Your Vote Counts?Each election year, voters are encouraged...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 28, 1994

Your Vote Counts?

Each election year, voters are encouraged to "make a difference." We are reminded of our constitutional right to cast a ballot, by pundits who proclaim "your vote counts." Or does it?

As a concerned American citizen, I recognized the importance of the 1994 elections. Therefore, I took it upon myself to write to the Baltimore County Board of Elections to request an absentee ballot.

As I am currently living and working in Japan, it was impossible for me to vote in person on election day.

After receiving the necessary materials to vote, I filled out my ballot, folded it exactly as I received it, sealed it in the balloting envelope, placed it in the mailing envelope and mailed it back to the county board. In short, I voted.

Now I am informed that my vote may be invalidated because I did not send in an affidavit. Although I followed the directions given to me with my ballot, checking and rechecking everything twice, my vote may not count. Why? No one sent me an affidavit.

Nowhere was it written that I had to send in an affidavit. I did what I was told, yet someone, somewhere, apparently neglected to tell me or other absentee voters that affidavits must accompany our ballots.

So, does my vote count? It better!

Just as Americans made a call for change in the just-completed elections, I would make another "call for change": We must change the absentee voting system so there is no confusion in future elections.

Peter Taylor

Azuma, Japan

School Numbers

For some reason, I keep returning to the Mark Twain quote: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics."

This certainly seems appropriate in light of the recent fiasco surrounding School Superintendent Walter Amprey's admission that there were "discrepancies" in previously reported statistics that inflated the reading and math gains in schools run by Education Alternatives, Inc.

However, the classic statement was made by the newly appointed "chief of educational accountability," L'tanya Sloan, who told the media, "I think you were given incorrect data in the spring."

Think? The bottom line is this: Scores have noticeably declined in EAI-run schools while rising district wide.

Specifically, the district reading test average for Baltimore's 121 elementary schools rose from 42.3 in 1992 to 44.8 last spring. Math scores rose from 44.4 in 1992 to 47.7.

At EAI-run schools the reading scores fell from 39.8 to 37 and math scores fell from 41.7 to 40. That's significant.

As if these "discrepancies" weren't bad enough, Dr. Amprey and the powers-that-be at North Avenue have replaced three schools in the control group with three others -- a process regarded as unconventional to say the least.

This is a blatant attempt to rig the scores more in favor of EAI, since the old control schools, Cecil, Margaret Brent and Madison Square, scored significantly higher than the new control schools, Furman L. Templeton, Rosemont and Alexander Hamilton.

The result of this action will certainly reduce the difference in scores between EAI-run schools and the control group. It would seem more logical to examine why the old control schools are doing so well in comparison to other schools.

Putting a favorable spin on data is one thing; throwing a curve ball is something else.

The statistics may be "damning" now, but reports in the future will be more in keeping with the "vision" of North Avenue.

Mark Twain, eat your heart out.

Arthur L. Laupus

Columbia

Books and Readers

Your Oct. 26 article about Harold Bloom and his book suggests that Bloom himself doesn't know why anyone should read the "dead white men" of literature.

If your writer quotes Bloom correctly, he has said that we should read these works for their enduring influence, but not to find values. Other than values, what other influence would the Great Canon possess?

Spelling, writing style and subject matter are far from standardized among these works. It appears then that the reason Bloom advocates the traditional literary canon is that his sense of academic control is threatened by the inclusion of other works.

Every book-lover derives a personal canon. There is hardly an avid reader who doesn't say, "surely you've read . . ." whether speaking of Aristotle or Anne Rice.

What's disturbing is that avid readers are so few and far between. Observe people in a book shop for a few hours. You'll see a few fanatics, but the majority is simply killing time.

Not coincidentally, this is reflected in the current predeliction of the public library system for non-printed materials.

Our problems are that people generally do not appreciate books, not in the list of books that the reading minority values. If Dr. Bloom "take[s] aim at those he considers mediocre writers," he should also take aim at mediocre teachers.

Dullness is the enemy of passion. If readers have no patience with great ideas expressed in leaden prose, they are not to be faulted for that.

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