TCTelevision program code comes too lateOnce again,...



Television program code comes too late

Once again, the television industry finds itself in the spotlight insofar as its programming is concerned.

Now, the panel chaired by Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, has developed a system for coding sex and violence so that interested parents can manage and control their children's TV watching.

While the intentions of all concerned are certainly noble, the new coding system appears to be an exercise in futility and the effect of its implementation does not even scratch the surface of the issues of sex, violence and abuse of children in our society.

Parents, and also grandparents who are caring for youngsters, are now facing issues more formidable than TV watching.

The statistics are clear that sex and violence already pervade our youth.

It is also clear that teen pregnancy, child abuse, single-parent households, two working parents, poverty, homelessness, joblessness, drugs, crime, etc. are vastly more critical (and need resolution) to our youth than an ambiguous TV code.

If the sex, violence and crime activities that have saturated the TV programming and motion picture industry over the last two decades have contributed significantly to the frightening statistics we now record, the damage to our youth already exists.

It is suggested therefore that the TV industry assume the challenge of self-censorship to save the youth of tomorrow rather than putting the burden on today's parents to succumb to a new code.

Sy Steinberg


Reporting Jesus' birth in the newspapers

Your article on the stories of Jesus' infancy (Dec. 22) was well written.

I shall show it to my undergraduate students, as an exception to my judgment that those who fail my Introduction to Biblical Literature course can always find a job writing religion articles for Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report and the daily newspapers.

These are generally inaccurate and filled with misinterpretation.

Your reporters wrote a basically fair and accurate article.

If space had allowed, they might have added that childhood was generally ignored by the ancients unless and until a person became famous. Then because nothing was remembered, it was created, according to a stereotype.

A famous person must have had an exceptional childhood. Suetonius' "Lives of the Caesars" is an outstanding example.

Childhood was actually a time of terror as the exhortations to physical punishment of boys in Proverbs and Sirach testify. Of the children who survived birth, 30 percent would not live to age 6, and of these another 30 percent would not live to age 12.

The very few who survived to age 30 suffered from malnutrition, poor eyesight, rotten or no teeth, parasites and a host of diseases.

Jesus was very likely older than the majority of his audience, so few if any remembered his childhood.

The Evangelists who wrote of his childhood more than 50 years after he died had little choice but to create an impressive one, for a person many believed that God had raised from the dead.

John J. Pilch


The writer is a member of the theology department of Georgetown University.

Master English first, then consider slang

The Oakland, Calif., decision to teach Ebonics as a primary language amazes me. Why would we want to talk down to our future leaders?

Jesse Jackson stated, and rightfully, "It's speaking down and an unacceptable surrender of our teaching process . . ."

Ebonics can only create another crisis for our youths.

First, one must master the English language, and only then should another language or slang, as Ebonics certainly is, be considered.

I hope more research enters into this decision and wiser minds prevail.

Paul Inskeep


City life determines quality of schools

Kalman R. Hettleman (Opinion Commentary, Dec. 26) makes the correct assertion that often school reforms fail because they do not focus on classrooms, students or teachers.

However, even if Baltimore City and Maryland were to implement all the policies suggested and place even more resources at the disposal of educators, the major problems in schools would not disappear.

There are three fundamental flaws present in inner city areas that derail any possibilities for a quick fix to the educational system.

First and foremost is the dearth of good-paying jobs for the majority of people living in inner-city areas.

What is the point of going to school if there are no decent paying jobs in the community?

Lack of work creates dependency on taxpayers for basic needs, and results in a lack of self-worth and low self-esteem.

This is transferred to children and results in fractured family structures that are not conducive to a safe, nurturing environment for children.

Hence the lack of performance and attendance in many inner city schools. In addition, people resort to drugs and alcohol to escape from hopelessness, and the result is crime, unsafe neighborhoods and further destruction of family structure.

Second, and related, is that without jobs cities have a diminished tax base. This results in less money spent on everything, including education, which along with police, comprises the major portion of most city budgets.

Less money is spent on more problems, resulting in temporary patch-up solutions, not long-term elimination of problems.

Finally, the lack of home ownership results in unsafe neighborhoods.

When one does not own the property one lives in, one has no stake in its maintenance or upkeep.

Absentee landlords care more about the rent check than the quality of the tenants.

The result is decaying neighborhoods, where students worry more about getting home safely than about algebra homework.

Schools need to focus on basics -- teaching students to read, to communicate effectively in writing and speech, and to solve problems.

Society needs to focus on creating an atmosphere around inner-city schools conducive to learning.

This includes incentives to business to invest to create decent jobs, and programs to develop home ownership for residents.

With jobs and home ownership comes pride and self-esteem, which parents pass along to children, and this is reflected in school work and participation.

This will, of course, cost money, plenty of it. But it is better to invest in a concrete plan than in helter-skelter patch-up schemes, which result in little long-term good and often cost just as much.

Vikram Harjai


Pub Date: 1/05/97

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