St. John's mission is to teach thoughtB....

THE BALTIMORE SUN

St. John's mission is to teach thought

B. Meredith Burke wrote about how important a classic liberal arts education is to sustaining a sense of what defines the common good for our society ("Finding our common thread," July 11).

The University of Chicago, in proposing to cut its core curriculum, might be accused of lessening the strength of the ties that hold us all together culturally and politically. The university is responding to marketing pressures and fears that the required courses are turning students off.

But St. John's College (in Annapolis and Santa Fe) has found that its classic curriculum, mostly unchanged over the past 60 years, is increasing in popularity -- applications are up this year by more than 35 percent.

St. John's has not compromised its study of our society's common knowledge; the four-year, all-required curriculum focuses on the great books of the Western tradition, which presents the history and thought, documents and values that have formed and inform American society.

Ms. Burke, a graduate of St. John's, did a good job of justifying how a seemingly archaic method of education -- one that deals with mostly dead white males and offers little in the way of choice -- is the most contemporary possible.

One key to the popularity of the St. John's program is probably that we don't tell anyone what to think. Students read the books, study them and discuss them with faculty and other students. They take responsibility for their own education, just as in the "real world," where they will take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts and decisions. That's the kind of thing that keeps democracy going.

Barbara Goyette, Annapolis

The writer is communications director at St. John's College.

Skeptical of polls, answers on Clinton

If recent polls showing support for President Clinton are accurate, I have a few questions: Who is being polled; how are the questions phrased; how are the results manipulated; and are the respondents people who vote?

It appears, according to these polls, most people do not want to see Mr. Clinton removed from office. Perhaps respondents should be asked whether they view Mr. Clinton as a celebrity or as the leader of the free world.

I believe that the people interviewed equate Mr. Clinton with Michael Douglas, John Travolta, Harrison Ford or, even, Hugh Grant.

It's time for Americans to wake up. President Clinton should be removed from office, if he doesn't have the grace and dignity to resign because he is a liar, not a matinee idol.

Dolores Groppe, Timonium

The numbers in Clinton's corner

The stock market bull is leveling everything in its path.

The real estate market is for real as more Americans are becoming homeowners.

Unemployment is at a 29-year low.

The job market is the strongest during peacetime in 41 years.

Since 1993, more than 13 million new jobs have been added to the workforce.

Car dealers are reporting sales beyond their expectations because of gains in consumer purchasing power.

Commercial and housing construction boasts of a sixth consecutive increase in as many months.

More workers are enjoying a rise in hourly wages.

And the economy is still roaring ahead.

Why would anyone say President Clinton is "ineffective"?

Leon Peace Ried, Baltimore

Lot of spare time to deal with Clinton

We are being assured that our nation's business is being attended to, despite the preoccupation by our legislators, for more than a year, with the Clinton scandal.

If the assurances by impeachment advocates are true, the House and Senate must have an inordinate amount of free time when things are normal. Or they are doing what they are accusing the president of -- lying through their teeth?

Stanley Oring, Pikesville

Can't believe Clinton after reading him

After a year of reading the president's testimony, I find it difficult to believe one word he says on any subject.

Alban R. Clautice, Baltlimore

Tax could lessen our health care burden

I write in response to the letter from Phillip A. Thayer ("Olympian can't appreciate plight of poor adult smokers," Jan. 7) regarding Tara Lipinski's endorsement of increasing the tobacco tax.

Yes, the tax would apply to poor working adults as well as teen-agers.

But the tax would also apply to rich working adults, poor nonworking adults and members of any other socioeconomic group who feel it to be their inalienable right to purchase and consume that poisonous product.

They probably also feel it to be their right to the best health care available, oblivious to who will shell out the big-time dollars when those smoking-related health problems arise.

Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer and is responsible for oral, throat, esophageal, kidney and bladder cancers. It is a leading cause of premature births, contributes to miscarriages and doubles the chance of heart attack.

JoAnn Ferrer, Towson

Americans exploited Cubans for property

Pete Peterson Opinion Commentary ("Don't forget what we lost in Cuba" Jan. 10) asks us not to forget what we lost in Cuba, but he makes some serious errors of memory himself.

While we shouldn't forget the losses of individuals in Cuba, we also should not forget our government's complicity in enslaving Cubans by supporting a monster such as Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro is certainly no saint, but he is no worse than the facist he overthrew. Forty years have passed since we were able to treat Cuba like an American colony. Our government's efforts too destroy Mr. Castro have failed, and the mean-spirited efforts of Helms-Burton will also fail. No doubt, its sponsors would prefer a facist like Batista ruling Cuba.

No American who lived off the fruits of Batista deserves so much as a dime from Cuba.

It would only come from the descendants of the people these Americans exploited.

Joe Roman, Baltimore

Snow should close schools

I am 51 years old and have been a Baltimore City resident all my life. I have three children (all grown now) who attended city schools.

Every year during the winter, I went through the frustration that I'm sure parents went through with the recent winter storm.

All school systems closed except Baltimore City. What is wrong with these people?

There have been so many times through the years that city schoolchildren have been put in danger (along with their parents) to get to school on days when the roads are treacherous.

They tell you to use your discretion as parents to decide whether to send them or not. That's all well and good.

But if students such as my two granddaughters have perfect attendance, they don't want to mess that up.

The superintendent should care about our children and their safety and close the schools, for goodness sake. The system didn't have to use one snow day last year.

Mary Warfield, Baltimore

Discuss the problems of zero tolerance

City Councilman Martin O'Malley's assertion that Baltimore's homicide rate, which results in the loss of so many young lives, does not resonate because the victim is not like me is simply untrue, and I will not let it stand.

Living in a relatively safe neighborhood, I don't kid myself or pretend that attracting national conventions should be the city's primary goal.

But I also don't pretend, as Mr. O'Malley seems to, that zero tolerance is the "only way to cut the homicide rate." I surely support zero tolerance, but obedience and decency do not flow so easily from arresting and incarcerating all those who violate civil order.

Obedience, civility and respect for others are values inculcated in the very young, and it is a tireless process carried on by family, community, schools and churches.

Please don't preach simplistic twaddle about raising "collective public expectations."

The public expectation is firm and in place. It embraces efficient city government, good schools, integrity and hard work on the part of all elected officials and cooperation with state lawmakers so that together we can attract and keep good jobs in the city.

We also expect a court system that can accommodate zero-tolerance policing.

Zero tolerance seems to work in other cities, but not without controversy.

I would like to know that all our citizens understand and support zero tolerance as a policing policy. I would also urge appropriate training within the Police Department to minimize abuse of such much authority over so many.

Finally, I would remind all Baltimoreans that growth and rejuvenation come from many quarters and require the commitment of many players, not just the police commissioner.

Honest and thoughtful debate are prerequisites to sound policy.

Ann Walsh, Baltimore

Sister's blows against crime

After reading about the knife attack at a Baltimore County school ("Woodlawn student charged in stabbing of peer at school," Jan. 7), I re-read a letter to the editor in The Sun about the value of the school resource officer position in the Baltimore County school system.

I find it amazing that parents are willing to accept the need of police officers stationed in their schools. There is something terribly wrong in a society that makes it acceptable for police officers to patrol the hallways in a place of learning.

When I was growing up, our school resource officer was Sister Augustus, a tad under 5 feet, less than 100 pounds, with a great right jab and a left upper-cut that would put a pro to shame.

R. A. Bacigalupa, Baltimore

White people should not be prejudged

I write as a white resident of Baltimore County to reassure Leonard Pitts that strides have indeed been made in reducing racism.

Mr. Pitts, in his column "Fighting racism in P.G. County" (Jan. 5), describes many recent incidents of discrimination that his family has, sadly, endured in Prince George's County. His article was an important reminder of the indignities that continue to occur to African Americans everywhere.

He should not, however, lose faith in all of us. Some of us have been educated from childhood to believe that discrimination is wrong, and such education can work.

I grew up in a Boston suburb during the 1960s and 1970s. Despite racial troubles in the inner city, the overwhelming sentiment in Massachusetts was one of pride in having been a center of the antislavery movement. I was taught by teachers, camp counselors and religious and political leaders a consistent message: All people are equal; all cultures have value.

We were taught of abuses such as Jim Crow and apartheid and were informed that they were wrong. We were taught that the traditional white standards of culture and beauty had been wrongly imposed on other people, within our country and throughout history. I learned to appreciate that "black is beautiful."

I learned these lessons well as a child, and today they are embedded in my soul.

I despair for our country on the unfortunate occasions when I am treated distrustfully by African Americans by virtue of my race. While such treatment is understandable, it reflects a loss of faith in all whites that is unwarranted.

When an African American subjects me to such treatment, I want to tell him or her that he has wrongly prejudged me; that he does not know my background, my thoughts, my beliefs; that I view him as a person and he should treat me as one.

In recent years, an important black leader declared that all white people are racist, even those who profess not to be. This contention was publicized by the media and seriously debated in such respected national forums as the Sunday news analysis programs. Such rhetoric is, of course, wrong and destructive.

We must move forward, or perhaps backward, to the unifying message of the 1960s. Let's emphasize education of small children of all races so that they understand the importance of equality and tolerance. I speak from experience when I say that such education works.

Paula Himeles, Baltimore

Gays, lesbians deserve fair treatment

I applaud Gov. Parris N. Glendening for standing by his beliefs with a plan to actively support a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation during this year's legislative session ("Taxes at top of Assembly agenda," Jan. 10). His leadership is greatly needed.

Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr. was quoted as saying, "I have no anti-gay feelings, [but] I don't think the governor or anybody else should force employers to hire gays against their will."

Simply think about that statement for a moment to realize why anti-discrimination protections are needed. Replace "gay" with "African American," "woman" or "Jewish person."

I don't believe we can have honest misunderstandings about the intent of this law. It is simple and basic -- the extension of protections to gays and lesbians that exist for other segments of society.

Let's have an honest discussion about that without misrepresenting the issue. The bill would not force an employer or landlord to do anything except treat everyone fairly.

For example, if two people are equally qualified for a job, each should be given equal consideration, regardless of whether one is gay and one is straight, one black and the other white or one is a woman and the other a man.

Whether Mr. Burns believes he has anti-gay feelings is not the point. The point is that, as a lawmaker, he is declaring that it is OK to deny employment to someone who is qualified for a job, based solely on his or her sexual orientation.

If you are capable of doing a good job, no one should give a hoot about your personal life, including your sexual orientation.

It is the responsibility of our elected officials to look beyond their initial personal feelings, educate themselves about important issues before them and protect the rights of all Maryland citizens, including those of us who are gay and lesbian.

Brian Cox, Baltimore

State is leaving an agricultural legacy

Nelson L. Hyman's letter to the editor ("Land preservation is a valuable legacy for our descendants," Jan. 5) does a great job at summing up exactly what Gov. Parris N. Glendening is trying to do with Maryland's "smart growth" initiative in general and with our Rural Legacy program in particular.

Implicit in the name chosen for Maryland's newest and most ambitious land conservation program, rural legacy is the intent to preserve for future generations the farms and woodlands and rural beauty of our state.

Mr. Hyman asks how the Baltimore County agricultural preservation program meshes with "smart growth." The answer is, "very well." From its inception, the Rural Legacy program was intended to work side-by-side with other federal, state and local land preservation efforts.

When the governor announced $6.1 million in state funds for two rural legacy areas in Baltimore County, for example, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger volunteered another $5 million from the county. Only by combining the resources of all these programs will we have any real opportunity to permanently preserve the beauty of our state and its rural heritage.

The Rural Legacy program differs from traditional land conservation efforts because it attempts to strategically target for protection large, contiguous tracts of land that have multiple resource value (such as forestry, agriculture and historical sites) and are threatened by development. This year alone, the state has moved to protect 16,000 acres of the best remaining rural lands in the state by designating the first 14 rural legacy areas. The goal is to protect at least 200,000 acres by the year 2011.

Meanwhile, the thrust of the remainder of Maryland's "smart growth" program is to channel new growth to areas where it makes sense to have it -- primarily to our existing towns and cities where infrastructure and services are already in place to support it. This not only makes good environmental sense, but it makes good fiscal sense as well. Governor Glendening shares Mr. Hyman's desire to make it possible for our children -- and their children -- to be able to drive out to the country to see unbroken stands of trees and working farms, just like as he says it was "in the good old days."

John W. Frece, Annapolis

The writer is special assistant to the governor for "smart growth."

Pub Date: 1/16/99

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