Laws won't curb teen smoking, but parents canIt seems to...


September 24, 1995

Laws won't curb teen smoking, but parents can

It seems to me that this recent publicized outpouring of concern for children who smoke (The Sun, Aug. 10) is just another one of those moral crusades proposed by the federal government that we must undergo every now and then. But the approach that is being heralded as the solution, a reduction in advertising and availability, is exactly the wrong method.

First of all, many people smoke without it resulting in a deadly disease. Why don't we find out why smoking has different effects on different people's health? Obviously booze causes health problems in many people, but should the same rules be applied to it as well? Some alcohol consumption is actually recommended for certain conditions.

Second, by limiting access to cigarettes among the young, we will only create a wider interest in smoking as a status symbol, much the same as we experience with drinking.

Third, tobacco companies will continue to manufacture their products for sale abroad, and an extensive black market will develop if adults refuse to supply them to kids. . . .

It seems to me that the original breakthrough in reducing smoking was the result of peer pressure. Since this is probably the main reason that youngsters begin smoking, the main emphasis should be on parents to point out the absurdities of smoking to their offspring. Unfortunately, many of today's parents show little interest in what their children do, learn or say. The task will not be an easy one, but with the smoking bans currently in place, it stands a much better chance of success that the campaign rhetoric of politicians seeking election.

R. D. Bush Columbia

School reform can't come from top down

In response to Neal R. Peirce's Sept. 11 column, "State of the Schools: Both Dire and Hopeful," the practice of local administrators directly putting in place school reforms is not really an adequate solution. This remedy doesn't address an important part of the problem: For changes to be totally successful, they must have the support of both the government (either state or local) and the teachers. For local governments to put into place "bone-jarring" reforms misses the point, especially if the method used is seizing power from an elected school board, as Mr. Peirce seems to suggest. . . . To ignore the views of teachers and students in school reforms is counterproductive. Granted, one can argue that students and parents aren't informed enough to make suggestions about school reform. Teachers, on the other hand, are another matter. These are people who work with these kids on a day-to-day basis. . . . They can personally see what and how much students are learning. Is it really fair to exclude them from this reform process?

Of course, a teacher . . . cannot be expected to always see what's best for the district or possibly even his or her school. But they have important input and if they are involved in this process, they are more likely to accept changes that come from it. If they can accept the changes, they don't have to spend time fighting them, leaving them more time and energy to teach. And teaching the students is really what it's all about, isn't it?

# Michael C. Duck Ellicott City

Don't let plan for big schools go quietly

The Howard County Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal for high school additions/renovations which will increase student capacity to 1,400 or 1,600. The board and the public only received the feasibility study concerning the additions at a Sept. 14 meeting. The proposal will signal philosophical changes and require compromises in the quality of the high school experience. Yet this important decision will be made without opportunity for public discussion and input. . . . Adding classroom space for bodies is only part of the equation. Program specifications drive school design and the bigger schools being planned and built will meet those specifications. However, the renovated schools will meet the specifications only when practical. The renovation proposals add classroom seats and cafeteria seats but they do not address other core facilities: art, music, auditoriums, bathrooms, parking lots. They don't guarantee adequate science and technology facilities. They invite more equity problems and in 10 to 15 years, we will be searching for more Band-Aids and lamenting the shortsightedness of the inadequate additions/renovations.

This situation should sound strangely familiar. We are currently facing the consequences of such shortsighted bottom-line-driven elementary school decisions of 20 years ago. If high school renovations are to be done, they must be done properly and meet the necessary program specifications. Doing anything else will shortchange students and be costly to correct in the long run.

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