Schools need to reach out to all parents

Having teachers "grade" parents is a genuinely bad idea ("This idea gets an F," editorial, Feb. 17). But unfortunately, The Sun's editorial supports a false dichotomy between "good" and "bad" parents. Parents who do what the school tells them to and feel guilty if they don't are defined as good; everyone else is bad.

Such an analysis completely ignores the reality faced by many parents: that they don't know how to help, can't help because of inflexible jobs or their own low level of literacy or are too intimidated by a system that judges them negatively to even ask for assistance in how to help.

It is far more productive for schools to operate from the assumption that all parents care about their kids (and occasionally be mistaken) than to define all families who don't respond in expected ways as uncaring (and be mistaken much of the time).

When schools find ways to develop positive relationships with families, support teachers emotionally and financially in their efforts to develop such relationships and ask parents what they need to support their goals for their children's education (rather than grading them on lists of expectations), remarkably, many more "good" parents turn up.

Kathleen Minke

Bel Air

The writer is a professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.

Teachers must know the whole student

It seems the Lebanon, Pa., schools have directed teachers to grade parents with "yes-no" questionnaires. But The Sun seems to think that the poor teachers are overburdened, and have enough to do concentrating on the kids ("This idea gets an F," editorial, Feb. 17).

As an educator, a parent and a grandparent, I do not think teachers have enough to do, unless they pay attention to the total student - and this includes not just the student present in class but the milieu at home in which the student resides.

Teachers don't have enough to do until they teach to the whole student.

The Sun gets an "F" from me for its narrow editorial position.

Lawrence J. Simpson


Fix death penalty by using it more

Contrary to the assertion in The Sun's editorial "Extend the moratorium" (Feb. 10), the Maryland death penalty system is not "broken" at all.

What has happened is that some jurisdictions, such as Baltimore City, have chosen not to enforce that law or to enforce it only rarely. Other jurisdictions, such as Baltimore County, use an objective standard: If the law, with its rigorous requirements, applies, they enforce it, without regard to the race or gender of the victim or perpetrator.

This does not mean the system is broken. It means murderers in Baltimore are getting a break; they are simply not exposed to the possibility of capital punishment.

This failure to enforce the law goes a long way in explaining the so-called "disparities" in the enforcement of capital punishment, but certainly does not mean other subdivisions should also choose not to enforce the law.

If the death penalty were enforced fairly and objectively statewide, based on the law as it's written, the result would be far more murderers on death row, not fewer.

Tom Caskey


Prevention pays off in sex education, too

I commend Del. Dan K. Morhaim for his call for our state to "aggressively invest in prevention" as a way to cut health care costs ("Prevention pays off," Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 18).

But one area he did not mention involves preventing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases by providing sexuality education in public schools. Think of the savings if public funds were not needed to provide welfare benefits to teen-age mothers and their babies or to treat those with HIV-AIDS.

I hope our new governor will launch a public health initiative that will focus on the promotion of health and the prevention of illness.

Susan W. Talbott


Diagnosis didn't find intended audience

Dan Morhaim's column "Prevention pays off" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 18) thoughtfully articulates what is driving health care spending, and the issues that need our collective attention if we are to improve health and health care.

Too bad it was published on a day many Marylanders never got their Sun.

Dr. Alfred Sommer


The writer is dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

Snowplow debacle sends wrong signal

The Sun reported that, as of Feb. 18, almost half of the city's snow removal equipment had failed, while Baltimore County had lost only two units to the weather. In the city's defense, Mayor Martin O'Malley tried to justify the problem by saying, "This is a lot more snow than we're used to" ("Cleanup slowed by snowplow failures," Feb. 19).

The mayor needs to stop being such a nice guy. The city's snow removal debacle is not an act of God but something that reflects poorly on those responsible for maintenance of its equipment. And this reaction sure makes you wonder about Mr. O'Malley's own sense of urgency.

The city should not stand for substandard performance from its employees, especially during such difficult times.

William Herrfeldt


Mayor sought out elderly residents

I wanted to publicly thank Mayor Martin O'Malley and his staff for the consideration they put forth during our record-breaking snowstorm.

My father, an elderly resident of Baltimore, received a phone call from a member of Mr. O'Malley's staff asking if he needed any assistance.

It is nice to know that Baltimore has a mayor who will take the time to check on residents and who cares about their well-being.

Linda Stelmack


The warming trend has taken a powder

What happened to global warming?

Paul Sachs


What if we win war but lose the world?

As President Bush prepares for war with Iraq, we must be cognizant of the fact that the majority of nations in close proximity to Iraq oppose our drive toward war and do not feel threatened by the Iraqi leader.

And major European leaders have striven to convince Mr. Bush that, absent a "smoking gun," diplomacy must be given an opportunity to succeed.

Also, hundreds of millions of people around the world are unconvinced Saddam Hussein is more of a threat than many other world leaders.

What will we have achieved if we win the war and lose the world?

Leon Peace Ried


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