Progress shows reforms working in city schools

Michael Olesker made some interesting points in his column "Dropout rate in city needs our attention as well" (Jan. 28). What he failed to do, however, was draw the attention of his readers to the lesson to be learned from Baltimore City Council member Catherine Pugh's experiences.

Blessed with a mother who taught reading and writing to her and her siblings, Ms. Pugh enjoyed parents who exemplified high expectations and discipline, and demonstrated the value of education early on. In a perfect world all children would be so blessed.

In Baltimore we have a number of high-achieving schools where students match or outperform their peers in surrounding jurisdictions and where school communities are deeply committed to school and student success. But some of our students need much more assistance and support, academic and otherwise.

Because they are our children, the responsibility of educating them belongs to all of us in Baltimore and beyond - including parents, neighbors, school staff, elected officials, community members, faith-based organizations and business leaders.

And since 1997, when the city-state partnership ushered in a new board of school commissioners and increased funding, the school system has invested more than $50 million in new textbooks and other instructional materials. Additionally, 26,634 computers are available to our students on a daily basis - a ratio of 3.5 computers per student as compared with a 6.8-1 ratio a year ago.

Improved student performance and real reform takes time and money. In the past six years, our test scores have risen and our students have made progress, especially the 618 additional high-schoolers who graduated from Baltimore schools in June 2002 than graduated the year before.

We believe they stayed in school because our many reform initiatives of the past six years are working.

Carmen V. Russo


The writer is CEO of the Baltimore public school system.

Christian language can exclude others

The Islamic community is right to be concerned about President Bush's increasingly overt Christian language ("Bush turns increasingly to language of religion," Feb. 10).

As a non-Christian, I am also increasingly concerned about it. And to learn that attendance at Bible study is expected of White House staffers is extremely disturbing.

While our leaders may accurately cite the belief of our nation's founders that "all men are ... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," it is perhaps more important and more useful to recall why many of those men crossed the ocean to begin with - in fact, many of them came here to escape religious persecution at the hands of the majority culture in their homelands.

"Our prayer tonight is that God will see us through and keep us worthy," Mr. Bush said. If we substitute Allah for God, does he not begin to sound like those on the other side?

Sue Feder


Bush policies betray Christian precepts

It sounds odd to me that President Bush professes to be so religious and a follower of Jesus ("Bush turns increasingly to language of religion," Feb. 10).

I'm no expert on Christianity, but from all I understand, Jesus was a man of peace and a great friend of the poor.

In contrast, Mr. Bush seems to aspire to plunge the nation into war, and his policies show him to be a great friend of the rich.

Elke Straub


The article about President Bush's piety and the White House Bible study group was worth a good chuckle ("Bush turns increasingly to language of religion," Feb. 10).

Who do you suppose gets to read the part about a rich man having as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel has of getting through the eye of a needle, or of Jesus chasing the money-changers from the temple?

My impression is that this administration reflects more of the moral ambiguity and materialism of the Pharisees than the spiritual dedication of the disciples.

John B. Merryman Jr.


Happy we have leader with faith

I think it is quite ironic that those who claim to be proponents of "tolerance" in fact have no tolerance for President Bush's expression of faith ("Bush turns increasingly to language of religion," Feb. 10).

Personally, I am glad that the leader of our country, especially in these times, is a man of strong convictions who believes in a higher power.

Doug Elmendorf

White Marsh

Let the inspectors finish their work

In his speech at the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell again asserted that Saddam Hussein has ties to al-Qaida ("'Irrefutable' Iraq evidence," Feb. 6). Yet even intelligence operatives in the FBI and CIA have argued that such ties do not exist.

It appears that the president and Mr. Powell are using American's sorrow and fear over the Sept. 11 attacks to sell a war on Iraq - even though the two don't have anything to do with each other.

We know Mr. Hussein is bad. But he was just as bad in the mid-1990s, when an aggressive series of weapon inspections resulted in the destruction of an enormous portion of his weapons capability.

History shows inspections can disarm Iraq. Let's push for a tough inspection regime and win this round without war.

Pauline McKibbin


French leadership shrinks from reality

The Thomas Friedman column "France out, India In" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 11) was excellent. But Mr. Friedman left out one important observation: Americans gave their lives to save millions of Frenchmen during two wars in the 20th century.

French politicians can brag about their wines and perfumes, but should hang their heads in shame for their cowardice in facing the realities of the world condition.

Richard L. Lelonek


TV merely reflects our odd priorities

In response to Raymond Daniel Burke's commentary on Patricia Heaton's justified walk-out on the American Music Awards, I would say that the breakdown in civility Mr. Burke fears has happened already ("Losing our cool," Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 7).

Our nation has made a number of choices about what it values, and these values do not include the environment (goodbye Kyoto protocol), nuclear arms control (goodbye, ABM Treaty), peace (goodbye Iraq, and maybe North Korea), or sanity (going to war based on potential future threats sounds like paranoia to me).

To suggest our popular media is somehow corrupting our values seems to miss the point: Television is a reflection of ourselves. We are not forced to imitate what we see on TV. Rather, TV shows get on the air because people are willing to watch them.

Tim Faith


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