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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Diploma must stand for genuine learning

Apparently, controversy about high school graduation standards is becoming a chronic disease in Maryland and elsewhere across the country ("Graduation exams test states' will," Oct. 8).

I note that much of the rhetoric in this debate is focused on the "diploma," and the fear that many students might not receive one.

My dictionary includes in its definition of the term diploma: "Any certificate indicating that a particular course of study has been successfully completed."

Note here the word "successfully."

The proposal currently under discussion in Maryland would define "success" to include repeated failure to pass tests in basic subjects on the eighth- or ninth-grade level.

I can assure all readers that employers and colleges will have little difficulty in judging the value of a diploma based upon that kind of "success."

We need to turn our attention to helping all students work, learn and become able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills necessary for success in their further education and careers.

Donald N. Langenberg

Queenstown

The writer is chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland.

State school board has so little to lose

The Sun's article about the Maryland state school board's coming vote on the High School Assessments quotes one testing expert who says it will take "political courage" for a board member to vote to make the HSA a graduation requirement ("Graduation exams test states' will," Oct. 8).

But what courage is required for a board member to vote to shred the diplomas of students who don't pass a series of state standardized tests?

Board members have nothing to lose. They don't have to win re-election. Most of them were appointed by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and they answer to no one.

And no matter how the vote goes in October, they will still have their livelihoods and their own diplomas hanging on a wall someplace (diplomas they probably didn't have to pass a high-stakes test to receive).

Their own children have probably already graduated from high school.

After they cast this vote that could ruin the lives of thousands of Maryland students (who are other people's children), they will get out of their padded chairs in the boardroom and go home in their nice cars to their nicely furnished homes - with their own futures secure.

Courage, my foot.

Sue Allison

Lusby

The writer is the director of Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing.

Graduation exams create new victims

If the state imposes an exam requirement for high school students to graduate, that will create a generation of victims ("Graduation exams test states' will," Oct. 8).

In Baltimore, we are trying to rebuild a lost generation, not create another one.

Joseph Ritch

Baltimore

It's lawmakers' job to decide key issues

In The Sun's article "O'Malley crusades for session" (Oct. 11), Gov. Martin O'Malley suggests that members of the General Assembly would prefer to let the voters decide the slots issue by referendum: "It's certainly more palatable to many members of the legislature to let the people decide."

We live under a representative government; we elect people to make decisions about the general welfare for us.

These people were elected to make the hard decisions, and now they are passing the buck back to us?

Why?

They probably fear fallout from the voters if they make the wrong decision.

But I think it is time for all of our officials to start making the tough decisions.

Our representatives should do their job.

John Miller

Timonium

No reason to rush big budget choices

The Sun's editorial "Getting it right" (Oct. 5) got it right.

Clearly, the legislature should not succumb to the governor's' request for a special session to assess his nearly $2 billion deficit reduction package.

Both the legislature and the public need adequate time during the regular legislative session to discuss and evaluate the full range of alternatives available to deal with state budget shortfall.

The governor would serve the citizens of Maryland well if he heeded The Sun's advice.

Harvey M. Meyerhoff

Baltimore

Let regular session resolve fiscal mess

I commend our governor for the forthright way he is eliciting the support of the electorate to deal with the state structural deficit ("O'Malley crusades for session," Oct. 11).

Gov. Martin O'Malley has many creative ideas about how to increase revenues while moving the tax burden off the backs of those less able to pay and onto the shoulders of those who have greater resources.

All of us must be willing to pay our fair share as we enjoy the benefits of state services.

However, a special session of the legislature in November is simply too soon to allow maximum input from the public on our budget problems.

The state budget shortfall is an issue too important to be rushed.

It should be handled in the regular legislative session with as much transparency and input as possible.

David L. Pollitt

Forest Hill

Homosexuality isn't why Craig should go

In his column "Purging Larry Craig" (Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 8), Jonathan Zimmerman suggests that Sen. Larry Craig is being shamed out of office over his homosexuality.

I do not believe this is the issue. I, for one, could not care less if he is gay; however, I do care that he apparently sought sex in a public place.

As a parent, I think of the times I sent my boys, and later my male grandchildren, into public restrooms on their own.

Men participating in public sex acts are the last thing I wanted them exposed to.

Mr. Craig shows a shocking lack of judgment, and I, for one, do not want him in the U.S. Senate for that reason alone.

Rebecca MacRae Wilson

Towson

Congress must tell truth on genocide

It is morally imperative that Congress pass the House resolution acknowledging the genocide of a million and a half Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915 ("House vote angers Turks," Oct. 11).

The hypocrites in the White House and Congress who oppose this resolution are saying we shouldn't alienate Turkey, a U.S. ally in the Iraq war.

But imagine someone saying during the Cold War that the genocide of 6 million Jews shouldn't be acknowledged because that would alienate our German allies in the war on communism.

Or imagine someone now saying that we should fail to confront Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial so we don't alienate Iran.

If we are to begin to rid our planet of the horror of genocide, we must not let the truth be hostage to realpolitik.

Dean Pappas

Baltimore

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