Together We Enjoy
A recent editorial in The Sun favored funding of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra by Baltimore County. Edward Davis, in a June 25 letter, argued against this position, pointing out that Baltimore County employees have had to suffer salary and benefit cut backs. Therefore, where is the money for what he calls "the music next door"?
That's right. Everyone's pie is shrinking and choices must be made. Nevertheless, after a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert, the traffic flows north, from the Meyerhoff back to the county. Contrary to Mr. Davis' implication, many county voters value the "music next door" and the Walters and use the Enoch Pratt Library and visit the Baltimore Zoo. Need I go on?
As the city tax base shrinks, if these cultural institutions are to continue, it's obvious that county residents must participate in the funding of them. Not to do so only defines another us-versus-them category, as though we need another one.
Mr. Davis and his fellow suburbanites must stop viewing fellow city dwellers as his adversaries but as his companions in the maintenance of those institutions which enrich all our lives.
Kenneth A. Willaman
Schools: Cutbacks Cause the Dreams to Fade
I returned recently to Baltimore, after a month in New York City as a fellow of the American Photography Seminar. Upon my return, I read your special report, "Bright Faces, Fading Dreams," as well as the ensuing correspondence. My letter to you offers a very different perspective on one particular school, Southern High School in South Baltimore.
Almost a year ago, I approached the principal of this school, Cecilia Chesno, to ask her whether it would be possible to do a photographic series on her students. I was granted virtually total access and given permission to come and go as I pleased.
To be sure, there are aspects of the school I found problematical. For instance, there is a high absentee rate, but it seems to me that the reasons for students not coming can be found outside of the school. In other words, if teen-agers do not have parents who insist that they go to school, and must study, it seems to me unfair to blame the teachers.
This is not a school that suffers from an inadequate physical plant; quite the reverse, since there are a gym, a swimming pool, weight room, large auditorium, rooms full of computers, an art room with kilns and potters' wheels, well-equipped classrooms and a big, clean cafeteria which served better food than some I have eaten at college dining halls.
There is also a well-stocked library, although I must admit that these high-school students do not read to the same degree that my generation did. However, lack of interest in reading is a societal phenomenon well documented in the press and on university campuses. Is it fair to blame the teachers for this problem?
Southern High School is ethnically diverse and its students are comfortable with each other, perhaps more so than their parents.
Yes, these students have difficult lives. Many of them do not come from conventional two-parent families, some are parents themselves and yet they are teen-agers with dreams and hopes that need to find fruition in a society which refuses to provide proper support and resources.
Again, can we blame the teachers for the failings of society as a whole and, in particular, the terrible cutbacks in federal spending for cities since 1980?
During the year I spent at Southern High School, I became friends with a group of devoted teachers whom this city should reward for their accomplishments instead of blaming them for problems that are not their fault.
The miracle to me is that despite low salaries and lack of recognition, these teachers continue to provide hope and guidance to the students at Southern High School.
One of the final events that I photographed was the graduation on June 5. I wish I could report that the entire entering class graduated, but that is not the case.
However, more than 100 students did graduate. Many are going on to four-year colleges with scholarships, some to two-year colleges, some to the military and some to jobs.
The experience of a year at Southern High School both moved and saddened me. It moved me because of the hope and dedication I witnessed both on the part of the faculty, staff and students; and sadness that not all of its students, because of problems outside of school, are able to complete their education.
If there is a blame to be placed, it must fall upon a government that has turned away from the inner city, preferring to talk about its accomplishments in foreign affairs, while overlooking those who most need help.
The support and encouragement that governmental services might provide to inner-city teen-agers would allow many more of them to finish high school and become productive citizens.
Michela S. Caudill
Desegregating Higher Education