Rushing whiz kids to college early not always best
I read the article "A college scholar at 11" (May 13) with interest and reflected on past articles that have been published almost annually on other bright children who have entered college early.
Each year I read about the parents' dilemma on what to do and sympathize because I, too, have been there.
My son, Matthew, taught himself to read by the age of 4 and was reading "Hardy Boys" mysteries in kindergarten. He scored 1,240 on the SAT at 12 and was fully capable of college work. Unlike the parents of the featured gifted children, my husband and I did the less newsworthy thing: We sent him to Howard County public schools through 12th grade.
He is now 18 and a first-year student at the University of Chicago.
Of course, we were always wondering if we were doing the right thing. Balancing his intellectual and social growth was a real concern. Would he be getting a better education in a private school? We decided not.
We had moved to Howard County because of the school system, and here he was happy and thriving. With extra classes in math from the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Program (now the Hopkins' Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth), he remained challenged.
By the time Matthew reached high school, we had been redistricted to Oakland Mills High. People asked what we were going to do. Oakland Mills M is one of the original Columbia villages, which is inner city, Columbia-style. It is still a reflection of what Columbia set out to be; a place where all people can co-exist. He found acceptance there, with many different niches, and a place for everyone. He found peers.
Most of his teachers were among the best. He learned what my husband and I had learned in college, and by his senior year he had taken eight advanced placement classes, getting the highest score possible on all but one.
He became a leader through involvement with the math team and the "It's Academic" Team, which won the Baltimore-area championship his senior year. He placed nationally in several math competitions and almost made the 1997 U.S. Math Olympiad team.
His senior year turned out to be the year he grew the most socially. He started dating and developed real teen-ager traits, like pushing the limits. By graduation, we all knew he was ready to move on. With the issues of college life he has experienced this year, I'm thankful for the maturity that the extra year has given him.
Matthew has found college easy. With his advanced placement credits, he will be able to earn a master's degree in math in four years, by the time he is 21. He surprised the University of Chicago math department by placing 16th on the Putnam Math Exam, given nationally and dominated by Harvard this year, so he will probably be able to pick whatever graduate school he wants to go to. He is on the road to a lifetime of learning. Looking back, I wonder why we ever thought of rushing him.
So, I read your annual "whiz kid" articles with interest and sympathy, but also with a small amount of sadness for the kids. I wonder how things have worked out for those who are older now. It is a hard decision, and every parent does what he feels is best. I'm just glad we made the decision we did and would like other parents to know that early college is not the only or necessarily the best answer.
amela K. Gealy
Charity should oppose California proposition on payroll deductions
I was very pleased to see that Jack Germond and Jules Witcover recognized that charitable organizations would be adversely affected by Proposition 226 in California ("Anti-union Proposition 226 stays ahead in trend-setting California," May 18). However, it is unfortunate that they did not describe the hardball politics being played by supporters of Prop 226.
Californians realize that workplace charitable giving programs could be affected by Proposition 226, and there is a good chance that the initiative will lose. After all, few people want to force United Way organizations and other charities to choose between contributions or the right to advocate on ballot measures.
Maybe that is why the powerful arm of conservatives and corporations -- all supporters of Prop 226 -- have tried to put a stranglehold on charities such as the United Way. Their main target is organized labor, and they don't want people to realize that they are willing to also harm charities if it serves their ends.
The article notes that United Way of America (UWA) first raised serious concerns about Prop 226 but then said it had no position.
Proposition 226 would create significant barriers and burdens for charities, not the least of which is an imposition on First Amendment rights to speak on important public policy concerns. Because of the complexities of compliance for employers and because employers could face significant financial penalties for noncompliance, they could decide to discontinue the voluntary giving programs they now operate.
But conservative forces are so hellbent on attacking unions that they are ignoring the impact this poorly worded initiative could have on charities. It is sad that when faced by potential assaults on charities' free speech, United Way of America is not opposing the measure, hoping that charities fighting for the neediest among us won't notice that it's missing among the opposition.
Gary D. Bass
The writer is executive director of OMB Watch, an independent nonpartisan organization that primarily monitors the federal Office of Management and Budget.
Principal was wrong to let ousted schools chief speak
Mary Cary, principal of the Baltimore County's Carver School Center for Arts and Technology, should be called on the carpet and disciplined for allowing Stuart Berger to speak at the school's graduation ceremonies ("Ousted Balto. Co. schools chief speaks at daughter's graduation," May 22).
Mr. Berger was fired as Baltimore County schools superintendent and given a huge buyout that cost the taxpayers a bundle. While he was superintendent, Mr. Berger destroyed morale and upset a decent school system that had been built on the foundations of trust and integrity.
Mr. Berger, who still lives in the area, had asked Ms. Cary if he could hand his daughter her diploma at graduation. That's all he should have been allowed to do. Ms. Cary showed poor judgment in making this man a guest speaker.
Some grammatical advice for prepositional beginners
Beginning a sentence with "and" or "but" ("Stop using conjunctions at the beginning of sentences," May 19) doesn't bother me if it provides needed emphasis or clarity to the sentence. The purpose of language is to communicate ideas. The ideas are more important than the words.
Some of the circumlocutions required to avoid splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition, for instance, can get pretty pedantic. So I have a simple two-part rule of grammar that I try to follow: Always feel free to break any grammatical rule if it makes the meaning clearer. But don't forget the second part of the rule: Never break a grammatical rule of whose existence you are unaware.
I have another rule I would like to follow: Never use the words "always" or "never." They never are wholly true, and they always get you in trouble.
Complete the peace initiative that Ralph Bunche started
It was good to read the story in the Perspective section ("A forgotten voice in world affairs: Peacemaker Ralph Bunche," May 17) concerning the late Dr. Ralph Bunche and his contribution to the creation of the state of Israel.
Israel joined other ethnic peoples who achieved recognition for a homeland state to call their own. Poland, the Baltic states, Czechoslovakia and many others in eastern Europe celebrated the same recognition after the first World War through the efforts of then-President Woodrow Wilson.
They lost their countries in World War II only to get them back following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Naturally, there was much jubilation at these occurrences.
The Perspective article mentions the other half of the Israel creation story -- Palestine, the unfinished work that would make the Bunche vision complete. The United States does not help the problems of the Middle East by ignoring the fact that the Palestinians, like the Jews, also are entitled to a homeland of their own and are long overdue.
There is a pressing need for world leaders to do for the Palestinians what has been done for other ethnic groups -- recognize a Palestinian state.
Of course, that is the easy part. Then, if a mutual boundary cannot be agreed upon outsiders will have to dictate those boundaries. There will not be peace in the Middle East until Palestinians get for themselves what other ethnic people enjoy today.
Richard L. Lelonek
Baltimore I went to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Baltimore near Harbor Hospital. The condition of the memorial made me feel sad and ashamed. When I said to my husband, who is a Vietnam vet, "How can it be so dirty? Doesn't anyone take care of it?" He said that some things are important and some are not.
As a nation, we have made our Vietnam veterans feel unimportant, in large ways and in some small ways, like not cleaning the memorial -- not even for Memorial Day. They deserve better.
Each day, as I drive to my job in Baltimore, I marvel at my tax dollars at work. Don't get me wrong: I like the city. I live in it, work in it, am the president of a community association and an active member of Citizens on Patrol. I take my tax dollars very seriously.
My travel route takes me down Harford Road into the city's core. Although I have seen this on numerous mornings, something stood out recently. Though we are closing libraries and recreation centers and have no money to put into our failing school system, we have money for a miniature street-cleaning vehicle to clean the sidewalks.
Now this bothers me. It is caused by the fact that people living in or traveling through Baltimore are too lazy to throw their trash into the proper receptacles.
I see people standing on corners dropping trash on the sidewalk because they do not walk up to the trash can. I've even seen them drop trash right next to the cans. What is wrong with everyone? Don't pants have pockets any more? With the purses we are carrying nowadays, certainly there is room for a candy wrapper.
We scream for the city to do something about the rat problem, but we will do nothing about our trash problem -- yes our trash, not the city's.
Trash doesn't get on the streets by itself, it's put there. Clean up after yourselves.
Our money could be better spent. And after you have read this newspaper, please recycle it. Don't throw it on the street.
It is wonderful that charitable organizations benefit from the sale of aluminum cans they gather from Pimlico Race Course after the Preakness ("A charitable use of trash," May 18).
But as a Maryland resident, I was ashamed to see the smelly piles of garbage left behind by race-goers. Next year, those who attend the Preakness should show their pride in Maryland by bringing two trash bags with them.
They could fill one bag with their paper and food garbage to take back home with them, and leave the other bag, filled with their cans, for the charitable organizations to gather more easily.
Bonnie Hunt Conrad
Pub Date: 5/30/98