LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Strong families can break cycle of urban poverty

Dan Rodricks suggests that poverty is the proximate cause of the other social ills that appear among those who repeat the cycle of poverty ("'The other Baltimore' needs help, not disdain," July 4). But if that were true, the members of our greatest generation - which was raised during the Great Depression - and their families would still be poor.

Here's the fix: Nothing will change in those communities until those at risk stop irresponsible behavior.

And here's a novel idea: Get married first, then have children. Take those children to church.

Social ills don't stem from families that are stable - i.e., where Dad takes an interest in his children's lives and parents school their children in right, wrong and love of God.

Children from such families won't be on drugs or sell drugs, have truancy or crime problems.

People in the city's distressed communities must fix their own behavior. If they choose not to, dysfunction will reign, their children will fall prey to drugs and crime and these same children will continue to fail in school and the cycle will repeat itself.

These communities are reaping what they have sowed. If they instead sow good from the home, good will result in the community.

Joseph Butta Jr.

Baltimore

Some common sense on the city's woes

Although I sometimes have a difference of opinion with Dan Rodricks, I always look forward to his articles. And his column "'The other Baltimore' needs help not disdain" (July 4) was a refreshing exercise in common sense.

Mr. Rodricks perspective that "Moralizing won't cure the city's social ills" and that "It takes a whole village to raise a child. But if the village is riddled with poverty and dysfunction don't expect better outcomes" is the kind of straight talk I can appreciate.

It suggests complexities that go beyond the importance of a positive family structure.

Mr. Rodricks' "sitting-down-in-your-living-room" style of writing and his genuine care about people make me feel lucky he's here in our town.

Ray Dempsey

Parkville

Early assistance is key to better schools

If it's any solace, Baltimore is not alone in the number of failing schools in its district ("Setting schools straight," editorial, July 4). Other large urban school districts across the nation face the same problem for the same reasons.

Education Department data show that poor children enter kindergarten already three months behind the national average in reading and math skills, and never catch up.

The huge deficits they carry in socialization, motivation and development - through no fault of their own - are too great for even the best schools alone to remedy.

Reconstitution in its myriad forms will do no more to improve education in Baltimore than it has in San Francisco and elsewhere where it has been tried, because it does not address the underlying socio-economic factors that cause of the problems.

What is necessary is intervention starting in preschool when the opportunity to help those in need is greatest. This must include unprecedented strategies that focus on housing, health and parenting.

But investment in these areas pays off in academic performance, as studies that have tracked students for as long as 40 years have shown.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.

Oliphant insulted president, veterans

I opened my Sun on July 2 and what did I see? A Pat Oliphant cartoon showing a smiling President Bush wearing a 10-gallon hat and strutting on coffins of our war dead.

Being a Vietnam veteran, I took great exception to this horrible sight. It is a slap in the face to all veterans and especially any widows, parents, relatives and friends of the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Mr. Oliphant has abused the freedom bestowed on him by the tens of thousands of military personnel who gave their lives so that he may spew his venom and contempt for the sacrifices of our brave heroes.

May God forgive him. I can't.

Larry Spedden

Rosedale

The cartoon showing a caricature of President Bush walking over coffins of U.S. service personnel was offensive.

It shows the most extreme disrespect to the presidency and this nation.

Why The Sun would print such trash is beyond me.

Jack Semon

Jarrettsville

Caricature captured cavalier attitude

I commend The Sun for running the Oliphant cartoon showing President Bush cheerfully strutting over the coffins of American soldiers (July 2).

No doubt The Sun will get letters attacking it for being unpatriotic. But the cartoon expresses so well the cavalier attitude of this administration toward our troops.

The Bush administration has pursued its own goals no matter the cost in American and Iraqi lives or to the nation's reputation.

Our troops in Iraq are certainly brave and noble in their willingness to sacrifice for their country.

But their commander-in-chief has sent them on a mission that betrays the ideals and interests of this nation.

Linda Olson

Baltimore

Some faithful people embrace tolerance

How refreshing to see the United Church of Christ support gay marriage at a time when other Christian faiths seem to be closing the door ("United Church of Christ endorses gay marriage," July 5).

This vote clearly invalidates the myth that there is a monolithic bloc of "people of faith" who oppose gay and lesbian marriage equality.

Let us hope other denominations will summon the strength to stop wrapping their homophobia in the guise of religious beliefs and embrace a more inclusive and compassionate faith.

Randee Wilding

Columbia

Another predator allowed to escape

I am sad to see yet another alleged child predator escape responsibility because of the laws of Maryland ("Case against ex-priest dropped," July 2).

Civil law has long been pedophile-friendly in Maryland. Now the decision to drop charges against Maurice Blackwell makes it evident that criminal laws also have few teeth.

The state's attorney's office can only work within the framework of the existing laws in the state.

It is time for the Maryland legislature to take a hard look at the child predator laws governing the state and move Maryland out of being one of the most pedophile-friendly states in the country.

Bob Russell

Glen Rock, Pa.

The writer is chairman of the Greater Baltimore Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

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