Letters for December 16, 2010

Letter of the week

Stop picking on charters

Re “Time for action on Sac High” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, November 11):

This piece is out of touch with the need for real education reform not just in Sacramento, but across the state. By pushing new school board members to pick on a top performing charter school whose focus is to graduate seniors and encourage higher education is ignoring the real issues public schools are facing.

Last year, less than half (47 percent) of Sacramento City Unified [School District] schools met their Academic Performance Index targets, according to the California Department of Education. In addition, the district is facing a budget deficit, pension reform and declining graduation rates. Closing the achievement gap and getting our students prepared and motivated to go to college should be their top priority, not seeking to close Sac High to provide space for the elite in East Sacramento.

Charter schools, like [Sacramento High School], are public schools of choice that are tuition-free that serve all students. In addition, Sac High had higher graduation rates and academic performance for African-American and Latino students than many other high schools in the district. For students, parents and communities, charter schools provide a choice in public education that allows them to receive a high-quality education, and to commit to being directly involved in the success of the students.

We urge the Sacramento City Unified school board members to focus on fixing what’s broken, and not breaking something that is delivering on its promise.

Laura Kerr
regional director, Northern California
California Charter Schools Association

Stickin’ with the stars and stripes

Re “Oh no, Canada” by Rachel Leibrock (SN&R Popsmart, December 9):

Your Canada column was right on the money this week! It came at such perfect timing—literally 15 minutes before I opened my SN&R, I was researching grad schools in Vancouver.

I’ve been growing so frustrated with politics lately and getting the hell out of Dodge seemed like the perfect solution. But you are so right—it’s time we fight like tea partiers and not run away!

Thanks for touching on this. I think it sends a great message for us to not give up.

Tracy Tierney

What Soto didn’t say

Re “Soto speaks” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Feature, December 2):

In his recent interview with your publication, I was struck by what Sacramento’s Catholic Bishop Jaime Soto did not say about the Church’s ongoing clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis.

Nowhere in that long “Q-and-A” did Soto ever utter any of these phrases: “call police,” “reform laws,” “external oversight,” “punish wrongdoers” or even “I’m sorry.”

Soto’s omissions clearly show how little the Catholic hierarchy has changed, despite plenty of pledges to reform.

Barbara Dorris
outreach coordinator
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Rev. Billy’s a better interview

Re “Soto speaks” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Feature, December 2):

The interview with Roman Catholic Bishop Jaime Soto was illuminating (about as much so as a police helicopter’s searchlight pinpointing a suspect). I know enough about dancing to determine that the good bishop is one mean tap dancer. His lil’ feets was tappity-tapping so madly around the germane issues brought up by [Jeff] vonKaenel that the floor under his shoes was starting to smolder from the frenzy. It made me wonder why, despite the fascinating distraction of his rhetoric, he didn’t simply answer a few of the questions candidly and openly, simply to throw the rest of us reflectively aware types off balance.

I admire publisher vonKaenel’s ecumenical spirit in giving Bishop Soto a public soapbox to stand on, but frankly, a pig is a pig, no matter how hard you try to make pearl-studded silk purses from their little porcine pinnas. It’s a sure bet that any “god” that Soto says objects to anything human beings do is definitely a figment of that ultraspicy kimchi I had for dinner last evening.

I can’t help thinking how much more useful an interview with the Reverend Billy (of Reverend Billy’s Church of [Life After Shopping]) would have been as we near the high holy days of American materialist capitalism! Happy Whatever.

Chris Carey

The no-win situation

Re “Soto speaks” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Feature, December 2):

Because the Catholic Church is a private organization that chooses to be somewhat public and transparent, it is often damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t when it comes to judgments it makes and actions it does—or doesn’t—take. The same can be said of other public organizations.

As an organized group of Christians, it is a subset of the spiritual body of the Christ. Like other Christian organizations in the body of the Christ, the leaders of the organization, not the secular government or the public, have the right to set their doctrines according to their understanding of the will of God. No organization has the right to coerce any human to become a member, but they do have the right to determine who is a member of their organization.

Bishop Soto has a tough line to walk between the leaders over him and the flock he is responsible for shepherding. I pray that God gives him the knowledge, understanding and wisdom he needs.

David E. Hostetter
El Dorado Hills

War games bad for books and kids

Re “Kill screen” by Sarah Hansel (SN&R Frontlines, December 2):

Sacramento [Public] Library director Rivkah Sass may inadvertently be adding to young people’s difficulty in focusing and learning.

In a recent article in The New York Times by Matt Richtel, we read about a young student in Redwood City who is so absorbed in technologies that he does not finish the summer-reading book assignment. He has read 43 pages in two months. A program at Harvard points to the risk to developing brains which can become habituated to constantly switching tasks and less able to sustain attention.

Ironically, books are being pushed to the periphery. Reading is a cognitively strenuous job that the Redwood City student shuns. Instead, he plays video games 10 hours a week, unable to apply himself to his educational tasks. Unfortunately, by advocating video games, [library] director Sass may be sabotaging deep reading and critical thinking.

It is regrettable that Sass accepts war video games. Surely, it is a moral imperative for us to reflect about the role of war videos play in socializing us Americans to support making war, near or far. Let us hope it begins at the Sacramento library.

Mary Bisharat