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Old age isn't good grounds to allow...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Old age isn't good grounds to allow suicide

I take issue with Assistant State's Attorney Michael O. Bergeson's statement that "helping a healthy 15-year-old ... commit suicide is far more serious" than helping a terminally ill patient kill himself ("Boy, 16, rejects guilt in suicide," Aug. 31).

This kind of idea seems to be prevalent today. But how can we place more value on one person's life than another?

Where have we gotten the idea that just because people are terminally ill, they should be allowed to kill themselves?

Why do we think a 15-year-old girl's life is more valuable than a person whose life will be over soon? Just because she's young?

The general public has grown too comfortable with allowing people with law degrees (or medical degrees) tell us what is right or wrong.

Killing an innocent person is always wrong, whether that person does the deed himself, or it is done by others -- with or without the victim's consent.

We must see that people have value no matter what their age or health.

If we don't, pretty soon our government will be deciding which people live and which will die. Indeed this has already begun here in the United States, with the legalization of abortion and assisted suicide.

I hear people say that assisted suicide is the compassionate thing to do for the terminally ill and others.

No: Euthanasia is what we do to animals.

May I suggest that a much preferable way to deal with the terminally ill is to control pain and suffering through various means and allow the dying person the opportunity to pass on more of his or her ideas, and life experiences in his or her last days to friends, family and others.

My own experience as a nurse, and with the deaths of my grandparents, shows me that the only way to handle death is for the living to share the experience with the dying person, as it is a natural part of our life experience.

We must be careful not to uphold youth while despising old age. Both have special value.

Joni Hartman

Ellicott City

A voucher system would better all schools

The headline "Judge says state funds can go to religious school" (Aug. 24) must have dismayed opponents of school vouchers.

The case did not involve school vouchers. But it did affect a related issue, direct public subsidies for religious colleges.

The big fear of school voucher opponents is for public money to go to religious education.

But even if this happens, their fear is wasted worry.

The power of American culture, its history, its diversity, its competition, its freedom and its openness would defeat any tendency to religious domination or extremism under a voucher system.

The diversity of religious groups and the competition among them -- and with non-religious schools -- would keep religious zeal in check.

Few religious schools would succeed without an effective academic program.

Under the voucher system, academic programs, religious and non-religious, would vie with each other for good results and a reputation for competent graduates. The rising tide would lift all ships.

Today, with no voucher system, the large number of ineffective and monopolisitic public schools depresses and paralyzes the entire education endeavor.

A voucher system would unleash a vast entrepreneurial capacity and facilitate the founding of a large number of new private schools, to replace failed public schools.

The religious and non-religious school landscape under the voucher system would be little different from the current situation.

But what would be different as we tap our real human potential is an astounding and widespread increase in the competence and confidence of our people and a concomitant betterment in civility, morality, individual responsibility and tranquility.

Sam Calaby

Woodstock

More money alone won't improve schools

The big guns are taking aim. The latest guru on Maryland education, Kalman Hettleman, boasts three titles. Unfortunately, he is better at blaming others than fixing the problem ("Schools panel a failure," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 25).

He throws a few numbers around and comes up with zilch. He claims that Maryland "ranked about 40th among the states with regard to funding adequacy."

Mr. Hettleman states that "adequacy" is defined as "the resources that enable all students to meet the state's high academic standards." One generality used to define another -- how helpful.

He also notes that "standards have soared, but student achievement has lagged."

Of course, according to Mr. Hettleman, the answer is money. Why is it always someone else's fault instead of those who are supposed to be learning?

Are parents or students ever the culprit?

On the flip side of the page, The Sun castigated the Baltimore Teachers Union for fighting change, as if that was the stumbling block ("Nattering nabobs stifle school reforms," editorial, Aug. 25).

God knows teachers are not angels, but at least they have been through the wars. They shouldn't be the heavies. Frequently, their hands have been tied while "educators" have spewed forth endless "remedies."

We've heard the money tale repeated for decades. But unless we look at all phases of learning, we'll never solve the problem.

And we can't win as long as we call for "large-scale additional funding" year after year and ignore responsibility.

R.D. Bush

Columbia

Shame on delegates who booed boy scouts

I was very disappointed to read that some delegates to the Democratic National Convention booed the Boy Scouts' honor guard.

On a night when the speakers were talking about working to improve the lives of children, we had delegates booing children.

If, as these delegates say, they were directing their ire at the Boy Scouts of America's position on gay scoutmasters, they should direct those concerns to the organization -- and not toward those children on one of the biggest days of their young lives.

Shame on those who were responsible for this cruel conduct. And shame on those officials who are now trying to justify it.

Loretta Shields

Dayton

A not-so-subtle tilt in favor of Al Gore?

At one time, I was continually amazed with The Sun's news and editorial presentation. Now I am just continually disappointed.

I have long held that the print media was the last bastion of news objectivity -- having not sunk to the sensationalism and apparent left-wing bias of television news.

However, with the presidential elections quickly approaching, I have noticed a not-too-subtle leaning toward candidate Al Gore at the expense of candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Mr. Gore is lauded, or at least presented in a much more favorable light, while any real or alleged misstep by Mr. Bush is front-page news or the object of editorial cartoon scorn.

Mr. Gore's less than commendable record is, more often than not, buried in the inside pages.

What about his involvement with the questionable fund-raising efforts at the White House?

He gets away with stating that he did not know fund-raising discussions were taking place. Come on now: If that's true, he must be a tad obtuse. Yet, he wants us to elect him to lead the most powerful nation in the world.

The Sun would never let Mr. Bush get away with that.

Jim Day

Ellicott City

Clinton holds control of coming budget battle

The perennial federal budget battle is about to become a campaign battle -- with the Democratic Party holding the Republican Party hostage by threatening to shut down the government if the GOP doesn't knuckle under to its demands.

While the Republicans believe their fiscal policies are most responsible for a large part of the current budget surplus and the newly balanced budget, they will surrender to President Clinton out of fear of the consequences of being blamed for a government shutdown.

Mr. Clinton's a smart guy. He can't lose with this one.

Republicans will back down, and we'll be spending more money than we should again. Go figure. We all lose.

Al Couvillion

Columbia

Quality tea isn't an esoteric art

The Sun's recent article on iced tea contained information about tea that is misleading, erroneous and perpetuates the problems which have resulted in the United States remaining mainly a coffee-drinking nation ("Steeped in tradition, then iced," Aug. 16) .

Tea does not "cloud" because of tannin alone; there are a number of constituents of the tea leaf, referred to in the tea trade as "solids," and it is these in combination which result in "clouding."

In fact, professional tea tasters refer to this phenomenon as "creaming down" and it is considered a positive when assessing the quality of a hot tea.

To cater to the U.S. market, the most commonly used teas are cheap, poor-quality black teas, mostly from China, Argentina and Brazil as these have the fewest "solids."

Apart from black tea and green tea, there is, however, a third type, oolong teas, which are semi-fermented during manufacture. These teas rarely "cloud" and any oolong tea, even those of better quality, is ideal for iced tea.

The main sources of such teas are Taiwan and China but a few tea estates in India and Sri Lanka are now also making oolong teas.

Good tea is not an esoteric art and creating a false mystique results in fewer consumers. The true art is in tasting and selecting the best-quality teas and getting them to the market at reasonable prices.

Unfortunately, because of the relative unimportance of the U.S. tea market until very recent times, there is a dearth of true tea expertise in this country.

Dev Menon

Ellicott City

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