Engineering in public schools is old hat
Anne Haddad should be lashed with a wet noodle (in the vernacular of Ann Landers) for her Dec. 26 article, "With an eye to the future, students in Carroll County focus on engineering." It is replete with inaccuracy.
The first time engineering courses moved into the high schools in Maryland was in 1885 in Baltimore City, not Carroll County in 1995. Baltimore Polytechnic Institute had engineering courses and two-period laboratory classes way before Anne Haddad was a gleam in her parents' eyes.
As a member of the Poly Class of 1938, I remember courses in drawing shop practice, surveying, heat engines, mechanics, mechanics of materials, as well as the sciences and mathematics through differential and integral calculus. Our mechanical laboratory, machine design laboratory and the other laboratories in the sciences were two periods long since the day we entered the first of four years of high school.
Upon graduation I got a job as a junior construction engineer and received credit for the first year of college -- not at all unusual then and now. At the time, our computer was our brain assisted by the slide rule and not the computer-aided design of today.
Edgar F. Muller Jr.
Bartlett's rotten environmental record
Many citizens were no doubt shocked to read that their congressman, Roscoe Bartlett, was cited by the Frederick County Department of Health for leaving the bodies of dead animals rotting and unburied on his property along the Monocacy River.
Perhaps if these readers knew what I know, they would not have been quite so surprised. What I know is that Mr. Bartlett has one of the worst voting records on environmental issues in Congress. And for this particular Congress, that is quite a distinction.
The only question I have is whether or not the voters will remember at the polls in November the disdain Mr. Bartlett has for our Earth and its creatures.
The writer is chairwoman of the Maryland Sierra Club.
Enough with the Jeep-bashing
After reading my second column by Mike Littwin involving Jeep owner-bashing ("You can bet we'll soon hoard all our bread to buy Jeeps"), it is time for at least one Jeep owner to respond.
Unfortunately, I am not privileged enough to work from my home as is Mr. Littwin, but I am deemed "critical personnel" by my employer, whose offices are 94 miles round trip from my house. I manage the direct deposit functions at a financial institution. In other words, Mike, I am trying to get to work so people have money in their accounts to buy the bread, milk, lottery tickets and Sun paper that they deem necessary to survive the weather.
I have owned Jeeps for the last 15 years, long before they became the "Yuppiemobiles" as depicted by Mr. Littwin.
They're a reliable means of transportation, and yes, as I've been able to afford it over the years, I have upgraded the model that I drive. No one but myself pays for that privilege. (Mike, if you're financing my car, you're behind in your share.) Any four-wheel-drive vehicle does not bring out the best in folks that have been cooped up in their homes and are now taking out that extra surge of testosterone on the rest of us.
But I have also noticed this in folks driving anything from Volkswagen Beetles to Mercedeses with the windows caked with ice so that they have no visibility, or they're riding on "baloney skin" tires or a combination of both. Poor judgment is poor judgment, no matter what someone has in their bank account.
So Mike, the next time you're running to the automated teller machine to get money to buy essentials, but there's no money in your account because your paycheck didn't make it, think of me.
Linda A. Collins
Capital fight over federal, local control
I'm getting scared during this government shutdown and budget impasse. But I'm not afraid of the shutdown. I'm afraid of the public reaction. I'm scared because it seems to me that the American people no longer want representative democracy.
This fight on Capitol Hill is a fine example of democracy in action. The freshman Republicans are doing exactly what they were sent to Washington to do. Their constituents, who voted them into office and whose views they represent, told them they wanted smaller government and a balanced budget.
But there is a more fundamental issue at stake: whether or not there should be a concentration of centralized power. It is a philosophical argument between those who think that the federal government should control and oversee programs on a national scale, and those who feel power should be concentrated at the local level.
The federalists would argue that centralized programs ensure fairness and equality. But federal oversight also allows the federal government to set the rules and intrude into local decisions and private lives, to the detriment, some feel, of creativity and responsiveness to local needs.
The other side believes that local communities, governments and boards should have control over their own issues. They would say that federal control shows a fundamental lack of trust in citizens and local governments to act fairly and to competently assess and solve their problems.
Granted, our country has grown and some federal assistance is needed by local governments. But that is precisely why the idea of "block grants" is such a great compromise. It allows us to use some of our national wealth to help poorer communities, while trusting those same communities to understand their problems better than far-away bureaucrats in Washington.
What scares me is that the average American now seems unwilling to endure a little hardship to allow this important, fundamental debate to take place. This is democracy and I fear we don't want it anymore.
Bosnia not Vietnam, closer to 1920s, '30s
I agree with the Dec. 10 article by Jeff Stein, "Bosnia is not Vietnam." The piece points out that although history is known to repeat itself, picking the worst-case scenario -- Vietnam -- is not always appropriate. In fact, if people are really looking for something to compare Bosnia to, World War II is a much better choice.
Just like now, the people of the 1920s and '30s wanted to shirk the responsibility of world leadership and become entirely isolated from world affairs. Although Americans may not like it, we have inherited the role of world police officer, and must consequently deal with its rewards as well as pitfalls. We are the last remaining world power and even if we step down, someone will inevitably fill the place. So although conditions on the home front aren't exactly up to snuff, we must remember that the trials and tribulations that we face don't even begin to compare to what others around the world endure. In Bosnia, for instance, massive genocide has been plaguing the country for more than two years.
If you are still not convinced that we should get involved, just consider that the beginning of both World Wars also started in the same region. By letting the problem escalate, we might just be feeding the fire.