Letters to the Editor

From the week of March 20, 2003

Kudos to all involved!

Steve Livingston

Food for thought: When Westword does a review of a restaurant, it doesn't confine itself to taste and place. Rather, the article is replete with the history of the restaurant, its many reincarnations, the pedigree of the cuisine, the biography of the chef and the owner and the origin of the ingredients, complete with footnotes, Web sites and maps.

No such attention is paid when the topic is Denver Public Schools. The current recentralization and attempt to standardize curriculum can only be understood in historical perspective. Twelve years ago, then-governor Romer imposed an experimental system of site-based management on Denver Public Schools under the guise of preventing a teachers' strike. The so-called CDM was formulated during secret contract negotiations between the governor, the district and the DCTA. There was no public vote. The system, which allowed committees at each school to make budget and program decisions for that school, was promoted as a means of improving student achievement, although no proof was offered then, nor exists now, to substantiate such a claim.

The Denver school system was balkanized. Each school was a country unto itself, with its own curriculum and sometimes language. Children who were moved were lost. Some schools cut music, art, P.E. and closed libraries. Some students got textbooks, a lot didn't. Affluent schools were sometimes able to compensate; poor schools could not.

There are sad parallels today. While the CDM is losing some control, it still remains a vital part of DPS. Indeed, thousands will be spent in April on something called "CDM Gathering III." Perhaps Westword could send its restaurant critic to cover the event. I understand it is to be a catered affair.

Joanne Marie Roll

The shock of the new: Mary's in fifth grade in Gerald "call me Jerry!" Wartgow's Denver Public Schools, and goes to school for six hours every day. Three of these hours are taken up with the new-new "literacy" program. Then there's an hour a day for the usual changing class, settling down and discipline issues and another for lunch/recess. Hmmm. That leaves one whole hour for math, science, social studies, library and "specials" (P.E., art and music). Every day! Jerry thinks that's plenty.

From District HQ down to every first-year P.E. teacher, low CSAP scores do not suggest to "educators" that they are incompetent bums. Rather, it's a clear sign that a goat is needed. Or, better, a New Program! Like a legion of Eddie Haskells caught with their collective hand in Mrs. Beaver's cookie jar, "educators" always seek fault elsewhere. Must be a seminar they get on one of their many in-service days. It's the "language" barrier! It's poor diet!

It's the nasty, smelly brats or, if not the parents, it's the kids! In the last few years, they've had a ready scapegoat in our eeevvviiilll Republican governor, who wants them to (gasp!) earn their paychecks. If they can blame someone else and get an expensive new program, too, why that's just peachy, Mrs. Beaver!

Buried near the end of Jargon's article is the word that identifies this New! Improved! Gets kids brighter! Program in Denver for what it really is: a "trend." Another educational fad foisted on another hapless generation of kids by an educational establishment that sucks the fat, powerful ass of national educational interests better than most states. This latest chapeau being modeled in the front window at Jerry & Company (but echoed in every Colorado public school) is simply another in a long, long line of educational fashions -- the New Math, the New, New Math, Whole Language and Self-Directed Learning, etc. -- designed to enrich textbook writers and consultants, make it appear as if administrators and teachers are actually doing something and, above all else, keep the funding flowing. Never mind the fact that while the educational "professionals" get to strut on the avenue in this snazzy -- if gauzy -- new raiment, kids get to huddle in dark, cold alleys wrapped only in the moth-eaten, flyblown sackcloth of their schools' perennial failure.

JM Schell

The Write Stuff

Making book: Regarding "Planet Clare," in the March 13 issue:

Many thanks to Michael Roberts for giving Pamela White the press time she so deserves. I had the pleasure of working in the newsroom with Pam at the Colorado Daily -- and have known firsthand her brilliance and passion as a writer.

Congrats to Pam on her new book, her tenacity as a stoic journalist and her persistence in standing up for what she believes in. She's one of the reasons I became a writer -- and I know she's touched the lives of many others.

Keep up the good work!

Amanda Hill

Crash Course

You auto know better: For several years now, I have been trying to convince the local news media to address the auto-insurance ripoff, which was only superficially touched on by Alan Prendergast in his March 13 "Leave the Driving to Bill."

Imagine the outrage if the NRA really had the GOP in its pocket and got a law passed that said that everyone had to buy a gun -- and if you didn't have a good credit rating, and industry-created actuarial data suggested that you might be more of a risk, you had to pay double for that gun! Or if you couldn't prove prior "continuous" gun ownership, you would also pay a much higher price for that gun!

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