Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 05, 2005

Extending attack on free expression

Our schools, where our youths are often just beginning to consider the world outside their friends and families, should encourage the free expression of ideas, even if these ideas seem controversial to teachers and administrators ("A conflict over the Pledge," Nov. 30).

After all, I would prefer to see public schools graduating adults who are not afraid to think for themselves and stand up for their beliefs rather than automatons who simply do as they are told.

The suppression of free speech in Maryland schools (and indeed, in schools across the country) seems to be part of a larger trend, in which controversial speech, especially political speech, is being severely constrained.

The use of the odious "free-speech zones" by the Bush administration, the treatment of protesters at Republican and Democratic conventions, the banning of controversial T-shirts in malls and now the curtailing of free expression by our schools all point to the idea that we are slipping away from being the free society Americans claim to love.

Michael Johnson

Baltimore

Too many treats can hurt our kids

I wholeheartedly agree with Lena Choudhary and David J. Smith ("Crisis of obesity," Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 29) regarding the overabundance of treats in nearly every aspect of our children's lives.

While positive reinforcement is a powerful tool, the use of treats to reward good behavior is much too pervasive. Even in recreational team sports - one of the few forms of physical activity for many kids - parents often supply snacks, treats and sweet drinks at every practice and game.

Children even get rewarded with candy for coming to Sunday school each week.

Parents, educators and coaches need to stop relying on these fattening rewards, and return to the old-fashioned practice of using words, not treats, to praise our children.

Jill V. Breysse

Glen Arm

Weight-watching isn't teachers' role

Lena Choudhary, a registered nurse, and David J. Smith, a conflict resolution worker, have some extraordinary suggestions for teachers about the part that they should play in the lives of obese students ("Crisis of obesity," Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 29).

They argue that parents "can make suggestions" but that "it would be more fitting for teachers to brainstorm alternative rewards and consequences for student conduct."

After brainstorming with myself - an admittedly kinky alternative - here's what I came up with:

Some kids will be left behind because of factors beyond the control of any teacher.

Some kids will be obese; some will be anorexic. Some kids will smoke pot, drink too much, get into potentially dangerous drugs and begin sexual activities far too early, with disastrous results.

Societal factors intrude earlier each year, and there is little teachers can do except respect their students for who they really are. Reality intrudes and sometimes that is not possible. But teachers should never become weight-watchers.

If they do, they cross a boundary that is bound to impinge on any lasting connection they may build with that child.

Betty Walter

Timonium

`Nothingness' takes piece of our history

Professor George Ritzer's theory and writings about the "nothingness" of our society ("Taking on the McMalls," Nov. 27) parallels the nothingness of our building choices.

The recent destruction of the graceful, useful and historically significant Elizabeth Gardner House in Hunt Valley further illustrates this bent toward nothingness ("Hunt Valley demolition jolts preservationists," Oct. 13).

It is to be replaced with a tedious and uncreative nothing of a bank building. (Did we need another such building?) The bank executives opted for the bland burger of the insignificant rather than for saving and promoting the specialty of the traditional, unique of our local culture and history.

Ruth B. Mascari

Monkton

The writer is a member of the board of the Baltimore County Historical Trust.

Put light rail line under Howard St.

I read with interest the article on proposed changes to freight and passenger rail in Baltimore ("Revamp of rail systems sought," Nov. 30). However, one seemingly obvious alteration went unmentioned.

The Maryland Transit Administration's light rail system, while relatively speedy and efficient for most of its length, crawls along Howard Street at a painfully slow rate. Meanwhile, the disruptions to traffic on Howard Street created by the light rail there have made it harder for motorists to get to the area.

But what's right below this section of the light rail line?

Why, a freight rail tunnel - one that many people want to keep freight out of.

Baltimore should have followed the lead of San Francisco and Boston and put the downtown section of its light rail underground when it was built.

The state and the MTA should move to rectify this situation by making sure the Howard Street tunnel is reserved for conversion to a light rail subway if CSX trains stop running through it.

Joshua Fruhlinger

Baltimore

Killing puts state on par with thugs

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