Arts education makes students more successfulIn 1996,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Arts education makes students more successful

In 1996, the public outcry against proposed cutbacks to the county's middle school arts education caused their rejection by the school board.

In 1998, high school students led the drive to overturn a $10 charge for high school music classes.

Two years later, it is now the elementary school music program which is threatened.

This semi-annual rite of spring must stop.

Unfortunately, some consider string lessons, chorus and music to be luxuries -- frivolous distractions which entice students away from real learning.

Teachers want more planning time. School board members ask how the arts teach our children reading, writing and arithmetic, and, more important, improve test scores.

The local business owner questions how the arts impact our community's economy and why he should care if he doesn't have children in school.

Even parents wonder how the arts will help their children mature and develop the intellect, talent and skills they will need in today's fast-paced world.

They may not understand that music teaches the thinking and expression skills which are essential to do well on the MSPAP tests and increasing access to the arts may be the best way to raise the county's scores.

Data collected by the Educational Testing Service and the College Board shows that students studying four or more years of the arts score significantly higher on the Scholastic Achievement Test.

In fact, in 1999 the verbal SAT scores of music performance students were 51 points higher than the national average and their math scores 39 points higher.

Even more startling, students with one year of music appreciation on their transcripts scored 103 points higher than the national average.

Even preschoolers who take piano lessons and participate in sing-alongs develop better abstract reasoning and math skills than other preschoolers do.

Research conducted by Stanford University's Eliot Eisner indicates that the arts develop seven intellectual abilities, including the ability to be imaginative, make judgments in the absence of a rule, think metaphorically and devise multiple solutions to a problem.

The arts also play an important role in the quality of life a community offers its citizens.

A 1997 study indicated that nonprofit arts in Maryland generated more than 16,000 jobs and contributed $608 million to the state's economy.

The study found that every $1 spent attending Maryland's arts events generated $2.30 in spending on goods and services.

I urge Anne Arundel County to practice the "3 C's": Care, Commit, Communicate.

Identify others who care about arts education; obtain a commitment from them and make them stand up once again and be heard; and communicate your support of maintaining the current minimum level of access to arts education for every student.

Let decision-makers know that there are sound academic, economic and developmental reasons for supporting access to arts education for every student.

Pressure them to allocate school system resources, accordingly.

Susan Woda

Crofton

The Gonzalez family deserved better . . .

My family and I were horrified at the footage of the Elian Gonzalez raid on Holy Saturday morning. Child custody disputes are not normally handled by massive commando raids.

The Gonzalezes were not guilty of a criminal offense.

If Attorney General Janet Reno had sought a court order demanding that Elian be handed over, and the family had disobeyed it, that would be different.

But Ms. Reno did not seek such an order, and one reason that comes to mind is that she doubted she could get one.

Being turned down by a judge would have cast a further shadow on her nighttime raid.

The way the Immigration and Naturalization Service carried out their raid is the way they treat dangerous people and people who are endangering others.

But the Gonzalez family had shown no violence, was not harming Elian and had a court hearing scheduled in a few weeks. And talks about reuniting Elian and his father were still going on -- with the mediator actually on the phone to Ms. Reno when the raid took place.

The circumstances suggest that what happened to the Gonzalez family on Holy Saturday might happen to any American family that inadvertently bumps up against the interests of the U.S. government.

Ellen W. Fielding

Davidsonville

. . . and Elian's rights deserved a defense

Thanks for The Sun's insightful editorial proclaiming its respect for Attorney General Janet Reno for obtaining a warrant in the Elian Gonzalez case ("A strong case that INS had to do what it did," editorial, April 25).

If I should ever find myself on the wrong side of the law and the warrant for my arrest is improperly served, I'm not read my rights, not arraigned and, after arrest, I'm kept from contact with counsel, I'm glad the civil libertarians at The Sun will be there to watch the government with an eagle eye to see that the law is upheld.

Charles Loukus

Glen Burnie

GOP, Cuban-Americans have exploited Elian

The Elian Gonzalez saga again demonstrates how far the Republican party has strayed from the American populace and how the abject hatred of the Cuban-Americans overwhelms reason.

Our "family friendly" party proved its hypocrisy again, by aiding and abetting Cuban-American zealots who sought to prevent a son returning to his father.

The Republican Party, in its quest for votes and donations, showed it is a party that stands for nothing but coddling America's right-wing fringe.

Rep. Tom DeLay, Sen. Trent Lott and Texas Gov. George W. Bush embarrassed themselves and this country by denouncing what the government had to do to reunite a son with his father.

The Cuban-American community in Florida came across no better, with its leaders showing no regard for the law or for common family decency.

They used Elian as a propaganda puppet to highlight their opposition to Fidel Castro.

The child was filled with hatred for his homeland and forcibly kept from his father.

Could an over-stressed 21-year-old surrogate mother really replace the boy's father?

Would the financial riches his Miami relatives and community were going to shower him with really replace the love of his father?

Was the civil disobedience followed by violence really a good example for the boy?

To change Cuba and relegate Castro's regime to the trash heap of history, this country needs to normalize its relations with Cuba.

Thousands of tourists followed by an influx of capitalism will eventually destroy Castro's reign.

Poverty and hopelessness in Cuba are a direct result of America's obsolete Cold War strategy.

But the ideals of freedom always overwhelm the darkness of totalitarianism.

Alan McAllister

Severna Park

Don't Cubans get family values?

The Republican politicians in Miami don't want Elian Gonzalez to go home with his father.

Votes sure are expensive.

Whatever happened to "family values"?

Maybe those politicians think they only apply to us, "the good people."

Charles Johnston

Pasadena

The rights of a father shouldn't be questioned

As one who fought the Cold War for 34 years with the Department of Defense, I feel that I can patriotically proclaim my support for Juan Miguel Gonzalez' efforts to reclaim his rightful authority as a father to Elian -- an authority that his scofflaw relatives in Miami have tried to take from him.

I am amazed that some congressmen would stoop to the level of those relatives and use the boy's reunion with his father to try to win some ephemeral (and probably imaginary) political advantage.

I believe that there can be no question that Elian belongs with his father, whether or not any individual or group agrees with the father's political leanings.

I ask those who demean Juan Miguel Gonzalez as a "stooge" for Fidel Castro to stop and think.

To the question of how any independent-minded person could choose to raise a 6-year-old child in Cuba, as opposed to the United States, I think there is a one word answer: "Columbine."

If you want more words, how about the national embarrassment of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky?

The fact that Mr. Gonzalez' choices differ from those others would make, especially those with rabidly anti-Cuba sentiments, does not justify the denial of his rightful role as Elian's father.

There can be valid disagreements among intelligent people of good will. But the current hysteria over where this little boy will be raised has shown precious little of either intelligence or good will.

I say, "godspeed" to Juan Miguel and Elian Gonzalez, however they choose to lead their lives.

Larry Spice

Millersville

Elian controversy improves U.S.-Cuba ties

I would like to voice my support for Attorney General Janet Reno and the Clinton administration for finally putting the Elian matter back in the hands of the federal government rather than "Little Havana."

It seems to me if the "Little Havana" Cubans do not like the United States' laws and cannot abide by them, they should turn in their U.S. citizenship and return to Cuba.

They could even feel good about the misery they would thus cause Fidel Castro.

The good in all this controversy is that it will do a lot to help normalize Cuban-American relations.

Dallas Hinson

Annapolis

Strong-arm tactics may oppress us all

I'm sure that most of the public is sick of the Elian case and feels that it is being resolved as it should be.

But I am completely astonished that my fellow Americans don't seem to mind that our government has become sympathetic to Cuba and that the "best interest of the child" was never the standard -- only whatever Fidel Castro wanted.

Whenever the public goes along with strong-arm tactics to resolve civil matters, we are all in danger of facing a similar outcome -- if we should ever have a different opinion than that of the government.

I am sick to death of the excuses made by the public for President Clinton, who shows only contempt for the courts and laws when they do not serve his purpose.

Wake up America: Your turn may be next.

P. Ranney

Millersville

Drug treatment isn't best use of state funds

I have to question the wisdom of spending $25 million for Baltimore City drug treatment programs which, at best, fail much more often than they work ("Efficacy of city's drug rehab questioned," April 22).

And I don't see what good it does to cure one of the city's drug addicts when one or two new ones have already stepped up to take their place.

The money would be better spent on parenting programs and on intervention that would help juveniles -- long before they become drug addicts.

With limited resources, the state must spend the money where it will do the most good, and early childhood intervention is the best bet.

If there is money left over, spend it on programs to ensure that addicts do not procreate until they are clean and able to raise their children properly.

It may be 15 years before we see a payoff from this, but with 12 percent of the city's adults reportedly addicted to drugs, there's no other way to turn the city around.

Michael DeCicco

Severn

Outrageous prices block joys of the game

The recent letter about the joys of baseball ("The game remains a joy," April 15), with its suggestion that we "forget the economics of the game," was naive to the point of being laughable.

There are many people who love the game just as much as or more than the author, and would kill to attend an Orioles game, but simply cannot afford it. Granted, nobody expects ticket prices to rise less than the rate of inflation.

But it can now cost more than $100 for a family of four to attend one game, not including concessions.

That's absolutely ludicrous and many fans who used to be able to afford baseball tickets now would have to take out a loan to attend one contest.

Food and electricity are a little more important than a baseball game.

Mike Green

Severna Park

Ripken's just doing what he's always done

I really don't know why there's all this coverage and fuss over that most wonderful of baseball players, Cal Ripken ("Relieved Ripken stays sitting on 3,000," April 17)

Mr. Ripken is a very talented, gifted, ballplayer and he is doing exactly what he can do.

Keep up the good work, Cal -- and God bless.

Marge Griffith

Pasadena

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