Out and About (Sort of) Family Feeds Land Carefully by Howard Freedlander

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After often hearing about the innovative Hutchison Brothers farm operation in Cordova, I finally got to meet two of the brothers and one of their sons. I experienced their down-to-earth manner in discussing widely acclaimed success and a sincere, time-proven fealty to improving the land.

Profit is number one, followed closely by environmental sustainability. Simply, the family is quick to use excess funds to adopt creative best management practices to nourish the land and upgrade water quality.

For its environmentally stewardship over the years, often leading the farm industry on the Eastern Shore, Hutchison Brothers is the 2019 recipient of Horn Point Laboratory’s (HPL) Chesapeake Champion for the Environment Award. It will be presented on Thursday, May 30, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building in Easton.

The seventh annual winner of this honor, Hutchison Brothers Farm, will be the first farmers to receive it. That’s noteworthy.

When I met recently with Bobby Hutchison, his brother Richard and nephew Kyle to write a freelance article for HPL, I found myself impressed by a sophisticated farm operation that is driven to produce better and better yields—naturally so—while equally devoted to conservation.

Nitrogen (fertilizer), as well as phosphorus, have long been considered primary culprits in degrading the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Environmental groups have frequently criticized farmers for their obsession with yields and supposed indifference to the impact of nitrogen on water quality. This criticism would not apply to the Hutchisons.

So what have the Hutchison Brothers done in its usage of nitrogen?

The family, for example, uses of state-of-the-art equipment to allocate fertilizer in a way that discourages excess, using only what is needed in particular fields. Some fields, already richly productive, need less nitrogen than other fields containing poorer soil.

Tom Fisher, an HPL scientist who has worked closely in the past few years with farmers to use best management practices to enhance water quality, said, “Many of the (the Hutchison Brothers’) new ideas are based on putting the right kind of fertilizer on the right place, and the right time that crops need fertilizer. This should be a win-win, reducing farmers’ fertilizer costs, decreasing losses from their farms to nearby streams and improving downstream water quality.”

I’m no farmer. That’s clear. But I understand the decision-making necessary to balance need and soil management. Profit, investment and environmental benefit—this triad requires a tricky thought process.

I’ve attended every Chesapeake Champion celebration. My wife used to work at HPL. Each one is different and impressive. Recipients–from restaurant owners committed to farm-to-table ingredients to landowners who have established wildlife refuges, to a longtime volunteer and leader in a local environmental organization, to a creator of an unusual and well-respected inventory of Maryland plants and fauna—have made a substantial commitment to preservation of our area’s rural character.

The Hutchison Brothers bring another dimension to the constellation of Chesapeake Champions. Yes, they love their 3,400 acres, Yes, they love being a successful farm operation. And, notably, they have combined pursuit of high yields with consistent land stewardship

Farming is a serious business subject to the vagaries of the weather and international market conditions. It requires skill in planting, marketing and cost control. It requires risk and flexibility. It requires humility and perseverance.

When the Hutchison Brothers receive the Chesapeake Champion award, they surely will feel proud. They also will believe that their focus on financial success and environmental stewardship is feasible.

Out and About (Sort of): Bedside Manner by Howard Freedlander

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For the past eight months, I’ve had cause to visit several medical offices (will explain in another column) in Easton, Annapolis and Baltimore, spending time with numerous doctors, nurses and office staff.

I’ve become keenly attuned to “bedside manner,” both good and bad. I suspect this term is well-understood. For those of us caught in the throes of the medical system, I’m referring to the communication skills, or lack thereof of medical professionals. Also, ability to communicate includes personal warmth and empathy—or (here I go again) lack thereof.

In recent months, a local doctor, a likable, personable and capable person, said to me, “You know, they didn’t teach bedside manner in medical school.”

He added, “I think it’s important as a doctor to treat someone in the same way I would want my father or mother treated.”

Think about these comments, as I have. It’s almost inconceivable—except it isn’t—that medical schools apparently pay little or no attention to the emotional treatment of patients. I’ve always understood that physical recovery is tied directly to emotional well-being.

Regarding medical school instruction on bedside manner, I have two thoughts. First, why is it necessary to teach what common sense demands? I’m bewildered. If folks dealing with a medical problem, alleviated by just plain, down-home human communication and feeling, can improve their outlook and prognosis for recovery, then it is reasonable to expect a mixture of science and sensitivity to confront a medical ailment and achieve a successful outcome.

Second, if medical school administrators have access to credible studies linking clinical treatment and sincere empathy, then why would there be any hesitation to include “bedside manner” as a compulsory subject? Does it seem too wishy-washy, too unscientific?

Now, before readers think I’m whining about poor medical treatment and communication, I am not. I’ve been mostly fortunate. The medical industry must satisfy Herculean pleas for help in a short time frame. Each of us considers our pain or discomfort to be greater than anyone else’s. We want immediate, full-throated attention.

While I admire a professional clinical approach, I also value people skills, to include sincere listening and even a sense of humor. I’m aware that many people are content with superior clinical skills; a doctor’s personality is irrelevant.

Having successful surgery or procedure outweigh the need for a personable surgeon. All that matters is dealing with, or overcoming a medical crisis. This reasoning makes complete sense. A physician’s charm is just an extra, superfluous ingredient.

But I’m not convinced. Trust requires a dollop of humanity. Even a sprinkle of extroversion. To the point made by a local physician, I suggest that treatment should be geared to imagining that a patient is your father or mother.

My preference, however unrealistic at times, is skill coupled with an approachable, if not pleasing demeanor. Questions need to be asked. Human nature calls for answers. Straightforward, patient responses enhance recovery and promote a positive attitude. Anxiety diminishes.

I think I’ve kicked this horse enough. It’s time to conclude this column.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Preserve Daily Presence by Howard Freedlander

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Were I an NPR commentator, I would be quick to step up during periodic fundraising drives to plead for donations. No corporate pressure would be necessary. I would believe in the message; I would endorse the need to keep this extraordinary radio outlet in the air and serving its listeners.

I feel the same about The Talbot Spy. In eight years, it has provided an electronic medium to reflect the good and bad about our county. It has provided a voice for a variety of community leaders through excellent interviews. It has unleashed columnists armed with vastly different viewpoints and writing styles.

When I retired nearly eight years ago, a friend introduced me to Dave Wheelan, the intrepid editor-publisher of the embryonic The Talbot Spy. I liked him immediately. He invited me to become the editor. After just leaving the work world and knowing a bit about being a print newspaper editor, I said no.

Dave and I kept meeting for periodic lunches. He paid sometimes, but not always. Then, perhaps in 2014, he asked if I would be an “advisor.” Having always loved journalism, I agreed—on one condition. I wanted to write a weekly column about local matters. Dave accepted my request.

When I began writing “Out and About (Sort of), I wondered who, if anyone, would read my weekly commentaries. I had little, if any idea about the power and scope of this electronic publication. I had been regularly reading one about Annapolis politics. I liked it; I knew the editor-publisher, a longtime Maryland journalist.

A funny thing happened on the way to becoming a regular pedestal-sitter. I learned that friends, acquaintances and others actually read what I wrote and felt free to share their comments with me, either as letters and frequent emails, or at social occasions. I must admit I did feel a tinge of pride. More to the point, I began to realize that this guy from Chestertown and Talbot County newcomer named Dave Wheelan had created a media product that resonated with increasingly more people.

This was the real thing. I wished for it to remain part of the journalistic landscape in our county. The demise of journalistic outlets throughout the country causes me concern.

After eight years, the Spy seems permanent. It has a place. It has an identity. It is sustainable.

To go back to my reason for writing this particular column, I encourage readers to donate to the future of this daily publication. I urge you to help ensure that the Spy continues to provide a platform for a county filled with worthy activities, enlightening people, serious social and political issues and a readership that is unafraid to express its opinions and insights.

My fundraising message is my own. No prodding from the Spymaster was necessary. I believe that the Spy has established itself as an integral part of our community. It complements The Star Democrat; it doesn’t replace it.

I am not writing to retain my part-time job. I am not writing to be invited to enjoy Dutch-treat lunches with Dave Wheelan. As an official non-profit entity that capitalizes on the pervasive Internet, it has expenses covered mostly but not entirely by advertising and partnerships.

Please donate. You and our county will continue to benefit from a daily dose of news, culture, video interviews, opinions, letters and history.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Loss and Resurrection by Howard Freedlander

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In a seven-day period ending the past Sunday, two people whom I liked and respected died and, then, another person came back from domestic strife and serious injury to reclaim the spotlight as one of the world’s currently superior golfers.

Funny how life brings sorrow and redemption in a never-ending cycle.

Though perhaps unknown to many who pay little or no attention to state politics, Delegate Mike Busch, longtime speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, died on Sunday, April 7 of pneumonia after struggling the past few years with serious health problems. He was a good and decent person. He ennobled public service.

Once an excellent football player in college and high school, he played the game of politics to win as the Democratic leader in the House. Based on comments by Republican legislators, he also played fairly. He always knew there was another day; alliances often shift in political combat.

A friend in the legislature wrote in response to my expression of sadness, “Without question, he was one of a kind, masterful and the finest of the finest. Personally, he has been a friend for many, many years, and it pained me to see him diminish during the Session, but I also understand he was in it for the long haul.”

I recall when I was serving as a deputy treasurer for the State of Maryland, he appeared in my office while hoping to see Treasurer Nancy Kopp. He sat down and started talking about sports, one of his favorite subjects. My sport was lacrosse; his was football. We played at schools in Philadelphia, he at Temple and I at the University of Pennsylvania. Our chat was easy and effortless.

I suspect that I experienced Mike Busch’s style; friendly and down-to-earth. He was immensely likable and very effective. Delegates referred to him as “coach” for his ability to bring consensus to a sometimes disruptive Democratic caucus.

Another quality person and longtime friend, Dr. Bob Blatchley, an Easton psychologist, died last week of Parkinson’s disease. With his wife, Virginia, he developed a practice devoted to families. I hazard to say that Bob and Virginia provided professional counseling support to many who remain appreciative.

As it turned out, Bob was raised not very far from me in northwest Baltimore. We attended rival high schools. We developed a friendship in Easton and belonged to the same club. I sadly watched as he dealt with a debilitating disease.

And just this past Sunday, I joined millions of viewers to watch as Tiger Woods battled from behind to win his fifth Masters at the renowned Augusta National Golf Club. He hadn’t won a major tournament in six years and the Masters in 11.

A fan with no expertise, I love to watch golf. I remain wondrous of how professional golfers can control their emotions as putts roll out of holes (cups), and powerfully hit shots land in water and sand traps (bunkers). I’m screaming from my easy chair. Yet they overcome their disappointment as another shot or challenging hole awaits.

The crowd at the luxurious golf club clearly were pulling for what had once been a common occurrence: another dramatic victory by a gifted, tough-minded athlete whose nickname is an immediate identifier worldwide. Tiger overcame a publicized split with his former wife and serious knee, neck and back problems.

Sports provide lessons for life. What I saw at this Masters was a man committed to regain his once magical touch as one of golf’s greatest. His legend of fans stuck with him over the years, hoping that Tiger would overcome difficult professional and personal setbacks. He did just that.

Death is inevitable, leaving in its wake grief over an emotional loss and gratitude for having shared time with the deceased. Resurrection of a career and reputation, through grit and determination, too begs admiration.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Session Ends; Results Don’t by Howard Freedlander

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Maryland’s 2019 General Assembly session ended last night at midnight. It was an eventful one, including the overrides of four vetoes by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Throw in the mix the ethics upheaval at the University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) board of directors, and a racist remark by a Harford County delegate, and it’s easy to characterize the 90-day legislature as one pulsating with political action and lapse in human judgment.

Three of the veto overrides have particular importance to the Eastern Shore.  At the constant risk of being redundant, I state again the need for Shore residents to pay attention to the work of their state senators and delegates. The impact becomes quickly noticeable.

As I wrote in January in anticipation of the session, lifting the minimum wage to $15/hour, in phases, by 2025 (2026 for companies with fewer than 15 employees) was a major, much debated issue. Proponents won the day.  They argued that a higher minimum wage—now $10.10 an hour—was necessary to provide a livable salary to those on the edge of poverty. Opponents predicted potential job cuts by small businesses and possible movement of businesses to adjoining states with a lower minimum wage.

I had argued for caution and open-minded stance by proponents toward arguments made by business interests. I suspect I was whistling in the wind.

The second veto override concerned a decision made a few years ago by Gov. Hogan to move back the beginning of the school to after Labor Day to enhance Ocean City tourism dollars. Local school systems vigorously objected, compelled to adjust the school year to ensure the mandate for 180 school days. The majority of legislators agreed with local boards and returned the power of controlling the school year to Maryland’s 23 counties and the City of Baltimore.

I agree that local school boards should retain the authority to determine when schools should open and close.

The third override happened yesterday when the State Senate joined the House of Delegates in supporting legislation establishing five oyster sanctuaries, including two in Talbot County, Harris Creek and Tred Avon River, and one in Dorchester County, the Little Choptank River. Gov. Hogan listened to local watermen who rightfully want to protect their livelihoods but wrongfully oppose science-based methods to protect the oyster harvest. The oyster population has dropped precipitously during recent decades.

I believe that the sanctuaries must be protected. Not only do oysters satisfy the palate, but they also, nearly as importantly, serve as filters in deterring pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Nine members of the UMMS board were found in mid-March to have received hospital contracts, some sole source, that wreaked of unethical self-dealing.  Consequently, the legislature quickly approved a bill to require all board members to resign in phases and then re-apply and to mandate an audit of the UMMS contract process. Shore Medical Center is part of the UMMS system.

I applaud the legislature for moving quickly to address an unconscionable abuse of fiscal responsibility by several board members.

Finally, Del. Mary Ann Lisanti used an infamously shameful derogatory term to describe an African-American community in Maryland. Consequently, she lost most of her legislative assignments.

Some may be pleased whenever a legislative session ends. I for one believe that the Maryland General Assembly is an effective political body able to take action that doesn’t stall in partisan gridlock, as is the case in our disabled, dysfunctional Congress.

Citizen-legislators who return to their private and professional lives after 90 days of bill-making are effective representatives of the public body.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

Out and About (Sort of): No Longer Surprised by Howard Freedlander

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New Zealand shooting
Academic scam
Jack Evans in DC

Mass murder, academic bribery and self-dealing by a District of Columbia city councilman– where does it stop? Who, or what is responsible?

We seem to have become inured to senseless human tragedy and severe ethical lapses. Cynicism has taken root.

We no longer seem surprised. That’s worrisome.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in a rambling, theatrical sermon a few weeks ago at the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Easton, preached that love of your neighbor and yourself would make God’s world free of bigotry, hatred and violence. His message is universal. It speaks to our “better angels.”

Sadly, it is unrealistic.

He was preaching to the choir. His 40-minute oration offered hope in a world filled with heinous intolerance. He offered humor and pathos. He revved up the troops to go out into the world as witnesses of goodness and grace.

The New Zealand shooter was driven by hatred against Muslims. He cared nothing about others who were different than he. He expressed his inner loathing through a deadly weapon.

At the other end of the spectrum is the troubling academic scam in which wealthy parents spent exorbitant amounts of money to gain entry for their children into elite universities. For them, everything had a price. Ethics be damned. Since they were devoted to their children and the power of money, the admissions process was fair game. Go for it.

“Love your neighbor” is meaningless to the NZ murderer and the ruthless parents of some college applicants. Bishop Curry’s words are worthless to those transfixed on mischief and mayhem. In the case of the parents offering bribes, fairness is the victim. In the case of the hate-filled shooter, love of, and respect for your fellow man are empty concepts.

So, it’s easy to rail about moral decay. In recent weeks, longtime friends have bemoaned our cultural degradation. They are concerned, as I am.

Rick Singer, accused in academic scam.

What do we do to reverse the moral rot?

I did some research. I’m not sure I came up with any profound answers or insights.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking last May at the Rice University graduation, focused on the school’s honor code and called for honesty and accountability.  In striving to be honest, one would be honorable and refuse to accept political dishonesty and partisan spin. Simply, Bloomberg sought a higher standard of behavior than exists in the polluted public arena.

Bloomberg said, “When elected officials speak as though they are above the truth, they will act as though they are above the law. And when we tolerate dishonesty, we will get criminality. Sometimes, it’s in the form of corruption. Sometimes, it’s abuse of power. And sometimes, it’s both. If left unchecked, these abuses can erode the institutions that preserve and protect our rights and freedoms and open the door to tyranny and fascism.”

Pointing to the danger of partisanship and tribalism, Bloomberg said, “The more people segregate themselves by party, the harder it becomes to understand the other side and the more extreme each party grows. Studies show that people become more extreme in their views when they are grouped together with like-minded people.”

I’ve written before about the self-imposed restraints we place ourselves when we fail to listen to people with opposite views. We often demonize those who think differently than we. We remain cloistered. Our minds become closed.

We might shutter our hearts and push friends and family away.

Speaking in November 2005 on NPR about his newly published book, “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis,” former President Jimmy Carter, a devout Baptist, condemned religious fundamentalists who believe they are right and chide those who don’t agree. He also pointed to the disillusionment with, and distrust of Washington politics. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Carter said,” In religious circles, fundamentalists are always powerful men who consider themselves superior to all others, superior to women with the subservience or subjugation of women. They consider themselves—a fundamentalist does—to be inherently directly related to God. Therefore, their beliefs are God’s beliefs, and anyone who disagrees with them at all have to be wrong or even inferior.”

The theme espoused by Carter underscores our society’s chronic lack of listening and dearth of compassion for those who think and act differently. Violence can result. So can corruption: our “better angels” have no audience in our souls.

Some speak about the widening gap in social and economic differences between the uber-wealthy, the shrinking middle class and the low-income people in our country. The opportunities for folks to gather in churches, civic groups and community activities seem to have diminished; people with similar political or cultural affinities associate only with themselves.

A sense of community diminishes.

When I think about the hate-filled shooter in New Zealand and his killing of 50 Muslim worshipers, the disgusting academic bribery and the unethical, self-enriching conduct of Washington, DC Councilman Jack Evans— I am appalled.

How do we become surprised again at outrageous behavior?

If I were to wage verbal war against cynicism, I would be tilting at windmills, overshadowed by naïveté. But just suppose that normal behavior meant being honest, expecting honorable conduct from our religious, political and corporate leaders and determining that college admission is not for sale, I wonder if moral decay, at the very least, might not spread and infect our culture.

This subject is fraught. What I consider rotten, someone else may view as normal. What I bemoan, others may commend and characterize as the human condition.

I am stumped. Unsurprisingly so.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.  

Out and About (Sort of): Ferryland? By Howard Freedlander

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Already on the Spy record for favoring a third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span configured for rapid transit—despite the astronomical cost—I was fascinated recently by a Baltimore Sun column written by Dan Rodricks. He proposed consideration of ferries.

Some might recall when ferries provided the only means of transportation for passengers and vehicles between the Eastern and Western shores. Before completion of the first 4.3-mile span in 1952. The second opened in 1973.

Now, Rodricks, who typically focuses only on the City of Baltimore and its woes and charms, went further afloat in this instance. He likely understood that the use of ferries to cross the Chesapeake Bay might prompt some chortling. Nonetheless, his premise deserves sunlight and discussion.

Frankly, I thought that ferries had limited utility. That is, this type of transit caters to a small, though constant group of passengers, such as Oxford to Bellevue in Talbot County, Lewis, DE to Cape May, NJ, Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, Seattle to Bainbridge Island in Washington State and Long Island, NY to New London, CT.

But we (this writer and readers) must be open-minded. The crossing of the Chesapeake Bay requires creativity. A third span, perhaps inevitable, is not carved in stone. At least $10 billion, if not more, would be necessary; that’s enormous at a time when major public works projects are scarce without an infusion of private investment, or federal money.

Okay, allow me to cite Rodricks’ words of advocacy. Be circumspect in appraising his argument:

“The governor should take a serious look at ferries. And not noisy, diesel-powered carbon-emitting ferries, but quiet, clean, battery-powered ferries. We could have a whole fleet of them deployed up and down the bay over the next decade, taking people, cars, trucks and dogs between any of many feasible points—from Baltimore to Rock Hall, from Sparrows Point to Tolchester, from Edgewater to Romancoke from Edgewood to Betterton, from Chesapeake Beach to Cambridge.”

Rodricks wrote, “Before the bridges, ferries took Marylanders across the bay. They could again. As we move away from fossil fuel and develop new sources of electricity, a 21st century ferry system would leave a light mark on the environment, provide more (and pleasant) route options for travelers, and relieve some of the congestion on the Route 50 bridges.”

Rodricks pointed to the world’s first battery-powered, zero emissions ferry launched in Norway in early 2015. It can transport up to 120 cars and 300 passengers on a 262-foot long vessel. It travels the 3.5-mile route across Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, between the villages of Lavik and Opperdel, up to 38 times a day.

This ferry takes 20 minutes to cross and then spends 10 minutes at the dock unloading, loading and recharging its batteries.

Since August, a 600-passenger excursion ship, powered by a lithium-ion battery, with a diesel backup engine, has been operating in San Francisco Bay. It is owned by the Red and White Fleet.

Putting cost and logistics aside, I believe that use of environmentally clean and efficient ferries warrants open-eyed consideration by Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Transportation Authority. Maybe ferries would negate the need for a third span. They would reduce harmful carbon emissions. Passengers would enjoy the Bay views.

Norway may provide an innovative approach for relieving awful congestion on our two Bay Bridge spans. Discussion of a third span could become moot.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Academic Scam and Shame by Howard Freedlander

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A week ago at a pleasant lunch in Washington, DC with a college friend, I learned from him about the breaking news regarding admissions bribery at some of our nation’s top universities. Included in this revelation was rampant cheating in college entrance exams and professional help in essay-writing.

My initial reaction was denial, followed by disgust.

Then, last Thursday, a participant at a meeting expressed a decided lack of surprise about the allegations concerning admissions and counseling misbehavior. I was flabbergasted at this response, characterizing it as blatantly cynical.

Another friend ascribed the bribery and manipulation of the admission process to cultural decay pervading our country. Discussion of this analysis warrants another column. It’s worth mentioning, however.

I suspect my two reactions wreaked of naivety. I’ve been living under a rock, I guess. Perhaps I’ve ignored the power of money and influence. That’s not entirely true, however, as I’ve chided and defended myself in the same paragraph.

Here’s what I’ve learned about this shameful episode now besmirching elite schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and University of Southern California. An unscrupulous college adviser in Boston, capitalizing on the incessant ambition of parents and their children to gain admission to prestigious universities and the perpetual fundraising by nearly all institutions of higher learning, gamed the system to his economic advantage. Now he faces a possible jail sentence.

What I’ve learned over the years as a volunteer fundraiser and friend-raiser for my university is the transactional attitude of many, but certainly not all well-heeled alumni and parents.

The faulty, unsavory logic goes like this: if colleges and universities are constantly seeking incredibly large amounts of money to preserve their fiscal stability, then it only seems reasonable to engage in a quid pro quo. So this errant thinking then prompts parents and alumni to offer huge sums of money for a child’s admission, as we learned the past week.

I despise this mindset. My alma mater will not accept a contribution from a parent whose child is amidst the application process; if this parent is an alumnus and large donor, the school will not accept a donation until the admissions process is completed.

Stories are legendary about longtime givers ceasing their generosity when their child is rejected. I can provide chapter and verse about this common response. I have listened to my share of anger. While I understand that rejection of a child (for anything) is searingly painful for a loving parent, I sympathize only to a small degree.

In the current controversy, the unethical college counselor arranged for someone to take exams for his clients’ children. I’m not sure how that’s done, but I won’t quibble, He arranged for young people to be placed on an athletic coach’s preferred list of applicants—even when the young person didn’t play that sport. The former tennis coach at Georgetown University allegedly engaged in this sordid behavior; his compensation was exceedingly ample.

This mess is abhorrent. No one wins.

Parents able to afford bribes, a college guidance counselor and athletic coaches willing to accept huge sums of money and the young person accepted on false premises—they all have lost their moral compass. I wonder, however, if the participants would agree. They might just bemoan the fact they got caught and say to themselves that they were simply playing the game affordable to them.

While my ire and revulsion are evident, I must admit some reluctance to accept the prevalent condemnation of wealthy people who have provided extraordinary educational and travel opportunities to their children– therefore giving them a distinct advantage over low-income applicants having had exposure to subjects embedded in entrance exams questions and in being fortunate to have impressive resumes.

I have yet to meet parents, regardless of their socioeconomic status, who haven’t extended themselves to a reasonable degree to pay for enrichment opportunities for their children. It’s human nature.

At the university that I attended, 13 percent of recent freshman classes have comprised first-generation, low-income individuals whose parents, I presume, pushed them to apply to this highly regarded school. I would hazard to say that parents of legacy applicants (children of alumni) are screaming at this new reality and possibly withdrawing their financial support.

I wanted to write another column this week. But I couldn’t ignore the crisis of conscience enveloping several major universities. It’s repugnant. It’s an example of money-driven misbehavior that engenders distrust of long-admired schools of higher learning.

Meanwhile, cynicism continues to grow. A transactional approach to college admissions seems distastefully pervasive. Integrity appears elusive.

Maybe it’s beneficial that the college guidance and admission process undergoes examination. My guess is that admission offices and standards of behavior—along with stricter oversight of college guidance advisers—will face intense scrutiny.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

Out and About (Sort of): Depression Follow-Up by Howard Freedlander

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Amid the music presented during For All Seasons’ ninth annual Heart & Music performed the past weekend at the Oxford Community Center. I harked back to my column last week about medical depression and its debilitating impact on self-worth and mental stability. The show’s message, as intended, struck one particularly powerful note: you are not alone.

As I wrote last week, newspaper and television pundit Michael Gerson, suffering since his 20s from serious depression, made the same point in his guest sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on Feb. 17 and again during a PBS interview two days later. Help is readily available.

Gerson pointed to family, friends, medical professionals and God as vital sources of support as one copes painfully with the depths of despair, oppressive feelings and destructive thoughts of “no one loves me” and “no one cares.”

It doesn’t matter if you have gained fame and fortune; depression is an affliction that overrides all barriers. Suicides stun us.

Addiction to drugs, alcohol and work do not block the effects of medical depression. They are mere substitutes for beneficial mental health. The afflicted still feel alone, unable to climb that mountain of consistent health and well-being.

Local organizations like For All Seasons and Channel Marker provide professional assistance that enables people to achieve a level of mental health that may have seemed unattainable. They help those suffering from mental disease and emotional distance from family and friends to create lives free of personal destruction and full of healthy productivity.

Perhaps most of all, local mental health organizations provide an invaluable prescription: hope. Without it, depression may seem inescapable, except through addiction and suicide. Michael Gerson recommended another cure: love, both from within and without.

Like others sitting in Oxford Community Center on a rainy Friday night, I found that music, as is often the case, inspires heartfelt and joyous reactions. Of course, that was the legitimate purpose of the “Songs from the Stage, Broadway and Beyond.” Periodic renditions of particular cases handled successfully by For All Seasons and calls for financial support were appropriate.

Local nonprofits, so very important to the health and sustenance of our community, must have financial support if they are to continue serving those in need. As I’ve stated previously in Spy space, a community flourishes or flounders based upon participation in activities requiring generosity of time and money.

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Allow me, readers, to veer sharply from depression and local efforts to help those afflicted with this disease to another issue that has proved harmful to the financial health of the Maryland crab industry. And that is the dearth this past summer of H-2B visas to enable foreign workers, mostly Mexicans, to work in the crab processing business in Dorchester County. The loss amounted to 40 percent; three out of four Dorchester County crab processors received no visas

I read in The Star Democrat that U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and First District Congressman Andy Harris are prodding the Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary Kirstjen Nielson to issue enough visas to help American businesses, including the crab houses in Dorchester County. I urge these three Maryland lawmakers to be relentless in their efforts to support local seafood businesses.

I suspect the issue is political and related to the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. That’s a shame. Dorchester County crab processors have sought and failed to recruit American workers. They want to stay in business in an industry important to the Eastern Shore and tasteful to the rest of the country.

As I end this column and acknowledge its disjointed subjects, I join readers in hoping that spring weather is quickly approaching. I well realize that the month of March is an annual tease, offering the prospect of warmth and then bombarding us sometimes with cold temperatures and snow.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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