Why can't city schools maintain order?
Several weeks ago The Evening Sun published a series of articles on violence against teachers and other forms of threatening and disruptive behavior in certain Baltimore City public schools. We want to thank you for your coverage on this issue.
More recently you reported the results of the 1993 Maryland School Performance Report. Baltimore City's schools failed most parts of the examination.
According to your articles, Walter Amprey, the school superintendent, stated that he hoped it would be possible to improve Baltimore's performance by a variety of techniques.
As he has done consistently since he assumed his office, Dr. Amprey called for fewer suspensions and arrests, for less reliance on low grades and "red ink."
Might not this part of Dr. Amprey's proposed response to the problems revealed by the Maryland School Performance Report worsen rather than improve the climate in the public schools?
Is not one of the reasons for the climate of disruption and disrespect in some schools a sense that the schools are unwilling to protect their teachers and to require civil behavior?
If students see that teachers cannot protect themselves, much less other students, from disrespectful or violent behavior, and if they are forced to sit through classes where it is impossible to learn anything because of disruptions, are they not likely to learn to despise the school system and the community that tolerates these conditions? Does Mayor Kurt Schmoke approve of Dr. Amprey's view that suspensions and other punitive measures are to be avoided?
Does the state Board of Education also believe that schools should suspend students only in extreme situations?
What measures have Baltimore schools taken to curb violence and disrespectful behavior?
We hope that The Evening Sun will help answer these questions in future reporting on the problems of Baltimore City schools. This would help citizens better understand the causes of the difficulties now being experienced by public schools in "the city that reads."
Eli and Caroline Nathans
Dan Rodrick's interview with Stephen L. Miles surely points out that hypocrisy is alive and well.
Mr. Miles' joke was offensive. It attempted to perpetuate stereotypes and was construed by the people it affected as mean-spirited even if there wasn't a groundswell of calls to WJZ to protest his insensitivity.
Playing on stereotypes of any group is wrong. Mr. Miles defends himself by saying he was being "observational." How does a man who does not attend gay establishments and admits he doesn't have many gay friends know what gay men drink, anyway?
This is a man who is deeply offended by lawyer jokes or by being called a great "goy," yet fails to see why gay men would be similarly offended by his remarks.
Mr. Miles was wrong, and his defense is pitifully short on truth. Perhaps if Jews, blacks, Poles, Italians, etc. -- anyone who has ever been the victim of false stereotypes and insensitivity -- boycotted Mr. Miles' law offices, he just might want to talk about it. He should apologize.
Thomas L. Ditty III
What kids need
Regarding the subject of year-round schools, there are several issues pertinent to the developmental needs of children we would like to address.
All of the arguments that are made for year-round education are made from the economic standpoint. Not one argument has been made on the basis of what is best for the child. This lack of advocacy for children and their developmental needs concerns us deeply.
In early childhood the child needs to bond with the parent and build family traditions. Children need a large block of time to develop intrinsic motivation, thinking skills, creativity and curiosity about of the world around them. A great deal of real learning happens outside of school.
During the middle school years responses to the structured school environment may manifest themselves as stress, school burnout, feelings of inferiority or behavioral problems.
The break that summer affords these children enables them to face a new school year with some enthusiasm. Summer may be the only time they have an opportunity to engage in activities that allow them to feel good about themselves.
The problems that occur during adolescence may be greatly magnified for some individuals. Such students may not learn best under a competitive, test-regulated school program. It is very frustrating for students who cannot keep up.
Summer jobs result in feelings of achievement and competency for students who might not otherwise experience those feelings. These jobs may be the only means of economic preparation for college. Furthermore, achieving emotional independence from parents requires successful experiences in the real world, not in the artificial atmosphere of school.
In summary, we would like to see an examination of children's developmental needs be the primary consideration before rushing into decisions with far-reaching ramifications.
The writers are graduate students at Towson State University.
Can government bureaucracies manage?
The article "Social Security backlog reaches desperate stage" (Evening Sun, Nov. 16) is of special interest in light of the new responsibilities the federal government expects to assume in managing health care.
The deplorable performance reported here, an average of 110 days for a ruling on initial claims, with a year or more for the appeal process causing life-threatening results, points to several conclusions:
* The processes in place at the Social Security Administration are out of control because of incompetent management.
* The services are currently being rationed by a logical management who deliberately set choke points in the process to slow cash flow.
* The Social Security System is morally bankrupt, and its management has no compassion for disabled Americans.
The cry from these bureaucratic organizations is always the same, they need more money for more people to break the backlog. The excuse is given that the delay is caused by the government freeze on personnel.
It far more likely that the delays are the result of faulty processes which require multiple layers of "checkers who are engaged checking the checkers," with either deliberately or accidentally placed choke points.
One of the well-known methods to ration service is to place delays in the processes. Frequently this is done by putting the incompetent in charge. If you want something not to happen, simply make sure the personnel responsible for the action are not capable of getting the job done.
This is not to accuse all Social Security workers of incompetence. However, a few well-placed individuals can wreck even well designed processes.
This possibility would be a fertile area for an investigative report to root out the real cause of the unacceptable delays instead of accepting the budget freeze as an excuse.
Where are these claims hidden for three or four months? What are the choke points in the processes? Are the choke points deliberately designed to ration service?
After reading this article, one must give serious thought to President Clinton's plan on medical care. How can we trust the government to manage our medical health care?
The new policies are designed to restrict our choices to those provided by a national program.
Medical treatments can be restricted or rationed not only by regulations created by non-medical bureaucrats but also by restricting the timeliness of approval processes by non-medical technicians.
This is accomplished by deliberate actions to put the incompetents in charge at a key choke point or to force badly managed processes to slow the processing of claims.
There is no evidence to indicate that a federally managed health plan will by any more responsive to life threatening needs than the Social Security Disability program.
A national health program may be necessary to assure some level of health care to those not insurable because of prior health problems or low-paying occupations. However, the lessons of the Social Security Administration must be a serious warning to us. We should not accept the federal government as sole provider of such services.