Don't diminish the role of arts in our schools

It was extremely gratifying to see The Sun's front-page article concerning Hamilton Middle School Principal Stephen Gibson's improvement of the school environment and of students' interest in learning ("Principal transfers, school transformed," March 11).

And the fact that Mr. Gibson's priorities included restoration of band, chorus and art courses and improvement of the school's aesthetic environment shows his understanding of the importance of the arts to improved student learning.

Today's education environment is being highly influenced by the No Child Left Behind Act's emphasis on testing of reading and math at the expense of the arts. Thus although the arts are crucial to a middle school student's education experience - inspiring greater student interest in learning, aiding in improved parental involvement, and providing an important emotional outlet - the place of the arts at the middle school level is being reduced at a rapid rate.

I hope other Maryland middle school principals will be inspired by Mr. Gibson's courageous leadership and make time to include the arts.

Nancy Smith


The writer is executive director of the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance.

Larsen stood up for the consumers

The job of the Maryland Insurance Administration is to regulate Maryland insurance providers to protect consumers. And this is what Commissioner Steven B. Larsen was doing when he denied CareFirst's application to change itself to a for-profit company and offer golden parachutes to its own hierarchy ("CareFirst asks to make up, but Md. wary," March 16).

It's heartening to know someone was looking out for consumers after CareFirst's board apparently forgot that its first obligation is to its clients.

Mr. Larsen's actions were thoughtful and brave. The people of Maryland should be grateful to have an honest, intelligent person looking out for their interests.

Helen Delich Bentley


Bring troops home without a war

Clarence Page warns us that President Bush's goal of bringing democracy to the Persian Gulf is "about as achievable as the old goal of 'winning the hearts and minds' of the Vietnamese people" ("Can Bush hear voice of reason over squawks of hawks?" Opinion

Commentary, March 14).

I would add that killing thousands of Iraqi civilians in order to bring them "democracy" (colonial rule is likely more accurate) is more than a little like destroying a village in order to save it.

One can't help wondering if, once the shooting starts, protesters against this pre-emptive carnage will be accused of giving "aid and comfort to the enemy," that old canard from the Vietnam War days, by the government and its allies in the corporate media.

For the sake of military and civilian lives, President Bush should state that the situation has been re-evaluated and that money and lives can be saved by continuing to contain Saddam Hussein and bringing American troops home to defend their country, if and when that is necessary.

In this way, President Bush could save face, and at the same time show true courage and wisdom.

Lee Lears


Disparaging Bush is anti-American

Is it anti-American to be anti-war? No, of course not. That is ridiculous. Individual freedom of thought, and the ability to express it, is the bedrock of our society ("Is it Anti-American to be Anti-War?" March 9).

It is, however, anti-American to hold our president to a higher standard than other leaders around the world and to hold up disparaging and mean-spirited signs about his perceived shortcomings.

It is also anti-American to have no concept of our role in protecting the tortured innocents and the families of the slain in Iraq and other places.

And it is anti-American to adhere to an isolationist foreign policy that pretends that weapons of mass destruction, in the arms of a madman, are not a threat to us until after the children of Israel, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Jordan are sprayed with poison gas.

Michael DeCicco


Giving out antidote won't stop addiction

The Sun's article "City program to let addicts give overdose medication" (March 3) misrepresented my opinion of the proposed initiative.

As I stated in my conversation with reporter Joe Nawrozki, this program seems to miss the point. Prevention of death from heroin overdose is a worthy goal, but using Narcan in this way does not reduce the numbers of addicts on our streets.

The ultimate measure of success of any substance abuse treatment program is the number of addicts who are able to live drug-free lives. To accomplish this, drug addicts must be enrolled into long-term treatment programs.

Substance abuse impacts all of our lives. Most criminal activity is associated with substance abuse. Our neighborhoods are not safe because of substance abuse.

And one of the advantages of having an addict appear in an emergency room because of an overdose is that once his or her medical needs are addressed, we have an opportunity to link that person to a local treatment program.

But providing Narcan to addict-rescuers will not reduce the social impact of substance abuse in our communities.

Dr. Michelle A. Leverett


The writer is director of the Baltimore County Department of Health.

Let addicts buy their own medicine

In a city that doesn't have enough money to provide schoolbooks to all of its children, why are we allocating money to purchase Narcan, a drug that can revive drug addicts near death from a narcotics overdose ("City program to let addicts give overdose medication," March 3)?

If addicts have enough money to buy drugs, they can purchase their own supply.

Elaine Rosenbloom


A welcome effort to cut death rate

Kudos to Baltimore's Health Department for implementing a controversial, yet tested, program to decrease the local fatality rate ("City program to let addicts give overdose medication," March 3).

Approximately 80 percent of overdose deaths in Maryland occur in Baltimore. Untreated overdoses can be fatal within one to three hours after symptoms are expressed.

Yet many drug users are hesitant to summon paramedics when one of their drug-sharing partners overdoses, because they fear arrest for drug possession, paraphernalia charges or outstanding warrants.

The delay in notifying paramedics greatly diminishes the chances of survival.

The Narcan program does not mean the city has "given up," as Michael W. Gimbel suggests. Giving up would mean just letting another several hundred people die of overdoses this year.

Kathryn R. Watson


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