Letters for the week of July 6-12, 2005 

Give OMI students a chance. Give sex education a chance. Give practicing boxers a chance. Give nonviolent mediation a chance.


"Jerry's Big Day," City of Warts, 6/15

Stop the punkishness
I can't fathom the editorial decision-making of an alternative newspaper devoting two pages of cheeky and downright silly commentary on Mayor Brown's wedding.

But in your comments about the Oakland Military Institute, you missed facts or inferred them incorrectly. Sure, some schools had better scores than OMI but several more in Oakland had worse. If you check the API scores from the state tests in comparison to similar schools, OMI performed well, but has room for improvement. As far as removing students to improve scores, no such practice occurred.

I'm not sure what additional resources OMI has in relation to other schools. I have a set of textbooks, a room, and on any given day students who want to learn and succeed. The administration is supportive. Parents of my students are engaged and are open to communicating with me about their children's performance. Like any other teacher in California, I too often use my own resources and money to improve and enrich my classroom. For many teachers, it's a flaw in our own personal sense of economics.

Thompson's comments and inferences about OMI were unwarranted and, dare I quote my students, "punkish." Come to my class next fall when school resumes. Comment about my class and school from a firsthand perspective, and not for a see-all, tell-all about the mayor's personal life.
Michael Sagehorn, OMI history teacher, Antioch


"Protecting the Birds from the Bees," City of Warts, 6/22

Knowledge is power
Although I appreciate the general point of your column, I don't think you really meant to say that "There are two kinds of students in Oakland's elementary schools: those who need to know what a rapist is, and those who don't." All kids, even the most sheltered, need to know what a rapist is and that it is not okay for an adult to touch them in certain ways.

I am 62 and was raised in a very, very middle-class neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, the kind of 1950s neighborhood where the moms stayed home, every family had two parents (and I didn't know anyone whose parents were divorced), and where everyone was white. I discovered later that a man on our block was probably molesting younger children -- or, at the least, was certainly behaving very inappropriately with them -- and may possibly have been molesting his son as well. Although he never touched me, I remember watching him with other children and being uneasy and knowing something wasn't quite right, but I didn't have the words or the information which would have enabled me to understand what was going on.

He would not have been able to get away with any of that if the naive children of the 1950's (including me) had been given information on "what a rapist is," together with instructions about telling a trusted adult if they were touched inappropriately (or saw any of their friends touched inappropriately) by any adult.
Barbara Ginsberg, Oakland

Talk it over
I found Chris Thompson's article very thought-provoking. We are a diverse community and therefore having a standard sex-ed presentation without knowing where each student is coming from is fraught with challenges.

I'd agree that poor and working-class families have problems such as economic stress, poor housing, etc. But where does Chris get the idea that rape, incest, and domestic violence are problems only of the poor and working class? Rape, incest, and domestic violence cross lines of race, class, and religion. All of these are much more hidden in the middle and upper classes, partly due to economic access.

A sex-ed class in a "one size fits all" model offers information. For some, it is "old hat," because of lots of discussions around the kitchen table. Others may have learned far too much about sex from abuse. Others come from a religious background where the rules are clear and not verbally challenged. Others are shy, embarrassed, and uncomfortable with the topic. Then the sex educator comes in and talks to them ALL. What an opportunity to promote communication within our diverse community.
Renee Enteen, Oakland


"Man on the Median," East Side Story, 5/18

The boxer
I work near Stanford Avenue and used to see the boxer. As I rode by on my bicycle, I always felt a little nervous -- maybe I was afraid he was going to take off after me and hit me, and I thought he was strange. I have more of an understanding since reading the story, and though I haven't seen him since the article appeared, as I ride by I have more of a feeling of tolerance and respect, which we need more of in this world. Thank you.
Elaine Miller, Berkeley


"The Dump Next Door," Summer Guide, 6/8

Before violence
Your helpful article about what to do about messy or noisy neighbors next door overlooked one often-effective option you can try: Contact the East Bay Community Mediation office. Our trained volunteers specialize in neighbor-neighbor disputes. We'll contact the other party, so please have his/her name, address, and phone number (if possible) when you call. We'll try our sweet talk to get the dumpy people to agree to sit down and talk it over with you.

The mediator doesn't solve the problem, but creates a controlled discussion so the parties can work out their own mutual solution. It really does work. The cost for this community service is minimal, and the results are often maximal. Give us a ring: 510-548-2377.
Victor Herbert, East Bay Community Mediation volunteer, Berkeley


CORRECTIONS
In our June 29 story "Mud on the Tracks," we misreported that a "bug" is a horse-racing liability. In fact, it is the opposite, a weight allowance given to apprentice jockeys, allowing their horse to carry slightly less weight overall than rival mounts. Kate Repp is also the third-best female apprentice.

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