Efforts to raise the bar for education get mixed reviews

As a former Baltimore County principal who left the district because of the emphasis on basic skills testing in the public schools under Superintendent Joe Hairston's leadership, I was appalled to read the April 20 article, "A bar raised for all." The seeming lack of analysis of the results that Dr. Hairston touts was troubling.

If you look inside the BCPS today, you witness a district that has chased away many of its best teachers and administrators by focusing on student acquisition of low-level skills that will make these children ready for careers in low-end technical jobs. Their ability to manipulate the written word, to understand history, and to think globally have all been deemphasized. For that reason, three of four district-level curricular leaders in history, English, and mathematics have retired within the past five years.

More important, the remaining county bureaucrats, under Hairston's leadership, have managed to take much of the fun out of the school day. Recess has been eliminated in many elementary schools. Music and art have been limited or eliminated in middle and high schools. Driven by the mandates of the No Child Left Behind law, these administrators are bragging that their students now achieve more. Rather, these students are being held accountable by trivial measures on which they are relentlessly driven to perform. That is not education.

I prefer my Catholic school where, like prior to NCLB in the public schools, I can teach our students spiritually, emotionally, and physically, as well as intellectually. We don't have an achievement gap. We teach all of our students to be men of intellect, faith, and honor. If we keep the status quo in public schools, we'll continue to be led by the caliber of people who lead us today.
Frank Passaro

Thank you for the April 20 article on education. American public schools are in a sorry state, and it is high time for a change. Considering that the current No Child Left Behind plan is not fulfilling its potential, it is satisfying and uplifting to see that troubled schools are taking the initiative to better themselves. Our country is great, but it would be even greater if we only paid more attention to our youth. America needs to send intelligent, motivated, and productive young people into the workforce to stay competitive in this quickly evolving world. I commend Baltimore Superintendent Joe Hairston for his hard work and resourcefulness.
Tyler Maltbie
Ipswich, Mass.

Dreams of 'moped madness' smashed

Regarding the April 25 article, "High gas prices propel a new 'moped madness' ": I, too, was attracted to this efficient mode of transportation. So much so that I ordered a Chinese version while overseas. To my dismay, US Customs took a dim view of my idea. They seized the container, removed the offending scooter and destroyed it at a local junkyard. Their reasoning was that it may not pass US air quality standards.

So, instead of riding a scooter to work, I continue to drive my 17 m.p.g. SUV. That sure makes a lot of sense. To add further insult, Customs charged $150 to bring the container to the Customs warehouse, $465 to remove the scooter, $200 for storage costs, and $100 to destroy the scooter. My freight forwarder sent me three photos of the scooter being destroyed.

It is no wonder, with the appearance of such hostility toward innovation, that the US has only about 5 percent of the world's population but uses 25 percent of its oil.
Steve Molenaar
Willmar, Minn.

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