Letters for the week of June 29 - July 5, 2005 

BART should set aside one car in every train for loud people. Randy Ward should realize that adult ed teaches more than language.

"Till Arrests Do Us Part," Culture, 5/18

Peace in our time
I was delighted to read that performance artists are staging impromptu "interventions" on BART trains. But I was even happier to read that BART actually has rules forbidding passengers from using a "sound device." So instead of arresting artists for creating an ad-hoc dance-party "theme" car, why aren't BART police citing the idiot passenger beside me with a shrieking hell phone, the other idiot behind me yelling into her own hell phone (i.e., my ear -- "I'M ON BART!"), the idiot homie nearby disturbing everyone with a boom box, and the fourth idiot blasting "music" out of his figleaf "headphones" loud enough to be heard halfway down the car? And why doesn't BART post its rules against noise abuse, as Muni does?

By spontaneously creating a single "loud car," the Passenger Liberation Front artists/activists showed exactly what BART management should be doing by policy: Designate one car per train for noisemaking. Then require all the yelling fools, iPod abusers, and assorted hell-phone abusers to congregate there. Leave the rest of the train quiet for the rest of us to enjoy reading, dozing, or quiet conversation. In fact, clad all the nonloud "courteous" cars with copper to block hell-phone signals. Peace in our time!
Michael Katz, Berkeley

"ESL Students Sitting in a Tree," City of Warts, 5/11

Feel the love
Thank you for your recent story. As Chris Thompson says, adult education is a social network for new immigrants. Adult education does help integrate new immigrants into social systems that are different and unfamiliar. Adult education provides a safe space for students to practice essential communication skills such as asking for and giving directions and speaking on the telephone in their second or third new language.

I work as an adult-education teacher, and one of the biggest rewards of being an educator is to know that I am helping people reach their goals. Adult school educators and staff are often unofficial counselors and mentors to immigrant and non-immigrant students alike. We help our students study for their GED certificate, high school diploma, and US citizenship tests in civics and US history. We celebrate their successes and are there to encourage them to overcome obstacles.

Adult education is often the last chance and savior to young adults who are failing high school and are on the precipice of dropping out. Adult education is often the second chance for those people who did drop out and are now ready to work for their high school diploma or GED certificate and onto higher education. Adult education opens doors for citizens and immigrants to new opportunities.

In addition, this article is especially touching because my parents -- who will be married for 36 years this July 3 -- met in an adult school class in 1965. Both of my parents immigrated to the United States in their teens and landed in San Francisco in 1963. My father arrived in San Francisco from China via Hong Kong and Honolulu in the New Year of 1963. In the spring of the same year, my mother arrived in San Francisco from El Salvador. They spoke different languages, lived very different lives in different neighborhoods, but where their lives overlapped was in school at John Adams Adult School (now a City College campus) in San Francisco.

At John Adams, my parents learned English in a class taught by a Chinese-American teacher. They became friends and courted each other in civics, social studies, English composition, and biology. With the opportunity provided by public adult-education classes, my parents completed and received their high school diplomas. After graduation, they remained friends, eventually married, and returned to adult ed to study for their US citizenship exams.

As an ESL and citizenship teacher at Vallejo Adult School in Vallejo, my students are always curious to know where I am from because to them, my background is ambiguous. I speak Spanish, my last name is Chinese in origin, but my features don't look purely Asian or Latina but more like a mixture of the two. Especially when we are practicing the phrase, "Where are your parents from?" students are so eager to ask the teacher. When I tell my students where my parents are from, their response is amazement. The next question is always, "Teacher, how did your parents meet?" When I tell them in an adult-ed classroom, it evokes surprised gasps and giggles as they look surreptitiously around the room at their potential sweethearts.

As my life experience can attest, there is a lot of love in English as a second language and other adult-education classes. Again, thank you for publishing this article. I can only hope that Randy Ward, Governor Schwarzenegger, and others holding the purse strings of education in Sacramento feel the love in adult ed, and do not turn a cold shoulder to a program that assists so many in reaching their ambitions.
Melanie A. Chan, Oakland

"The Next Sweet Thing," Feature, 6/1

Look for the Fair Trade label
I was surprised to see scant mention of Fair Trade in Jonathan Kauffman's article. Fair Trade is an important movement that complements the nation's growing interest in gourmet chocolate. Just as consumers are seeking specialty products from specific origins, more and more consumers are demanding products that were produced and traded ethically. For reasons of quality and sustainability, people increasingly want to know the origins of the food they consume.

The majority of the world's cocoa is grown by small-scale family farmers in developing countries. Lack of market access, low commodity prices, and structural inequalities in the marketplace mean that most farmers who grow the cocoa for our $3 gourmet chocolate bars live in poverty. Fair Trade Certification provides farmers with a fair price, prohibits abusive child labor, and encourages sustainable farming practices. In addition, the Fair Trade price allows farmers to invest in technology and training to improve the quality of their cocoa, thereby ensuring a quality product for gourmet chocolatiers and discerning consumers. Oakland-based Transfair USA, the only independent, nonprofit certifier of Fair Trade products in the US, guarantees that Fair Trade standards are met. Look for the Fair Trade Certified label next time you shop!
Sara Frymoyer, strategic outreach intern, TransFair USA, Oakland

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