Godless SchoolsIf the abortion issue has taught me...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 08, 1995

Godless Schools

If the abortion issue has taught me anything, it is that the law is incapable of being the sole expression of public policy or of fully articulating the values of a pluralistic society.

Other means, like free speech, press and assembly, must be unfettered and allowed to flourish if the power of moral (as opposed to merely legal) suasion are to have their most beneficial effect.

The one big and important area of public life in which the powers of moral suasion are indeed fettered and curbed by policy and practice is the public school system.

In the true spirit of the socialistic enterprise it is, the system is founded and functions on the totally fallacious premise that education and religion can be separated, that a child can be truly educated without dealing with the fundamental life question that philosophy and religion address but which cannot be answered by science.

Before the advent of the "common" school in the mid-1800s, education in America was, as in Europe, historically the province of the home and the church. Further, it is an historical fact that the population as a whole was in many ways better read and more learned than it is today. (See "Education in the United States," by Pierre Du Pont de Nemours, 1812, and "Democracy in America," by Alexis de Tocqueville, 1832.)

Today, we have Keith Geiger, the head of the National Education Association (in a blatantly self-serving political attempt to defend the public schools at any cost) advertising that the public schools are in fact teaching morals.

In my opinion, there is no way that you can teach "morals," outside of some philosophical context that speaks to where man fits into this universe in which he finds himself.

And, the context is either framed by religious belief or by secular humanism, the "non-religious religion" to which the public school system necessarily pays homage.

I then have to ask, what good is achieved in teaching children "about" morality unless you can also give them reasons to behave morally that transcend their own perceived self-interest?

Because the public schools have been "sanitized" of all religious influence as a result of various Supreme Court decisions from 1947 to 1963, it is clear to me then that the public schools can no longer be relied on to bring to bear the moral suasion which society urgently needs for our children.

And because true education and religion cannot be separated, we need to reconsider the whole idea of public schools and move as swiftly as prudence permits toward privatization.

We have to at least make sure that all parents have the financial means to access private education, whether through tax credits, parental rebates or vouchers.

John D. Schiavone

Kingsville

Urban Sprawl

Much of Lee R. Epstein's letter (Dec. 24) is correct regarding the pernicious affects of urban sprawl.

What I would add is the importance of the pervasive thought in American culture to "move to the country and get some land."

I grew up in a small community in southern Wisconsin that is not a part of a major urban area. It is surrounded with extraordinarily prosperous agricultural land.

While it has its share of problems, the searing problems commonly associated with life in a major metropolitan area are generally absent.

And yet, I see increasing sprawl each year that I return to visit my parents. A significant number of people prefer to leave for the countryside.

The more affluent move to expensive and often quite lovely developments just beyond the corporate limits of the community.

Those with less financial ability frequently buy a building lot off the perimeter of a farm along a country road.

There are myriad reasons why people desire to leave cities and established suburban areas. But until we as a society are willing to forego the desire to get away from established urban areas, it is unlikely that any decrease in urban sprawl will occur soon.

The siren call of relatively cheap land in (for a time) relatively

clean and crime-free countryside will continue to act as a powerful stimulus for both people and business to leave developed areas, instead of making those areas more desirable and attractive places to live.

Charles A. Ferraro

Baltimore

Outdated Tax

It seems to me that your recent editorial on the issue of `D eliminating the snack tax was well wide of the mark.

This product of the severe recession of the early 1990s has run its course.

At the time, additional revenues were sorely needed. A snack tax seemed to be a viable solution.

Now, as Gov. William Donald Schaefer departs the scene, Maryland is in sound financial shape with a triple A bond rating, a $168 million surplus and a much improved economy.

For the following reasons, the snack tax should go and the sooner the better:

* It is unevenly applied and difficult to administer. Some obvious products which most of us would consider to be "snacks" are not even subject to the tax. Confusion among small merchants is an unfortunate byproduct.

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