The media blitz has created a climate of crisis ripe for relinquishing local, community control of education to state and federal governments and strait-jacketing all of us into a government-mandated, one-size-fits-all method of teaching reading.
The writer is associate professor of elementary education at Towson University.
The truth about banking mergers
Michael Olesker's Nov. 23 column, ''Bankers' words ring hollow," excoriating First Union Bank and our chairman, Ed Crutchfield, distorts the issues and leaves out major facts which put a much different light on the acquisition of Signet and plight of its employees.
I formerly worked for Maryland National Bank and experienced its acquisiton by NationsBank. I left voluntarily when a better
opportunity arose with First Union.
I hold no grudge against NationsBank. It is not the moral obligation of a larger, acquiring company to assure the acquired company's employees a job. It was not NationsBank's fault that my banking alma mater made $1.8 billion in bad real estate loans.
It is also not their fault that they had an employee in a similar position to mine. I could have chosen a lesser job and worked back up the ladder, or left for a better opportunity. I chose the latter.
I mention this so that Mr. Olesker may come down from his pompous moral perch and learn how the real world works. The facts are that the banking industry is terribly inefficient and overpopulated.
Similar to the health care industry, which has too many hospitals, we have too many commercial banks. If one takes a long-term, strategic perspective, it is better for commercial and consumer customers to have larger, more sophisticated, more diverse banks to choose from.
Those desiring smaller banks, can choose from Mercantile Bank to Columbia Bank or, God forbid, Ed Hale's First Mariner Bankcorp.
Where Mr. Olesker crossed the line from misinformed rhetoric to borderline slander is when he agrees with Ed Hale's quote that Ed Crutchfield was ''lying through his teeth."
First of all, and I was at the press conference, Mr. Crutchfield was alluding to the long-term effect. Initial job displacement occurs due to employee overlap. However, as has been proven in our former regional headquarters in Roanoke, after a few years it is not uncommon for more jobs to be created as the bank grows.
Mr. Olesker left out perhaps the most important fact. We are granting six weeks plus two weeks for every year of service as severance pay to every Signet employee not offered a job, an outlay of an estimated $100 million.
I have been there, and it is not a pleasant experience to see friends lose jobs. However, this is more generous than any bank merger I have seen, and equal to the most generous severance package in the United States. Mr. Olesker can validate that, if he cares, with any competent compensation consultant.
Mr. Olesker asks, ''They think we're idiots, dont they?" Not exactly. I think he is clueless about financial market dynamics. Perhaps he should try a night business course.
In his quest to pin blame, Mr. Olesker should lay it on a Congress which kept commercial banks from competing on equal footing with foreign banks, investment banks and investment management companies for over 50 years.
In the past five years or so, commercial banks have finally broken through and are playing catch-up. This has caused a wave of consolidation, and as painful as it is in the short run, the market efficiencies are taking hold.
Thomas M. Neale
The writer is senior vicce president and corporate banking sales manager at First Union Bank.
Shipbreaking series story, photos hailed
Please pass along congratulations to reporters Will Englund and Gary Cohn and to photographer Perry Thorsvik on their outstanding job on the shipbreaking series.
The articles were exceptionally well-written and the pictures unforgettable. Etched in my mind are images of Thakkar, the lawyer, with his red-stained mouth, spitting out betel nuts as he shouts to the reporters. Also unforgettable was the body of Ram, the worker, wrapped in a filthy orange shroud, floating out to sea just like another piece of discarded waste from a shipbreaking operation.
As a business school graduate student, I found the examination of the shipbreaking industry's dynamics fascinating. I shared the articles with some of my peers here who served in the Navy before returning to Michigan Business School. All of them, with their love of ships, were disheartened.
"We used to refer to shipbreaking as the Navy's dirty little secret," one remarked. Continuing, he said that he didn't know it was so bad as The Sun series reported, but acknowledged that reform was badly needed.
Steven L. Pessagno
Ann Arbor, Mich. The Sun inexplicably missed an opportunity recently to write a story about one of the most important emerging trends in the United States -- the trend toward Smart Growth.