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Letters to the editor

August 13, 2003

Bartlett's Ritchie plan is better


To the editor:

A recent letter to the editor indicated that U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett was taking a position contrary to the creation of jobs at Lakeside Corporate Center at the former Fort Ritchie military base. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Rep. Bartlett's position would have the potential to do exactly the opposite - accelerate the transfer of a large portion of the base and hopefully accelerate the pace of job creation.

Legislation accomplishing the transfer of Phases I and II, comprising approximately 236 acres (Bartlett's position) is certainly a better alternative to the transfer of approximately 26 acres (Senate version). In addition, Bartlett has personally taken many prospective clients on tours of the facility in hopes of creating jobs in the region.

I believe that Washington County and the residents of Cascade and surrounding areas would be better served by a quick resolution to the most-recent dilemma facing the Pen Mar Development Corporation and the land transfer. Folks are certainly entitled to their opinions as to whether the excess land was adequately advertised years ago, but legislation accomplishing the conveyance is nothing unusual.

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Such land transfers have been accomplished in other areas of the country through legislation, and legislation is often passed to counteract court decisions, as is the case at Fort Ritchie where a judge recently ruled that the land was not adequately advertised to "other interested parties" when the military base was closed. Transfer of the entire parcel with an overall vision and plan is, in my mind, preferable to a piecemeal approach that could fragment the base and create hurdles for redevelopment.

The Washington County Commissioners have also taken the position that legislation should include the 236 acres and I, for one, applaud Bartlett for listening to local elected officials.

Bill Wivell
Washington County Commissioner




Statue does Lee, history no favors


To the editor:

Only at two places in America is Robert E. Lee a prisoner of war - at Antietam and Appomattox.

Lee did not become a POW at Antietam until July, 2003, when the The Lee Structure (memorial?) was erected. As a result of its location, General Lee now is trapped behind Union lines.

No Confederates held that position by the Middle Bridge during the battle. No southerners fought there on Sept. 17. The U.S. Army occupied this strategic crossing of the creek. Thus, by historic definition, Lee is surrounded by the Yankee army. How demeaning.

Lee's honor is further diminshed by the only event he did witness from the structure's location - his retreat. For the first time since taking command of the Confederate army, Lee was retreating, withdrawing his battered force from South Mountain toward Sharpsburg. Indeed, Lee passed by the site of the bronze and granite structure built in his memory, but it was not a pleasant location General Lee would choose to remember.

The structure's portrayal of Lee also is inaccurate. During the battle, the general minimized time on his horse, for when mounted, he became a target for enemy artillery. Additionally, both of Lee's wrists and hands were splinted, the result of an equine accident earlier in the campaign. Thus it was painful and difficult for Lee to mount and to ride at Antietam.

The tortured defense that the structure's purpose is symbolic, not historic, should be rejected. The problem is not the symbol, but the symbol's inappropriate location. Historians presented alternative sites, on the Confederate side of the battlefield, to the structure's benefactor, in the presence of the Antietam superintendent. Yet these alternatives were dismissed by the protaganist with little discussion.

If the benefactor had placed the Lee structure upon ground actually defended by General Lee, then symbolism and history would be in harmony.

Instead, General Lee is an embarrassed captive at Antietam and a victim of 21st Century delusion.

Dennis E. Frye
Sharpsburg




West Virginia to add civics classes in '04


To the editor:

In an otherwise outstanding news story ("Civics classes left behind?" Monday, July 28) The Herald-Mail ignored a major reform in West Virginia's public schools.

Beginning with those who will be ninth-graders one year from now, every West Virginia high school student in the entire state will be required to take a citizenship course.

The statement that West Virginia "public school systems don't require students to take a government course" is technically true but misleading.

The West Virginia State Board of Education adopted the civics requirement about a year ago. To give school districts time to prepare, the state board made it effective for 2004.

I'm convinced the reporter fully understood that West Virgina had adopted this requirement. The failure to include this important information must have been an editorial decision.

Several years ago, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, lamenting the dearth of history courses around the country, said, "...and where history is taught, it is usually mired in that curricular swamp known as 'social studies'."

The same is true of citizenship. I've argued strongly for years that citizenship should be a required stand-alone course, not an elective (or part of social studies).

The adoption by West Virginia of a civics requirement has been one of my happiest moments in the legislature.

Thomas Jefferson believed the most important purpose of education was to train citizens. I think the failure of the "No Child Left Behind" act to include citizenship is one of the many deficiencies of that federal law.

Del. John Doyle
Jefferson County, W.Va.

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