Letters To The Editor


December 14, 2005

Punitive measures don't help schools

It's easy to understand the frustration and anger that Baltimore taxpayers must feel about the failure of their schools to improve ("A failed plan," editorial, Dec. 8). With more than half the city's schools on the state's watch list and the academic achievement gap still a chasm, the natural urge is to adopt punitive measures.

The experience in other cities that have gone that route, however, serves as a cautionary tale.

In the early 1980s, for example, San Francisco was placed under a court order to reconstitute 20 execrable schools. Despite the best efforts to turn them around, all these schools are still failing today.

Other large urban cities have reported similar results.

The lesson that Baltimore can learn as it prepares a new master plan required by the state is that teachers are not saints and schools are not Lourdes.

No matter how dedicated, educated and trained they are, teachers and school officials cannot overcome the huge deficits in socialization, motivation and intellectual development that many disadvantaged students bring to class through no fault of their own.

It will take an unprecedented collaboration between schools and communities to address the continuing pathologies that are ultimately responsible for the appalling record of too many schools in the city.

Business as usual is unacceptable, but so too are draconian measures.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

The writer is a former teacher in the Los Angeles public schools and a lecturer at UCLA's Graduate School of Education.

Could state do better with city's schools?

If I were Mayor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore schools CEO Bonnie S. Copeland I would say enough is enough, and let state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick take over the entire city school system, making sure that she is not allowed any additional funding ("Schools' master plan is denied," Dec. 7).

In other words, Ms. Grasmick would have to run the city schools with the same resources Ms. Copeland has.

Would we see highly qualified teachers signing on - preferring an inner-city school to one in Montgomery County?

Would we see the dropout rate fall as students suddenly see bright lights at the end of their bleak tunnel?

Would we see middle school students, who have the well-known disadvantages and cultural influences of urban strife, suddenly respond favorably to the English curriculum found in a northern Howard County middle school, proving wrong the city school system's present desperate attempts at using Studio Course and other materials to motivate them?

Bill Tunney


Brown can't burnish mayor's ugly record

No matter whom Mayor Martin O'Malley chooses for a running mate, he remains Mr. O'Malley - the man who has presided for six years over one of the filthiest and most dangerous cities on the Eastern Seaboard, a city with a dysfunctional government and nonfunctional school system, to mention only a few of its unsolved problems ("Big role is seen for Brown," Dec. 13).

The quality of life deteriorates in Baltimore as this mayor sells off bits of the city cheaply to developers while he raises taxes and fees on residents.

It would be a shame to take the state down to the level of Baltimore.

If Mr. O'Malley wins the Democrats' gubernatorial primary, this Democrat will not be voting Democratic come general election time.

Barbara A. Gilmour


Ehrlich overlooks new aide's baggage

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s hiring of political operative Bo Harmon to help run his campaign for re-election provides an insight into the governor's thinking ("Ehrlich hires '06 director," Dec. 10).

Surely someone in the Ehrlich camp must have voiced concern about Mr. Harmon's carnivorous sullying of Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland's patriotism during his 2002 Senate re-election campaign in Georgia, and how that would hang around the governor's neck like raw meat.

But apparently Mr. Ehrlich is not concerned about the baggage Mr. Harmon will bring to his campaign.

Stefan N. Miller


Citgo's donations a humanitarian act

I was surprised to read the column critical of Venezuela's donations of heating oil to needy families in the United States ("Gift of warmth brings a chill," Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 6)

The government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has created social programs serving the poor of that country that have in just a few years largely eradicated illiteracy, reduced unemployment and given millions of that country's citizens access to health care through more than 500 new rural and inner city clinics. Mr. Chavez's domestic approval rating is 65 percent, according to the latest poll by independent Chilean pollsters Latinobarometro.

It is hard to imagine where former ExxonMobil Corp. executive Bruce M. Everett gets his facts in contending that the program providing discounted fuel from Venezuelan-owned Citgo to low-income Americans is bad for Venezuelans.

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