Fairness for all
The debate over affirmative action is framed in terms of "quotas" and "us vs. them."
What is left out of this equation is an economic system in which structural unemployment and low-wage jobs pit powerless whites against powerless blacks.
In addition, multi-national corporations export their operations (and jobs) to third-world nations in order to maximize profits where labor is cheap and unemployment is high. This reduces the number of U.S. jobs and causes U.S. wages to decline still further.
Affirmative action allowed those who were previously locked out of the system a chance to become contributing members of society. Although it may have been misused on occasion, it has been a powerful force for fairness in American society.
However, in the context of unemployment and declining wages, affirmative action is used as a wedge issue by demagogues to divert and divide the electorate and gain votes through fear and racism.
Politicians who demagogue on this issue should be asked what they have done to promote jobs at fair wages for all those willing to work.
As Earth Day 1995 fast approaches, people need to evaluate just what being environmentally aware really is.
It is not recycling, reducing and reusing. It is examining our own homes and our schools for everyday-use toxic materials that do harm not just to the environment but to our children as well.
Children are an at-risk group. Herbicides and pesticides (such as those used by lawn care companies and homeowners to kill dandelions), cleaners such as ammonia and bleach (which are actually registered pesticides), perfumes (made up of over 3,000 different synthetic chemicals), carbonless carbon paper, paints and new carpet (significant sources of formaldehyde), and copier machines contribute to the chemical abuse of our children.
What do all of these products have in common? The mere fact that they are poisons, poisons that do permanent damage to the central and autonomic nervous systems of our children.
The same chemicals that harm the environment and wildlife are also hurting our children.
If we are so concerned about the environment, we should also be concerned about the chemical abuse being done to our children from the environment in which they sleep, play, eat and go to school.
Not just on Earth Day, but every day.
Marian C. Arminger
The Sabina Mattfeldt Improvement Association supports the Mount Washington Improvement Association's opposition to the hastily planned development of the USF&G; campus.
We also encourage all the surrounding neighborhood associations to become involved in the issue.
If we do not act now in addressing the traffic congestion in the Mount Washington area, the eventual erosion of our neighborhoods is inevitable.
It is in the best interests of all our neighbors to support a possible new interchange off Interstate 83 that would help alleviate the volume of traffic that now flows through our communities.
Growth is necessary. We realize it is in Baltimore City's best interest to allow USF&G; to expand. But this growth does not have to be to the detriment of our neighborhoods.
The writer is president, Sabina Mattfeldt Improvement Association.
Kenwood must be doing something right
As a former graduate of Kenwood High School and a parent of a current Kenwood senior, I feel I must add my voice to the recent upheavals.
Kenwood has been paraded in the local newspapers and by school administration as a low-achieving school in standardized tests and attendance.
These results are more an indictment of the Baltimore County school system and parents than of our teachers. Teachers have been singled out for dismissal and transfer when the blame lies elsewhere.
When Baltimore County changed direction a few years ago and left the majority of school decisions to individual principals, the administration of the schools (the principal, aides, etc.) became a separate entity from the heart of the schools (the teachers, students and parents).
Decisions are made on a bottom line basis, not as a group effort with all parties' input. Schools are run like corporations.
A new principal, like a new company president, comes in and brings his own people with him. Differing opinions are discarded for a new group of yes men.
But schools are not supposed to be run like a company. The only profit we are concerned with is well educated students.
On several occasions my wife has tried to reach the school to discuss matters. She has been met with cold responses from administrators, who act as if parents are bothering them.
"We have more important things to do than talk about your child" seems to be the line these people have taken. Apparently the only thing a parent is good for is to come up with the tax dollars to foot the bill.
Parents, too, must shoulder a share of the blame. Education is one of the greatest values we must teach our children.
School cannot raise our children, we must. Attendance in school is imperative for our children to compete in today's world.
One point in your recent series about Kenwood was that ninth-graders did not meet state functional test scores. How can Kenwood take the blame for this when those tests are given only a couple of months into the students' freshman year?
We need to look at how these students were taught in the middle and elementary school years. Kenwood teachers cannot take all the blame.
Finally, I take offense at the labels "economically stressed" and "working class" to describe Kenwood, as if being a child of a hard worker was the reason for low test scores.
Some families might not make the magical $38,000 county-wide average income, but what does that have to do with any problems at the school?
The Essex-Middle River communities have been given a black eye from your articles. (Ironically when Dulaney High School had a bomb scare and had to shut down for a day, no indictment of that community was included in your article).
My daughter is proud to be a Kenwood graduating senior. Her teachers have been excellent and are one of the reasons she has applied to such colleges as Princeton, Yale and Swarthmore. Why not print articles about these students, with their many awards, scholarships and achievements?
Kenwood's teachers must be doing something right.
Douglas A. Menzel
Debt free in 30 years
Since neither Congress nor the administration dares to face up to paying off the national debt, we citizens should make them face up to it "cold turkey."
Suppose we assume the U.S. government debt is about $5 trillion, and suppose we want to pay it off in a steady, responsible way, say in 30 years.
Since our population is about 260 million, the per capita debt is about $19,000 for every person. For a family of four, the debt is about $76,000.
Now, suppose the debt obligation is shared equally with business. Then the per capita debt shrinks to about $9600.
Also, in fairness, wealthy families and corporations should pay considerably more than small businesses and homeless people.
So, the average middle-class family of four with a household income of say, $40,000 would owe about $72,000, payable in 30 years.
At any reasonable interest rate this amounts to about $4,000 per year -- $13 per day, $390 per month; less than a typical car payment.
Looking at these numbers, the deficit payoff seems more likely to occur than a "balanced budget." One danger is a pork-barrel Congress siphoning borrowed money into the operating budget, such as already has been done with the Social Security Trust Fund.
The domestic economy would suffer for a while due to $330 billion per annum not being spent. However, it could push us to raise our emphasis on foreign exports. It could also lower interest rates.
The rewards are potentially great. Ten years hence the dollar would be strong, foreign investment would strengthen.
There's still that pesky $200 billion-a-year deficit. But this works out to a mere $769 per person per year -- and we know Mr. Gingrich will take care of that.