Some lessons on panhandling and Shakespeare

ROGER SIMON

February 03, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd: Barbara Reiner, Baltimore: During the summer Olympics in 1988, you had Good Roger/Bad Roger discussing camera angles underwater relating to the swimwear of the female contestants.

Would you consider rerunning that one when you go on vacation?

zTC COMMENT: From your description, that column sounds like it was just more tiresome drivel, devoid of any real content or merit.

So, yeah, I'd be glad to rerun it.

*

Leon Reinstein, M.D., Baltimore: In your column you wonder whether someone panhandling for money in New York City's Penn Station may really need the money.

The following story is true: A college student from Washington asked his roommate how much money the train was from New York City to Washington, D.C., and was told it was $25.

To be safe, he arrived at Penn Station with $30. To his horror he found that a one-way ticket was $55.

It took him two hours to panhandle for the needed $25. He bought his ticket and was on his way.

COMMENT: On his way down the road of ruin! What lesson did panhandling teach this kid?

It taught him:

* You can make $12.50 an hour by just standing around.

* Asking for money is easier than working for it.

* They don't take out any taxes.

On second thought, this could be a career move for me.

*

Diane Mandy, Green Spring Valley: Thank you for your column about Shakespeare. I just went to the movie "Hamlet" with my 12-year-old daughter, Lizzie, and I'm telling you that she sat there speaking the dialogue! She knew Shakespeare because of a wonderful principal she had at the Thunderhill Elementary School in Columbia by the name of Tony Yount.

He would put on plays and the children would take parts and my daughter had a part in "Hamlet".

He is a wonderful man and he would take shy children and he would have them up there making speeches from Shakespeare. It was wonderful for the children's self-esteem.

COMMENT: I found Tony Yount at the Dunloggin Middle School in Columbia, where he is the assistant principal and getting ready to put on "Romeo and Juliet" with the eighth-graders.

"I guess it was about 20 years that a guy named Albert Culum at CCNY wrote two books called 'Push Back the Desks' and 'Shake Hands with Shakespeare,' " Yount said. "He was pretty much 20 years ahead of his time about how to get kids to relate to things.

"Anyway, I became enthralled with the idea of putting on Shakespeare in elementary school and I have done 20 plays in 20 years, from the fourth to the eighth grades. The kids love it. Shakespeare becomes so relevant to them it is like watching 'Knots Landing.'

"They have no difficulty with the language. We talk about it and put everything in context, the language, the culture, the history. It becomes a way to learn. And, of course, the kids love the sword fighting and dying and drama and dressing up. We have songs like Bette Midler's 'The Rose' in our current 'Romeo and Juliet.' We have lighting, sets, music, all very professional and all done by the kids.

"This is also a way to show the kids that, as assistant principal, I am not just someone who throws you out of school, but someone who works with you."

Every time I begin to despair for American education, I remind myself that there are educators like Tony Yount out there, going the extra mile to teach kids one of the great lessons of life and "Hamlet":

"We know what we are, but know not what we may be."

*

Ernest J. Paszkiewicz, Certified Public Accountant, Baltimore: I have been a CPA for 10 years and riding a Harley for one year. Your article perpetuates the stereotype that the majority of bikers are irresponsible people.

You point out that 28 percent of bikers hospitalized had no insurance and that was twice the rate in the general population.

Let me point out that 72 percent did have insurance and as I recall that is still a significant majority.

Let me also stop myself for a minute and say that the 28 percent of bikers and 14 percent of the general population that do not have insurance probably have good reason for not having insurance considering the astronomical costs involved.

COMMENT: Crunch the numbers again, Ernest. The cost of the insurance the state has in mind for cyclists is $250 to $300 a year. If you can afford a motorcycle, you can afford that.

Your other argument about majority vs. minority does not make fiscal sense.

According to the state, in 1990 the average cost of taking care of a motorcycle rider who was injured "exceeded $24,000 per person with many exceeding $100,000."

Who do you think paid the bills for those with no or too little insurance? The taxpayers of Maryland, that's who.

And we are getting tired of it.

If the state can compel you to wear a seat belt, it can compel you to wear a helmet.

If the state can compel you to have certain forms of auto insurance, it can compel you to have certain forms of motorcycle insurance.

There is no constitutional right to irresponsibly burden others.

*

Julie M. Gillern, Baltimore: While "JFK," the movie, makes headlines, you have the gall to not only wait for it to come to you via [cable], but to go on writing about it anyway.

You are as pitiful as George Bush, who gets his information from CNN.

And to think, the Sunpapers kept you.

COMMENT: Actually, the Sunpapers decided to keep me on a probationary basis only. If, in the next six months, enough people write in and complain about my lack of writing, reporting, reasoning or communication skills, I will be removed from column writing and made an editor.

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