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All-day kindergarten: a boon for kids' early...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

All-day kindergarten: a boon for kids' early education ...

Kudos to The Sun for recognizing the importance of early childhood education, ("All-day kindergarten equals all day learning," editorial, Sept 5). We also applaud state efforts to improve the quality of education in the early years.

Since most children have already reached the crucial age of 5 by the time they enter kindergarten, we also need to improve the quality of care and education for children from birth through age 5.

In addition to the state initiatives in this area, the private sector is also working to improve early care and education.

For example, Villa Julie College has recently begun offering a new bachelor's degree in early childhood leadership designed to improve the preparation of child care providers and administrators, who frequently lack degrees or any substantive collegiate background in education.

Until substantial improvements are made in the quality of child care and early education experiences, efforts to improve K-12 education will have limited effect. Only when we recognize the importance of the first five years can we hope to achieve our goals for all children.

Barbara Payne Shelton

Stevenson

The writer chairs early childhood leadership at Villa Julie College

.... or a reform that costs them their childhood?

As a parent of a child entering kindergarten in the 2001-2002 school year, I am deeply concerned with the school board's proposal to require all day kindergarten throughout the state ("State acts on plan for 5-year-olds," Aug. 31).

Although I understand the academic reasoning behind a full-day kindergarten program, I disagree with sending my 5-year-old to a full six-hour school day, on the premise she has to perform to raise the state reading levels.

What is missing in Maryland's school curriculum that schools can't accomplish their goals in 12 years? And where will the new teachers full-day kindergarten will require be found - isn't there a teacher shortage? What about the schools' limited classroom space?

Why not expand preschool programs throughout the state so our children will be taught uniformly at the earliest level the basics of reading comprehension?

There seem to be more questions than answers regarding all-day kindergarten, and I find it hard to believe only one member of the school board, John Wisthoff, voted against this $20 million proposal.

Jill Malcolm

Forest Hill

Along with mandatory kindergarten, why don't we also offer breakfast and dinner for the 5-year-olds. Not being used to free play, these kids could then watch TV after the long school day until bedtime, thereby freeing their affluent parents to pursue the American dream.

Years later, when these neglected, early readers falter in the upper grades, we can sink more money into the school systems for counselors and aides.

Ask any teacher how much valuable classroom time must already be spent on nurturing and disciplining troubled kids - those who were not taught at home.

Ingrid Schoeler

Baltimore

County community colleges never needed 'resurrection'

In his column on political jockeying in Baltimore County, Barry Rascovar praised former State Sen. Francis X. Kelly for "resurrecting the Community Colleges of Baltimore" ("Bromwell moves musical chairs," Opinion

Commentary, Sept. 3).

While we are all grateful to Mr. Kelly for his work with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), let me point out that resurrection was unnecessary, since we were never dead, just temporarily disabled by the politics and power struggles within the county.

The recovery, indeed the improvement, of the college is the result of the thoughtful planning and hard work of CCBC's administrators, faculty and students.

John Low

Baltimore

The writer is a professor of English at CCBC-Dundalk.

The drug war threatens Latin American democracy

The Clinton administration used a human rights provision as a ploy to get its $1.3 billion aid package to Colombia through Congress.

On Aug. 23, it conveniently waived those provisions, despite overwhelming opposition from the international human rights community and the Colombian peace movement ("Clinton skips conditions, aids Colombia," Aug. 24).

In this post-Cold War era, there is no greater threat to democracy in the Western Hemisphere than the drug war.

William P. Jenkins

Bel Air

Depleted uranium continues to hurt veterans and civilians

Thanks for publishing the report on former Col. Asaf Durakovic, who did extensive research into gulf war syndrome and found significant levels of depleted uranium in tissues of veterans he tested ("Former Army doctor says gulf war illness linked to tank shells," Sept. 4).

It is not surprising that Colonel Durakovic came "under 'political pressure' from U.S. authorities to halt his research."

Philip Berrigan, Susan Crane, the Rev. Steve Kelly and Elizabeth Walz were rebuffed as well when they tried to highlight the dangers of depleted uranium (DU). At the Warfield Air National Guard Base, the Plowshares disarmed two A-10 Warthog aircraft, which fire DU ammunition, to alert the public to the dangers of this highly toxic and radioactive weapon.

However, at their trial, Baltimore County Circuit Judge James Smith Jr. would not allow the defendants to introduce evidence about the use and danger of depleted uranium.

A jury, which only heard the prosecution's case, convicted them, and they remain in prison under Judge Smith's excessive sentence ("Activists sent to prison for warplane damages," March 24).

More than 10 years after the Persian Gulf war, exposed veterans and civilians continue to suffer and die from uranium contamination. I urge The Sun to keep following the Pentagon's depleted uranium cover-up.

Max Obuszewski

Baltimore

What about Gore's ties to Occidental Petroleum?

I am so happy to see that The Sun's liberal double standards remain intact.

The paper has run article after article, editorials and corny political cartoons deriding Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney about their ties to big oil (where they earned their living while Al Gore was watering at the public trough).

But it has been predictably silent about the curious fact that much of the Gore family fortune comes from Occidental Petroleum.

I also find it amusing that The Sun and other liberal organs are critical of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney for their ties to American free enterprise firms, as though there is something inherently evil about earning one's living in the business world, but seem to think it is fine to spend one's lifetime on the public payroll, where we taxpayers pick up the tab.

Gary D. Ballard

Bel Air

I am 83 years old and a bit confused about what Al Gore is saying. On the one hand, Mr. Gore says he is going after the big oil companies for the little people. Yet he has more than half a million dollars invested in a big oil company.

Is Mr. Gore going after himself?

Vernon L. Ruby Sr.

Baltimore

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