Letters to the Editor

December 01, 1998

A sad day for learning

To the editor:

The decision by the Washington County Board of Education to ban the use of historic weapons in school presentations is illogical, short-sighted and unfortunate.

The use of historic costumes, uniforms, weapons and equipment is an effective way of generating student interest and enthusiastic learning. Denying this type of learning to our children dooms them to the limited methods of delivering history usually deemed "boring" by students.

As a 20-year veteran of delivering living history presentations for the state and national park services, our county schools and for my students at Hagerstown Community College, I can attest to the fact that it works.


I have dozens of letters and cards from students and teachers throughout Washington County telling me how much they enjoyed and learned from my "living history" presentations.

Unfortunately, I find it entirely unreasonable and impossible to perform the programs without introducing the historic weapons, and thus I will not accommodate the requests I annually receive from various Washington County schools to make these presentations.

The board's concern for the safety of our students is admirable, but their judgment that somehow equates muzzle-loading weapons with modern terrorist activity is ludicrous. This is yet another demonstration of a politicized and elected nonprofessional board that overrules and ignores the judgment of the professionals they hire to educate students.

I wonder how many classroom teachers they consulted before making this decision? It is sad day for learning in Washington County and for academic freedom as well.

Thomas G. Clemens

Professor of History

Hagerstown Community College

Insecure logic

To the editor:

The opinion piece published Sunday on Social Security, by Mark Weisbrot, was truly dishonest. It seemed aimed at frightening Social Security recipients and putting a stop to all talk of reform.

The author raised the specter of millions of senior citizens being pushed below the poverty line as a result of reform. Well, I've read quite a bit about various reform proposals, and every one of them emphasizes that promises to existing Social Security recipients must be kept.

That is, the reform proposals do not refer to current recipients, or even those near retirement age; they mostly refer to those in their 40s and younger. It is unconscionable to frighten people in this way without cause.

Furthermore, the author argues that the Social Security system does not need reform, and that it can fully pay benefits for all the baby boomers. But use common sense: when all the baby boomers are on Social Security, at present birth rates there will be only two working people to support each Social Security recipient.

That would take a massive tax increase, or massive benefit cuts. So something has to be done before that happens. Nothing will be done without a lot of discussion, which will give people the opportunity to make their criticisms and to look closely at the choices.

Nobody is suddenly going to foist a new plan upon us. But the country has a tremendous opportunity now, because of the budget surplus. This money can help pay for current Social Security obligations, while we switch over wholly or partly to another kind of system.

But if we play politics instead of being honest, we will let this opportunity pass us by.

Judy Warner


Where is the line drawn on hate?

To the editor:

As a Christian pastor with Jewish roots, I was frankly appalled at W. Edwin Alter's letter (Nov. 18) attacking the American Islamic community. His assertion that "they don't believe in democracythey believe in killing anyone who is not a Muslim" is not only mean-spirited, it is downright inaccurate.

The fact is that most followers of Islam in this country are good citizens and loyal Americans. To castigate all Muslims because of the actions of Shiite extremists is like condemning all Irish Americans because of the behavior of radical members of the IRA.

Alter's further recommendation that Muslims "should be deported" is reminiscent of early Nazi rhetoric. One wonders what might be next on his agenda should that proposal fail: Burning mosques? Concentration camps? A "final solution?" In short, his letter is nothing but a thinly veiled hate message. I'm disappointed that The Herald-Mail saw fit to publish it; but since it has appeared, people of goodwill need to call attention to it and speak out against it.

Ironically on the very same page as Alter's correspondence appeared another letter, wonderfully written by Helen Willis, in which she deplored acts and attitudes of hatred and violence, especially against those who differ from us. That letter should be required reading for all who sow the seeds of prejudice and bigotry.

The Rev. David B. Kaplan


The Bulls of prisons

To the editor:

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