and to a lesser degree, French) schools have to teach spelling. I don't, really; but I will cede him the points for the sake of the argument.
Let us also assume that everyone in the United States agrees to this need for a "reformed orthography." Let us further assume that every literate person in the U.S. agrees to learn the new orthography; it's true I haven't met anyone yet who couldn't work their way through passages written "as they sound," even though no one I know is in favor of writing "like an illiterate person writes."
Further, let us assume that everyone in the country agrees to use the pronunciation of, let us say, Tom Brokaw as the standard for determining what a word sounds like, and that no one who speaks a different dialect, such as the rhotic English of New England, will complain, as they legitimately might, that the words are not being "spelled as they sound."
Even further, let us assume that the rest of the English-speaking world is prepared to make this change, despite the even greater legitimacy of their claims that this would not be "spelling words as they sound" -- Australians, Canadians, English, Welsh, Indians, and so on. I can conceive of little that would be of less value than we alone adopting a new orthography.
It would not raise us in the eyes of the rest of the world when they compared our technical and literary output with everyone else's. But, as I say, let us assume that everyone is in agreement, and that on Jan. 1, 1994, we switch.
Now: Who is going to transcribe a millenium and a half of English writing into this new orthography?
Are we to lose it all, because while I can read phonics, someone who thinks that's how words are spelled will not negotiate anything classically spelled, from Chaucer to Stephen King? And Mr. Rondthaler admits this to be so; it's the basis of his argument.
Or is someone going to pick and choose what gets saved, transmitted, and what does not?
Stalin used this sort of reform to simply eliminate Central Asian authors who were subversive: They didn't get transcribed into the new orthographies, and thus were not available to the next generation.
Are we going to follow either of those routes, neither of which are very palatable? Or are we going to be like the medieval Japanese, with two different orthographies, and a sharply divided class structure, measured by whether one can read the old orthography, and thus have access to the world, or not, and thus have access only to street signs and labor directions?
If so, isn't that pretty much what we have now, at no expense? Why not just work harder at teaching people to read the orthography we now have, instead of wringing our hands and saying, "Oh, our terrible, illogical orthography!"?
Actually, it's not even that bad, if one is willing to teach the discredited rules of orthography rather than relying on phonics . . . such as "a vowel followed by a single consonant and an e is long; by a single consonant is short; by a double consonant and an e is short: hate -- hat -- hater -- hatter."
Sure, there are exceptions, but most people can deal with them. After all, people have been learning to read words as they don't sound for a long time. The Great Vowel Shift was over 300 years ago.
We should stop trying to use phonics to teach a grapheme-based orthography, and then blaming the language when phonics doesn't work.
Karen M. Davis