County school panel isn't rubber stampRegarding the five...

the Forum

December 24, 1992

County school panel isn't rubber stamp

Regarding the five Baltimore County Board of Education members who voted in the best interest of students concerning graduation requirements, I salute them for their sincere concern to give our youth a quality education.

I am relieved to know some of the board members will vote for what they feel is best for our children's education rather than be rubber stamps for the new superintendent.

I have one other concern for the board members after attending the Dec. 3 meeting:

Being a lay board, members have to depend a great deal on the information provided by the superintendent and his staff.

I suggest they do some research on their own just to be sure they are being given accurate, unslanted information.

M. L. Wilson

Lutherville

Making the grade

In a Dec. 11 Other Voices article, Robin J. Holt quotes Paul Dressell of the University of Michigan, regarding grades as a measurement of achievement: "A grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the content to which a student has attained an undefined mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite amount of material."

Hello? Is there anybody out there? This line of thought has very much to do with the state of education in this country today. Two plus two equals four. Always. A student either knows this or does not.

Albert Thomas Holt

Cockeysville

Breaking the conspiracy of silence

James W. Gatton's Nov. 18 letter, "How to heal the divisions of the Vietnam war," was a touching appeal to Vietnam-era war protesters to participate in a healing process by apologizing for instances of personal cruelty to individual soldiers (spitting on veterans, calling them baby killers, etc.).

I want to extend my apologies. Not for spitting on returning vets. Not for shouting that they were baby killers. I never did these things. Nor did I personally witness such direct personal assaults, although I did see examples on TV.

I want to apologize for my silence. For the times I was organizing protest meetings, and hateful, blaming words were spoken about the soldiers in Vietnam, and I said nothing. For the instances when soldiers were stereotyped as ignorant and uncaring, and I failed to challenge the prejudices behind the statements.

Today part of my work is helping organizations and committees that are trying to heal the wounds of racism or sexism. A great deal of what I do involves teaching people how to overcome the temptation to be silent.

It is those who act out prejudice, hate and bigotry whom we notice and condemn. The cross-burners. The gangs who attack others on the basis of their race or their sexual orientation. The men who rape as an expression of their hatred of women. And the protesters who act inhumanely toward returning vets.

And yet it is the much larger numbers of us who do nothing -- simply remain silent -- who enable the acting out of prejudice-motivated behaviors.

Perhaps if I had challenged some of my fellow students about their hateful speech, they might have examined the classism that allowed them to distance themselves from those who served in Vietnam.

Perhaps if I had spoken up, the tone of our demonstrations and the language used in speeches might have more clearly placed the blame for the injustices of the Vietnam war where it belonged -- in the White House and the Congress.

I will never know for sure, just as the silent Germans in the days before the Holocaust will never know what a difference they might have made if they had broken their silence.

Making a commitment to end our silences would take us a long way toward healing many types of divisions and injustices.

It means being willing to trust our own best instincts, to risk being alienated and marginalized by members of our own group, to learn constructive ways of challenging and questioning others' ideas and assumptions.

It is a commitment that life in the 21st century will demand of us if we are to have a decent future for our children.

Dottye Burt-Markowitz

Baltimore

Here's to Donaho

This subscriber of Maryland Blue Cross and Blue Shield services wants to thank Insurance Commissioner John A. Donaho for his outstanding public service to all Blues subscribers and the citizens of Maryland.

During his efforts to disclose the financial truths of the Blues, he received no encouragement from the state's highest officials, who even now are handing him left-handed acknowledgements.

Mr. Donaho's persistence and high standards of business morality have resulted in the overthrow of a very slick professional hoodwinker.

Thankfully, the Maryland Blues will now become a model of health maintenance professionalism and my $426.10 monthly subscription fee will be reduced.

I nominate John A. Donaho as Maryland's outstanding public servant of the year.

Thomas A. Gorman III

Timonium

Community service

A group I belong to recently did some community service and the question arose: "Why are you doing this? Will you get credit at school? Have you done something wrong?"

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