Letters To The Editor


December 14, 2004

Education data must factor in mobile students

I think The Sun's editorial opposing the Department of Education's proposal for a "unit record" educational data system is a misguided overreaction ("Come here often?" editorial, Dec. 6).

While The Sun elsewhere stalwartly defends the public's right to know what public servants and institutions are up to, what it advocates here would deny the public access to information the public needs about public education institutions.

For example, there has been increasing attention to institutional graduation (or degree completion) rates.

A recent report from the National Center for Higher Education Management System states that "more than half of the students who ultimately earn bachelor's degrees enroll in two or more institutions, and almost a fifth attend three or more."

Further, the report says, "Some 40 percent of the students who switch institutions cross state boundaries."

It is thus obvious that graduation statistics based on a single institution, or even on a single state, have little meaning.

And it makes no sense to demand that institutions improve their graduation rates while prohibiting them from discovering what those rates actually are.

It is certainly true that individual privacy issues must be addressed in any data system containing information about individual students (even if it is intended only to provide information at higher levels of aggregation). And they can be, as has been demonstrated many times.

For example, individual patient medical records are also private, but I have never heard of complaints about their use by hospitals or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in detecting and tracking epidemics.

Donald N. Langenberg


The writer is chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland.

Choices condone a policy of abuse

As Jules Witcover rightly points out, President Bush's vote of confidence in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is as much motivated by saving face as defending the country ("Rumsfeld survives," Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 8). But such wrongheaded decisions come at a cost.

How many new reports of prisoner torture must surface before Mr. Bush takes action to reverse the erosion of America's reputation?

Indeed, instead of holding senior officials accountable and seeking explanations, resignations or indictments, the president is retaining Mr. Rumsfeld, the man who wittingly or unwittingly allowed war crimes to occur on his watch, and he is promoting White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, the architect of the policies that provided the pretense for the acts of abuse.

The president's appointments signal to the world that the incidents at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are not aberrations, but an accepted part of American policy.

Enough about accountability - do we have no shame?

Robert J. Inlow

Charlottesville, Va.

Headline unfair to conservatives

The headline "Conservatives benefit in spy deal" (Dec. 8) was jarring and tendentious.

The conservatives believe that stricter immigration provisions will help in the war on terrorism, and so they obtained a promise that Republican leaders would schedule a vote and push for enactment of such provisions early next year.

The deal is thought by the conservatives, whether or not one agrees with them, to benefit the nation in a cruel war, and not themselves.

The Sun's editors should take more care to keep their biases in check when they write headlines.

Nathan Dodell


How public can be part of inaugural

So if six average American families pooled their median household incomes of $43,300 they could afford the $250,000 "underwriter package" for President Bush's inauguration.

Twenty lucky family members could be treated to a candlelight dinner Dec. 19, but then they would have to choose two of their number to attend the "exclusive" lunch with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Unfortunately they won't have much cash left over to fund their new retirement and health care savings accounts.

Welcome to the "ownership" society.

Brad Lyman

Forest Hill

The governor gains by attacking press

Some people believe that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. doesn't understand the First Amendment ("Ehrlich tells students of his feud with The Sun," Dec. 8). Others believe that he doesn't understand the difference between a reporter and a commentator. Some think that he doesn't understand metaphor, sarcasm or other sophisticated tools of advanced writing.

These people would be exactly the naive idealists who have been getting their rears kicked the last several elections.

I think that Mr. Ehrlich knows perfectly well that his complaints against Sun writers are ludicrous, and that his ban against state employees talking to them is unconstitutional.

His ban, and the subsequent airtime and newspaper space he has gotten to air his complaints, are part of a calculated smear campaign that would make Karl Rove proud.

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