Students must learn the basic skills before honing...


October 23, 2001

Students must learn the basic skills before honing critical powers

The new high school assessments are definitely going to pose a challenge to our students, but not for the reason alluded to in The Sun's articles "Schools face harder tests" and "Doing the two-step in Baltimore schools" (Oct. 12). Students will have difficulty with these tests because the instructional programs in place in the elementary schools are faulty.

Elementary schools should be focusing on mastery of fundamental learning in math, reading/English and the sciences, not the so-called critical thinking skills the MSPAP purportedly tests.

Learners cannot think critically if they have not adequately mastered the basic skills so that they know something to think about.

We must concentrate on basics first and, as we determine our students have mastered these, begin incorporating more critical thinking skills. Those skills are more developmentally appropriate for students in fifth-grade and higher.

If teaching in the manner the MSPAP requires is truly beneficial, why haven't scores on functional tests improved over the last 10 years? Why haven't SAT scores soared? Why don't we have more students eager to learn?

The answer, in part, lies in the preoccupation with the instructional program that the MSPAP drives.

Is critical thinking important? Of course it is, but not in the elementary schools or until students have the tools - the basic academic skills - upon which to build their thinking.

Connie Verita


Education bureaucracy puts its own needs first

The Sun's article "MSPAP debate is a test for Md." (Oct. 14) states that the classroom preparation time required for the MSPAP tests is "at the heart" of the attacks on the program.

I disagree. In my opinion, it's simply that parents expect the schools to be used to educate their children, while the declared purpose of the tests (and the preparation time required) is to use the children to evaluate the schools.

The first view puts the children first, the second puts the bureaucracy first.

Anyone who has worked in a large bureaucracy in the private or public sector knows how easy it is for the organization to stray from its original purposes in favor of self-enhancement and preservation.

Whether it is achieving its mission or not, managers and employees can become so enamored of the system they have constructed that the means becomes the end.

That seems to be what is happening with Maryland's education bureaucracy.

John D. Schiavone


Value lives of our troops more than information

Is the public's thirst for military information worth putting troop's lives at risk?

In the article "Media finds war access denied" (Oct. 17), former New York Times managing editor Gene Roberts states that reporters' credentials were suspended during the Vietnam War if agreements regarding reporting troop movements were violated. But after jeopardizing troops, suspending credentials is a moot point.

These troops are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who are already in harm's way. Let's give them a chance to do what they are trained to do, without giving away where they're doing it.

These lives are more important than an immediate need for information.

Patty Warren


Hoarding antibiotics is a very selfish act

How can jittery Americans hoard the antibiotic Cipro ("Americans are taking antibiotics into own hands," Oct. 13)?

Doesn't a physician have to prescribe this medication? And how can we be so selfish at such a critical time?

Patricia M. Frederick


Islamic extremist nations put no faith in educating girls

I found the article "Putting faith in the schools" (Oct. 15) educational. In America, Muslims have the freedom to create schools that blend religion and academics. However, the Muslim girl photographed for the article, engrossed in her studies, would be an anomaly in countries ruled by Islamic extremists.

It was also interesting to read that posters of the Kaaba, an Islamic shrine at Mecca, hang alongside displays of American presidents. Those very American presidents would never have been allowed to step foot into Mecca, because they are considered infidels by the Islamic extremists who control the holy site.

Karen Beleck


Why not stone the father instead?

The headline above a short article in The Sun Oct. 13 read, "Pregnant women ordered to be stoned to death" in Nigeria.

The woman's heinous crime was premarital sex. A child was conceived from this unholy union. An Islamic court decreed that this woman and her innocent child are to be murdered by stoning.

I would like to be the one to throw the first stone, not at the woman but at the man who knew what he was condemning this woman and his unborn child to - a cruel, slow death.

Kate Bollhorst


Photo fuels the stereotypes that defame Polish-Americans

This letter is to protest the photograph accompanying the article "Pulaski, the hero, not the highway" (Oct. 14).

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