Letters for June 27, 2002

Don’t give up

Re “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, June 13):

I read this article with great interest because I too lost a sibling to heroin. In October 2000, my sister died in her apartment from an overdose. She too had withdrawal pains associated with heroin when my family first encountered her heroin addiction back in 1995. I sympathize with Tonya with her loss of her brother Jake whom she dearly loved.

I feel changes should be made in the jail systems to provide a closer watch on the inmates and giving them the medication and attention they need. Ignoring the problems doesn’t help the situation and only makes it worse. If other people have lost a loved one to heroin or other substances, they should think of 2 Corinthians 1:3 and help others who are going through withdrawal symptoms. I know someday the Lord will use me to work in the lives of others who are facing addiction problems.

Tonya may be depressed and angered over her loss, but she should continue to rehabilitate drug addicts and not give up. I may be saddened to lose a sister, but I thank the Lord for helping me to stay away from drugs and will help others out of their addiction problems.

Ken March
via e-mail

Low score for SN&R

Re “Fighting Over Textbooks” by Deanna Broxton (SN&R News, June 13):

I am writing with the concern that I was misrepresented by Ms. Broxton with reference to her article. The statement that our district teacher’s recommendations relative to our last reading adoption were not taken into consideration is incorrect. In fact, the teachers involved in the selection process for kindergarten through third-grade reading materials rated both Open Court and another program very highly.

When an opportunity to access funding through the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, contingent on use of Open Court materials, presented itself, the combination of preparation and opportunity resulted in extreme good fortune for our district. However, the decision to access these funds was not made until the textbook adoption committee was reconvened.

Given the aforementioned information and their high rating of Open Court, the committee recommended adoption of Open Court. Their decision has resulted in not only the utilization of a high-quality reading program, but also access to funding which has provided several reading coaches and a systematic literacy program highlighted by state-of-the-art professional development.

The most important result however, which Ms. Broxton failed to mention, is that our reading scores have increased significantly each year following our adoption of Open Court and our involvement in the Reading Lyons Project. Clearly, the lives of thousands of children have been positively impacted.

John W. Brewer
Assistant Superintendent
North Sacramento School District

Deanna Broxton responds:

Mr. Brewer contends that the selection committee’s findings were taken into consideration in selecting Open Court, and it is true that the teachers did rank the program. Yet he also clearly explained during our interview that not all of the steps were followed that would normally occur during the curriculum adoption process, and that the findings and recommendations of the selection committee were not formally heard by the district before Open Court was adopted. That is what Janice Auld and other teachers took issue with, and that was the main point of the story.

Open Court isn’t

Re “Fighting Over Textbooks” by Deanna Broxton (SN&R News, June 13):

The furor over school texts and curricula is a familiar one for teachers. Educators know that often their voices are simply disregarded about these decisions despite the negative impact on student achievement. For instance, my wife’s low-income area second-graders using the Open Court (OC) materials were expected to understand words such as “abundant” and “resourceful.” This was part of the ridiculous regimen propagated for children who had trouble counting to 20 or memorizing short words.

When I taught sixth grade we were using fourth-grade books for most of our low-income pupils because they had difficulty with reading at grade level. Of course, the tests were still at sixth-grade level, which made the entire inane exercise truly worthless. I left elementary for secondary instruction in part because of the futility in changing texts.

SCUSD administrator Van Vleck must have a selective memory for there to be only “one complaint” about OC. Our school, and others I know of, consistently urged her and SCUSD to at least modify, if not drop, the program, which was often far too advanced for our pupils who were from poor and often non-English-speaking households. They not only refused but made it known our complaints would create “problems for us” if we didn’t implement “The Plan.”

Open Court was selected for two reasons, neither of which have anything to do with student ability or teacher recommendations. First, the Packard Foundation paid $1 million for the series. Second, the “science” upon which the program was based in the presentation to our own state Legislature was seriously flawed. See the study by Dr. Margaret Moustafa of Cal State L.A. (http://instructional1.calstatela.edu/mmousta/) in which the data presented to the state Senate was considerably altered from the original research. Teacher Janice Auld was correct to question the program’s worth.

Finally, I understand that both publishers and budget constraints pressure administrators and consultants who make these decisions. In addition, some teachers support the program, which may be fine for their pupils. However, for teachers in less desirable areas of town, OC was hurting kids by focusing on rote, too advanced reading and boring lessons at the expense of any joy or creativity that young readers discover elsewhere.

Christopher Barry

Leave the kids at home

Re “Visitation Blues” by Megan Wong (SN&R News, May 30):

This article should be called “Spare the Children.” How sad that children are exposed to the humiliating and sterile environment of the prison setting so that the mother and inmate father can “keep their family ties.” These innocent children have already been sabotaged by felon fathers who decided to satisfy their ongoing narcissistic proclivities through criminal behavior. It’s one thing for the mother to visit in prison, but not the child. No amount of sitting on the father’s lap is going to put a positive spin on what the child sees, feels, smells and assimilates into her impressionable young mind. To that extent, the mother is as selfish as the father; the child becomes of secondary importance.

Ideally, before having children with a felon, and at least as soon as criminal behavior is demonstrated, the mother should head for the nearest exit for the child’s sake. Children used by mothers in an attempt to bribe the father into becoming a man and going straight will usually fail. No child should have that baggage to carry.

What Wong’s article depicts clearly is that adults like Stephanie Antwine have no shame. Contrary to their expressed intentions, they sacrifice their own blood and flesh children by familiarizing them to the mindset, sight and smell of social dregs under the guise of parental rights, blood relation, bonding, etc.

The pathos SN&R attempts to elicit is misplaced and demonstrates a twisted sense of human values. Maybe someday Ms. Wong will have enough life experience to see the phony piety of her article, and SN&R their transparent attempt to make CDC the “bad guy” rather than negligent parenting. Let’s save the children, not “family ties.”

Name withheld on request

Bill of wrongs

Re “Knockout Punch or Wake-up Call?” (SN&R Editorial, June 13):

History repeats itself. Ashcroft is the reincarnation of A. Mitchell Palmer, who as attorney general under President Wilson committed wholesale violations of the Bill of Rights in his pursuit against left-wing individuals and organizations. Both men justified their actions as necessary to protect us from our enemies. Their mindset was and is the greater danger. Particularly scary is Ashcroft’s giving expanded powers to the F.B.I.—a dysfunctional agency with a well-documented history of civil rights’ violations.

The best defense against Ashcroft is a good offense. All of us, individually and through such organizations as the ACLU, must vigorously oppose Ashcroft and his cohorts in every legal way possible.

James G. Updegraff