GOP officials wrong, but Democratic Party is not...

Letters to the Editor

February 09, 1999

GOP officials wrong, but Democratic Party is not guilt-free

Paul Delaney was correct when he chastised Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia for their association with the Council of Conservative Citizens ("Ol' South raises its ugly head in Lott, Barr," Jan. 17).

No one who supports equal opportunity should allow himself to be associated with groups that espouse theories of racial superiority and separatism. Our Republican leaders must resign their memberships and cut off relationships with such groups now.

However, what Mr. Delaney has overlooked is that such associations are not unique to Republicans.

There was a time when the "Ol' South" (including Maryland) was politically dominated by segregationists from the Democratic Party.

However, African Americans and others who fought for integration were willing to support and vote for Democrats who shared their concerns.

In short, they didn't hold the entire Democratic Party responsible for the racist beliefs and behaviors of a few.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats are immune from racist elements aligning themselves with their parties. However, those elements do not form the heart and soul of either party.

The Council of Conservative Citizens or any of its membership does not define the Republican Party. It cannot be allowed to overshadow the efforts of Republicans who continue to struggle for equal rights for all Americans.

Let us not forget the contributions of such Maryland Republicans as Del. Robert Kittleman and Leola Dorsey in their successful efforts to integrate restaurants on Route 40 in Howard County.

We also should recall the efforts of former Maryland Del. Sam Culotta, who was at the forefront of civil rights legislation in Maryland.

Many others who have fought for what was right then are still doing so.

In Black History Month, we must all remember that civil rights and equal opportunity are neither Republican nor Democratic issues.

These are human issues, no matter how partisan-driven some may wish to characterize them.

Michael Steele, Lanham

The writer is first vice chairman of the Maryland State Republican Party.

Schools should return to driver education

The deaths of three teen-agers in an automobile accident in Lusby ("Calvert community grieves for teens," Feb. 2) follows too closely upon other deaths of teens in the state.

We can do nothing to bring back the young people who have died in this and other tragic automobile accidents or to comfort those who love them. However, if there was ever an argument for returning to driver education in the school system, these deaths offer it.

Years ago, to save money, we took driver's education out of public schools and moved it to private enterprise, where the schools' incentives are quite different and the quality of the education depends solely upon the commitment of instructors who do not know the children, do not have an established caring relationship with them and do not spend more than 30 hours in discussing driving laws and judgment issues.

I am not suggesting that we eliminate private driver's education. Clearly, the expense of acquiring, equipping and maintaining cars, insurance and the cost of teacher time behind the wheel is prohibitive.

However, I am suggesting that we add mandatory driver safety classes to the high school curriculum.

The course could focus on issues of judgment and contain role-playing in different situations to help teens develop the ability to think ahead and anticipate the consequences of their actions on the road. If we were to do this, perhaps we could increase the number of driving hours on the road and reduce the number of classroom hours required of private driving schools.

If we care about our teens and about the other drivers on the road, we need to do whatever we can to prepare young motorists for taking their lives and the lives of their friends in their hands every time they put a hand on the steering wheel of a car.

We have great needs in education in the state, but what good will smaller classes, better textbooks and more class time do the students who die in these tragic accidents?

Anita Heygster, Pasadena

Private school choice does not obligate state

The letter ("Why does the governor ignore parochial schools?" Feb. 2) expresses anger at our state's lack of assistance to parochial schools, pointing a series of rhetorical questions to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

I can't answer for the governor, but I can answer as a parent who has chosen to send three children to Maryland's public schools.

Private school parents have chosen to step outside Maryland's education system and have no more right to claim a tax debt than a nondriver has to claim a rebate for taxes devoted to road-building.

The public school system benefits every one of us, whether or not we have children attending it.

Free, high-quality schools are the foundation of our democracy, the engine of our future and one of the few places Americans of all races, religions and heritages share experience.

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