The Baltimore Sun

Waivers undermine value of a diploma

I am appalled by the position of state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, the State Board of Education and The Baltimore Sun's editorial board supporting waivers allowing graduation for those who do not pass the High School Assessment tests ("A necessary compromise," editorial, Dec. 19).

Apparently, none of these people have the stomach to stand and take the heat and face the screaming parents of those students who might not pass the test and then could not graduate, so they support a process that will, in effect, buy them off.

By taking this approach, "mandatory" testing ceases to be mandatory, and the diplomas of all of those who did take and pass all required tests are devalued.

Here's the core problem with our public education system: It is more about pushing bodies through the system than educating students and holding all students accountable for doing their part and learning the material.

Those who cannot master the material, for whatever reason, should not get a diploma.

J. Matthew McGlone, Baltimore

Easing standards dims our stature

After reading Liz Bowie's article "Test waiver would aid graduation" (Dec. 18), I find it more obvious than ever why public education in the United States is generally regarded as mediocre at best.

Here we go again: Let's not raise the bridge; instead, we'll lower the river. Why insist that all students be held to the same standards when it is so much easier to change or lower the standards so that everyone, regardless of performance, receives the same rewards?

And so the decision apparently has been made to waive certain assessment requirements for students who haven't met them.

Perhaps they have a language problem. Perhaps they came late to the subject matter. Perhaps they lacked encouragement at home. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

None of this really matters in the broad scheme of things because, once again, we seem determined to reward nonperformance, to celebrate mediocrity, to dig an ever wider and deeper pit of failure to be filled with excuses masquerading as reasons.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when public schools required that students meet all requirements before they were allowed to advance or graduate.

America was a great nation then.

I wonder when and why we decided to give up and start down a path that may, ultimately, lead us to the scrapheap of history.

Alan Walden, Baltimore

U.S. often betrays democratic values

I fully agree with The Baltimore Sun that President-elect Barack Obama should make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo detention center and either charge or release the prisoners there ("Guantanamo injustice," editorial, Dec. 12). I disagree, however, with the claim that by doing so America would begin "to restore its reputation as a defender of human rights, democratic values and the rule off law." What reputation?

Space does not permit me to list all the democratically elected governments in the Third World that were overthrown with the help of our government. But a few examples include the government of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Congo in 1960, and Chile in 1973.

For instance, the democratic election held in Nicaragua in 1984 did not stop our government from unleashing a vicious surrogate war (by sponsoring the Contras) that cost the lives of 35,000 Nicaraguan people.

The U.S. has long held no regard for "human rights, democratic values and the rule of law."

It is past time for us to change course and be a nation we can really be proud of.

Gerald Ben Shargel, Baltimore

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