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Back to School

Week of March 12, 2003

Back to School
It's not that simple: I am the director of a professional-development program for the Cooperating School Districts. I am also a parent of a child in the Clayton school district. In addition, I have worked closely with teachers from the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District. I also taught history for twenty years at University City High School. Marty Rochester's book Class Warfare: Besieged Schools, Bewildered Parents, Betrayed Kids and the Attack on Excellence is an important book that should be read by educators, as well as the general public. He is an involved citizen who deserves to be heard.

However, Jeannette Batz's article was too narrowly construed to present a complete picture of these two outstanding school districts ["Class War," February 26]. As a parent, I don't notice any erosion of standards at Clayton High School. My son graduated from Clayton and is now a freshman at Cornell University. He had very learned teachers who cared about him as a human being and student. What more could a parent want for his children? John Burroughs and Country Day could not have done a better job.

The Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District is one of the most exciting school districts in Missouri. Under the leadership of Linda Henke and many excellent teachers, this district is rapidly rising in stature. Standardized test scores are improving, and many outstanding educators are applying to teach in MRH because the district invests in teachers. The discussion about Henke's belief in mass excellence misrepresented her views. She was not saying that every child can do well in advanced physics. She does believe that educators and parents need to pay more attention to the developmental needs of children and that a much higher percentage of children can do accomplished work. The College Board, which administers the advanced-placement program, agrees with Henke.

Hopefully the article will stimulate some rich dialogue about our public schools. While I applaud Rochester as a committed citizen who cares deeply about public schools, both the book and article lack the broader context for a civil discussion of very complicated issues that play out differently from school district to school district. Reducing the issues that divide progressive educators from defenders of traditional education only captures part of the struggling story to improve our public schools. Is it really this simple?
Dennis Lubeck
St. Louis

Flip-Floppin' Dick
Gephardt's entitled to change his mind: It was with interest and amazement that I read the hatchet-job piece you did on Congressman Dick Gephardt, my representative before I moved [D.J. Wilson, "Weather Vane," February 26]. Not only are you misrepresenting the record of a man who has been as honorable and conscientious as any I have ever known in Congress, but your attempt to prove your point by dredging up a discredited fifteen-year-old observation from supposed political expert Ken Warren is silly. I debated Warren in 1988 on a call-in talk show when he first made the ridiculous assertion that Gephardt, by changing his original position on abortion, would lose his seat. Of course, it has turned out that Warren could not have been more wrong. For Warren and you to keep trying to smear Gephardt with that ancient charge of "flip-flopping" is pathetic.

How many times does he have to serve before you realize that the voters in his district really want him to represent them! He changed his mind once. One has to wonder why pundits never attack any of the dozen-or-so Democrats in Congress who changed not only a single position, but their total party affiliation. St. Louis conservatives such as Wilson and Warren have been taking poorly reasoned potshots at Gephardt for years but have been totally unsuccessful at making his constituents believe he is anything but the great statesman that he is!
Richard Orr
St. Charles

Connect the Dox
Why black artists are slighted: Ivy Cooper's article on printmaker Dox Thrash is one of the best Riverfront Times pieces I've read in awhile, and not just because it isn't a hoax ["A Matter of Timing," February 26]. A reader recently complained that features on African-Americans are lamentably scarce in February's issues. While black-history-related stories are obviously not an RFT priority, Cooper's article identifies one of many reasons the American cultural press slights black artists. Hopefully Cooper's article will inspire people to see the Thrash exhibit.
Ben Weinstein
St. Louis

Dead Reckoning
John gets something off his chest: Congratulations! The music critic staff at the RFT manages to mislead the public once again. In a February 26 "Critic's Pick" box, Patricia Brooke calls Puerto Muerto "St. Louis' favorite prodigal son and daughter." Prodigal, i.e., extravagant waste, yes; St. Louis band, no, Patricia! This is a Chicago-based duo. Christa is from Chicago. Tim is from St. Louis, yes, but has lived in Chicago for probably the last ten years, and both live there now. They are not a St. Louis band.

And furthermore, speak for yourself when you call it our favorite. Puerto Muerto's computer-perfected, self-absorbed, whiny art-crap just does not compute live. Instead it sounds like musician masturbation without any direction.

RFT, when putting friends first, as you are known for, and kowtowing to this Chicago band by painting their mugs all over the paper, once again, please put a caption underneath the picture that reads, "Hi, we're Puerto Muerto, we take ourselves a little too seriously and we're damn lucky to have friends on the RFT music-critic staff."
John Hartwake
St. Louis

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