Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 13, 2006

Professors do take teaching seriously

The cynical comments by the professors quoted in Alan Rosenthal's column "The dirty secret about professors" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 5) did a disservice to a profession many regard as a true calling.

I suspect, however, that the "big-name" universities that employ them are partially to blame for their churlishness, because they have fostered a belief that being asked to teach first- and second-year undergraduates would be a humiliating demotion, rather than an opportunity to interact with an engaging and challenging student population.

Fortunately, many universities - particularly public, high-population institutions - never assign courses to "teaching assistants" (i.e., graduate students); thus the regular faculty members, who all hold advanced degrees, teach freshmen and sophomores as well as upperclassmen.

If these instructors sometimes feel "suicidal," as one of the professors Mr. Rosenthal quoted said he would if asked to teach undergraduates, it is because of having to grade and comment on the five- to 10-page papers submitted by several classes (usually 20-plus students apiece) every week.

If, however, the suicide rate among professors is actually zero, it is because the instructors, however inundated, really love teaching and are very good at it.

It's true that at my institution, Towson University, instructors passionate about instructing sometimes feel a little disgruntled because research and publication success are generally favored over teaching excellence in the climb up the promotion ladder.

On the other hand, no instructor is considered for a top-level merit raise unless he or she has been formally deemed by students and peers to be top-level in teaching.

Clarinda Harriss

Towson

The writer is a professor of English at Towson University.

Social promotion hurts city schools

The Baltimore public school system claims that it disdains "social promotion." But any student in the system can clearly see that students are promoted simply to keep them moving through the grades ("City schools shun tests for grade promotion," Sept. 8).

Those students who are promoted without having legitimately passed the previous grade act as a heavy weight on more-interested students.

Moreover, many students who appear to have passed a grade with decent scores ought not to have passed; they were simply granted those grades because of their "effort," not their knowledge (or their often embarrassing behavior).

Saul Wilson

Baltimore

The writer is a ninth-grade student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Community rallies to honor heritage

I am thrilled that the Rochambeau has survived for another day ("Razing of Rochambeau delayed for 2nd time," Sept. 9).

However, The Sun's article credits a "small group" from Mount Vernon with keeping the Rochambeau standing so far. But there are many of us in Baltimore who oppose the destruction of this elegant, irreplaceable building.

We wish we could rely on our government to protect our architectural heritage and the integrity of our built environment. But city officials are always too happy to bow to the wishes of those who want to destroy, for private ends, that which makes Baltimore beautiful and distinctive.

This forces those such as the Mount Vernon property owners into court.

That "small group" is doing something that ought to be the job of the government.

Isabel Lipman

Baltimore

City needs prayers more than building

After following the struggles between the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the locals of the Mount Vernon area about the demolition of the Rochambeau apartment building ("Rochambeau's fate is murky after ruling," Sept. 12), it is my conclusion that my beloved Baltimore needs prayers more than an abandoned apartment building.

Stan Piet

Bel Air

A whimsical respite from provincialism

I like Jonathan Borofsky's "Male/Female" sculpture ("Use railroad theme for art at station," letters, Sept. 4).

I see it every morning on my way to work. What truly makes the piece work is the heart light, which is best appreciated at night. I always pause long enough to watch at least one cycle of the lights.

The timing of the changing colors is like the slow inhaling and exhaling of breaths. It is a peaceful, meditative icon at the center of a bustling city, and the location at a hub for travelers makes perfect sense to me.

The scale of the sculpture is reminiscent of Christo's conceptual work, and its whimsical modernity lends an international flair to Baltimore that balances the city's renowned provincialism.

I applaud the Municipal Art Society's commission and the artist for creating something with the ability to induce such an immediate and personal reaction for an open-minded observer.

Warren Cherry

Baltimore

Punishing Gazans can't be excused

In the series of letters on Saturday headlined "Gazans defeat their own dreams" (Sept. 9), the writers somehow excuse Israel's devastating blockade on Gaza as justified by "hundreds of rockets" fired on Israel.

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