School ProblemsYour June 12 editorial, "Glendening and...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

School Problems

Your June 12 editorial, "Glendening and the Teachers," says that Marylanders are not getting their money's worth for their tax dollars. This implies, as does all of the editorial, that any deficiencies in education are the sole responsibilities of the teachers.

As usual, you fail to address the primary factor for poor achievement -- the failure of the home, in an increasing number of cases, to send us a "teachable" individual.

I have been teaching for the past 28 years and can assure you that students who are making the effort to learn are getting a much higher level of education today than they did 28 years ago.

Teachers are working harder and putting in longer hours than when I began. The equipment and methods of instruction available to students are far superior today. Teacher in-service training and the number of teachers taking advantage of that training has dramatically increased.

Teachers today, with very few exceptions, are interested in only one thing, a quality instructional program for the benefit of youngsters. They work very hard (usually with little or no recognition -- especially from the media) toward that end.

Twenty-eight years ago, it was rare to have a student not turn in an assignment. Today, it is extremely unusual to have an entire class turn in an assignment on time, if at all. On numerous occasions the turn-in rate is not much more than 50 percent.

Certainly, teachers and schools have a large responsibility in providing a quality education. However, let's not lose sight of the fact that responsibility for the desired outcome also rests elsewhere.

In my opinion, it's that "elsewhere" that causes us to come short in far too many cases.

ohn H. Gregory

Baltimore

Generation X

The June 10 editorial celebrating the accomplishments of "New Age Prodigies" inaccurately and egregiously takes a swipe at my generation.

By stating that the "real wave of the future will be the generation coming right after Generation X," you join a chorus of those proclaiming people in their twenties to be the "Lost Generation."

Your pre-judgment couldn't be further from the truth.

Although we were not tempered by the Vietnam War, as our elders constantly remind us, we have come of age in the gross proliferation of a domestic civil war called divorce.

We did not participate in marches in Washington for civil rights, yet we are the most tolerant generation. We don't protest for the hungry; we feed them in soup kitchens.

My generation does not seek headlines like those who preceded us, but we are more content with the steady progress of gradual change.

Your indictment overlooks thousands of twentysomethings who contribute daily to the betterment of Baltimore. Teach for America does it daily in the classroom, Hands on Baltimore does it through volunteer service, and Project Hunger does it by delivering food from Oriole Park to local shelters.

We may not be as flashy, but as with the tortoise and the hare, "slow and steady wins the race." Don't judge us yet; our time has just begun.

ripp Burgunder

Baltimore

National Pariah

In his June 10 article, Julian Bond basically condemned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for inviting the leader of the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan, to the recent Baltimore summit.

I strongly agree with the writer that hatred, bigotry, victimization, finger-pointing, name-calling or any kind of negative and divisive message that seems to be the credo of the Nation of Islam should no longer be tolerated. Having said that, though, I do not agree with the idea of associating the NAACP with anti-Semitism, simply because it extended an invitation to Minister Farrakhan.

I strongly believe that the best way to combat evil is to confront it and not run away from it.

It is through consultation, an exchange of ideas with Mr. Farrakhan, that he can be persuaded to change the tune of his antagonistic messages that have become obsolete and join the rest of the peace-loving Jews, African-Americans and other Americans in this wonderful country of ours. Marginalizing Mr. Farrakhan and transforming him into a national pariah will not make him change his destructive statements.

Based on some the achievements of the Nation of Islam, I believthe potential for more constructive involvement in the building of our country does exist. Let our motto be "forgiveness" and not always "revenge."

Ntanda Nkingi Nkere

Baltimore

Prison Rape

I would like to comment on the June 14 editorial on homosexual prison rape.

Society, for the most part, rejects the death penalty as being "inhumane" but this same society seems to think it is more "humane" to lock up a person for a few years, allow them to be violently abused and gang-raped, and then expect this same person to be magically "rehabilitated" into a law-abiding citizen upon release from prison.

Wake up, folks! Rape doesn't rehabilitate anyone. It just further damages people who are already damaged in their minds, and also helps spread AIDS.

Violent rape hardens a criminal, not rehabilitates him. A moral society doesn't permit lawlessness and it shouldn't be permitted in our prisons, either. If our "moral" society knowingly allows violence and gang-rape to continue in our prisons, than I can't see where society has a much higher moral code than the criminal has.

Criminals should pay for their crimes against society, but crime should not be used as a punishment against crime. I can't help but wonder what kind of contribution these criminals are going to make to society once they are set free.

Bert Hartka

Baltimore

Awaiting Letters

Both the proponents and the opponents of the Clinton administration health-care reform package urge you to write to your elected representatives expressing your views.

Because of an unpleasant and frustrating experience I had with the Social Security Administration over the implementation of my Medicare coverage over a period of more than four months, I wrote to the White House, with copies to all elected members of Congress from the Baltimore metropolitan area.

I made it clear that while I support the need for some sort of health care reform, I cannot support a program that includes the administration of that program by the inept and incompetent bureaucrats that now oversee the Medicare program. I received replies from the White House, Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Rep. Benjamin Cardin. All of them thanked me, in a form letter, for supporting the president's initiatives.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Representatives Kweisi Mfume and Helen Bentley have yet to respond. So much for "write to your elected representatives."

Leonard S. Jacobson

Baltimore

Sailors on D-Day

The Sun is to be commended for its excellent D-Day coverage. The valiant GI's who participated in the invasion deserve all the honors bestowed on them.

It must also be noted that several thousand ships, manned by Navy and Coast Guard crews, took them to the beaches. Little mention was made in the articles regarding naval action during the invasion.

The Navy had a share of casualties at Omaha and Utah beaches. Of the 32 destroyers and six destroyer-escorts giving support gunfire to the troops, three destroyers -- Corry, Meredith and Glennon -- and destroyer-escort Rich were sunk by mines and gunfire.

Casualties were especially heavy on Rich, as 75 percent of the crew of 215 were killed or wounded.

The crews (Navy and Coast Guard) manning the small landing craft carrying the soldiers to the beaches also suffered heavy casualties.

This is not to detract from the heroic deeds of the soldiers and paratroopers, but to record the deeds of the naval services.

Joseph G. Kalb

Essex

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Area Division, Destroyer Escort Sailors Association.

More Bosleys

I was sorry to read of the death of Marguerite Bosley Pilling, in a nicely written obituary by Fred Rasmussen in The Sun June 5, which called her "the last member of one of Towson's oldest families," the Bosleys.

A good obituary, but a little over-broad, perhaps.

My father survives as one of the Towson Bosleys (son of Gertrude Bosley). I am a Bosley lingering on, and so are my cousins. I am told there are several Bosleys living in Western Maryland.

In fact, I have a fairly recent newspaper clipping showing a heavily-muscled John Bosley triumphant in competitive arm wrestling, "the Sport of Shopping Malls." Doubtless Mr. Rasmussen would not want to meet him.

I am concerned that The Sun has declared prematurely the demise of us Bosleys. As you can see, we continue to flourish in more than one place . . .

'John Bosley Yellott Jr.

Charlottesville, Va.

Global Responsibilities

As a responsible citizen, I feel it my duty to respond to the dangerous remarks Douglas J. Knox wrote in a letter (June 7). The letter was an irrational demand for United States withdrawal from the United Nations.

He complained of U.N. control over the American military. He also felt that President Clinton and U.N. leaders weren't competent to have such a responsibility.

This is precisely the same isolationist and ethnocentric attitude that caused our rejection of the League of Nations Charter after World War I and resulted in the blood bath that was the Second World War.

This chronic American opinion that foreign officials and military leaders are somehow inferior and less qualified than our own cannot be tolerated in today's fragile post-Cold War world -- especially coming from the sole remaining global superpower.

So what if the U.N. secretary general is Egyptian? So what if there are British generals in command of U.N. forces and Japanese bureaucrats at work in Bosnia?

Is this not an encouraging sign of international cooperation and consensus to be praised and encouraged? If anything, the United States should go along with U.N. leadership as a sign of trust and to set an example of benevolent intentions.

Mr. Knox goes on to suggest U.S. withdrawal even from NATO and bases abroad in general. This would be nothing less than suicide.

For the only remaining superpower to abandon its role as a mortar for the varied nations of the world just as most of the globe pokes its head out from behind the Iron Curtain would be a calamity.

Political extremism would find fuel in the resulting fear among the world's people, and upstart war-mongering nations like North Korea and Serbia, and even a reactionary Russia, would realize their dreams of conquest unchecked.

Tribalism would erupt tenfold from its seeds in the Middle East, the Rift Valley of Africa and the Balkans. Surviving leaders like Britain, France, and Germany would try to rearm and reassert themselves in a vain effort to fill the enormous gap we would have left.

The U.S. has three alternatives. It can withdraw completely from the U.N. and bases abroad, which would result in the above, not to mention the disaster it would wreak on the American defense industry.

It can withdraw from the U.N. and patrol the globe on its own, which would satisfy nationalistic yearnings and still prevent global chaos, but which would also destroy any favorable opinions of our country the world has left and break all international trust and cooperation.

Finally, the U.S. could stay on as it has been doing, and play the role of partner and guide for the other members of the international community who are only now emerging from the stifling domination imposed by America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

It will mean putting American troops in the field with foreigners under U.N. coordination, but this by no means entails any loss of sovereignty.

The military is there to protect us, yes, but when we took up the sword of democracy after World War II, we accepted a heavy responsibility.

Abandoning that responsibility would, in the end, tear down the world order and us with it.

President Bush realized it with the Gulf War and Somalia. President Clinton realizes it with Korea and Yugoslavia.

All we need now is for citizens like Mr. Knox to realize it.

In the aftermath of the anniversary of the Normandy invasion, it would profit us to recognize the events that led to our involvement in that war, the prime reason being our unforgivable isolationist neglect during the 20s and 30s.

We should also be wary of the presence of similar attitudes today, when our influence and responsibility is leagues beyond what it was then.

If anything, it won't be ethnocentric pipe dreams of U.N. tyranny or foreign subversion or loss of American control over its own military that leads to war, but instead it will be a profound lack of U.S. responsibility and interest in world affairs.

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and fools and their freedom are soon parted.

Tyler P. Roylance

Baltimore

Watering Down Academics in Baltimore County

As a Baltimore County teacher, I feel the need to respond to your continued efforts to bash us for the slightest comment or attitude.

In your editorial "Serving time in Maryland schools" (The Evening Sun, June 1), you show your ignorance of what is really going on in Baltimore County.

You call county teachers "poor things" because one teacher you quote sees the extended hours for snow days as punishment.

Comparing American students to their Japanese and German counterparts, you sanctimoniously tell us that those students "have a formidable learning advantage over Americans in large part because they spend more time on core academic subjects." I challenge you to find any teacher who disagrees.

Since last year, the middle schools have adopted four programs that sap time from the core academic programs, thus giving our Japanese and German counterparts an even greater advantage.

Under the umbrella of meeting the needs of the middle school child, county middle schools have initiated or continued the advisory period. Stealing minutes from reading, writing, math, history and foreign language, students spend time in what my eighth graders call "group therapy."

Here they can find out about themselves by eating doughnuts, playing games and discussing self-esteem. Some schools have advisory periods once a week, some every day. Do the Germans and Japanese do this?

Discovery period is the second way to take time from academics. This is time set aside in the week for discovering that now students can do during the school day what they used to do after school -- bead club, photography, yearbook and chess club.

Do you think that the Japanese education system schedules extra-curricular activities during the day?

One major change in county middle schools contradicts your editorial.

In the recent past, sixth-grade students took ten periods of English a week, five for reading and five for language arts. Now the sixth grade has only five periods of English at my school.

The other five are now spent rotating through discovering one's neighborhood, learning keyboarding and word processing (formerly a six-week program taught by the English teacher, now a ten-week course with four weeks of filler), health, conflict resolution and music keyboarding.

As an English teacher, I always worked under the apparently false assumption that reading and writing were just a bit more important. Make no mistake, this change in program did not jeopardize any English teachers' jobs in my school.

A final drain on academic time is the implementation and requirement of team activities.

A team in the middle school is four or five classes who have the same four core teachers. Team activities include sports days, trips to the zoo, intra-team competition, movies as reward for doing homework or a gift before the winter holiday.

Some county middle schools didn't get around to academic classes until after the second week of school so that teams could develop team spirit.

Having spoken out against these blatant wastes of time in my school, I totally agree with the editors' observation that "the challenge, then, is to use school time better, to let the time serve students instead of forcing time on them."

However, I cannot resolve the disparity between what you state in this editorial and your support for the current Board of Education and Superintendent Stuart Berger.

Those of us who spoke out against these changes have been labeled by you and Dr. Berger as being resistant to change.

All I have ever asked for, and have yet to receive, is documentation through educational research (teacher and parent testimonials don't count) that these new programs enhance learning and, to use your words, "use school time better . . . realizing that time would be wasted if not used for instruction."

Most of us would like to be teachers again -- not therapists, not game show hosts, not refreshment coordinators, not nursemaids, not stand-in parents, and not counselors -- so that we can teach our students the needed basic skills.

Then we can move on to higher levels of learning.

So, which do you, the editors, want to support -- more academic time in school or the vision of the Board of Education and the tyrannical one-size-fits-all middle school program of Dr. Berger?

Before you let Dr. Berger give his mantra of self-exoneration, this is not a site-based decision. All middle schools had to have advisory periods and exploratory classes.

How the principal was going to steal the time from the academics was a site-based decision. The above question is apparently a difficult one since the two ideas are an oxymoron.

Susan Costello

Cockeysville

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