Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 23, 2005

Souls of Indians find expression in diverse ways

While I applaud Lisa Goldberg's attempt to correct stereotypes about American Indians, her article "Powwow rhythms unite native souls" (July 18) leaves many more intact.

In the 1970s, the pan-Indian movement was created in large part out of the American Indian Movement's attempts to unite the Native diaspora in fighting for our sovereignty and civil rights.

FOR THE RECORD - Correction
Because of an editing error, a word was omitted from the July 23 letter "Shielding journalists could quash dissent."
The last sentence should have read: "If there were a shield law, it would have to be carefully written so it would not protect those in power who could use it to eradicate dissent."
The Sun regrets the error.

Because many of our traditions were purposefully eradicated by the U.S. government, Plains culture came to infuse much of the "Red Power" movement and much of what one sees at a powwow today.

But this should not be confused with Indian culture in general, as there is vast diversity in our individual nations.

The powwow is a wonderful way to expose non-Native Americans to our cultures and serves an important social function for Indian people.

Unfortunately, this is only the pretty part of the picture. These displays also can often reduce Native American people to one-dimensional caricatures and hide present-day struggles.

Indian people locally suffer from substance abuse problems, inadequate access to health care and abysmal educational outcomes. This is also true nationally, as poverty and disease run rampant in Native American communities.

If The Sun is truly interested in Indian people, it should dedicate its time and resources to examining local groups (such as the Baltimore American Indian Center) and national organizations working in the interests of Indian people.

Kerry Hawk Lessard

Baltimore

The writer is chairwoman of the Parent Advisory Committee to the Native American Program of Baltimore's public schools.

Cutting bus service will add to gridlock

I was pleased to see the Maryland Transit Administration shelve the proposed Greater Baltimore Bus Initiative, which would have canceled the No. 61 bus, the major bus line serving Roland Park ("Metro area bus route overhaul is delayed," July 22).

I regularly ride this bus to work at the Johns Hopkins University. I do not wish to have my bus service discontinued, and there are many reasons it should not be cut.

First, there are many seniors in my building and a number of senior living communities near the No. 61 bus line.

Many seniors depend on the bus for transportation and have limited mobility that prevents them from walking several blocks to connect with another bus line.

There are also several schools and colleges in the Roland Park area, and many students and staff take the bus.

All of these constituencies would be ill-served by the elimination of bus service to and from Roland Park.

There also are plans to add housing units and expand shopping facilities at the Rotunda, and Hampden and Mount Washington are also attracting more businesses and residents.

Eliminating bus lines would only increase traffic and gridlock throughout the area.

This time of neighborhood growth throughout Baltimore, along with rising gas prices, demands improved and expanded public transit to encourage ridership, not cutbacks in service.

Patti Kinlock

Baltimore

Middle school plan can use some work

As a former assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Baltimore schools, I feel compelled to comment on the city schools' plan for middle schools outlined in "Middle school changes offered" (July 13).

The idea of uniform curriculum across all schools, with 90-minute time blocks in reading and math, seems overly simplistic. It is a "one-size-fits-all" approach. The same subject matter should be available in all schools, but not all students need 90 minutes in each of the blocks.

Deans in middle schools? Tut, tut. Changes in titles have little meaning other than for salary demands.

Expand electives? Electives should be available when a student has all of his or her other academic subjects up to snuff. Many students will be eligible, many won't. But formal electives should be available only to students who meet all other academic requirements.

Bands, student government and athletic teams are traditional ideas. However, the teams should be intramural and compete with other classes after school. Middle school is no place for a team that competes with other schools. This involves transportation and time and money needed elsewhere.

Mandatory training for teachers in "urban adolescent development" is again a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Some teachers can handle their assignments and some cannot.

Study after study has shown that it does not matter what grades are assigned to a building so long as the students learn civility.

The city schools should also consider changing their policies on promotion.

Making children repeat an entire year of school is a high price to pay. We should organize the schools on a semester basis. This narrows the age gap between students in a class and makes sense developmentally.

Further, it is better to have to repeat a semester rather than a whole year.

Thomas R. Foster

Parkville

City middle schools really need help

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