Summer school complaints expose parent disinterest...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 04, 2000

Summer school complaints expose parent disinterest

Instead of complaining ("Schools hope classes will close skill gap," June 25), parents of students who have been identified as needing to attend remedial summer classes should be grateful that such programs are offered.

These are probably the same parents who want even more out of the school system after their children have attended school for 13 years and still do not have the skills to quality for a decent-paying job.

They are probably also the same ones who have no interest in their children's education during the school year, who have not read to their children, who have not checked their homework, who cannot be located during the school year to have a conference about their children's progress.

They have not taught their children respect for education and the school system and have not instilled the discipline at home that is necessary to be successful in school.

The audacity of these parents is truly incredible. They seem to forget that the main responsibility for learning falls on the students and their parents.

If a system or family wants the same results, it will do what it always has done. If it wants to improve, it will try to change.

Baltimore City is trying to better its approach to education. The least it deserves is the support of the students' parents.

Connie Verita, Baldwin

Nothing uncommon about Clark photographs

The Sun's attention to Carl Clark's everyday photography of black people is obviously merited ("Artist of the ordinary," June 25).

But to say that his photographs "celebrate an uncommon subject" is really to distort the truth of where American photography, whether by blacks or whites, has been for at least the past 70 years.

There's nothing "revolutionary" about Clark's work either in style or subject matter. It's just good work that depicts those with whom he's most familiar and sympathetic.

I can't see a lot of difference between how outstanding white photographers from Helen Levitt to Leonard Freed and Alex Webb have photographed blacks than I can of how black photographers of the same caliber, such as Gordon Parks or Baltimore-born Roland Freeman, have depicted either blacks or, for that matter, whites.

Personally, I'm deeply indebted to Norman Ross, the emeritus director of the Baltimore Cultural Arts program, for having made possible the first local exhibition of my own work and that of a white friend and colleague at Gallery 409, which was renamed Eubie Blake Gallery several years later.

By doing so, he also exposed himself to the ire of some black people in the community who didn't really look at the pictures, which depicted the everyday life of blacks as well as that of whites.

Jack Eisenberg, Baltimore

Summer reading for TV viewers

Summer is here, and the kids are home. Why not turn on the closed-captioning device on the television? As the characters speak, their words are scrolled across the screen.

It might not teach you how to read, but it sure can't hurt.

Gene Kirk, Millersville

Custodial workers deserve fair pay

The Sun's recent stories about the appalling wages of Baltimore's custodial workers reveal that these hard-working holders of thankless jobs can't make enough to live in minimum decency without working double-time or supplementing their meager wages through private charity or public assistance.

Why must the pay be so low? Because, according to Sun interviews with representatives of employment agencies that contract to provide janitors, parking lot attendants and security guards, they can't pay them more and profitably compete for customers.

The competition includes Broadway Services Inc., a for-profit corporation owned by Johns Hopkins University. Broadway is Baltimore's largest provider of contract custodial workers, 1,475 of them. They service premises that include Hopkins and The Baltimore Sun.

Broadway's revenues have increased since 1997 when the company grossed $34 million and netted a profit of more than $1 million. Broadway profits presumably go to swell bulging coffers at Johns Hopkins.

Stacked against the $1 billion-plus raised in Hopkins' current fund-raiser, government funding such as $255 million from the National Institutes of Health, other huge grants from government and private industry, and tax-free returns from its substantial investments, Johns Hopkins' income from Broadway is minuscule. But it is enough to raise the pay of all Hopkins custodial workers, direct and contractual, to the minimal "living wage" of $8.03 hourly, which none of them earns at this time.

Hopkins' claimed commitment to the community turns out to be a negative. Many of the hospital's lowliest laborers live in poverty, on the fringes of the splendid buildings they clean and guard against their own neighbors' children who are running the streets while their parents work 60-hour weeks.

Those who work for Broadway Services are effectively making an involuntary contribution to the institution that underpays them.

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