Remembering glory days of Sparrows PointThe closing of the...

LETTERS

November 14, 1996

Remembering glory days of Sparrows Point

The closing of the BethShip division of Bethlehem Steel's shipyard brings the end to a Sparrows Point era.

The monumental story of Sparrows Point began in 1887, when the Pennsylvania Steel Company acquired a tract of land on the north side of the Patapsco River, which was a farm and peach orchard granted to Thomas Sparrow in 1652. A shipyard was established on this land in 1891.

In 1916, the Bethlehem Steel Company, headed by Charles Schwab, purchased the Pennsylvania Steel Company along with the steel mill, shipyard and company town at Sparrows Point.

World War I increased the demand for ships, and the shipyard expanded its work force. At its peak during World War II, the shipyard employed more than 8,600 workers. In the mid-1970s, the shipyard built five supertankers and employed 4,000 workers.

Between 1986 and 1995, Bethlehem Steel's shipyard had the honor of being designated a "home port" for the U.S. Navy; this brought $68 million worth of work into the yard. Unfortunately this designation was revoked under intense political pressure in 1995.

With the Navy's cutback of its 600 ship fleet to 345, shipyards are in perilous condition throughout the nation. Over the last several years, 15 large shipyards have closed. BethShip is now following this path.

Paul Inskeep

Dundalk

Put more money in adult education

"Children in Baltimore's public schools are being cheated of their educational birthright,'' wrote Sara Engram, Sun deputy editorial page editor, in her Nov. 3 column, "Settle the school suit."

But isn't that only half the story? What about those children for whom Baltimore's public schools just don't work? The proportion of Baltimore City adults who did not finish high school is 38.4 percent, according to a school needs study for United Way organization. The education system also failed this huge drop-out population.

Maryland should provide a minimum educational birthright to all citizens, regardless of whether Baltimore City schools can deliver. State school aid should be calculated on the basis of the total school-age population, not just those actually attending school.

The state should withhold payment for the proportion of the eligible population not attending public schools and reallocate those funds to literacy, GED, vocational and alternate education providers, perhaps chartering them in the process.

In Central Maryland, low literacy (or non-high school completion) is at the highest rate among the United States' 15 largest metropolitan areas, and is a primary drawback to creating higher-wage businesses.

Correcting this problem will not be cheap. Assuming that literacy programs provided by the private voluntary sector cost $2,000 per student annually for three years, the United Way study estimated that annually enrolling just 10 percent of the unemployed among the 443,179 high school dropouts in central Maryland would cost $45 million.

But if Maryland wants to improve its economic future and make better use of educational dollars, it should consider programs like these.

Roger Dankert

Baltimore

Stuart Berger not so funny

As a Baltimore Countian without children in the public schools, I was content to follow with bemused detachment the foibles of former Baltimore County Superintendent Stuart Berger as reported by the local media. However, the quotations attributed to Mr. Berger in the Nov. 1 article byMarego Athans punctured my blissful bubble.

Mr. Berger's boorish gloating over the "House that Dutch Built" and the extra $50,000 he craftily squeezed out of a school board willing to be rid of him at any cost would be comical were it not my tax money involved.

Mr. Berger's comments on life after public service and the conspicuous consumption of unearned money provided by taxpayers' should be required reading for any school system which may consider entrusting the education of their children to a man like this.

Brian J. Murphy

Towson

English better off without empire

William Pfaff's account (Opinion Commentary, Nov. 4) of the end of the British Empire just 40 years ago is a reminder that the apex of the Empire was reached just 100 years ago, Jubilee Day, June 22, 1897.

Jubilee Day celebrated the existence of the greatest empire ever known. An island the size of Alabama with just 2 percent of the world's population ruled one-fourth of the world's people and one-fourth of the world's land area.

People coming out of the great cathedral in Liverpool could look out over the great harbor teeming with ships from all over, while inback of the cathedral, out of sight and out of mind, were some of the worst slums in the world, some as bad as those in Calcutta and Bombay.

German bombs destroyed the cathedral in World War II, and when it was rebuilt, it was turned around.

People coming out saw the horrible housing and terrible living conditions, and today the worst slums are gone. So are most of the ships that formerly crowded into the harbor.

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