Education at the Naval Academy
I read with interest the June 16 Opinion * Commentary piece by Professor Morris Freedman. It is always reassuring that colleagues from other institutions are concerned about the academic program at the Naval Academy and take the time to raise questions and offer suggestions. Some additional information, however, may help to put his comments in perspective.
Professor Freedman points out that the academy places considerable emphasis on engineering, and concludes from this that the humanities, social sciences and science are neglected.
This impression is mistaken. In the core curriculum, which all midshipmen take, there are four humanities, two social science, four math and four science courses. In addition, all midshipmen select a major (from among 18 available), so that they may explore one academic field more deeply. Nearly a third of our midshipmen choose a major in the humanities or social sciences.
Professor Freedman's anecdote about the time devoted to American poets at the Air Force Academy may be illustrative of another time and another place, but does not illuminate educational practice at the Naval Academy.
The survey courses, which share the same limitations as those at civilian schools, introduce midshipmen to the great ideas and literature that have shaped the modern world.
In addition, elective courses provide the opportunity for more detailed study in areas of particular interest -- from Chaucer to the American dream, from Athenian democracy to American foreign policy, from comparative economic systems to macroeconomic theory, from international organizations to the American presidency.
These courses in the liberal disciplines are taught in small, intensive classroom settings -- generally there are no more than 22 midshipmen per section.
This allows for close student-faculty interaction that usually includes feedback on multiple essay assignments per semester.
Reliance on text-based discussion in class and written essays discourages the rote memorization and "skim learning" that Professor Freedman mentions.
Professor Freedman suggests that "occasionally faculty admit to lowering standards." I doubt that is the case. Even though more students graduate from high school less well prepared than they were even a few years ago, the Naval Academy is highly selective in those it admits.
There has been far less grade inflation at the academy than in most of academe -- that is, if you can believe the recent articles in the news magazines and, of course, "Doonesbury."
Professor Freedman's impressions of the Naval Academy seem to me not to reflect the realities of the education available to midshipmen.
I hope he will visit the academy; his colleagues here would enjoy meeting with him and sharing ideas and provide him with more current information about the curriculum and the educational process.
He would leave, I think, certain that learning "is not done by
rote," the humanities do not skim over "famous names" and that midshipmen, rather than "illiterate or innumerate," leave the academy with "a broadly based education."
Philip W. Warken
The writer is a professor of history and president of the Faculty Senate at the U.S. Naval Academy.
A City Teacher Responds to Dr. Walter Amprey
I'd like to thank Dr. Walter Amprey for his open letter of June 23.
A recent informal poll of my teaching colleagues in the city showed that the letter was widely read and discussed -- and that does not mean universally criticized.
On the contrary, the tone and content probably did a lot to mend fences, given the reaction to his initial letter a few weeks before.
It's incredibly refreshing to hear a superintendent so willing to be critical when criticism is due.
I, too, have found that public schools have lost the "ability to transform the majority of our young people into successful human beings and knowledgeable citizens." Who, after observing the school system, wouldn't find it "paralyzed by a dysfunctional organizational structure that strangles innovation and defies accountability"? The only thing new is that Dr. Amprey was willing to admit the obvious, and that's a welcome and positive sign.
Unsurprisingly, I also agree that "blaming any one group, particularly teachers," would be inaccurate and unproductive.
We can acknowledge the many root causes of our poor performance that lie outside the direct control of the school system.
There are some societal factors that every school, every parent, must deal with.
A flawed and illusory value system, glorified violence, warped views of wealth and material gain, have all been delivered into the psyches of so many that every day some terrible assumptions about life have to be undone, or at least questioned, before anything in a textbook even makes sense.
In addition, the public schools are expected -- and rightly so -- to provide their services to a greater share of the children who live their "real lives" under conditions of poverty, neglect, abuse and a variety of situations stemming from a variety of causes, from absent parents to malnutrition to an often hostile, judgmental society that, in many cases, wants as little to do with them as possible.
Baltimore's students are interesting and diverse and bright and challenging to a degree that would surprise anyone whose picture of the school system came only from newspapers and television.
The community's problems, the nation's problems of poverty and racism and crime only mean that a school system needs and deserves more, not less.
We have a field of opportunities before us when it comes to making Baltimore's public schools better for the students in our charge, using the resources of talent, money and time at our disposal:
* Shrink your North Avenue bureaucracy. This is the single
biggest waste of effort and money in the school system.
* Make classes smaller at every level city-wide. Make this a priority. Repeat the pledge at every public gathering. Make it a rallying cry.
* Respect teachers. Teachers are evaluated all the time, but where is the teacher input in evaluating principals or assistant principals?
One of the problems with Hyde School and EAI is the assumption that the teachers, the parents, the people right here in Baltimore are somehow too stupid or too lazy to find and fix problems, that we were not ever respected enough to be given any actual authority to effect change before "experts" were brought in to save us.
* Make schools smaller and more independent. Anyone with a car can drive around Baltimore and see schools are just too big.
The sense of being a community, of being a haven, that should belong to a school when it's full and busy during the day is crushed by the thousands -- that's right, thousands -- of students.
The proposed new Stadium School is just a baby step in the direction in which the system needs to go.
This is a long-term problem. However, everyone in the Baltimore City public school system should be on this bandwagon.
Here's where the North Avenue mind-set needs to go, egos need to be divested from the process and schools need to be given the chance to soar or, of course (and this is the risk), crash and burn.
* Respect students. Do that, and everything else will fall into place. The "belief system" being pitched as "efficacy" and the idea that every student can learn are not new concepts, they're just common sense. Yet, what passes for education, over and over again for thousands of students in this city, is criminal, and it is often done with the full knowledge and collusion of all participants.
It's just that the further one gets from the students, the more one finds decisions being made on their behalf by people who don't
know a single one of their faces or names. . .
Dismayed and Astonished Gubernatorial Candidates
I was very dismayed by your June 26 editorial in which you allege that my solution to the state's proposed $1.2 billion shortfall is to reduce the governor's security detail.
To set the record straight, I said I intended to reduce the governor's executive department budget by 15 percent on an across-the-board basis.
I gave several other specific recommendations. The thrust of my remarks was that these actions are symbolic. My intention was ** to show that since the governor's budget would no longer be sacrosanct, every department and agency would be expected to follow suit.
My intention is to make sure every cut that can be made in the budget will be made. These cuts will be done by gubernatorial mandate. It is clear that the people of Maryland want and deserve a leaner and more streamlined state government. They will get this in a Boergers administration.
Other candidates are calling for massive new spending at a time when austerity should be the goal. Long experience on Maryland's most important fiscal committee has trained me to be a prudent fiscal manager. My fiscal expertise is far more extensive than your editorial would imply.
In Maryland, we are going to have to do more with less. This is the challenge of our time. It is a challenge I will meet.
Mary H. Boergers
The writer is a Democratic candidate for governor.
I was astonished to read in The Sun editorial June 26, "Ignoring Maryland's Deficit," that my suggestion for Maryland's deficit was "fluff." It was said to be, in its entirety, "Bill Shepard says he'll review past efficiency reports.'
My plan to reintroduce fiscal order into Maryland's present structural deficit is set forth in detail in my issues book.
With required spending exceeding projected receipts, Maryland's structural budget deficit can only be remedied by a systemic approach. In a "good" year, there is 2-3 percent available to the governor as discretionary spending. But that is -- usually wasted in pork-barrel spending.
The only serious way to attack a structural deficit is by structural reform. There is no quick fix. I will, therefore, for the first budget year, fiscal 1996, make certain that the budget fits within conservative spending affordability patterns.
Then, for each successive budget year, we will delve deeply into each of the 15 (now 16) departments of the state government.
We will re-examine the necessity for each state-driven mandate, hold public hearings and re-prioritize the work of each state department along substantive lines.
We estimate that it will take three budget cycles to regain control over state spending.
We will move, via a constitutional amendment, to a biennial budget cycle. It will provide far better possibilities for longer-range planning, with attendant economies.
I will initiate a survey of the size of the government, department by department. Yes, within that arena, I will look at past recommendations, such as those of the Butta Commission. I also question why we need a proliferation of press and personnel offices. I will encourage the work of Commission 2000, and I will
move forward with a Maryland Grace Commission.
The writer is a Republican candidate for governor.
I applaud Thomas Durel for his keen analysis (letter, June 24) of the liquor license laws in Baltimore City.
As a resident of the city and an attorney who has appeared before the board on a number of occasions, it concerns me that the decisions often bear little if any resemblance to the substance or spirit of the laws.
There has been an historical duplicity perpetrated by Class B license holders that has effectively obliterated the distinction between a tavern and a bona fide restaurant. Yet there are many authentic restaurants in the city which have not, because of the "public accommodation" restriction, been able to obtain Class B licenses and which, because of their inability to provide liquor, suffer loss of business.
It is ironic, as Mr. Durel points out, that the board is directed to consider the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, yet it places the onus of proof upon the very same population to "protest" the application.
Since when is the right to have a license to sell liquor an unqualified constitutional right? Never mind the fact that notices of board hearings are often posted in obscure places (such as darkened windows of the not-yet-opened establishment) and announce hearing times and dates that are inconvenient to most working individuals, thereby making it impossible for the neighborhood to have meaningful representation.
In my appearances before the board in protest of license applications, I have requested proof of restaurant receipts from applicants whose known stock in trade was their liquor sales. Invariably, my request would be dismissed, even though inspection of audited restaurant receipts would provide salient evidence as to the actual use of the establishment.
Even when the board does rule to restrict an establishment, enforcement of its orders is at best lax and, at worst, impotent. The city police refuse to enforce published orders, claiming that enforcement is under the exclusive purview of the board (which does not have its own 24-hour policing mechanism).
Mr. Durel is on target when he proclaims the patronage allegations to be the least of the problems plaguing this system, which is inherently political.
Where the impact on society at large is so compelling -- from serving under-age or intoxicated individuals to the ruination of neighborhood property values and to maintenance of public nuisances -- we should be more concerned with reforming the system to insure that only the most responsible persons are given the privilege of holding a license.
Stacy L. Allen
Men and Women
I wish to comment on the June 22 editorial cartoon by KAL.
Once again we have a cartoon that depicts men as boorish, insensitive creatures who beat their wives. It also depicts women as being frightened, helpless individuals who cannot or will not defend themselves.
While this is certainly true in some segments of our culture, both here and abroad, it is not true in my relationship, or those of most, if not all, of my friends. To portray all men as wife-beaters is discriminatory and a disservice to your readers.
This can also be said of women. Most women I know are not victims. They know how to stand up for themselves and protect their rights.
This cartoon also does nothing to address the plight of the thousands of husbands and boyfriends who are attacked and abused by their wives and girlfriends each yar. What about their rights?
I certainly am not contending that we ignore spousal abuse in this country, but I believe it is time to bring to the forefront the other half of this outrage against all people. Only in this way can we have an intelligent and balanced investigation of this problem and eventually an equitable solution.
Joseph F. Greenbeck Jr.
Pray for Victims
The front page article June 25, "Simpson Grand Jury Discharged," quotes Rev. Richard Halverson's daily prayer to the Senate: "We pray for O. J. Simpson . . . Our nation has been traumatized by the fall of a great hero."
I feel that the ones who need prayer are the families of the two people who died and the children who were left to grow up without a mother.
Those are the ones Mr. Halverson should be praying for, not O. J. Simpson.
Would Mr. Halverson have considered Mr. Simpson a hero in 1989 when he abused his wife, when she was hospitalized because the hero Simpson beat her senseless? What kind of hero goes on abusing women and laughing it off on TV?
Mr. Simpson stopped being a hero and became a coward the first time his wife Nicole dialed 911 asking for help because she feared for her safety.
I think it is Mr. Halverson who needs a prayer. He certainly needs an understanding of what the word "hero" means.
Ed Brandt's June 13 article, "City's poor to get help relocating," describes an innovative program that offers hope of eventually dispersing the concentrated poverty that now exists in Baltimore City's public housing.
Aptly called Moving to Opportunity, this program will give participants a chance to improve their lives by moving into areas where they will not only have decent housing but also will have access to jobs and good schools and be free of the constant threat of violent crime.
The Moving to Opportunity program has been tested in Chicago, where it originated, and was found to work. Its expansion into Baltimore and three other major metropolitan areas shows the commitment of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to finding ways to give families the chance to move out of poverty.
The Moving to Opportunity program is a welcome change after the failure of past government policies which concentrated poverty in the major cities of our nation, deliberately segregated blacks and robbed public housing residents of any hope of improving their lives.
The Moving to Opportunity program involves relatively few people and their impact throughout the metropolitan region will be minimal. Large concentrations of poverty have caused the problems that now plague public housing and the urban ghettos. Making it possible for people to move into areas where opportunities exist is a positive step toward correcting the mistakes of the past and holds considerable promise for improving the lives of those who participate.
The counties that surround Baltimore City must realize that they have a vested interest in helping the city solve the problems of concentrated poverty. Keeping the entire region economically viable is a shared responsibility.
If the region's poor people continue to be concentrated in Baltimore, the city's economy will collapse. If the city sinks, the entire region will suffer.
Martin A. Dyer