The Baltimore Sun

The wrong signals to troubled youths

Appearing just days after the shooting, The Sun's editorial on the Browning family tragedy suggesting that guns are part of the problem arrived much too soon ("A gun in the house," Feb. 5). And it missed the bigger problem.

We all know there are pros and cons to having a gun. What's new, it seems to me, is that All-American teenagers from All-American families can apparently shoot their family over minor disagreements.

No longer can we point to depression or social ostracism or even guns as a cause for such shootings.

After so many of these senseless shootings, we need to look at ourselves as a society.

Even seemingly perfect parents such as the Brownings can have their parenting overwhelmed by societal messages favoring instant gratification, self-centered lifestyles, violence as an acceptable way to solve problems, cheating as a means to succeed and on and on.

That may not be what society means to tell kids, but that is the message they often get from the media, business leaders and even sports.

But it is not too soon for us, as a society, to do what it takes so that our kids get the right message.

Virgil Moore


Professionals serve children effectively

In Thursday's article about two caseworkers being terminated in the aftermath of the death of Bryanna Harris, The Sun does not note whether the caseworkers involved are professionally educated and licensed social workers or untrained workers ("2 more lose jobs in death of child," Feb. 7).

In every comparison made between the effectiveness of educated, professional social workers and untrained social workers, the professionals have been found to do a better job ensuring the safety of their clients.

The deprofessionalization of child welfare services is a tragedy of our times.

Harris Chaiklin


The writer is a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Expensive care buys healthier citizens

On Tuesday, a headline in The Sun read "Smokers, obese cost less to treat" (Feb. 5). This may leave readers wondering whether avoiding and preventing smoking and obesity are economically justifiable. Several points should be considered.

First, many economic evaluations suggest that investing in disease prevention is not always cost-saving - particularly when only costs to the medical care system are considered.

Second, medical care costs are not the whole story. For society as a whole, the extra lifetime expenditures "buy" healthier individuals who are likely to miss fewer work days and experience a higher quality of life.

Third, the higher expenditures also buy more life years.

A "unit cost calculation" suggests that not smoking buys seven years of life at a "unit cost" of $13,000 per year of life.

It is not unusual for individuals and society to be willing to spend more to be healthier, and this is a good buy by medical care standards.

Thus the fact that individuals with health risks may experience lower lifetime medical care costs should not be interpreted to suggest that society should fail to attempt to change negative health behaviors.

Kevin D. Frick


The writer is a professor and director of the Interdepartmental Health Economics Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Can Steiner, station also bury hatchet?

The abrupt, ill-advised cancellation of The Marc Steiner Show on public radio station WYPR represented a slap in the face to the station's many loyal supporters ("Dispute over Steiner's firing continues on-air," Feb. 6).

But if state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Gov. Martin O'Malley can agree to work together to advance education in Maryland ("Trying to bury the hatchet," Feb. 5), surely the management of WYPR and Mr. Steiner can achieve a rapprochement that would result in his return to the air.

Thus Mr. Steiner could continue to stimulate, inform and enlighten his listeners in his thoughtful, insightful and delightful manner.

His program represents the very best of public radio.

Linda F. Lapides Julian L. Lapides Baltimore

O'Malley initiated spat with Grasmick

The Sun has once again proved its willingness to operate as part of the Gov. Martin O'Malley's propaganda machine ("Shall we dance?" editorial, Feb. 6)

For months, Sun articles and editorials on the dispute between Governor O'Malley and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick have referred to Mr. O'Malley's statements that Ms. Grasmick is a "pawn of the Republican Party," while only later acknowledging that she served under two Democratic governors before serving under a Republican.

The Sun now hails Mr. O'Malley as worthy of praise for taking the "larger step toward reconciliation."

Mr. O'Malley has been the aggressor against a nonconfrontational opponent, and he is now given kudos for backing off from a position he shouldn't have taken from the beginning?

The people of Baltimore and Maryland deserve better from their largest and most influential newspaper.

Benjamin D. Hilliard


Sweeping sculpture a welcoming sight

After a seeming eternity of putting up with the petty vindictiveness of bashers of the Male/Female statue at Penn Station, it was a joy to see a defender of the statue in print ("Sculpture at station a welcome contrast," letters, Feb. 5.)

It may come as a surprise to some people, but there are actually many of us who like it.

Coming south on the Jones Falls Expressway, I welcome the sculpture's glow and its message of unity, as well as the fact that it indicates I have reached the exit to my home.

The sculpture is clean, modern and symbolically meaningful for Baltimore. And it does fit in with the station's new, sweeping entrance - when it is viewed with fresh eyes.

The real question for me is: Why is no one protesting the cheap, gaudy, silly trash that is littering McKeldin Square?

Colette Steinmeier


Chisolm a mentor to senior scribes

In addition to the beautiful attributes of Elise Chisolm that were noted in Jacques Kelly's obituary for her, it is important to note her contribution as a teacher of creative writing at the Catonsville Senior Center for 15 years after her retirement ("Elise Chisolm," Feb. 6).

She shared her writing expertise with our seniors, who wrote essays and memoirs under her tutelage. And each year, Ms. Chisolm edited the anthology of their writings.

She was a role model for senior citizens by continuing to make a contribution as a teacher and mentor to the senior community.

Her presence at this senior center will be missed.

Helen Bronstein


The writer is director of the Catonsville Senior Center.

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