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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Life more complex than any one test

As a high school English teacher, I agree with Walt Gardner that teaching to the test is an approach that needs to be fully understood ("Teaching to the test: Good teachers do it," Commentary, May 21).

But I'm afraid that others in positions to influence curriculum and instruction might misinterpret his words and use them to support practices that shortchange our students.

For instance, if school administrators believe, as Mr. Gardner does, that "it would be irresponsible for a teacher to provide students with practice writing descriptive or narrative essays that aren't the type to be tested," as it would not help them master "persuasive essays - the types of essays that are on the test," then they might limit the curriculum to one particular kind of writing - the kind on the test - at the expense of other forms of expression that might allow students to explore their voices and foster their creativity.

I think Mr. Gardner's sports metaphor - that "coaches have long coached to the game" - also falls short of proving the value of teaching to the test.

We need to ask ourselves whether the game we want our students to be able to play is limited to the material on standardized tests.

I would argue that the game - the ultimate high-stakes game - is real life.

And just because students can transfer their skills and practice to a three-hour standardized test doesn't mean they will be able to succeed on life's playing field, which is an ever-changing target.

Real life is far more dynamic than the requirements of a test that purports to measure all individuals by one inflexible standard.

Valerie Heller, Baltimore

Exaggerating threat only spreads fear

Bradley Olson's article about Hezbollah did a disservice to Sun readers.

The huge bold headline "Hezbollah is viewed as a rising threat" (May 26) is ludicrous considering the relative power of the United States to Hezbollah. Was it written to inform or to frighten?

The article offers banal generalities about a lurking threat to American well-being without justification. It is an opinion-oriented piece that would have been better placed on the Commentary page than as a news story dominating the front page.

We can get this kind of "reporting" from the talking heads on Sunday morning television. I expect The Sun to provide more objective explanations of world events than this article evinces.

The problems in the Middle East are extremely complicated.

I would like to see The Sun shine its "Light for All" on those complications without simplistic fear-mongering.

George Wagner, Baltimore

Hagee supports the Jewish people

Anti-Semitism is a strong force in the world today. There are European countries where Jews feel less safe than they did even a decade ago.

Thank God for Christians like the Rev. John Hagee who teach love of the Jewish people and love for the state of Israel ("McCain rejects backing of controversial pastor," May 23).

I do not share Pastor Hagee's theology, but I am happy that he loves Israel and supports it and teaches his many followers to love the Jews.

Rabbi Leonard Oberstein, Baltimore

Research needed on managing doses

The article "Group homes targeted" (May 22) draws attention to the critical issue of proper management of medications in unlicensed assisted-living facilities, where there are no safeguards for medication safety for residents whose ability to care for themselves is impaired.

But even in licensed assisted-living facilities, residents may receive their medications improperly.

Unfortunately, medications are an essential component for assisted-living residents' quality of life. We know that most assisted-living residents are taking five or more medications and that the inability to manage their own medications is one of the most common reasons people move to assisted-living facilities.

We need more research into ways to ensure safe medication management for those in residential care.

Ilene H. Zuckerman Priscilla T. Ryder, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the associate dean of research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Does senator's son deserve judgeship?

Parole Commissioner Thomas V. Miller III, a veteran of the commission's quasi-judicial decision-making, is no doubt accustomed to the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune of having state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller as his dad. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends but not your family.

But as a 12-year veteran of the Maryland Parole Commission who served seven of those years as chairwoman, I feel morally obligated to speak to Mr. Miller's qualifications and to dispute the notion that nepotism would be the driving factor if he is appointed to the bench ("Judicial choice spurs protest," May 23).

Mr. Miller is not just one of the most senior members of the Parole Commission, he is one of the smartest and best-qualified members of that appointed commission.

He was always our "go-to guy" on legal matters regarding parole and criminal law, and he helped us develop our first guidelines for release based on risk of recidivism. He was among the first commissioners to conduct an open parole hearing with the crime victims present and helped establish the publication Back Bench, which was a joint venture between the Parole Commission and the Maryland judiciary.

He is exceedingly well prepared to deal with sentencing guidelines, length-of-stay issues and issues involving probation and parole violations.

Every nominee deserves to be judged on his or her merits, and that is what should happen with Mr. Miller as the process unfolds.

Patricia K. Cushwa, Williamsport

The writer is the chairwoman of Washington County's Judicial Nominating Commission and a former chairwoman of the Maryland Parole Commission.

Forget Mega Millions, forget slots and let's gamble on the actions of our politicians.

When state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller states he did not talk to Gov. Martin O'Malley about appointing his son as a judge, I bet that he did.

When Thomas J. Fleckenstein, the chairman of the Anne Arundel County Judicial Nominating Commission, denies that there is a "political fix" involved in Thomas V. Miller III's recommendation for a spot on the bench, I bet the fix is in.

When people of conscience object to stacking the deck in the judicial nomination process, I bet the deck is stacked.

More important, I bet Mr. O'Malley will continue to select political cronies and their relatives for important positions.

Alan Stubbs, Pasadena

I read with dismay the reaction to the news that the Anne Arundel County Judicial Nominating Commission had nominated state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's son for a District Court judgeship.

Some seem to believe that if he were not Senator Miller's son, he would not have been nominated. But I believe that Thomas V. Miller III deserves to be nominated for a judgeship regardless of the fact that his father is the Senate president.

I am a retired assistant public defender. I represented clients at parole revocation hearings where Mr. Miller was the presiding parole commissioner.

I was at first doubtful of his capabilities when he was appointed to the Parole Commission, believing that he was too young and inexperienced for the position. I soon found that he was a fast learner, he was intelligent and compassionate and he possessed excellent judgment.

He was always respectful of my parole clients, the parole agents and the attorneys who appeared before him.

He has qualities that would make him an excellent judge. I am sure the citizens of Maryland, and particularly Anne Arundel County, would be well served by him.

Carol Chance, Baltimore

In isolation, the political maneuvers and favor-mongering that may have helped along the appointment of Senate Majority Leader Thomas V. Mike Miller's son to be nominated as an Anne Arundel District Court judge may be an unfortunate but bearable symptom of single-party dominance in Maryland.

Unfortunately, the propagation of political favors has not been so isolated, and appears to be the grease that keeps the O'Malley-Miller machine on the road (e.g., "Inspector license policies revisited," May 7, and "Officials received funds in session," Jan. 20).

I am not so naive to conclude that state Republicans are beyond reproach on this point. But I would argue that the dominance of one party has allowed these warts to go untreated.

Our system of government relies on opposition. We would do well to move more of that into our State House.

Tom Coale, Ellicott City

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