The Loan Arranger
Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Checking Out," in the October 4 issue:
Ms. Calhoun, surely even you can accept this basic fact: If you take out a loan, you are expected to pay it back. I am sorry that the Fords may lose their business, but they didn't have to make that deal with the city.
With all the money that the city has poured into improvements on Welton Street, it is unbelievable that RTD didn't plan a light-rail stop by Five Points Plaza. Don't these people talk to each other? My heart goes out to the Fords, who got sucked into this mess.
Alan Prendergast's October 4 article, "Stalking the Net," was very informative, even for someone who surfs the newsgroup "alt.religion.scientology" regularly. It is the most complete and detailed report about the FACTNet litigation I have seen till now. I am very glad that your article makes a difference, because I have noticed that the Scientology topic is too hot for too many U.S. newspapers.
Scientology is not recognized around the world, as the Scientologists like to say it is. This year the German federal labor court decided that Scientology uses "religion" only as a cover to do business. And this is only one of several recent lost lawsuits.
When I first discovered how Lawrence Wollersheim's office was broken into and his computers seized, I was appalled. When I learned that it was done by Scientologists given the order by federal marshals, I was angered but not surprised. Scientology has become one of the most politically powerful "religious" organizations in America for two reasons: It has a wealth base that is enormous, and it has some of the best lawyers money can buy.
Why is this the case? All one has to do is look at the fees Scientology charges its members and at the long list of court cases and attacks by former members. Why are former members constantly attacking the Church? When it comes right down to it, Scientology deals with people's most tender emotions, and often it can become dangerous and destructive. In my situation, I was seeking spiritual guidance from Scientology and found myself excommunicated from the Church because I didn't have enough money to pay the exorbitant fees and was unwilling to give my life and belongings away to serve the Church. This organization operates as a "self-help," multibillion-dollar business under the smokescreen of being registered as a "nonprofit" church. These people are taught (brainwashed) to fight for their organization at an unrelenting pace. I remember being told how to defend the Church almost more than how to "cross the bridge toward self-enlightenment." There are endless documents written by L. Ron Hubbard on how to protect the Church from outside attacks.
We all lose when these powerful, money-driven organizations interfere with our right to free speech and privacy. Lawrence Wollersheim's right to speak freely on the Internet about his anger toward Scientology is being squashed only because he doesn't have the funds to stand up to such a huge, multimillion dollar "church."
It's time Alan Prendergast went back to journalism school. He was sleeping when copyright law was taught, and he has also failed to notice that the American public has grown tired of seeing criminals painted as victims.
Copyright laws originated with the International Berne Convention in 1886, which protected an author's right over his works "whatever may be the mode or form of its reproduction." That is the spirit of all subsequent copyright laws--to protect the author or copyright holder. True, the Internet did not exist at the time of the Berne Convention. Neither did TV, radio or the photocopy machine, yet you don't see anyone using that as a justification for violating the law on these mediums.
Lawrence Wollersheim is not the poor innocent victim Prendergast tries to portray. He broke the law by scanning copyrighted documents into his computer and posting them on the Internet for others to read. Whether these are church scriptures or the Scientology books sold on bookstore shelves makes little difference. They are still copyrighted materials which cannot be reproduced without the copyright-holder's permission.
The Internet stands to lose a great deal if copyright law is not enforced. Should the Net fail to enforce the standards and laws of the communications media, it will find the government doing it for them. Don't think it won't happen--it already has. Problems in Telluride have resulted in "sysops" monitoring the town's electronic bulletin board and deleting material they consider inappropriate before it can be read by others.
An author or copyright holder has both the right to be upset and the responsibility to enforce his copyright if he sees one of his works reproduced on any medium without his permission. The court sees this and has ruled in favor of the Church of Scientology. Judge John Kane has ordered that all materials, including those now in Wollersheim's possession, be protected under seal in the custody of the court. Had Alan Prendergast ever written anything of market value, he too would understand this and stick to the facts.
As You Lichen It
Regarding Steve Jackson's "Big Wheels," in the September 27 issue:
In 1993 I studied lichen growth on the rock formation on federal land in Boulder that some think to be an old medicine wheel and therefore a sacred site. Lichens grow very slowly; in some cases it may take more than a hundred years for a colony to grow large enough even to be visible. I can assure you, those rocks were not placed in that field recently. Whatever their origin, they have been there since well before 1900.
If the federal government had not undertaken a study of the rock formation, Westword might well have raised a protest that Native rights were being trampled on. You can't have it both ways. For once, the government took the time and made an effort, at least, to discover the truth. In the process, they hired Native consultants. It seems to me that finally setting a precedent of respecting Native American input is well worth the consulting fees and expenses.
Rebecca V. Ferrell
Although I think Steve Jackson's article on the Open School harassment case ("Closed Encounters," September 27) was flogging a dead horse, I respected your seemingly unbiased look at the whole issue. However, I resent your portrayal of the Open School itself. I have been a student at the Open School for the past four years. The facts you presented in the article were manipulated and selective, painting a picture of us as a flaky, elitist group, which you have entitled "The Community."
I invite you, Steve Jackson, to look more closely at the Open School. Perhaps you can study us as well as you studied the harassment case. We do not disregard academics; we expand education to take into account the whole person. Honor students are not necessarily healthy individuals.
In saying that the teachers are the true power of the school, you overlook one of our most basic principles. Students essentially run the Open School. We advocate leadership, including the government of the school. Steve, come to one of our all-high-school decision-making meetings and rethink your statement.
I also take issue with your reasoning as to why our staff teaches at the Open School. You say, "It was a nice place to work, free of the restraints and never-ending paperwork of traditional schools." I challenge a teacher to come to Open simply to escape paperwork. He or she would not last long. I invite you to take a trip with the school or attend an advising group meeting and see staff acting as counselors, learners, facilitators and parents.
Steve, please take another look at Open. Do not define us by the sexual-harassment suit, nor by the selective test scores you printed in the article. Define us instead by our students. Come to an Open School graduation ceremony and meet people who are mature, intelligent and respectful. Meet those of us who have discovered the joy of lifelong learning.
"The Community" invites you with open arms.
"A mind is like a parachute; it only works if it's open." Steve Jackson's "Closed Encounters" seemed to be extremely close-minded and biased. Did the writer ever walk in and meet the members of the school he wrote so harshly about? Did he meet students who have gone to Mexico to teach English or students who work in shelters and soup kitchens? Apparently not. Had he given more consideration to Open, he would have heard the school's philosophy that actual experience can be more informative and interesting than just studying a textbook.
Students at Jefferson County Open School know about the world around them from actual experience. Students have gone to Colombia, Guatemala, England, Israel, Poland, Argentina and many other places with the school. They have done apprenticeships with genetic engineers, magazines and other publications (including, I might add, your own), TV broadcasting stations, hospitals and veterinary clinics. From these examples, you should learn that these students have high aspirations and expectations of themselves and their learning abilities.
The school teaches students that they can make dreams become reality. The school teaches them how to become competent and confident through individual projects, research papers and presentations. The school teaches students about community and the support, confrontation and respect that goes with it. The school teaches about life, love and learning and the great opportunities and experiences that arise from the combination of the three.
Tamar Lavon Rosenberg
As someone who has been closely involved with the Jefferson County Open School for years, having a son as a student, an ex-wife as a teacher and many friends on the staff, I thought I might be in a position to comment on your article. I realize, however, that although familiar with some of the people and particulars, I am not adequately qualified to make judgments on the Myles/Smith episode.
If only Steve Jackson had shown that same journalistic discipline regarding the staff and philosophy of the school itself. Instead he shovels so much condescending sarcasm, you need a grease pan to catch all the drippings. Jackson begins building his foundation of innuendo by referring to the Open School as a "nest," a "liberal parents' dream" and a "touchy-feely world." He then goes on to quote no one in particular by snidely stating that students don't learn, they "experience." So much for the school's philosophy: trashed quicker than you can sing a verse of Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry."
But wait! The staff is in on it, too; a group of inbred, in-fighting slackers, protecting their turf from parents, administrators and opposing ideologies. Well, Mr. Jackson, from what I've observed of Jeffco alternative education for the last twelve years, here's the more accurate picture:
1. I've never seen a more dedicated staff of professional educators at any level, including the collegiate. Rather than celebrating their freedom from "the restraints and never-ending paperwork," it is the norm at JCOS, given the needs and talents of the students, to spend an enormous amount of non-class time working with individuals, parents and a variety of projects and activities.
2. "Parents not consulted"? The "all of a sudden" merger of classes you refer to was anything but. I received notification in the mail, well in advance of the merger. The notice went into great detail about the background of the situation, as well as the rationale for the "proposed" solution.
3. I've been to Karla Myles's house several times. Her son and my son are friends. Far from being the "man-hating lesbian" you allude to, I have always found her to be very personable and friendly. Moreover, as she is the mother of a male child, your characterization seems unlikely.
4. Although you "liberally" sprinkle your report with the "l" word, there is a good reason why well-rounded education is referred to as "liberal arts." It's the philosophy that if education isn't progressive, it's not education. It's dogma, or politics, or the expediencies of a large bureaucracy, but it's not education. The parents, students and staff of JCOS chose this place, not necessarily because of their own political leanings, but because of the school's progressive, creative leanings. If the staff appears to not want to leave, it is probably because it most closely fulfills their "dream of how they would like to" educate.
Regarding Robin Chotzinoff's "We're Loaded for Bear," in the September 13 issue:
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A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I went with another member of the Save Our Bears group to Children's Hospital. We went around to several wards in our polar bear suits. As we entered each room, there was instant recognition: "Klondike and Snow are here!" and young faces broke into smiles, forgetting for a few minutes about their pain.
What is the purpose of a zoo? Is it to exhibit "wild" animals in their "natural" habitat to appeal to our intellectual curiosity, thereby imparting respect for other species? Is it to take paying customers on a "virtual" tour of a faraway place, where they see "exotic" animals as part of the trip? Is it to breed captive animals whose wild cousins are disappearing in the face of the ever-expanding domain of Homo sapiens?
We won't argue these aims here. But a zoo can, and rarely does, manifest a higher purpose. It can show us that other species are God's children, too. This, I think, is at the root of the Klondike and Snow phenomenon. These bears, with all their charisma, knock down our hubris just a little. Their celebrity and popularity are a rare gift. The common folk realize this in their hearts and know what a precious thing is thrown away the day the bears are shipped off. On that day, an empty humanism reigns: Animals are mere chattel, not worthy of an emotional bond; such a thing is reserved only for humans to give and to receive. We have been called selfish. We're not the selfish ones.
Nancy and James Harris