East Timor's trouble: meddling creates another crisis...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

East Timor's trouble: meddling creates another crisis . . .

Will East Timor become "Kosovo East?" ("The world's attention must focus on E. Timor" editorial, Sept. 10) The parallels are frightening.

The culprits in the East Timor tragedy are again the Western industrialized nations, this time coupled with the bureaucracy of the United Nations.

When the United Nations and the world community encourage referendums for independence, provisions must be made for negative outcomes. The desire for freedom and independence is often anathema to the power structure.

The horrors and bloodshed taking place in East Timor remind me of the refugee crisis after NATO started bombing Yugoslavia.

When will the international community stop meddling?

Rosalind Ellis, Baltimore

. . . or too little attention from the United States?

America's intervention on behalf of the Albanians of Kosovo provides a stark contrast to its inaction in East Timor, where troops from Indonesia have been slaughtering civilians by the hundreds.

It is clear that the United States will only intervene selectively against small, weak nations like Yugoslavia -- and not against large nations like Indonesia, a key trading partner for U.S. corporations.

Dean Pappas , Baltimore

Vouchers offer hope for all children

While the Catholic Church has not been involved recently in promoting publicly funded vouchers in Maryland, we feel compelled to respond to Tom Teepen's grossly inaccurate portrayal of voucher proponents in his column on the federal District Court injunction against Cleveland's voucher program ("Separated by church and state," Sept. 1).

The outcry against that injunction came not, as Mr. Teepen suggests, from proponents who cannot tolerate the "very idea of judicial review," but mainly from families of the nearly 4,000 children who suddenly had no idea where their children would attend school the next day.

Public-school administrators were equally dismayed, recognizing the impossibility of accommodating 4,000 new students on the first day of school. Judge Oliver thankfully reversed his decision, allowing all but 600 new students to continue in the program.

But, given the debacle the injunction would have been caused, it seems more appropriate to question whether those who sought it are genuinely interested in the welfare of the children affected.

Mr. Teepen claims that vouchers were dreamed up by Republicans seeking to "slip a nice little payoff" to blue-collar Catholic Democrats and "fundamentalists . . . with their growing number of Christian academies."

That claim seems difficult to justify when the most likely candidates for a voucher program -- such as most of the 44,000 children in Baltimore who recently applied for private vouchers through the Children's Scholarship Fund -- are low-income, minority city students from a variety of religious backgrounds.

It is out of concern for those students that the Catholic Church not only supports vouchers, but has long educated immigrant and African-American children.

To those more interested in serving students than maintaining the educational status quo, the Constitution is not a barrier preventing any association between government and religion, but a guide that allows government, religious and other institutions to work together in ways that serve all our children.

Mary Ellen Russell, Annapolis

The writer is associate director for education of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Tom Teepen makes a number of familiar arguments against school vouchers. He claims they would mix church and state, siphon money from public schools and be divisive.

Our government was founded on the idea that we should not have one governing church, as England did, not that religion should be kept out of government.

In effect, Mr. Teepen highlights the First Amendment's clause prohibiting the establishment of a state religion, when the issue here is the clause permitting its free exercise.

Yes, parents choosing a private school education would reduce public school budgets -- rightly so since it would reduce the number of children in public schools.

Currently, the opposite is true: Private schools educate children and public schools receive their parents' tax dollars.

Finally, what Mr. Teepen considers divisiveness is another's religious freedom. His language suggests an antipathy to religion that goes beyond education.

Herman Schmidt, Bradshaw

'Last laughs' captured essence of summer's end

As a mother of nine who always feels September comes too soon, I so enjoyed Larry Bingham's article "Last laughs" (Sept. 5).

He truly captured the essence of summer's end.

Margaret Mays, Reisterstown

Early success remains key to developing good readers

John T. Bruer's new book, "The Myth of the First Three Years," has garnered much media attention ("Drilling holes in myth about first three years," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 31).

The publicity is welcome to psychologists, including me, who share Mr. Bruer's concern that research on brain development has been misinterpreted by many politicians and educators.

The first three years are an important developmental period for learning, but so are the remaining years of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

However, I am concerned that Mr. Bruer's argument might be misinterpreted to mean that special efforts are no longer needed to make sure children are reading by 9.

Although the brain's ability to process print does not depend on early success, reading is more than a cognitive skill. It depends on motivation and engagement.

If children get off to a poor start, for whatever reason, they lose confidence in their ability to become a good reader. They choose not to read in their free time.

This lack of confidence and decreased reading motivation creates serious obstacles to reading achievement.

Linda Baker, Ellicott City

The writer is professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Rev. Napata took heat for mayoral candidates

Thank you, Gregory Kane, for addressing the very spiritual and creative side of Rev. Daki Napata ("Amid mystery of racist letter, be sure of one thing: Napata's not the culprit," Sept. 12).

Mr. Napata's contribution to my social awareness during the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s was significant. His southern Africa educational events and services were always creative and rich with cultural and spiritual diversity.

Nonviolent and impatient, Mr. Napata certainly challenged my own cautious personality.

From the Office Depot escapade, through the candidates' debate, to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's statement on Napata's firing, last week's news left me in shock.

How did Mr. Napata get into this mess?

Without a doubt, this time his free spirit got the better of him.

But, wasn't it convenient that all the publicity Mr. Napata received got the other candidates off the hot seat?

Joan A. Stanne, Baltimore

Theodore McKeldin gave the city a welcome spark

It was refreshing to read The Sun's tribute to former mayor and governor Theodore McKeldin ("Theodore R. McKeldin modernized Maryland," Aug. 31).

I was a young man living in the city when Mr. McKeldin was mayor. He added light and life to a city and a state that needed an infusion.

Edward R. Platt, Randallstown

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