VOA's CharterEditor: Your Moscow correspondent, Scott...


March 16, 1991

VOA's Charter

Editor: Your Moscow correspondent, Scott Shane, recently reported that Moscow party chief Yuri Prokofiev ''held up the Voice of America as a model for government control, saying that the U.S.-government broadcaster is subject to censorship and cannot take stands critical of the U.S. government.''

For the record, the Voice of America is not subject to censorship. It is subject to a congressionally mandated charter which, by law, requires broadcasts to be ''accurate, objective and comprehensive.''

Those words are taken seriously by people at VOA. And the Voice of America is taken seriously by the millions of people around the world who tune in every week.

Joseph D. O'Connell Jr.


The writer directs VOA's office of external affairs.

Learning by Law?

Editor: James A. Morrisard is right in his opposition to President Bush's voucher system for correcting our flawed school system (letter, March 9). But he is mistaken in supposing that substituting an enormous federal bureaucracy for about 50 smaller ones will make things better. Bigger is not better -- only bigger. Arthur Wise in his short, powerful book, "Legislated Learning," reveals one of the principal causes of the growth of poor teaching: the bureaucratic model of school organization.

It is possible, to be sure, to pass laws that seem designed to solve social problems. Legislatures do it daily. Only those close to the problem, however, can bring about steady improvement in an ongoing system.

Legislation sets up the means to litigate or distribute funds or levy taxes or build highways and so on, but it will never be able to enforce laws demanding quality performance by trained professionals. Some of us in the field agree with Mr. Wise that the system of hierarchical control blocks collegial classroom teachers from inventing effective ways to improve learning. (See Feb. 13 Sun letter by Patricia Wajbel on the new, state mandatory testing system that is supposed to improve pupil performance).

As another aside, if tests could cause desired change, hospitals would do away with their pharmacies, splints, bandages, etc., and stock up exclusively on thermometers, stethoscopes, and X-ray machines. Right?

Nearly every proposal for school reform I have seen over the past 35 years makes the same, bureaucratically consistent assumption: Teachers are defective drudges who are not to be trusted to do a respectable piece of work. Don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that every school teacher is a gifted scholar. What I am saying is that in a system so biased, it is inevitable that it brings about the very thing it tries to prevent.

Until our people become able to recognize that nurturing the growth of bureaucracy to improve schooling is to believe in magic, smoke and mirrors, we will continue to suffer ill-served dropouts and under-educated high school graduates.

erbert Garber.


Kensington Crime

Editor: Sen. Mary Boergers must think she is living in Fort Apache, the Bronx, instead of in Kensington. According to an editorial in The Sun, she claims that assault weapons are ''terrorizing'' her.

Strange. I've lived in Kensington for nearly 14 years and only three blocks from the senator. Crime is not rampant. People are not being mugged. Houses are not being looted. Drug pushers do not inhabit the street corners. Bullets are not whizzing overhead.

Indeed, I serve on the Kensington Estates Civic Association's traffic and security committee. I have been instrumental in establishing the neighborhood watch program on the very block where Senator Boergers lives.

The police tell us that violent crime is practically non-existent in this quiet, suburban neighborhood and that what crime occurs is mostly juvenile in nature. Many people leave their cars unlocked at night. This neighborhood is far more terrorized by speeding automobiles than by assault (or any other) weapons.

Roger Johnson.


Save the Park

Editor: I find it unbelievable that anyone would want to develop the beautiful Black Marsh Park. The type of facilities these people want to put in the park are already available in the area. To fill the park full of concrete, boats and buildings will destroy a unique wildlife habitat. Also, with Maryland $500 million in debt, I cannot believe that our elected officials are considering spending millions of dollars on a project that is certainly not needed and probably not wanted by most people.

Kurt S. Willem.



Time Will Tell

Editor: Theo Lippman's ideas (March 9) on finding a name for the recent war in the gulf was most interesting. Strangely, I have been pondering the same dilemma. Let me add some fuel to the fire.

This is the first war carried on TV as it happened. Maybe it would be appropriate to call it the War of the Networks or maybe (for the most complete coverage) the CNN War. Most of the action we saw might best be expressed by the Scud and Patriot War. The problem with this, of course, is that it could be confused with a football game.

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