School BoardsI am writing to comment on...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

School Boards

I am writing to comment on the conclusion drawn by The Sun's editorial concerning Gov. William Donald Schaefer's decision to appoint two new, independent members to the Baltimore County school board.

The Sun concluded that by ignoring the School Board Nominating Convention's (SBNC) nominees, the governor has fueled the argument that the current process is rigged, and such actions only encourage the concept for an elected school board.

To the contrary, I believe the governor's use of the flexibility in the current system strengthens the public's understanding of, if not support for, the current process.

The governor has shown that in a time of crisis, the public does have one avenue to create change. That avenue is to appeal to the governor for the appointment of different representatives.

One of the most frustrating lessons learned from the current problem in Baltimore County is that no person or collective body has any power over the school board. Short of finding criminal activity, they are totally autonomous.

Such massive power in the hands of a few is inappropriate in a democratic system. The only power to exert some control is through the governor's appointment process.

Had the governor been required to follow the SBNC's nominees, as is being proposed by some legislators, the public would have had no avenue for change.

The governor's appointments were political only in that they responded to desires of the majority of the public this board is supposed to serve.

Janice Piccinini

Owings Mills

The writer is a state senator from Baltimore County.

Saving Horses

Thank you for your excellent article Nov. 29 about the recovery of Root Boy.

Many racing fans and horse lovers must have felt the same dismay and horror I felt as this gallant racehorse went down. Congratulations to the owner of Root Boy, Richard Blue, and his veterinarians who worked so hard to save the horse.

Thoroughbred racing suffers from the public perception that the horses are just so much fodder for racing mills, that their health, safety and lives are of little concern to those working in the racing industry.

Ross Peddicord has told an emotional story of people and an animal who refused to give up, and in so doing demonstrated that there is still a "human" side to horse racing.

Valerie J. Harwood

Towson

Compensate All

Dana Owens' Nov. 30 letter, "Estimating The Cost of Slavery," insinuated that African-Americans are somehow entitled to the money, time and general effort that this country has extended them due to the fact that their ancestors were slaves for 244 years.

If this is the case, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Jews, Catholics and Puritans are also entitled to their just compensation.

All of these groups were persecuted and exploited in some form at some time by the majority population in this country.

Many came to this country with no more than clothes on their backs only to become indentured servants or be pushed into working in bad conditions for poor wages. Many did not even have the food, shelter, clothing, and vacation days afforded most slaves.

These groups also helped build the industrial foundation for this country's economy and did not have much to show for it.

Why should African-Americans be entitled to anything from this country? Because people like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and many black Americans in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s fought for a better life? Just like many labor unions and farm cooperatives were formed to help the plight of poor white Americans.

Maybe if Americans now would learn from these examples and fight to make a better future instead of expecting the future to be better simply because their ancestors were treated poorly in the past, this country would not be in such dire straits.

No one should expect their lot in life to be improved simply because of their ancestry.

Many lessons can be learned from the plight of the slaves. The most important one is that anyone can overcome adversity and improve life for future generations if they simply fight for what they believe in and teach their children to do the same.

But if African-Americans keep teaching their future generations that they are entitled to something simply because their ancestors gave so much to this country without being justly compensated, then all the gains that people such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. fought for will mean nothing.

Karen L. Hart

Crofton

Peace Conversion

Your Nov. 24 edition reported the current work of Westinghouse regarding the redirection of defense technology toward other societal needs. In this case, it was the use of computer technology to advance law enforcement.

Westinghouse demonstrates the kind of work that needs to be done if we are to re-orientate ourselves to the post-Cold War world.

With the larger enemy gone, our society must refocus the majority of its energy and concern on the remaining evils of our time. Let no one doubt that adequate defense will always be needed, but more importantly our greatest defense will be found in a society that is fully employed, well-fed, educated, housed and hopeful for the future.

The more our children and their parents are committed to shaping the world based upon their own life experience, grounded in goodness and justice, the safer the planet will be. These are now the battles that await the learnings of the cold war.

We need to continue our support and encouragement of companies like Westinghouse, who seem interested in leading the way.

Rev. Edward Heim

Baltimore

The writer is economic policy committee chair of the Baltimore Citizens Advisory Commission on the Impact of Military Spending.

Comic Strips Violate Childhood

I am outraged at the content of two comic strips appearing in The Sunday Sun Dec. 5. "Doonesbury" showed a father whose son is confessing that he is gay. Another character then talks to the readers, telling children to turn the paper over to their parents and telling the parents to better scrutinize what their children read.

Another comic, "Outland," portrays a man in his underwear clutching a beer bottle trying to elude a woman. She finds him and accuses him of fearing to spend a non-sexual afternoon with her. Then she tells him that he is unable to come up with a "face-saving, testosterone-muddled response."

It's bad enough that I have to screen my children's cartoons. I'm upset that my eight-year-old son can't even pick up the "funny papers" without having this kind of nonsense violating his childhood.

It's time for Americans to wake up and make it known that we are sick and tired of this assault on our children.

Sharon Mager

Pasadena

Noisy Toys

As a parent, I would like to compliment Stephanie Shapiro on her Dec. 6 article about selecting safe toys for children. It is always helpful to have some tips on what's safe of what's hot.

Nonetheless, when I read such safe toy articles each year, it strikes me that noise is an often overlooked factor in the suggestions to parents for evaluating toys. As an audiologist, I think it is important that parents be aware that they need to look beyond the construction of a toy (sharp or loose parts).

Specifically, they need to consider the potential harm that even a seemingly safe and innocent toy, such as a squeaky rubber animal, can do to a child's hearing -- permanently.

A little-known danger to children's hearing is posed by noisy toys. It has been found that toy sirens and even squeaky rubber toys, which may pass the safe test, can emit sounds over 90 decibels, which is equivalent to the noise of a lawn-mower.

But the danger is even greater than the decibel level implies. When held directly to the ear, as children often do, a noisy toy actually can expose the ear to as much as 120 decibels of sound-damaging dose, which is the level of noise a person on the ground hears when a plane takes off.

Toys that are primary culprits, for parents to consider or monitor -- instructing the child not to hold the toy close to his or her ear -- include cap guns, power tools, talking dolls, vehicles with horns or sirens, walkie-talkies, musical instruments and toys with cranks.

And for the older child, the personal radio or Walkman can cause significant damage over time, with volumes often exceeding 115 decibels.

If a child chokes on a small part, you know it and hopefully can intervene immediately. If a child is exposed to dangerous noise levels, you may not know the full impact for many years.

W. Stephen Seipp

Lutherville

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