It's the governor who has politicized judicial appointments
Contested elections of Circuit Court judges have not politicized the judicial selection process ("Against judicial elections," editorial, Oct. 30). Gov. Parris N. Glendening has.
His appointments routinely have been inspired more by partisan considerations than by qualifications. It is the governor who has "debase(d) the integrity of the judicial system."
The governor recently selected Damian L. Halstad in Carroll County because, as The Sun noted, he is a "Democrat and active campaigner for Governor Glendening" -- hardly relevant qualifications for the bench.
The county bar was outraged. Aware he would be defeated at the polls by one of the better qualified candidates the governor had passed over, Mr. Halstad declined the appointment.
Contrary to The Sun's view, the electoral defeat of one of Mr. Glendening's Howard County Circuit Court appointees in 1996 by a District Court judge was entirely appropriate.
The governor had appointed a politically connected lawyer, who had modest credentials and neither practiced law nor maintained an office in Howard County. The victorious judge was a respected and experienced jurist in that county.
District Court Judge Robert N. Dugan, who is currently challenging two appointees to the Baltimore County Circuit Court, was denied appointment by the governor for partisan reasons -- even though the members of the county bar association voted him the most highly qualified of all the applicants for those positions.
The editorial's most bizarre contention was that the judicial nominating commissions are impartial and have "helped eliminate blatant political patronage appointments to the bench."
Mr. Glendening appoints all the non-lawyer members of the commissions, as well as a majority of the lawyer members. He can thus appoint whomever he pleases.
Contested elections of circuit court judges provide a vital safeguard against improvident appointments. Eliminating them would result in even more egregious gubernatorial mischief.
Barry C. Steel
Protect the children from explicit materials
I was surprised by Howard Libit's article on the state school board's hearing to add "sexual orientation" to the state regulations on discrimination in schools, "Provision for gay students debated," Oct. 27).
His depiction of my waving sexually explicit, homosexual material at board members was misleading.
I warned the board before showing them the pornographic material, which gave four members the opportunity to leave the room. Unfortunately, that opportunity was not given to the teenagers who attended a teacher's conference.
One magazine given to students showed all the homosexual sex bars around town, including S&M; bars, bathhouses and clubs for anonymous public sex.
Some board members could not stomach the material, but apparently it's OK to expose our children to it.
Young gays' suicides at epidemic levels
The Sun's article "Stemming the high rate of suicide among blacks" (Opinion Commentary, Nov. 2) lauds Dr. David Satcher, the U.S. surgeon general, for his "comprehensive program to reduce suicide nationwide, with particular attention to the "alarming rise of suicide among black youths."
The authors think Dr. Satcher's plan has "the potential to benefit the mental health of Americans across all cultural groups."
Among the groups most in need of help are young gay Americans.
While an occasional "gay bash killing," such as that of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming ("Gay panic defense barred in Wyo. trial," Nov. 2) focuses attention on the virulence of homophobia, homophobia turned inward to "self-murder" is usually ignored.
Just how many such suicides there are each year is impossible to determine, but the best estimates suggest the problem is huge, and is growing at an alarming rate.
With a U.S. Senate majority leader who has declared that homosexuality is a sin, a military that rejects homosexuals as unfit, churches that refuse ordination to homosexuals and sometimes ban ministering to gays, it's not hard to see what feeds this epidemic.
Franklin T. Evans
Teaching parenting skills would strengthen families
I want to echo Myriam Miedzian's position on teaching child rearing skills: Parenting is a teachable skill - and teaching it is just as important as teaching reading ("Schools should teach child-rearing skills," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 1).
As a parenting educator for more than 26 years, I am proud to say that Baltimore County's excellent high school program goes beyond simply trying to prevent pregnancy to seek more broadly to improve parenting skills.
Unfortunately, some people still believe that parenting is an innate skill. But we must accept that large, extended families, which once provided parenting models, are largely gone - and that a clearly thought-out educational program is needed to replace that model.
When we do, we will take a major step buttressing the basic unit of our society, the family.
The writer is a family studies teacher at Loch Raven High School.
Critical thinking, knowledge must go hand-in-hand
I agree with Phil Greenfield that tough standards are necessary for academic achievement. ("School reform kills skills," Oct. 24). Maryland students deserve the best possible education, and the current system is not giving it to them.
Expectations must be raised, even at the expense of students' self-esteem.
School reform may have shifted priorities away from knowledge-based curricula, but the concept of reform is not the culprit.
School reform should not suggest that critical thinking can replace specific knowledge; the two work together. State testing needs to recognize the importance of factual and evaluative skills together -- not one or the other.
School reform needs to be backed by consistent testing strategies and realistic standards. A balanced approach that incorporates reforms, without sacrificing traditional content, can benefit students.
Taxing estates creates more level playing field
Several recent letters have advocated removal of the inheritance tax ("Inheritance tax relief should be no-brainer," Nov. 1).
The right of property is a strong one, but it's not the only thing to consider. Equal opportunity is also a powerful concern, and clearly those with wealth have a better opportunity than those without.
The inheritance tax levels a bit a very bumpy playing field.
The inheritance tax also encourages the wealthy to give to worthy causes, rather than have the government tax their estates.
An economic reason for the tax is that, by and large, the descendents of the rich don't handle money as well as their ancestors.
Let's put the wealth back into the general pool, where the economically successful can compete for and use it. This would, at the same time, cut down on conspicuous consumption.
If we believe in competition, equal opportunity and philanthropy, we should tax the inheritance of the well-to-do.