Letters To The Editor

Posted: November 27, 1987


Superintendent Constance E. Clayton and the Philadelphia School District are to be commended for a very professional and prompt response to the educational concerns teachers voiced during the annual Instructional Review Day June 4.

A recent letter from the superintendent responding to the entire school district staff detailed the consensus of their concerns and the follow-up action to ensue.

Thousands of teachers participated in June in giving feedback about various curriculum and school-climate issues.

It was a massive job to read, analyze and construct a response to the documentation.

As Superintendent Clayton pointed out, the task was accomplished through the collective and cooperative efforts of the Office of Research and Evaluation and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Teamwork, communication and respect for professional opinions and needs are emerging as a strong operating force. Such processes can only help in attaining what all of us desire: excellence for all the schoolchildren of Philadelphia. Bravo!

Gail Brookstein Raznov



The politicians and bureaucrats are at it again. First, under pressure from lawyers and the insurance lobby, they devised an insurance scheme to rip off Pennsylvania drivers. Second, with a new system for the driving test, they are putting thousands of unlicensed drivers on the streets.

Recently, I took my college-bound nephew for his driving test at the Belmont Avenue testing station. An officer told us that, under a new system, we would have to go back home and call for an appointment.

For about an hour, while we pleaded with the two officers, four other officers sat chatting and doing nothing. During that one hour on that Saturday, not a single test was given and the place was empty of cars.

The old system served the public well and should be brought back for the officers to earn their salaries. The governor should also fire those faceless bureaucrats who dreamed up this outrageous new system.

Randy Sykes


The words of a famous French pastry cook that there are three arts - painting, music and ornamental pastry-making, of which architecture is a subdivision - ring very true when one contemplates the addition to the Capitol in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania has ended up receiving a building best described as Epcot architecture, a Disney World interpretation of the Roman Forum, which just barely fits in with the Capitol building by which it is enclosed.

The design of this building should have been subjected to an architectural competition, giving the most talented architects in the country a chance to show their ideas, rather than represent the choice of one man, the secretary of general services, then Walter Baran.

It is no surprise to me that principal architect Thomas C. Celli's efforts to secure the cooperation of other artists for the building were unsuccessful (Letter to the Editor, Oct. 18).

Sculptures that would fit in with his design would be more in the tradition of Italian public buildings of the last century.

In this country, they are occasionally found in the fountain lobbies of expensive Italian restaurants.

Artisanry of this kind is no longer in demand. Whether Mr. Celli likes it or not, this is the age of an entirely different genre of sculpture.

Anthony E. Maas

Mechanicsburg, Pa.


Although The Inquirer has consistently criticized the Reagan administration's ill-conceived policies regarding Nicaragua, it also consistently appears to subscribe to the distorted precepts upon which those policies are based.

A Nov. 15 editorial stated that the United States' "real interests have been guarding against a Soviet buildup and thwarting Sandinista expansionism." Both of these alleged threats are products of President Reagan's wildly exaggerated rhetoric.

What Mr. Reagan perceives as a Soviet buildup is, in reality, assistance being given to the Nicaraguans to defend themselves from the U.S. surrogates, the contras. Replace that threat with friendship and economic aid, and Soviet influence would virtually disappear.

"Sandinista expansionism" is another myth. No doubt the Sandinistas are sympathetic to the rebels in El Salvador and to other revolutionary movements, but I'm not aware of any evidence that they are guilty of "expansionism." Their primary concern is obviously to get the United States off their backs so they can get on with the business of providing for their people.

The fear that Mr. Reagan and others of the Far Right seem to have is that, if the Sandinista revolution succeeds, other Central American and Third World countries will try a similar approach.

The best way to guarantee social upheavals, however, is to ignore the legitimate grievances of the people, as the Reagan administration does in most of the troubled areas of the world.

Richard T. Walnut

Vincentown, N.J.


I propose an alternative itinerary to that suggested by George F. Will in his Nov. 17 column "A recommended tour for Gorbachev on his visit for the summit."

Mr. Will would like Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to see the graveyard at Antietam, where 20,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. I offer instead a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, commemorating the more than 50,000 Americans who fell in our most recent war.

I agree with Mr. Will that a trip to the concentration camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned in World War II might be fitting, but unlike him I would take that opportunity to point out that the majority of people who suffered financial losses as a result of their internment still have not received compensation.

While in the area, I might suggest a side trip to an American Indian reservation, where we could discuss the high unemployment and alcoholism rates among the few surviving members of America's earliest settlers.

Instead of flying over the American Grain Belt, I would take Mr. Gorbachev to watch migrant workers in the Southwest laboring in poor conditions for sub- minimum wages.

And instead of visiting Cuban refugees in Florida, I would arrange meetings with Salvadoran refugees before they are returned to face almost certain death in their country.

If we agree with Mr. Will's idea of visiting Alger Hiss' residence in Washington, we would also continue down to southeast Washington, which has one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the developed world.

And finally, in addition to watching hundreds of thousands of American Jews protesting the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union, Mr. Gorbachev should have an opportunity to watch the videotape of 300,000 gays and lesbians marching on Oct. 11 for the constitutional rights they are denied in this nation.

Then let the Soviet leader judge for himself whether the United States is the paradise Mr. Will would like to think it is.

Shoshana Kaminsky



Like the proverbial bad penny, the "welfare crisis" keeps coming back to haunt us. While nobody is happy about the existing Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, The Inquirer editorial of Nov. 17 raises a number of questions.

Question number one: What crisis? The percentage of AFDC recipients among this country's children living in poverty keeps going down; less in 1985 than in 1980, less in 1980 than in 1975.

Studies by the General Accounting Office for Sen. William V. Roth (R., Del.) revealed that a majority of families leave the AFDC rolls voluntarily within a year or two, most because of marriage or employment.

AFDC represents less than 1 percent of the federal budget; that percentage has been going down slightly for the last decade.

Rather than a drain on the American economy, AFDC actually stimulates economic activity.

Question two: Why the rush to reform welfare now? Because the Reagan administration decided at the beginning of 1987 to make welfare reform a major issue. Not to be outdone, members of Congress from both parties want to show that they, too, can get tough with the welfare poor.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) bears special scrutiny. His Senate Bill 1511 calls for:

* Automatic garnishment of wages. If an employed absent parent is ordered by the court to pay support for his children - even as the result of an amicable agreement - the employer will be contacted immediately and ordered to deduct the amount from the man's pay. Any fallout in terms of the man's continued employment is apparently of no concern.

* Allowing states to force mothers of children as young as a year old to leave their children in somebody else's care and go into a workfare program, all in the name of strengthening family life.

* Ten states would be allowed to divert funds from other social programs in order to set up experimental "AFDC" schemes that could ignore federal standards and regulations.

Folks with a long memory may recall the Louisiana "suitable home" law of 1960, under which 20,000 children were dropped from AFDC on the thinnest of pretexts. What stopped this brutal "welfare reform" was the insistence of the Republican Eisenhower administration that Louisiana abide by federal AFDC rules.

Given the current anti-welfare climate, one shudders to think what kinds of schemes the states might come up with if left to their own devices.

Meanwhile, the Moynihan bill would leave untouched the current extreme inequities among states and the lack of a national floor under benefit levels. For a child in one state to receive 14 percent of what a child in another state gets purely because of where the child lives is scandalous.

There are a few good provisions in the Moynihan bill. They include the long-overdue nationwide extension of aid for two-parent families (now in effect in Pennsylvania and about half of the other states).

But the good is far outweighed by the bad in this bill. S.B. 1511 should be rejected.

Is there a welfare crisis? Indeed there is. Impoverished families on AFDC are getting less in real dollars than in past years. This has helped make women and children the largest single concentration among the homeless in America. Two out of every five children in this most affluent country live in poverty.

The Inquirer editorial calls for biting the bullet on welfare. Really, biting the bullet would mean making a serious attack on childhood poverty. That calls for a kind of tough-mindedness and commitment sorely lacking in the current spate of "welfare reform" legislation.

Willard C. Richan


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