From the first day of school:In a social...

A VIGNETTE

September 05, 1992

A VIGNETTE from the first day of school:

In a social studies class in a Baltimore City middle school, the teacher told the students they would be studying presidential elections this fall.

To get the discussion moving, she asked whether any of the students happened to watch the television coverage of the Democratic National Convention or the Republican National Convention.

No hands were raised.

Did any know which cities hosted the convention?

No one volunteered.

Could anyone name the two candidates who were running for president?

Not waiting for any volunteers, the teacher began pointing to students. The half dozen who were called on shrugged their shoulders or said they didn't know.

In exasperation, the teacher then posed this question: Did anyone know the name of the president of the United States?

The teacher had to ask five students before somebody came up with the name George Bush.

* * *

NOW IT'S kinder, gentler police cars. Those new city patrol cars are smaller, sleeker, authoritative but non-threatening. And, yes, they're a new shade of blue. Not baby blue, as some assert -- a sort of medium blue.

It's all a part of the new positive image that Commissioner Edward V. Woods, who chose the color, wants the department to project, according to the spokesman. Community policing is the watchword, and the cars were designed to reinforce that image. Those new 9mm pistols convey authority and strength. The cars are more easy-going, comforting.

The 90 cars are mid-sized Ford Tauruses, replacing full-sized Chevrolets. The Tauruses come with a special police package that strengthens them for the demands of police patrolling. They also come with safety equipment like air bags and anti-lock brakes that the department values highly.

The city tries to trade in a quarter of the 400 marked police cars annually. This year, its budget could have paid for far fewer full-sized cars, so it agreed to buy the smaller Tauruses. So far, the motor pool reports, they are happy with the choice.

* * *

THROUGHOUT his fiction-writing, James M. Cain had to put up with bad jokes about his characters -- they tended to raise lots of cain. Now there's worse word-play. He was born in 1892, so what Pratt Library in particular is honoring is his caintennial. Pratt's exhibition follows, with candor, this major league reporter, editorial writer and novelist as he progressed from Maryland to New York to California to Maryland; his typewriter sounded, loudly, down to his death at 85. The exhibition is at, prepare to flinch, Caintral Library.

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