Safety and SexEditor: I have a couple of questions. Why...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 15, 1991

Safety and Sex

Editor: I have a couple of questions. Why does everyone seem so grateful that Magic Johnson is going to tell all the kids in the world that ''safe sex is the way to go''?

Who is Magic Johnson going to hold up to the kids and society as the model of someone who performs ''safe'' sex?

Herman Smith.

Catonsville.

Mideast Chance

Editor: The high-level Middle East peace conference in Madrid, involving Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the Palestinians and representatives of Arab states, was historic, timely and consequential. The attention of the world community will be focused on the follow-up meetings at other sites in the hope that substantive, realistic and profitable discussions, in a spirit of compromise, civility and forbearance, will unfold among Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Four points seem pivotal and crucial:

* Arab states must forswear and abandon talk of the destruction of Israel.

* Security of Israel or a nation must be assured with ironclad guarantees.

* More than 1 million Palestinians must be provided a homeland and fundamental freedom.

* Mutual agreement must be reached between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states on the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been either at war or in a quasi-state of war in defense of its people. Both Arabs and Jews have suffered immensely in the five major wars which have been fought. I believe the time is at hand to end the suffering, distrust and acrimony on both sides.

The Madrid conference offers a propitious and long overdue opportunity for Arabs and Jews to achieve, mutually, sorely needed objectives: shalom, prosperity and amity. In short, the time is now at hand to give, through demonstrable deeds, peace a chance in the Middle East.

Samuel L. Banks.

Baltimore.

College Realities

Editor: Once in a while someone trots out the tired notion that higher education should be the financial responsibility only of the student. Economist James Dorn did that in a recent Opinion * Commentary piece, and he ought to know better.

He started out well, knocking the way public institutions sometimes provide college education. He may have inside information, being on the Towson State faculty. There is a tendency for public agencies to hire people to satisfy the whims of politicians. That does not always square with providing good service at a reasonable cost. The history of the University of Maryland at College Park, for example, is replete with examples of politics over education.

Still, it is a fallacy to conclude that public financing of higher education is a bad idea. It is simply not true that "higher education is primarily a private rather than a public good [whose] benefits accrue almost entirely to those who receive the education." That is a little like saying fertilizer and water primarily benefit the seeds that get them, and no benefit goes to either the farmer or the eating public. There are "seeds" that will make better teachers, doctors, AIDS researchers or whatever who could use some public fertilizer and water, for all our good.

What Dr. Dorn promotes is a financing scheme not unlike home financing, including a "secondary market" for the students' promissory notes. It was only two weeks ago that a comprehensive study showed home financing is extremely skewed in favor of the white home-seeker. Beyond this risk to the individual is the loss to the nation as a whole. We need more, not fewer, well-educated people. We need them to render professional services -- yes, even to teach college economics -- and keep us competitive in the knowledge-based international market. We also need an electorate smart enough to understand the increasingly complex policy issues that come up.

Yes, let us apply business sense to running public universities -- they need to provide more than sinecures for administrators and work for contractors. But let us also make available more public financing for those who will benefit from the education. Let's beat some of our spears into schoolbooks and classrooms.

Philip L. Marcus.

Ellicott City.

Between P and G

Editor: While unreasonable lawsuits are at the core of what is wrong with America today, Michael Olesker's column of Oct. 31 chooses one that I feel is one of the most important cases and tries to demean the principle at stake.

Susan and Glenn Abrams are suing two workers of the Rockville Enrichment Program, Jenifer Flannery and Steve Chriqui, for showing the movie ''Poltergeist'' to their daughter, aged 7 at the time, who has experienced a major trauma and needed psychological treatment.

Olesker and the defense attorney for Flannery and Chriqui seem feel that since the movie is shown on television and a child under 12 could slip into a movie theater (the movie is rated PG-13, inappropriate for children under 13) it's status quo that children watch film they shouldn't.

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