Drugs in SchoolsAdministrators at the Gilman School are to...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 06, 1995

Drugs in Schools

Administrators at the Gilman School are to be commended for sensing, uncovering and acting on the drug problem there.

When the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission invited private schools to join in an effort to bring substance abuse education to the private school campuses throughout Maryland, Gilman was one of the few schools to respond favorably and actively.

A recent survey by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research indicates substance abuse by sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders to be increasing.

Especially noted in this report is the fact that our children are increasingly turning to marijuana and alcohol.

And it is not at all surprising to find a marijuana problem at private schools where students, for the most part, have easy access to expendable cash. Most probably have drinking problems as well.

It is time the drug problem be recognized for what it is: a general societal problem, not by any means limited to the inner city. It should be recognized that the same problems regarding substance abuse exist in private as well as public schools.

And it is time our children recognize that there are consequences for their little "Saturday night dalliances." These consequences include violent behavior, destruction of property, automobile accidents, date rape and the possibility of contracting HIV.

The drug situation at Gilman should be the wake-up call to all private school administrators to begin, continue or expand educational programs at all levels.

Parents also need to recognize the problem and discuss the dangers of substance abuse with their children.

Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. That's what we've been doing for the past several years and that is why we are seeing an increase in drug use among our children.

Let's heed the wake-up call now, before it's too late.

Linda S. Schiffer

Towson

The writer is the public relations coordinator for the Partnership For A Drug-Free Maryland.

Whole Language

As a student of education at Frostburg State University and a soon-to-be teacher in this area, I felt the need to respond to the recent letters controversy involving whole language.

I believe I understand why parents are so resistant to change in how reading is taught.

When I first began my professional education sequence, I was surprised and a little bit angry that they weren't teaching us how to teach phonics. I was taught through phonics when I was

young, so it must be the right way.

Then, in my second semester reading methods class, the professor taught us in the whole language style. Initially, it seemed unstructured; we didn't know what we were learning and were very confused.

But as the semester progressed, we became used to this new style of learning, and discovered that we had learned a lot more than we thought we had.

We didn't have to suffer through boring textbooks and learn everything one step at a time, either. We learned it all together, as a whole. Slowly, I began to understand the place that phonics must take in reading.

When reading, we use four types of cues to help us understand what we are reading. Phonics is one of them. The other three are grammar cues, meaning cues and background knowledge cues.

None of these cueing systems, as they are known, is more important than the others. We use them all together to help us understand what the author is telling us.

This is what reading is all about: meaning and understanding.

After reading this letter, no one is going to sit back and say, "Boy, I sure am glad I was able to sound out every word correctly. It's a good thing I learned those phonics decoding skills." That would be ridiculous.

It is more likely you'll say something like, "I really disagree with her," or, "I see what she is saying."

To teach only phonics teaches learners that reading is about sounding out words correctly, and not about understanding what is read.

You could teach a student the phonics of Polish, and she could read it perfectly. But would it make any sense to most readers? I doubt it.

Phonics alone is not the key to intelligence (letter, Dec. 22). Whole language attempts to give learners the skills they need to understand what they read and, therefore, the world, by teaching all of these things in context.

Please understand that whole language does not eliminate phonics, it just makes it part of the team.

Julie A. Skruch

Baltimore

Sauerbrey Suit

Gov.-elect Parris Glendening's spokespeople claim the bulk of the voting irregularities suggested in the Sauerbrey lawsuit "are the result of (at worst) excusable neglect." Since when is neglect excusable? Certainly not when it corrupts the means by which we choose our elected representatives.

When a doctor is found guilty of neglect, it's called malpractice.

I'd say neglect on the part of the people whose responsibility is to safeguard the process by which our governing representatives are selected is also a case of blatant malpractice.

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