LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Education is key to decline in teen birth rate

I am thrilled that the teenage birth rate in Baltimore continued to decline last year, but I am not surprised ("City's teen births decline," Dec. 30).

What surprises me once again this year is that little or no mention is made of the many community and faith-based organizations in Baltimore that have played a tremendous role in this success.

In school, not only do students have access to contraception, they receive comprehensive health education that promotes healthy, responsible ways to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and address their impact on the individual and on society.

Additionally, many community organizations and faith-based institutions have comprehensive programs that provide information on abstinence and other methods of contraception which have shown to be effective at delaying sexual activity as well as increasing contraceptive use.

Through my work over the last 10 years as a teacher and currently at Planned Parenthood of Maryland, I have seen the impact of organizations working collaboratively to improve the lives of teenagers and their families.

And I know that the drop in teenage birth rates is the result of a variety of strategies and many organizations in the city dedicated to addressing this multifaceted issue.

Patty Kirby

Baltimore

The writer is vice president for education and training of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

Welfare reform alters incentives for teens

In "City's teen births decline" (Dec. 30), local health officials listed several health-related factors that may have lead to the decline in births to Baltimore teenagers. But one item that was not addressed was the impact that welfare reform has had on teenage births.

Our current welfare system no longer includes the perverse incentive that once encouraged a girl or woman to have more children by giving her more money for each child she has.

Curtis N. Adams Jr.

Laurel

Ehrlich put himself in no-win situation

I offer no opinion on the governor's promised veto of the General Assembly's medical reform bill, just a rationale ("Doctors pleased but ask for more," Jan. 2).

The bill includes a 2 percent tax on HMO premiums. It seems that many Republicans blame the defeat of President George H.W. Bush at least in part on his signing a tax increase into law after a campaign promise of "No new taxes."

Mr. Ehrlich made a similar pledge during his gubernatorial campaign and this is the Ghost of Republicans Past that, I believe, haunts present-day incumbents and thus underpins the governor's stubbornness or, if you prefer, integrity, in keeping his campaign promise (his toll and fee increases may walk and talk like taxes, but they are obviously exempt from this stricture).

If he signs the bill, he has broken his campaign promise. If he vetoes the bill, then he is acting irresponsibly.

Mr. Ehrlich is basically caught in a no-win situation of his own making.

Jim Cannaliato

Bel Air

What real reform would look like

It appears that no one is willing to admit that the medical malpractice tort system is broken, as well as that it is going broke.

Instead, legislators want to fund the broken system with taxpayers' monies. This will insure that lawyers continue to get their high fees and that frequent excessive jury damage verdicts will continue ("Ehrlich has veto ready for bill," Dec. 31).

Patients who are injured by medical mistakes deserve better. They deserve a prompt investigation of the event and appropriate compensation.

Doctors guilty of recurrent medical mistakes should be identified and disciplined.

Lawyers who file bogus lawsuits should have to pay for the court costs.

How hard is that to pass?

Dr. Stephen H. Pollock

Reisterstown

Good professors challenge values

Thirty-eight years ago last week, I was in Baltimore celebrating the holidays with my family following the first semester of my undergraduate college years.

By the end of my freshman year every opinion that I held dear, every belief of which I had previously been positive, had been seriously challenged.

Yet I certainly did not have the temerity to suggest I knew better than my professors what I needed to be taught.

That's why my parents paid the tuition; that's why professors were in front of the class and I was in a seat in the lecture hall ("Conservative students, liberal professors clash over curriculum," Dec. 26).

There is a reason the most popular program in colleges and universities is not called the "conservative arts."

It is the reason I am proud to call myself a liberal.

Liberal arts programs are based on pragmatism, not dogmatism. Liberals understand that personal beliefs and opinions are strengthened only when challenged and placed under constant and harsh scrutiny.

Valid belief systems can only be forged through open debate and constant cross-examination.

I fail to sympathize with undergraduates who find some teachers intimidating. They're supposed to be. The best teachers keep intimidation in their toolbox and pull it out to push their students to higher levels of achievement.

My message: Go back to class and quit whining. Welcome criticism and different opinions.

If your values are up to the task, they'll survive.

Ronald W. Pilling

Bishopville

What if a recount were needed in Md.?

The gubernatorial race in Washington state was the closest in the history of that state. There were three recounts, the last one done manually, before a winner was determined ("Wash. governor's race certified again," Dec. 31).

I was filled with dread as I followed this story. What if the same thing happened in Maryland? Would we be able to have a recount? No, we would not because there are no ballots to manually recount in this state.

It is time for the legislators to require a paper trail for all elections.

Our ballots and honest open elections are all that assures we are a democracy. We can not allow politics to endanger our birthright.

Gary Ambridge

Bel Air

Sun's crossword still sorely missed

Please, please bring back The Sun crossword puzzle.

My husband and I worked the crosswords together every evening and it was a great way to relax at the end of the day.

The puzzles were the main reason we subscribe to the paper and The Sun's puzzle is greatly missed.

Vivian Fortner

Bel Air

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