Judging JudgesI agree with your editorial, "Disabled...


January 05, 1995

Judging Judges

I agree with your editorial, "Disabled Disabilities Commission" (Dec. 16), that there is a need for "a broad examination of how judges are selected [in Maryland] and how they can be made accountable for their actions on the bench."

My own estimate, based on over 20 years of observing the Maryland judiciary in action, is that about half the judges in Maryland are dedicated to doing their difficult jobs in an exemplary manner.

Unfortunately, there is another group that lacks one or more of the qualities needed to be a good jurist.

Your editorial suggests a review of the state's judicial process. It seems to me that the first step is to have a truly independent group make a determination of how many judges in Maryland seriously lack the qualities needed to be fair and impartial jurists.

Such a group must come up with a way for courtroom lawyers to be able to report their observations of the judges they regularly appear before in complete anonymity. Absolute confidentiality is required, since no practicing attorney is going to risk his or her livelihood by making public charges against a sitting judge.

Once the extent of the problem is known, which is probably much greater than most would guess, then it is hoped a realistic plan can be implemented to deal with, as you say, "misguided or troubled judges."

Paul Streckfus


The Teachable

Bravo to Robert Embry on his recent courageous piece, "The Waste in Public Education" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 6). Mr. Embry mentions the excessive cost to provide special education for literally thousands of students who are stacked in levels from one to six like cordwood, based on their potential to learn.

Therein lies the problem, defining what potential for learning means in regards to the mission for public education. It is time to expose this sacred cow.

I'm reminded of the story of the emperor's new clothes. Finally, it takes the wisdom of a little child to point out to the people that, indeed, the emperor is naked and the desire to placate the emperor has misled all into believing something that never was, was. This seems to be part of the problem in asking the public schools to promise that something that never was, i.e. educating the ineducable, can be done.

This pertains to certain categories of students, especially level 5 and 6 students who can never be educated in the manner we refer to as teaching in the context of the mission of the public schools.

Indeed, most level 5 and 6 teaching is custodial care at best. This is not to imply that the children don't legally and morally deserve every bit of the attention given, but it is time to move these burdens outside the normal school budget process and into the arena of the Health Department, perhaps into Medicaid.

It is illusionary to define the act of teaching a "student" to follow an object with his eyes as "educating" this individual.

We need to stop forcing schools to spend exorbitant dollars, allotted to educate the masses of children, to promote "education" for a minority of ineducable children more in need of custodial services.

This is not an attempt to end the care. Rather it is time we start being intellectually honest about public education's ability to monetarily handle its mandated mission in a responsible manner that benefits all.

Geoff Smoot


Unfair System

I have one question for the University of Maryland professors and administrators who so forcefully proclaim the value of research in high education ["Balancing the Books," Dec. 18 and 19].

If research is such a valuable aid to teaching, then why are more and more universities, including the University of Maryland System, hiring part-time faculty, who are neither paid nor required to do research?

The embarrassing answer is that universities quickly abandon their dedication to the twin ideals of teaching and research when is in their economic interest to do so.

Universities routinely hire low-paid part-time faculty so that tenured faculty can pursue research interests and administrators can cut payroll costs.

This increasingly common practice not only violates the principle of equal work for equal pay, it is creating a two-tiered class system in which part-time faculty carry much of the teaching load but full-time faculty receive most of the rewards.

Consider the political science department at a local university where I am a (part-time) senior lecturer.

With few exceptions, I possess the same qualifications and perform the same duties as my tenured counterparts but receive only a small fraction of the pay.

Full-time faculty members teach four classes per semester to my three, yet are paid two-to-four times my salary and enjoy health benefits, time off for research, merit pay increases, promotion opportunities and job security.

Part-timers like myself receive no benefits but will teach about 25 percent of the classes this spring. Some estimates claim that part-timers comprise almost 50 percent of all faculty at my university.

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