November 09, 2008

Glad to see demise of wall-free schools

The Baltimore Sun's article on the demise of open-space schools struck me as anti-climactic ("Across Md., a call for classrooms with walls," Nov. 2).

Open-space schools, or classrooms without walls, were thought to be a panacea for many of the environmental and other headaches facing schools in the 1970s.

I vividly remember visiting an open-space Baltimore County school in the early 1970s with several of my colleagues, and those in my group unanimously agreed that the place was chaotic and badly managed.

We mostly just watched and listened quietly until one of the braver members of the group said that this floor plan was a travesty, and that any real and consistently effective learning was just not possible.

The noise level and the general cacophony of the place were shocking.

Having been a teacher for more than 40 years, I laud the end of such a ridiculous and unproductive experiment, and hope that we never see its like again.

David Manning, Towson

School choice can avert foolish education fads

There is a way to avoid the high cost of educational faddism implemented by central school administrations on a mass scale: Rely on independently managed charter schools to address actual public demand for innovative classroom arrangements ("Across Md., a call for classrooms with walls," Nov. 2).

Then, instead of buying into a pricey consultant's scheme for redesigning a whole school system, proceed to judge the efforts on a school-by-school basis.

Instead, many Maryland school districts that went whole-hog for progressive educators' enthusiasm for so-called open classrooms in the 1960s and 1970s now face millions in construction costs to wall up school interiors because all the unblocked noise makes it hard to teach.

That is unfortunate.

But school choice could help avoid such huge, costly mistakes.

Robert Holland, Chicago

The writer is a senior fellow for education policy at the Heartland Institute.

Legalization of slots will tarnish O'Malley

With the slots amendment passed, Gov. Martin O'Malley may go down in history as the "Stardust governor" ("Md. voters give OK to 15,000 slots," Nov. 5).

This was the name of a well-known restaurant and slots emporium in Waldorf during the last period when slots were legal in Maryland.

During this period, Waldorf became synonymous with sleaze because of all the crime and destitution that came from gambling along the Route 301 strip.

The well-earned opprobrium of this area helped lead to slots' being outlawed in 1968.

And there will be more than a little irony in the governor's new title, because the promised benefits of slots this time around will prove to be just as ephemeral and fleeting as stardust.

John Bailey, Edgemere

Give more children access to medicines

It's a shame that so many young Americans are struggling with obesity ("Many more children on medication, study says," Nov. 3).

But the fact that kids today have access to a range of prescription medications is a good thing. When I was a boy, the only remedy for the medical conditions associated with excessive weight was diet and exercise.

To increase access to these cutting-edge medicines, we must expand access to health insurance coverage.

That's why the new Obama administration should make it a priority to enroll qualifying children in Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, 75 percent of children without health insurance are eligible for these programs.

Peter Pitts, New York

The writer is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

A new day dawns in election's wake

It feels like morning in America - hallelujah ("It's Obama," Nov. 5).

Brilliant dawn arrives; our better angels are speaking.

All is possible.

Molly Mitchell, Baltimore

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