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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

It's the parents who forge basis for kids to learn

Another school year is beginning and a new round of "what the teacher should do" echoes across the state. To quote one former educator and Randallstown activist, teaching strategies must be changed once again so as "to retrain our teachers on the idea of connectivity - how to get African-American children to understand key concepts" ("Exams reveal racial divide, math troubles," Aug. 24).

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I think that she should explain exactly what "connectivity" is and why after more than 10 years of MSPAP training teachers have not been exposed to this panacea.

It seems highly insulting to suggest that African-American children learn differently from children of other racial and ethnic groups. And while there is always room for teachers to improve, it is not helpful to place the blame for poor student performance entirely on teachers.

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Society today must shoulder a large share of the responsibility. Parents must be made to understand that they are their children's first and most important teachers, for they must inculcate in their children a respect for the learning process and for the conduct appropriate for teaching and learning to occur.

When teachers must spend an inordinate amount of time on discipline and focusing students' attention, effective teaching cannot take place.

Learning is work and, like it or not, students must understand this and have parental support in coping with it. This means having parents check the completion of homework, respect the teacher's perspective on issues and cooperate in matters of discipline.

Until an environment conducive to learning is established by parents at home and transferred to the classroom, no amount of teacher training, changes in instruction or increased spending will improve students' learning.

Connie Verita

Baldwin

Teach parents how to prepare children

We are forever trying to rationalize why so many of our children fail high school exit exams and are relatively illiterate when they leave high school to enter the real world ("Half of students fail unofficial exit exams at Md. high schools," Aug. 27).

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The answer is relatively simple: Education does not begin in first grade but rather at birth, and it is the parents who are a child's first teachers and role models.

The motivation to learn begins with exposing the child to books, learning toys, museums, culture, art, etc.

Teachers build on the child's motivation to learn. But the first five years of a child's life are the foundation for the rest of it, and it is both parents' responsibility to get their child to school motivated to learn.

Parents cannot delegate that role without society suffering the consequences. Everything must be taught - even parenting skills - and the sooner the better.

Fred Tepper

Baltimore

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Slots are wrong way to support schools

Now is the time for a referendum on slots. I do not believe, as The Sun reported, that a majority of Marylanders support slots to pay for education ("Poll shows slots gaining favor with Marylanders," Aug. 26). Education is part of our state budget, and thus should be paid for from our tax base.

While I am not opposed to slots in Maryland, I am opposed to relying on slots revenue to pay for education or other basic government duties.

Dwain Wolf

Baltimore

State fairgrounds are no place for slots

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Just when you thought the wackiest political story of the year was in California, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and his allies at the Timonium fairgrounds have come up with a plan to place thousands of slot machines in the middle of one of the most congested and overdeveloped areas in the state ("Fairgoers weigh in on slots," Aug. 24).

Their plan, developed without any community input, would increase traffic and crime in the surrounding communities and destroy the family atmosphere of the State Fair and other activities held at the facility.

Serious traffic congestion surrounds the fairgrounds, even when there is no activity at the facility.

The gambling interests can manipulate studies to produce almost any result, but logic leads to the conclusion that every additional trip caused by thousands of slot machines would aggravate a serious congestion problem.

Shawn Blair

Timonium

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Foes of gay rights also deserve respect

To quote Shaun Borsh, "respect is the foundation of any healthy relationship" ("The need for a gay high school reveals parents' failure," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 25). However, it is apparent that she has no respect for those who do not share her views on homosexuality.

I am, in her words, a "seemingly rational, nice person [who] regard[s] homosexual acts as taboo." I believe that homosexuality is morally wrong. I do not hate homosexuals and would not ridicule or harass them. I expect my children to follow my example. But in accordance with my religious beliefs, I do not believe that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle.

And I am tired of reading writers such as Ms. Borsh who treat my religious beliefs as primitive and in need of correction.

I support a safe learning environment for all children, and I agree that adults should intervene when "children shame others." But let's stop the shame that is heaped on any American who does not support homosexuality.

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Joni Poppitz Stimpson

Columbia

Don't use tax money to repair basilica

As a taxpayer, I object to using taxpayers' money for the restoration of Basilica of the Assumption ("Basilica finds itself at center of a constitutional quandary," Aug. 24).

As a gay man, I am adamantly opposed to public funding for any Roman Catholic facility, especially given the pope's recent letter advocating the worldwide repression of gay and lesbian rights.

While the basilica is a fine architectural structure, it provides no public social services. And it does not hold any significant historical place in the formation of our nation in the way the Old North Church in Boston does.

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It is an impressive architectural device that outwardly promotes the power of Catholicism, not democracy, and as such should not qualify for public money.

Ted Pearson

Baltimore

Bring our troops home from Iraq

After years of worthless fighting and the loss of more than 58,000 American servicemen, we saw the futility of our efforts and withdrew from Vietnam. As we lose American soldiers' lives every day, our fatal effort in Iraq is beginning to be Vietnam all over again.

It is time to pull up stakes right now, cut our losses and get out of Iraq before our body counts reach into the thousands. We are not equipped to fight a never-ending guerrilla war. The Iraqi people do not want us there, and we have no need to be there.

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It is absurd to keep sacrificing so many lives of our heroic young soldiers for an unappreciative country. We must bring our troops home now.

Walter Boyd

Lutherville


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