Phonics, TooYour headlines can be maddeningly misleading,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Phonics, Too

Your headlines can be maddeningly misleading, or perhaps meant for irony. "The Whole Story on 'Whole Language' " (letter, Dec. 12) is filled with irony.

The writer teaches sixth grade. Fifth grade scores were higher than they had been while third grade scores were lower. She is getting better readers and so feels qualified to speak for "whole language" instruction from grade one on.

Please limit the debate. Talk about beginning reading. I doubt seriously if even Catherine Frogatt (letter, Nov. 19) wants to throw out reading literature taught within a whole language framework.

No one does. Nor does anyone recommend taking literature away from first graders. Most of us who want a strong phonics program in first grade want it in addition to, not in place of, literature.

As for research which brings it all together, try reading Marilyn Jager Adams' "Beginning To Read: Thinking and Learning About Print," (1990). Please note, this is a book. It will take a book to explain the complexities of beginning reading instruction.

Phonics is a narrow focus but it is a keystone. A cake is not simply the baking powder, but try baking one without it.

And, contrary to what the critics say, Baltimore County was not offering kids a diet of baking powder prior to whole language.

I wish a newspaper could help with this problem in Baltimore County. It is a problem teachers discuss, but off the record. I don't know why that is. Job security, maybe.

Writing letters to the editor is like going in an empty room and talking to yourself. How nice it would be if only whichever of you is choosing these letters to publish would try to make some sense of them.

Learn a little on your own. Talk to somebody in the Orton Society. Printing letters from Rick Bavaria, a curriculum director, and Anne Werps, a sixth grade teacher, gives authenticity to their views, and they simply do not know what they are talking about.

By the way, Ms. Adams' book was distributed to reading teachers in Baltimore County. No meeting was ever held to discuss it. Some reading teachers told me that they didn't read it because they thought it was more about whole language.

Sara M. Porter

Jarrettsville

Damn Yankees

Martin D. Tullai's "Pigskin Blunders" (Perspective, Nov. 27) was funny and brings to mind a football story which may even be true.

It happened at the first football game between a Southern school, the University of North Carolina, and a Yankee school, Harvard.

The North Carolina coach was giving his players a pep talk before the game, and he stressed that the eyes of Dixie were upon them.

He closed his talk with a long, dramatic pause, and then he said: "And remember, every man on that Harvard team is a Republican!"

The faces of his players clouded over with hate and rage, and they charged out into the field screaming, "Kill! Kill! Kill!"

My, how things have changed.

Tom Gill

North Beach

Price of a Stamp

The new increase in the price of the U.S. postage stamp is understandable, but unacceptable.

The price of the stamp will rise three cents next year, "as early as possible in January." This price increase is understandable because of the increased prices in everything from food to toys.

One thing the public has been denied knowing is why the increase in price.

The U.S. Postal Service will tell you about its losing $1.3 billion last year and $1.7 billion the year before.

The one thing that the Postal Service is holding back from us is that the extra $4.7 billion that will be earned from the increase in the stamp's price will pay for the added advertising that is needed to be competitive with companies such as Federal Express.

If our money were used wisely, the price increase would be a good way for the Postal Service to improve its business. The Postal Service is approaching the problem all wrong and should reconsider.

For the overall business to benefit, the service must improve sufficiently to beat out its competition. The service should become more user-friendly, not more well-known. Advertising is a waste of the money that could be used for bettering the business.

Think about that the first time you spent the extra three cents on a stamp and the next time you see a commercial for the Postal Service. They are connected in more than one way.

You pay for both.

Matthew Aiken

Ellicott City

What Next for 'Predatory' BGE? Pizzas?

When does a public utility stop being a public utility?

It is obvious that the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is very afraid that it cannot be profitable in the gas and electric business -- the very business for which it was created and granted some very special privileges by the legislators of the state of Maryland.

Most of us have no choice in who we may purchase our gas or electric from. The big commercial consumers have choices, and more and more of these major accounts are buying from someone other than BGE.

This leaves BGE in a position where it must look elsewhere for alternative sources of revenue or continue to raise their already high rates to its captured customers who have no choice, or lower its overhead, operating cost and expenses.

This public service utility is ever expanding into other areas of commerce, competing unfairly against other businesses.

The sales and service business of heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electric, appliances and remodeling of kitchen and baths are just some of the many concerns that are adversely affected by the continual unconstrained expansions of BGE into non-regulated, non-utility enterprise.

I won't be surprised when BGE starts selling pizzas. After all, that is related to its gas and electric business. It could cook the pizzas in electric ovens and deliver them in its trucks that burn natural gas, and you could charge it to your BGE bill.

Countless small businesses, many family owned, will continue to suffer from the predatory expansions of BGE. Is there no limit, no boundaries to BGE's expansion? There appears none.

I can understand BGE's motives -- profit and opportunity. The opportunity to use the immense power of a public utility to capture a major share of any business, any market, that it can unfairly dominate.

But what is the reason for the blindness of our legislators? Are they all so enchanted by the utility's lobbyists and generosity that they do not want to see the harm happening to their constituents?

I would not look to The Sun for any unkind words about BGE. I've seen the volume of advertising done. BGE has got to be a prime customer of newspapers and other advertising media.

Our legislators are extremely slow to acknowledge the problem.

Could that be due to the large volume of tickets to oyster roasts, bull roasts, crab feasts and other political fund raising affairs that BGE purchases?

Or maybe the admissions provided by the utility to ball games and other entertainment functions or perhaps the transportation or employment opportunities that BGE offers to legislators.

Or just the charm and personality of the utility's highly paid lobbyists, recently including Maryland's retired house speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr.?

It seems strange that a public utility, a monopoly, would have to spend so much money (rate-payers' money?) to promote and advertise itself. After all, for most of us, who else but BGE could we buy our gas or electric from?

The stockholders of BGE have every right to invest their money into any business venture they desire, but not by using any of the utility's facilities.

As long as BGE is allowed to use any utility association -- name, marketing, billing, legal, executive, etc., in its incursions into non-utility business, it shall be taking unfair advantage of a special status and privileges granted by legislation.

Only action by our elected representatives can protect businesses not privileged to such special status and considerations from the permanent harm caused by BGE.

The Public Service Commission does not represent the interest of the numerous businesses and their employees who are adversely affected by BGE expansion into industry not part of their gas and electric distribution and related safety requirements.

The results of BGE non-utility expansion will be unfair to business and consumers. The net result shall be less businesses providing less choices to the public and less competition. This is not only unfair, it is unwise.

Leonard J. Popa

Randallstown

The writer is president, Len Popa Co. Inc., a heating and cooling service company.

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