Saturday Mailbox


April 28, 2007

Don't blame schools for students who fail

The use of the title "No exit" (April 22) for an editorial about the High School Assessment test program was, at best, ironic.

The play of the same name by Jean-Paul Sartre is about an experience with no resolution that is ultimately revealed to be hell. For many educators, the experience of the High School Assessments and of the No Child Left Behind law is just that kind of an experience.

But that's not an issue about the question of holding teachers and schools accountable.

The editorial states that "ultimately it's the accountability of the schools that's at issue."

As a high school educator, I take exception to that statement because it suggests that the schools and their staffs are the reason for the lack of success by many students.

The real issue is not the accountability of schools but the accountability of our politicians and governments.

It is much easier to take schools to task than to face the real issues of poverty, social dysfunction and related problems.

One can own a splendid, high-performing automobile, but if the road that it is to traverse is full of potholes and obstacles, its acceleration will be limited.

It is time to have a conversation about fixing the road of our students' education.

I would assert that the reasons many students fail the HSA are related to issues outside the purview of the schools.

If politicians want schools to be accountable, they need to empower us with the resources we need.

Is it possible that one of the costs of being a nation of consumers out for a bargain is that we have become unwilling to pay the price?

As in the play No Exit, we characters have to stop lying to ourselves about the situation.

Then Sartre would be proud.

Edward Kitlowski


The writer is a teacher at Loch Raven High School and co-chairman of the Maryland State Teachers Association's task force on the No Child Left Behind law.

More guns can keep our campuses safer

Thomas F. Schaller's column "More guns on campus?" (Opinion

Commentary, April 18) contained numerous factual and logical problems.

First, Mr. Schaller implies that John Lott's gun-related research is flawed, and references an academic paper by John J. Donohue that took issue with Mr. Lott's coding of robbery rates in states that allow concealed-carry gun permits.

However, Mr. Lott's work analyzed violent crime rates in general, not merely robbery, and Mr. Donohue's paper does not address broader crime trends.

Furthermore, in the years since the Donohue paper was released in 1999, Mr. Lott has thoroughly and completely responded to its concerns, bolstering his original claims.

Second, Mr. Schaller made a snide point that Mr. Lott lost the survey that backed up his claim that "98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack."

While this is true, Mr. Schaller neglects to mention that Mr. Lott subsequently redid the survey, and came up with virtually the same figure.

Finally, Mr. Schaller writes that keeping guns off college campuses is a goal worthy of sacrifice.

But, to paraphrase Mr. Schaller, the "millions of students trooping to class armed with" only their ideas will remain vulnerable to the psychopaths of the world, who are not deterred by gun laws, as long as his "Pollyannaish, liberal thinking" continues to dominate America's universities.

The Virginia Tech shooting taught us nothing if not that.

Chris DeAdder

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Curb public access to violent images

Like thousands of other readers, I am completely appalled by the massacre at Virginia Tech.

Most of the opinions I have heard about this tragedy focus on the easy access to guns in this country, and how this contributed to this disaster.

And indeed, guns do contribute to such killings, whether purchased legally or illegally.

But there is another factor to consider - the easy access to depictions of violence, hatred and horror scenes provided by the media in TV, movies and many other sources ("Will publicizing the horror inspire others to imitate it?" April 22).

These images can certainly fuel the imagination of a mentally disturbed person, or anyone else for that matter, and help prompt him or her to carry out a scenario of destruction.

We have put a limit on smoking in public places to prevent terminal diseases and are finally making efforts to curb global warming.

Perhaps if there were limits to the easy viewing of ways to take human lives, we'd have fewer disasters like the one at Virginia Tech.

Freda Garelick


Bias still big issue in the workplace

I read the article "Gender pay gap widens, study says" (April 23) with much interest because I have been a victim of gender bias and continue to see many other victims today.

Most of these people are working for small businesses that have fewer than 15 employees and therefore are not covered by some of the state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

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