Dangerous JudgeThe writer was fired from Essex...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Dangerous Judge

The writer was fired from Essex Community College in 1993.

Charles Village Benefits District

I must take issue with Grenville Whitman's contention (letter, Oct. 4) that the proposal to create a benefits district in Charles Village "is dividing the Charles Village community and threatens to sever Charles Village from the rest of Baltimore."

The division is not as great as Mr. Whitman would have us believe, nor would the adoption of this proposal result in the ominously predicted severance of Charles Village from the rest of Baltimore.

. . . Almost all residents and business owners desire the same end: to improve the quality of life by making Charles Village a safer, cleaner, stabler (economically and socially) place to live.

The real focus of this debate then is (or at least ought to be) the means to that end. Unfortunately, that focus has been in some measure blurred by the introduction of a secondary debate -- not expressly stated, but implied -- about ideology and class warfare.

The proponents of the benefits district believe that the revenue generated by the surtax, along with money and in-kind services from Johns Hopkins University and Union Memorial Hospital, will enable the community to make demonstrable improvements in the safety, cleanliness and economic stability of the neighborhood.

Will these improvements turn Charles Village into the City of God? Of course not. But we believe it will cause a turn for the better. What is more certain is that to do nothing will cause a turn for the worse.

The opponents of the benefits district object on a number of scores, some legitimate, some not so:

First, there are those who are simply (and always) opposed to any new tax, no matter what benefits might accrue to them . . . They cannot be appealed to because, presumably, they fail to see how their own good is inextricably bound up with the greater good of the community . . .

Second, there are those who merely assert, "It won't work." (Mr. Whitman is at least careful enough to assert, "It probably won't work.")

One of the common themes in this argument is that there is not enough money to make a difference. Putting a half-dozen security people on the streets will make no difference whatever in the crime rate. But this attitude shows an ignorance of present police coverage.

Charles Village falls in one of three sectors that make up the Northern Police District. This sector is divided into six "posts" or assigned areas of patrol.

Of these, only one falls entirely within Charles Village. Three others have assigned areas that include small parts of the neighborhood, but which for the most part fall well outside the area, extending, in two cases, as far east as Loch Raven Blvd.

The reality is the police are overtaxed. They must frequently respond to calls outside of Charles Village, leaving our streets unpatrolled. Given this reality, there is a reasonable basis for believing that augmenting the sparse coverage we have now with security people (who would not be called out of the area) will make a difference.

Likewise, in regard to sanitation services and Charles Village real estate, it is reasonable to suppose that an effort thoughtfully directed at specific problems can produce results.

Last, there is that small group whose opposition is ideologically- or philosophically-based.

Most members of this group are not opposed to the tax per se but rather on the unfounded assumption that this proposal is "inherently elitist," that it, as Mr. Whitman claims, "encourages a 'we-they' attitude" and that it will "Guilfordize" Charles Village.

Leaving aside the question of whether Mr. Whitman believes that our more affluent neighbor to the north, Guilford, is, by reason of that affluence, by definition, bad, Charles Village never has been and never will be like Guilford. To say that the proposal will turn Charles Village into "an elitist little Guilford" is a red herring and, quite simply, silly.

LTC Mr. Whitman took great care to note, quite correctly, that Charles Village is made up of numerous interests. Its residents and business people are not a homogeneous group, socially, culturally or economically.

However, these differences among people do not preclude them from coming together to achieve a common and limited goal. They desire the same thing: safer, cleaner streets and a more stable neighborhood. To suggest otherwise is to create a division where none exists. It stresses the differences over the shared goal of the common good . . .

Joseph F. Sweeney

Baltimore

The Differences Between City and Private Schools

Marilyn McCraven's column, "In the Shadow of the Pen," Oct. 15, is exactly the wrong approach in discussing education in Baltimore. This is another example of The Sun's ineffective attitude toward the problem.

Ms. McCraven apparently just discovered the inadequacies of Baltimore schools. Where has she been for the last 30 years?

She mentions that her nephew had an elementary school education of "fair to mediocre" and that he doesn't think of school "as a fun place to be." Where were his parents for the last eight years?

Besides simply complaining about the school system, why not examine the parent's qualities and failings? Why not provide the reader with the whole story, including the boy's work habits at home?

She continues, "Given the right circumstances and a motivated, demanding teacher, he can learn just as well as any student in a suburban school." True enough, but does he have "motivated, demanding parents" or is all the onus placed on the school?

Ms. McCraven goes on listing a series of crybaby conditions as encountered problems -- eight days late starting, little homework, one book and rowdy students. How about more study to catch up, asking for homework, going to a library and PTA participation?

Then Ms. McCraven applauds the atmosphere at a private school. Of course, here he isolates himself from others than African Americans, but he seems to have found the answer in class size and higher expectations.

I submit class size is no guarantee of learning, and his parents should have been supplying the "higher expectations."

In fact, by not competing with all races, he is letting himself in for a lack of readiness for real life.

He may continue his higher education in the same atmosphere and not find out he is unprepared for a competitive workplace until too late.

She closes with an astounding statement: "Unless we really improve the education of our youth, they're much more likely to end up in a prison than a job." What she should have said is, "Unless we really improve the parenting of our youth, we'll continue to be in deep trouble."

The Sun's emphasis should not be placed on these singular examples of someone stumbling onto a widely known problem, but on the thousands of kids who don't even receive a mediocre education.

R. D. Bush

Columbia

Marilyn McCraven has written an excellent, fair and non-biased article in relationship to the Baltimore City public schools.

It should be read by administrators, teachers, parents and those educational researchers who yearly provide us with new buzz words and research related to classroom learning of little value to the average teacher.

Ms. McCraven's article has great value because in simple terms she states how we can improve the city schools. Her conceptual model can be applied to any educational system that realistically seeks improvement.

First, Ms. McCraven states her hypothesis, which is that city schools need reform. The school system failed to make realistic assignments related to the learning process.

Let me add that both historically and philosophically, homework is an area that every school system needs to re-evaluate.

McCraven indicts the failure of the city school system to give students proper materials, specifically textbooks to carry out the learning process. She goes on to highlight another major failure, to remove disruptive students.

She makes clear that learning cannot take place in a classroom environment that is not safe, regardless of the educational concepts that researchers are telling us to use. Finally, The Evening Sun's editor of "Other Voices" makes clear that teachers, administrators and others working with young people have a prime responsibility to communicate with parents.

She has given us simple yet workable tools to improve our schools. Educators should evaluate the new concepts, such as outcome-based education, higher levels of thinking and dimensions of learning but, as Marilyn McCraven makes clear, these concepts alone will not work.

We need to see to it that students are given numerous assignments related to the learning process, and that these are taken home and completed. And yes, we must get students motivated to take learning seriously.

We can do this by being fair, understanding and yet demanding of our students. Finally, teachers and educators must stay in touch with parents at all times, because in the final analysis it is parents who can make the difference in reforming schools.

Marilyn McCraven has shown that traditional methods of learning still have value. Assignments should relate to the learning process daily, teachers should be demanding and fair and supported realistically by those running the schools.

Oh yes, Ms. McCraven reiterates that disruptive students should not be allowed to impact the learning environment.

John A. Micklos

Baltimore

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