Letters for the week of April 3, 2002 

Wishing a poison apple upon our Snow White; arguing educational history with "Anything but Academic."

I Knew Snow White ...
I read with relish your piece on Jerome Wiggins and his dispute with Sheila Jordan ("7 Days," March 13), although I would hardly depict Sheila Jordan as Snow White. She would appear to be a decidedly Wicked Witch.

Her hit piece against Wiggins, paid for by friends of Sheila Jordan, with her husband, Larry Cooperman, acting as treasurer, was a disgraceful and low act. She has a record of ousting Black officials; her race against her predecessor, Cheryl Hightower, was no Teddy Bears' Picnic.

I hope Wiggins prevails in his complaint against her. It is high time she eats a poison apple.
Anne Kasdin, Oakland

Do Your Homework
I don't know where Justin Berton got the idea that "Twenty-five years ago ... community colleges were typically quaint institutions specializing in lifestyle-enhancement classes ... " ("Anything But Academic," March 20). During the '70s I was a tenured full-time instructor in the English department at Contra Costa College. A few Kensington matrons took advantage of free art classes, but the vast majority of our students were descendants of poor blacks and whites imported from the rural south to work in World War II shipyards, then abandoned to unemployment or (if lucky) low-paying jobs. Our students were mostly low on money, low on achievement, and low on hope. The free junior college was their only hope to improve their skills and transfer to a four-year college. Only a few pulled it off. Others turned toward the many programs of vocational skills they would never have heard about otherwise, taught by dedicated teachers who used their contacts with local businesses to get for their students that precious ray of hope -- a job.

Berton innocently states, "At DVC, where faculty members are paid about $2,000 per three-unit class ... " Do the math. A full-time community college teaching load is 5 three-unit classes. When I left teaching to write full time, I was making a quite decent salary, plus health benefits and payment into Cal State Retirement, and I thought twice about giving it up. I was replaced by two part-timers, with nothing but that miserable "hourly" pay, period. That trend spread, and today, like migrant farm workers, most college teachers are underpaid, overworked, and abused "freeway fliers." Morale is in the pits.

DVC is indeed the more middle-class of the three campuses, and although I've heard former-colleague friends at DVC agonizing about the issues Berton covers in his article, I am too distant from all that to judge his version against theirs. I only judge, from what I DO know, that he did not quite do his homework on this one, and so I wonder ...
Name withheld by request, Berkeley

And The Price Was Right
In "Anything But Academic" ("Cityside," March 20), author Justin Berton states, "Twenty-five years ago, when community colleges operated free of charge and were typically quaint institutions specializing in lifestyle-enhancement classes ..." I don't know whether Berton speaks for himself, or whether he's paraphrasing Diablo Valley president Mark Edelstein here. Whichever, the statement is a gross misrepresentation.

Was Berton (or Edelstein) on the community college scene 25 years ago? I was: I was teaching at Merritt College, and what we offered was far from "lifestyle-enhancement" material (and as for "quaint," Merritt was never quaint!). In my department, English, we offered, in addition to Cal-transferable English 1A and 1B plus several different levels of remedial courses, the following: American literature, British literature, modern European literature (several sections of each), poetry, several sections of Shakespeare, Novels into Film, and a few more lit courses. Then there were three or four creative writing classes, not to mention several sections of journalism. Compare that with today's meager offering.

In addition, the college, or sister colleges in the Peralta system, gave vocational certificates in nursing, hairdressing, shoe repair, auto repair, auto body, iron working, and many others.

"Quaint"? "Lifestyle-enhancing"? I don't think so. What's true is that the education was free. No more.
Renata Polt, Berkeley

Love 'Em and Leave 'Em
"Malignant anarchist" ... "impudent"... "venomous" ... we can live with that ("7 Days," March 20). But "funny"? "Erudite"? Them's fightin' words! (And rest assured, we all wear condoms before we get intimate with Oakland's political lights.)

Oh, and Jerry -- dinner and a movie first, sailor. Wink wink.
The KIJE Project, http://home.att.net/~lieutenantkije/express.html

The American Nightmare
Regarding Melissa Hung's story on the life and times of Yuriko Kochiyama ("The Last Revolutionary," March 13): It is impossible to read this and not to feel deep respect for the woman. But still, gee, I wonder when (and if ever) people will get it!

Is the problem, as Yuri says, "white people like Bush, they want to do away with everyone but themselves"? No. Not even close. The problem is money, its amalgamation with power, and the increasing concentration of both in the hands of a few (of all races). Focusing on what level of racism there remains in this country is just a perfect way for those who should unite in fighting power to stay divided, forever.

So, why, instead of dozens of organizations like those to which Yuri has belonged, and still does, why aren't we building a true political party of the working people? One committed to participation in the US political process (i.e., no separatist "Republic of New Africa"), one opposed to violence as a matter of fundamental principle, one aligned with and supported by a significant part of trade unions?

Sigh. Must be the American Nightmare.
Ian Zimmerman, Oakland

Corrections
In our story about the media's coverage of Dr. Rod Perry and a state agency's case against the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan ("The Case of the Missing Physician," March 13), we included KRON TV among the list of news outlets that had never interviewed Dr. Perry. Although technically true, this was misleading in its characterization of KRON's coverage, which never actually referred to Dr. Perry by name.

And despite our claim in "The Talented Mr. Young" (March 27) Lester Young was a tenor saxophonist, not a drummer. D'oh!

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