DistinctionWouldn't it be wonderful to see Maryland as No...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 09, 1995

Distinction

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see Maryland as No. 1 in prevention of cancer, instead of our high rate in deaths from cancer?

As a cancer survivor, it would be a pleasure to go into any restaurant and be assured of no smoking.

Please show support for this life-saving smoking ban.

Shirley Saval

Baltimore

Foster's Critics

As I read letters to the editor Feb. 11 ("Foster's 3 Strikes" and "Does Life Begin After Conception?") I was deeply saddened, disappointed and angered.

As a former employee, current volunteer and ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood, I am outraged at the controversy surrounding the nomination of Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr. to be surgeon general.

Despite the protests of anti-choice citizens that they do not concur with the appointment of Dr. Foster based on the issue of honesty, this is clearly an issue of pro-choice vs. anti-choice.

It is appalling to me, also, that Dr. Foster's record comes under fire because he is a member of the Planned Parenthood board in Tennessee.

Planned Parenthood is not an illegal organization and, unlike anti-choice groups, it is not an organization that breeds intolerance and tells citizens what is right and what is wrong.

It is, contrary again to what anti-choice leaders have tried to proclaim, a reproductive health clinic that provides not only family planning services, but also cancer screening, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, HIV counseling and testing, colposcopy and cryotherapy treatment for abnormal pap smears, hormone replacement therapy and vasectomy services.

The abortion services provided at various Planned Parenthood clinics are a minuscule portion of their income and the services are legal under federal law, the last time that I checked.

If anti-choice citizens were truly concerned with family values and protecting the rights of mothers and children, they would use all of their energy to promote more comprehensive sexuality education courses in schools and in the community -- instead of the abstinence-only programs that they favor.

By doing so, the need for safe and legal abortion would be lessened.

Dr. Foster has shown the success of more comprehensive sexuality programs in the state of Tennessee, and I truly hope that he will soon be able to extend this wisdom on a national level.

Mary K. Guiden

Baltimore

Teaching Children

Baltimore County schools did better on this year's state performance testing than last year's.

Upon closer examination, however, there are some troubling disparities. Why is it that some schools score in the 80th percentile, compared to other schools which score below the 10th percentile?

There are those who would suggest it is poverty. While there are pockets of poverty in this county, it couldn't explain an entire school scoring that much lower than the average. In addition, there are some schools in poorer areas of the county performing much better than the average.

Could it be the violence in a neighborhood? Hardly. While county crime is too high, it hardly is at levels that would interfere with learning and bring these schools' scores that low.

Is it because the kids in one school are more intelligent than at other schools? There are those who believe there are certain segments of our population innately more intelligent than others. I choose not to believe that.

Is it because some schools have better teachers? Sure, some teachers are better than others. But the probability that only the best teachers wind up at certain schools is hardly believable.

Besides that, teachers are expected to perform near-miracles with the child who comes to our schools unprepared to perform at grade level. This is apparent by the testing. The problem is not the teachers' fault.

So what is it? Do some schools do better at teaching for the tests? Perhaps this is one possible contributing factor.

But my observation of schools from time to time all over this county demonstrated the difference between schools. That difference was parent involvement in the child's education.

Those schools with better scores consistently had more parent involvement. Involvement not just in the schools itself, but parents involved in reading to their children, helping their children learn nightly from a young age.

So it seems to me that what is missing from the poorer-performing schools are parents possessing the tools with which to teach their children, preparing them for school and motivating them.

There is a program in this county that does just that. It is the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY).

It teaches parents how to teach their children so that the student is prepared for better school performance. This program needs to be started at a young age before a child's formal schooling. And it needs significant funding.

The school superintendent and the county executive need to lobby the governor and Congress and the president for this kind of funding. It is critical if we hope to improve the product graduating from our schools.

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