Letters for the week of June 12-18, 2002 

Your Unfaithful review was unfaithful, you missed the point of Sherwood, but then, that's the liberal media.

Hmmm, interesting
This is just a note to compliment you on your feature articles. Last week on Doc's Pharmacy ("Compounding Guilt," May 22) was superb. Better than the coverage in the CC Times by far. And this week on "jumping genes" ("Kernels of Truth," May 29), also excellent. Interesting that the best in-depth reporting is coming from your paper.
Bernard Larner, Orinda

Teach for America is working
On May 1, the Express published an article profiling Lina Shanley, a Teach for America corps member at Madison Middle School ("Catcher in the River"). While I was pleased that the article emphasized Ms. Shanley's persistence, leadership, and high expectations for her students, I believe the article missed some key facts about Teach for America's mission, approach, and impact in the Oakland and Bay Area communities.

Teach for America addresses the achievement gap that exists between children growing up in low-income communities and those growing up in more privileged ones, with a twofold mission: In the short run, Teach for America provides excellent teachers who go above and beyond to ensure their students have the opportunities they deserve. In the long run, it builds a force of leaders who work throughout their lives -- both inside and outside education -- to strengthen our nation's schools, and take on the range of social issues that limit the prospects of children in low-income communities.

Teach for America has a ninety percent retention rate over the full two years for which our corps members commit to teach, which compares favorably with retention rates for teachers in lower-income districts across our state. During their two years, our corps members have consistently proven to be effective teachers on many levels. Principals in schools in which our corps members teach continue to be among the strongest advocates for our program. In a recent independent survey of principals, 95 percent said that having corps members was advantageous for their students and schools, while 93 percent of principals stated that corps members had made a positive impact on student achievement. Oakland Superintendent Dennis Chaconas wrote earlier this year that "Teach for America is an incredible source of leadership talent for urban schools across the country ... I think everyone agrees that the children of Oakland deserve educators of this caliber."

After twelve years of placing teachers in schools all over the country, a majority (sixty percent) of our alumni are still full-time in education -- forty percent as classroom teachers, and twenty percent in school-based leadership roles. Teach for America's long-term impact on the Oakland school system is clearly demonstrated in the simple fact that three of Oakland Unified's six new small schools have alumni as members of the founding teacher teams.

Specifically, I want to clarify two statements that appeared in the article:

1. Teach for America has never and will never claim to have created a formula to "get an instant teacher" as stated in the article. We seek out candidates who bring a record of leadership, possess strong academic backgrounds, demonstrate a commitment to expanding educational opportunity for all students, and have a strong sense of personal responsibility. We believe one of our organization's greatest strengths is the commitment all of our teachers make to ongoing professional development through our training institute and support activities, workshops and mentors at their schools, local schools of education, and other local resources for educators.

2. The article stated that the five teachers at Madison who completed their two-year commitment last year left the school. However, it should be noted that two transferred to another middle school in Oakland Unified, one joined Teach for America's staff, and two are working for community-based organizations in Oakland. These teachers are indicative of many of our corps members and alumni who are in the midst of their first, second, or tenth year teaching, and who continue to be dedicated to the pursuit of academic excellence for their students, who are too often forgotten in our country.
Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Teach for America -- Bay Area

An Enigma wrapped in a riddle
After reading the review of Enigma in your May 22 edition ("Enigma True to Its Name"), I went off to the movie to see Kate Winslet and the Turing machine, and enjoyed both. But I was completely unprepared by your review to see the main character, a heterosexual man, presented as the inventor of the machine. I thought Turing himself would be presented in a supporting role, since the main character was straight and, by the end of the movie, married. I guess I assumed that a reviewer in the Bay Area, full as it is of both techies and gay people, would know that a switch had been made here. The reviewer was right that a romance was inserted to make the tech parts more palatable, but missed seeing that a more palatable kind of romance was inserted. That the moviemakers would have a failure of nerve is not surprising, but I thought the Express would not have such a failure of information.

For the "straight" scoop, see www.turing.org.uk/turing/bio/part4.html.
Nancy Schimmel, Berkeley

For mature audiences only
It irks me that your film critic dismissed Unfaithful as utterly uninteresting (Movies A to Z, May 8). Unfaithful is uninteresting if you require an action movie where someone is graphically murdered every five minutes. It's also uninteresting if you're a male who likes your women docile and sexually passive. However, if you are a woman, or a secure man who appreciates independent women, you will probably love this movie. Not only is the plot riveting and the sex erotic, but Unfaithful is the rare feminist movie produced by Hollywood.

Diane Lane is excellent as a bored housewife living in a gorgeous house whose passion is stymied by suburban living. She enters into an exquisitely pleasurable affair with a young man not because she is unhappily married, or psychotic, or terminally ill (as in most Hollywood movies), but just because she wants to. While most movies these days paint women desperate for marriage and children, Unfaithful shows the unpopular truth that being confined to a life of PTA meetings and housework can be lonely and deadening. If you like movies with provocative storylines, masterful cinematography, and superb acting, Unfaithful will be very interesting to you.
Stacy Taylor, El Cerrito

25 percent of zero
Dona Spring writes (Letters, May 29) that Howie Muir and Carrie Olsen are great friends of affordable housing because they have been making sure that developers provide the number of affordable units they promised.

So, it seems that Howie and Carrie have two goals. They want to cut the amount of new housing built in Berkeley by at least half. And they want the bit of housing that is built to have 25 percent affordable units, rather than getting away with just 20 percent.

Does anyone believe that, on balance, they are working to increase the supply of affordable housing?

And I am being charitable when I say they want to cut new housing by only half. Howie Muir has actually said that Berkeley is so dense that it has already done its share for housing, and nothing new should be built here. How much affordable housing would be built if he got his way? Maybe Dona Spring's NIMBY friend can do the math and tell us: What is 25 percent of zero?
Charles Siegel, Berkeley

The soundtrack of my life
I find it very embarrassing of Eric Arnold to write an entire article based on the works and explorations of Adrian Sherwood ("The Dub Factor," May 15), yet not even mention his time spent with Mark Stewart, releasing many incredible albums and EPs showcasing many of the same tricks as previously documented. I just remember that as my drug usage increased in the late '90s, every Mark Stewart album served as a musical backdrop for my life. Words cannot describe what it showed to me.
Benjamin Christy, Oakland

A liberal secret
An interesting symmetry: It's the "archconservative" Washington Times, and the "reactionary" American Spectator, but just the plain Nation and for that matter Daily Californian ("The Unreal David Brock," May 15). No descriptive, look-out-for-these-guys adjectives needed. Don't worry, though. I was a reporter with the Minneapolis Star Tribune for eighteen years, and that kind of thing never bothered my editors, either. It'll be our little secret.
Dave Matheny, Minneapolis MN

It's all in the wrist action
This superb article ("Stepping Off the Cutting Edge," May 22) catches the flavor of being a performer in the new world of circuses and sideshows. I am especially pleased to see the correct emphasis being given to the brave assistant, who "sells" the performance to the audience. I've been doing bullwhip shows myself for about ten years, and while the financial returns require me to supplement my income with other activities and products (videos, lessons, etc.), the intangible rewards -- meeting new people, giving satisfying and thrilling performances, living on the edge almost to the point that being a specialty act becomes a spiritual path -- are tremendous, more than outweighing any negative considerations.
Robert Dante, Santa Monica


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