State's program of student service lasts a lifetimeBrian...

LETTERS

March 08, 1998

State's program of student service lasts a lifetime

Brian Sullam, in his Feb. 15 column, is absolutely correct that meaningful service learning projects can instill in students a lifelong habit of citizenship and civic involvement ("Community service plan needs reform, not relief").

Make-work activities that fulfill the state's requirement but make little or no impact on the community do a grave disservice to students, because they fail to show them the joy that comes from participating in public life. That has been the goal of student service since I founded the Maryland Student Service Alliance in 1988 and began the effort to create the first statewide high school community-service requirement.

I agree with Mr. Sullam when he says we need rigorous statewide standards, yet it cannot come at the expense of local program flexibility. Service learning depends upon the full support of school administrators, teachers and parents. If we thrust upon them a single idea of how serice learning should look, communities will view the requirement as a burden they are forced to carry, rather than their own priority. Moreover, we will not benefit from the innovation and creativity that flexibility encourages.

Last year, more than 99 percent of seniors completed the requirement, 80 percent said it made school more interesting and raised their academic performance, and 95 percent said they planned to continue to make community service a regular part of their lives.

The lesson of service is sticking with our children, and as a result Maryland will benefit for years and years to come.

$Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Annapolis

The writer is Maryland's lieutenant governor.

Politically incorrect to invoke Jesus?

In the past few weeks, I have heard and read about the controversy surrounding the opening prayer for each day's General Assembly session.

As a Christian pastor, I am dismayed and concerned that in order to be "politically correct," anyone who is invited to give such a prayer to the House or Senate must refrain from praying in the name of Jesus Christ.

If Christian pastors are invited to give the opening prayer, and if a Christian pastor remembers the foundation of his or her faith, then Jesus Christ becomes a very central part of the prayer. If people find the name of Jesus offensive, they should simply listen and disregard the prayer. People who want to hold public office should respect the beliefs of others and not be offended by those beliefs.

We ought to think back when each school day was opened with a prayer and a reading from Scripture. For many people, that was their introduction to God. However, by the actions of a very small minority that felt offended, prayer was banned in public schools.

And now, in the name of political correctness and because of the dislikes of a few, our House and Senate leaders are considering not only banning Jesus' name from being mentioned during prayer, but having only House members give the prayer.

In part, we were founded on the basis of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In the name of correctness, we are beginning to lose a little of each.

&The Rev. John E. Taylor Sr.

Pasadena

The writer is associate pastor of Jenkins Memorial Church in Riviera Beach.

Bomb-threat restitution makes sense

On the issue of bomb-threat legislation, The Sun's editorial position seems confused and contradictory.

Several months ago, Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham recommended that children arrested for making bomb threats be tried as adults, and that the school board be entitled to mandatory restitution from offenders.

At the time, The Sun made no editorial objection to this proposal. Legislation was later introduced in Annapolis to secure mandatory restitution, and again The Sun made no editorial objection.

In a Feb. 20 editorial, "Political bomb throwers," however, The Sun branded as an "ill-conceived terrible policy" a bill sponsored by Del. John R. Leopold and other Anne Arundel delegates that (( would make school board restitution optional, not mandatory. The Sun called the sponsors "political bomb throwers."

Two days later, Feb. 22, The Sun's editorial writer for Anne Arundel County, Brian Sullam, stated in his column, "Bomb threat more serious than carrying penknife," that he supported "harsh penalties for people who make bomb threats" and that "evacuations steal instruction time and add costs that divert precious public dollars to expenses such as overtime pay for bus drivers and police officers."

What's wrong with this picture? If The Sun's editors were silent regarding mandatory restitution when Dr. Parham recommended it, why were they aroused by optional restitution when Anne Arundel legislators proposed it?

Martha R. LaBeau

Pasadena

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