Guidance Isn't All about Choosing a CollegeAs...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Guidance Isn't All about Choosing a College

As coordinator of guidance services for Baltimore public schools, I need to respond to the article of July 6 on the CollegeBound Foundation.

I was quite disappointed to read Jean Thompson's article and find repeated and inexplicable negative references to the Baltimore City public schools and the work of the school guidance counselors.

I am particularly concerned because I have felt that the working relationship between CollegeBound and the Office of Guidance Services has been a highly positive one over the past two years.

To my knowledge, counselors and CollegeBound staff have been working together at all school sites, effectively and without friction. Consequently, I would like to make several points regarding the article.

First of all, the emphasis of CollegeBound being outside the system is misplaced. The relationship is and has been a strong partnership working together to serve the children of Baltimore City.

The vision of Superintendent Walter Amprey has been to reach out to the community and draw in agencies and resources to work in partnership to improve the work of the schools.

Characterizing such efforts as coming from outside an overwhelmed and inefficient system is neither helpful nor accurate.

Secondly, the CollegeBound workers are not guidance counselors in either background or training. They assist the students by disseminating information and helping with the completion of forms etc., but are not qualified to provide guidance to students concerning the college search and selection process.

As the article rightly points out and the research cited supports, last-dollar financing is extremely valuable and can even be decisive in whether a student ultimately chooses college.

The CollegeBound Foundation serves a vitally important role in providing the financial support for students that can mean the difference in college attendance.

No one's interests are served, however, by suggesting that any organization can deliver more than what is actually possible.

Finally, the article refers to two students from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in the early 1990s who appear to have received less than adequate guidance services.

Interestingly enough, it was during this period that this school had reduced its guidance staff drastically to try a different model. The results speak for themselves. Last year the school hired additional guidance staff, recognizing the importance of this service.

It is unfortunate that a negative slant characterized what should have been a positive article.

I believe that organizations committed to achieving the same goals for the benefit of children should celebrate each other's successes and join hands in getting the work done. I have tried very hard to make that the goal of all that we do in guidance services.

It is my hope that this approach to partnerships will be adopted by all of those groups that choose to work with the Baltimore city schools on behalf of children.

Patrick J. Perriello

Baltimore

The writer is an assistant superintendent in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction of Baltimore City public schools.

Samuel L. Banks, Lover of Words and Ideas

I was saddened to learn of the death of Samuel Banks.

His ardent responses to the many questions of the day in the letters section of The Sun spoke to his sincere feelings and deep commitment.

While I disagreed at times with his solutions, I always enjoyed and benefited from his writings.

It will be some time before anyone attains his skill and dedication as a dynamic spokesman for the people of Baltimore as well as the rest of Maryland. The letters portion of the paper will suffer as a result of his passing.

R. D. Bush

Columbia

It took only a reading of the first sentence of a letter to the editor to recognize the author as Samuel L. Banks. The gentleman loved words and celebrated their meaning.

One of my contemporaries said a dictionary was needed to understand his commentary, but a conversation with Dr. Banks belied that observation.

His educational and humanitarian accomplishments will surely be emphasized, but this teacher will miss his frequently published outraged reactions to social injustices and his belief in the worth of our youth.

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

I have read and re-read your July 21 editorial on the late Samuel L. Banks and believe, as so often happens with The Sun, that you really missed totally the essence of the man.

You extol mainly his never-ending quest for "justice and equal opportunity. You, in fact, mention at another place in the piece that he was a "tireless champion of equal opportunity."

Where I believe you miss the real man is that he was, of course, so much more. He was so very much more.

Dr. Banks believed in human dignity. He strove for acceptance of all mankind on a simple level of plain "human dignity."

The fact that you saw him only as demanding "improvement in the lives of his fellow African-Americans" is very sad. That makes him out as so very one-dimensional.

He was not. He was multifaceted. Go back and read his many, many letters and Opinion * Commentary articles, and you will see that.

One big question now comes up: Who can "step up" and continue to give us hope with dignity?

' He will be missed!

Randall Miller

Baltimore

Your comprehensive and complimentary appreciation of the life and work of Samuel Banks in the July 20 edition of The Sun deserves high commendation.

It was my good fortune to enjoy a long and rewarding personal and professional relationship with Dr. Banks. It is a gross understatement to say that his sudden and untimely passing leaves a tremendous void in this community.

Considering Dr. Banks' towering achievements in the realm of academic excellence -- under less than ideal circumstances, principally imposed by the omnipresent yoke of racism -- he has earned a rightful place among the heroes of the endless struggle for human justice.

Although Dr. Banks often couched his complaints, and/or compliments, in multi-syllable words, his message was always on target.

A goodly number of those messages, ironically, were directed to real, or perceived, misdeeds of reporters and/or editors of The Sun.

Among the many virtues of this gentle man was the certitude that it was not necessary to guess what he thought about the actions of individuals or institutions.

He told us. In no uncertain terms.

At times, when it appeared that his ceaseless efforts to neutralize man's inhumanity to man would never end, it was difficult not to conclude that Dr. Banks was, for all practical purposes, consumed by his sense of mission.

Those of us who knew, loved and respected him often wished that Dr. Banks would have taken more time out to savor the countless awards and accolades accorded him in recognition of his contributions to the uplifting of all of humanity.

Our sadness at his passing is tempered by the happy realization that he walked among us, although tragically too briefly.

George W. Collins

Baltimore

The Baltimore Jewish Council shares the community's grief over the untimely death of Samuel L. Banks.

We particularly remember the experience of including Dr. Banks as our guest as one of the 1981 participants in the BJC's first community mission to visit Israel.

On that mission and in the others that we have conducted annually since 1981, our guests -- non-Jewish community leaders from all aspects of Maryland's academic, business and government sectors -- are given an opportunity to meet, listen to and discuss issues with their Israeli counterparts.

Dr. Banks exhibited his interest, intelligence, sensitivity and unique vocabulary during these exchanges. When it was time for questions from our group, invariably Dr. Bank's hand was the first to be raised.

His points demonstrated how he was deeply "into" what he had seen and heard. He was especially concerned about the "Black Hebrews" in Israel, and his questions were tough.

When he returned to Baltimore he wrote several articles for the Afro-American describing his experience. He concluded that in Israel "there is a collective spirit which appears to emanate and embolden Israelis and affirms with cogency and clarity: we shall be free."

Dr. Banks was one of a kind. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Arthur C. Abramson

William H. Engelman

Baltimore

The writers are executive director and past president,

respectively, of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Folks liked to joke about the embroidered way Samuel L. Banks chose to communicate. But the usual pretense that lurks underneath wordiness was not Sam's defect.

If he had one, it was constantly to seek to dignify the traditionally undignified in our society. If he delineated their plight in the best Anglo-American style, he believed he contributed to the quantum of attention the poor received.

Sam was a teacher in more ways than one. He informed me of the processes and techniques of qualifying in the higher reaches of scholarship by asking that I sit with him when he appeared to qualify for the Ph.D. degree.

Not always a comfortable man, Sam was, however, always charitable, energetic and persistent in his message of equality and excellence in and for all. His life is another bright light that has been turned off.

David E. Sloan

Baltimore

Government Impedes Community

Casper R. Taylor, speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, is a good writer.

Every sentence of his June 6 Opinion * Commentary article generated a response on my part.

Both he and I had the good fortune of growing up in the '40s and '50s, he in Cumberland and I in Baltimore, in an era when communities and neighborhoods were unified and intact, and were "all in it together" in the raising of children.

Everyone was poor then, as far as I know. In some places unemployment reached 80 percent, but people didn't need to lock their doors at night, and they could walk anywhere $l fearlessly after dark.

Public schools were equal to or better than private. College tuition, all of it, could be earned during the summer and over Christmas vacation by working at the post office, or the Chevrolet plant or the sugar refinery . . .

Instructions in manners, morals and civic responsibilities were de rigeur. The college year was a solid eight months; institutional sex education was unheard of and the illegitimacy rate was one-fifth or less of today's rate.

What was embedded in our souls then was very different. It was better, it was decent, and it didn't come from the government.

It was a time when American behavior was successful regulated by families, churches, schools and neighborhoods; two fundamental documents, the Ten Commandments and the Constitution, was revered.

Mr. Taylor decries the explosion of crime, violence and illegitimacy, and the resulting polarization that has occurred since then. Don't we all!

He says it is the fault of the people who are, in effect, the real legislators; I think it is the fault of government on a disastrous tangent.

He admits that in spite of billions spent on social programs, education, rehabilitation and welfare, all these problems "seem to have worsened." It is more than "seems." The worsening is hard, cold reality.

Over time, I have seen one red flag after another go up, each one by itself generating only a raised eyebrow or a puzzled expression.

But collectively, they paved an unswerving path away from freedom, away from morality, away from the common good.

What happened? How did we get into the degrading situation while we were busy with our careers and families? Let's take a look.

The first blow against communities came with government-imposed busing. Neighborhood control over student behavior loosened and finally disappeared.

At the college level, government introduced student loans, causing quantum leaps in tuition and quantum interference with curriculum and social policy . . .

Another giant red flag went up when, 20 years ago, I saw an entire building on the campus of the University of Maryland devoted to, guess what, the teaching of reading!

Disastrous decisions by the Supreme Court removed prayer from the schools. Respect, discipline and finally education itself were to follow.

A pro-criminal lobby became entrenched when courts exaggerated the rights of transgressors until today self-defense, primary human instinct, is punishable by law in Maryland . . .

Government now intends to strike the final blow against neighborhoods by relocating felons, alcoholics, drug addicts and welfare recipients into already fearful communities.

Fear of government regulations in small businesses and private lives does not generate the faith, hope, integrity and courage that Casper Taylor and I would like to see . . .

He says public morality is built from public unity.

I say public morality is built from personal morality, and unity from the sharing of common ideals, once taught in the public schools.

Families were the best places to be grounded in common ideals before government rewarded family breakdown by an infusion of money, our money, equal to the national debt . . .

Public sentiment wants fair elections, not an entrenched one-party system that abets fraud.

The very real division and polarization that exists today, as opposed to 30 years ago, is in spite of, not because of, what the people want.

It is a result of a government that now dispenses privilege by fiat according to color, gender and ethnicity and requires no competence or accountability in return -- a massive red flag.

As another example of government responding to public sentiment, Mr. Taylor credits the people, and rightly so, for the decline in drunk driving.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving deserves enormous credit for its efforts, but couldn't the government have enforced existing laws to begin with and saved them their children?

People in government are paid, handsomely, to deal with these things; people who work at their own jobs shouldn't have to use their priceless spare time . . .

Mr. Taylor says he has the power to choose his character and moral outlook.

I think his parents and schools and church made vital contributions to his power to choose.

Elected representatives must return from their tangent and restore the rights of parents, schools and churches to do their jobs, unimpeded by the disastrous interference of the government.

Mr. Taylor says that the citizens are the real lawmakers. If only that were true. It took a while to get from there to here, but every step along the way was a government step.

The 1940s and 1950s were no more perfect than anything is. Racial injustices did and do exist, but because of the real leadership abilities of Martin Luther King, a consciousness was raised that would not have been otherwise.

We have come through fire and would be grateful to be able to judge others on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. What a relief it would be to have that opportunity, free of the racist pressure of a monster government. In short, "the best efforts of our government" must be directed toward reversing their own self-generated impediments to community, unity, integrity, faith, courage and hope.

Elizabeth Ward Nottrodt

Baltimore

Stop Stereotyping Central America

The series of articles on Honduras written by Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson (June 11, 13, 15, 18) is well investigated and presented.

Although this information is not new -- we have known about death squads in Honduras (and Guatemala and El Salvador) since the early 1980s -- it is good to read it again, so that it will not be forgotten.

There are two further points that need to be emphasized here.

The articles give the impression that the problem is a political one. It is not. Since the conquest Central Americans have been struggling for land to grow their corn and foodstuffs. Since that time the elites have been more interested in making money for themselves.

As Cohn and Thompson point out, since the turn of the century, U.S. multinationals have had an interest in export crops, forcing native Central Americans into extreme poverty. For this reason there is social unrest.

This social unrest has been masked by calling it the "Communist threat." It is very easy to fall into this trap, yet very clearly the "subversive" movements in Central America were not born in the former Soviet Union, they were born from social injustice right here in the Americas.

Cohn and Thompson do not make this clear in their article. They refer to Washington's "mission to combat Communist insurgency Central America." Yet this "Communist insurgency" was an illusion created by the Reagan administration.

While there were insurgents who had read Marx, or even traveled to Cuba or the Soviet Union for study, they were not a majority. This practice of assigning the unrest to the political sphere by Washington, "disinformation" as the Reagan administration called it, continues to color our perceptions of the social problems in the area.

In no country has this distortion been so successful as with the case of Nicaragua.

Cohn and Thompson refer to the former Sandinista government in that county as "a Marxist regime." In fact, of the five members of the Sandinista directorate, only two were Marxists.

Just because there is a socialist from Vermont in the U.S. House of Representatives does not make the House socialist.

If two-fifths of the House were socialists, the House still would not be socialist. At most it might make it socialist-leaning.

Language is a very powerful tool, and cautious use is necessary to avoid distortion. The policies of Daniel Ortega were for a

mixed economy, no different from pre-Salinas Mexico or Mitterand's France.

On a trip to Nicaragua in 1991, most Sandinistas I met based their Sandinismo on the Bible, not on Marx.

Finally, Thompson and Cohn's assertion that the Reagan administration was running a "battle for democracy in Central America" is simply not true.

During that time period, the press would often print exactly what President Reagan's aides stated as the truth. It was not generally acknowledged that this "truth" was an ideology, not objective fact.

In Honduras, as their articles show, the U.S. government funded Battalion 316, which fought to destroy legal and democratic institutions.

In Guatemala, the Reagan administration's policy was to allow the Guatemalan government's "scorched earth" policy exterminate thousands of Maya.

And in Nicaragua, the U.S.-funded contras destroyed many hospitals and schools, killing many "roving" teachers working on the Sandinista literacy campaign (literacy is essential for democracy).

The U.S. government policy in all three countries was to preserve the oligarchy's grip on power.

It is time to stop stereotyping the Central American situation and understand all the fine nuances that make up a very complex situation.

Hats off to The Sun for taking a first step in that direction. Now that the Cold War is over, can we take another step toward

objectivity?

Thomas Ward

Baltimore

The writer is assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Loyola College.

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