TO THE POINT

The Baltimore Sun

Choosing off the menu

The practice of force-feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras is not to everyone's taste, but efforts to ban the delicacy in Maryland merit a critical thumbs down from the state legislature. Whether causing animals to deliberately overeat (and thus their livers to become greatly enlarged) constitutes cruelty is hotly debated, but it's no state secret either. Surely, consumers willing to pay steep prices for foie gras can make the ethical call without government intervention. Indeed, foie gras opponents would be smarter to use the kind of health-oriented arguments that caused the City Council to ban trans fats in restaurants. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foie gras is extremely high in calories and saturated fat. It probably ought to be a rare part of even the most ardent gourmet's diet.

One healthy step

Baltimore City Councilwoman Agnes Welch says that a bill to ban trans fat from food service facilities is "a call to action to save our children." Ms. Welch, the bill's chief sponsor, is rightly worried about increasing rates of childhood obesity, as well as high rates of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses related to being overweight, regardless of age. But eliminating trans fat is only one part of promoting a healthier lifestyle. People living in low-income areas must have greater access to fresh produce and other healthy fare, with meal choices beyond processed and fast food. Children and adults must also have safe places to exercise, including schoolyards, parks and other recreational facilities.

Banning trans fat may be a step in the right direction, but it's only a step.

Who's minding the parents?

Along with the standard handouts given to parents at the start of the school year, there should be a code of conduct with a warning that harassing your child's teacher is counterproductive.

Blame it on the ease of e-mailing and the proliferation of cell phones - coupled with a decline in civility - but some overbearing parents are cited as a reason why instructors are leaving the classroom. That's hardly an acceptable result when many schools can't recruit or retain enough quality teachers.

Engaging parents is an important element of students' success, but it has to be kept in perspective. When it comes to teacher or staff harassment, principals need to enforce a zero tolerance policy - and send offending parents to a class taught by Miss Manners.

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