Letters for the week of January 11-17 2006 

A stripper writes to complain about a clothing ad's placement. And Bob Gammon's story on K-12 tenure generates a whole deskful of debate.

"Pantytime," American Apparel ad, 11/30

Your panties are showing
I consider myself a hip, open-minded, liberal, sex-positive intellectual stripper (I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1999 with a degree in English literature and currently work as a dancer at Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theater in San Francisco). Seeing the latest American Apparel "Pantytime" ad on the back cover of the November 30 Express gave me an identity crisis. Was I really as open-minded as I fancied myself to be? For some reason, seeing the ad's close-up photo of a nymphlike woman's ass bothered me. Seeing her red and white trimmed panties hiked up her ass exposing most of her buttocks and some shading that looks suspiciously like her outer labia made me feel as though I were staring at the cover of one of the "ass fucker" porno videos for sale in the lobby of my work.

That, I realized, was the problem. There is a time and a place for everything, and porno photos of rear ends belong in the porno section. If that sleazy lothario who runs American Apparel wants to photograph all his hot salesgirls in their underwear, fine, but put the ad where kids can't see them! These ads are pornographic, fine, but put them inside the Express. The fact that the guys who runs American Apparel is a PR ace hipster who pays his employees fairly and all that does not justify running his ads everywhere. I don't strip on street corners.
Rebecca Wilson, Oakland

"Endangered Species," Feature, 11/30

Drugs are not the answer
Poultry susceptibility to disease is strongly dependent on genetics. In the long run, requiring poultry to be raised indoors will exacerbate the very problem it seeks to solve.

Around 1980, I visited a Bob Clark's pigeon farm in Livermore, California. Like chickens, pigeons for human consumption (squabs) are raised in large buildings with poultry-wire sides that sparrows can fly through. Wild birds bring in diseases which can run rampant in a building housing 10,000-plus birds. Bob bred his birds for high production, genetic diversity, and good health. He did not medicate, but ruthlessly culled from his breeding program birds that got sick, or whose babies got sick. Meanwhile, neighboring squab farmers medicated against disease. When Newcastle disease swept through Livermore in 1971, Bob's neighbors lost thousands of pigeons, while Bob lost only dozens. Although his birds had no specific resistance to Newcastle, which was new to the area, they were bred for healthy immune systems.

Forcing poultry indoors will most affect small poultry growers who are preserving the genetic diversity that has already been bred out of commercial chickens and turkeys. Confinement growing increases disease problems, which increases growers' tendency to medicate, which ultimately decreases their birds' immunity to disease. In the long run, a successful program to minimize disease transmission between poultry and humans must work with nature, by breeding birds that are too healthy to get sick in the first place.
Wilma Keppel, Albany

"The Case Against Tenure," Feature, 12/7

It's a distraction
Isn't it putting the cart before the horse to make such a big deal about getting rid of bad teachers when we're doing such a poor job of getting, and keeping, good ones? When almost 50 percent of teachers nationally will leave the profession within the first five years of entering it, the priority by the media and by those who put initiatives on the California ballot should be about offering training, salaries, and a work environment that will induce good teachers to stay. Of course, bad teachers should be shown the door, but this issue does not deserve top billing among educational issues or on the ballot. It's a distraction from the issues that can make a difference, and some intend it to be.
Chris Gilbert, Berkeley

Teachers against tenure
Thanks for such a thorough and right-on article. As a former teacher and the wife of a current teacher, we often lament that tenure is a major factor in rendering the school system so ineffective at serving students. The unions allow mediocrity to perpetuate. It maddens me to know they spend millions of teachers' hard-earned money in campaigns to defeat anything that threatens their protection of mediocrity. Thanks for your willingness to raise an issue that some may fear as being anti-education. In reality, eliminating teacher tenure is about as pro-education for the CHILDREN as it gets.
Jeanette Nelson, Oakland

On the other hand
I look forward to reading your next cover story -- "The Case for Tenure."
Sara Faith Jacobsen, Oakland

About that editorial
On behalf of over three thousand members of the Oakland Education Association/CTA/NEA, I am writing to express our outrage with the cover on your December 7 issue and the article by Robert Gammon. Your portrayal of a teacher with training wheels pointing to a chalkboard with wrong answers to basic math problems was insulting to the thousands of excellent tenured and nontenured teachers in Oakland and across the East Bay. Mr. Gammon's article was more appropriate as an editorial, not as a balanced journalistic endeavor.

Since he never contacted us for the union side of the story, please allow me to respond at length in this letter:

In any profession, there are a few individuals who have chosen the wrong career. Tenure, or more accurately "permanent status" in the K-12 lexicon, provides due process for those individuals under the concept of innocent until proven guilty. In Oakland alone, permanent teachers are uncontestedly fired or forced to resign every year before the legal process described in Mr. Gammon's diatribe even occurs! Due to confidentiality, neither the district or union advertises this reality to the press.

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