Conduct Unbecoming
Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Zero for Conduct," in the April 23 issue:
It was good to see Mr. C'de Baca get some ink.
I'm a former Denver Public Schools teacher (I left voluntarily, by the way), and I have seen what he's talking about firsthand. He does, however, ascribe motives and actions to DPS administration types that they are neither guilty of nor (sadly) capable of. The only conspiracy any of them are truly guilty of is the usual ass-covering to keep their jobs. Hey, we all do it to some extent.

On the other hand, DPS is absolutely guilty of being craven before the idiotic machinations of the school board. The fact that We the People elected them does not mean that they shouldn't be told to shut up and listen from time to time. I suppose it is true of any organization that owes its very life to a handful of fear-mongering demagogues that political considerations will always sully administrative decisions, but teachers and administrators are professionals. We do our jobs because we like to. We should, from time to time, rear up on our hind legs and tell it like it is. To wit: Parents--your children will not learn unless 1) they come to school fed and rested; 2) they close their mouths and get their asses in a chair; and 3) you do what you know you must--back up the teachers! They are generally right, and when they are wrong, you can tell them so--if you can manage to do it without resorting to threats, egregious obscenities or political nonsense.

C.H. Clawson
via the Internet

"The Blame Game" was the right cover title for Alan Prendergast's story, because there is enough blame to go all around:

Blame those students who are quick to see that they can misbehave and be absent with impunity.

Blame those teachers who need help to make lessons interesting and to maintain discipline.

Blame those parents who pressure teachers to give high grades for poor performance.

Blame those principals who harass teachers instead of supporting them.
Blame those administrators who pressure principals to reduce the dropout rate.

Blame those legislators who for the last nine years have funded Colorado schools below the rate of inflation, leaving our schools to rank 48th out of 50 in school spending.

Blame those members of the Denver Board of Education and the rest of us who support the Broncos better than we support our own children.

The problem starts in elementary school with large classes and students who can't keep up but are passed from grade to grade anyway. Don't be misled by pupil-teacher ratios that are always lower than actual class sizes, because the ratios include auxiliary teachers.

Janice Hesdorfer

How interesting that in the same issue, you profile two distinct DPS teachers with very different experiences--one a "hard-nosed," successful and caring physical education teacher (in Robin Chotzinoff's "To Her, With Love") and the other a frustrated academic classroom teacher (in Alan Prendergast's "Zero for Conduct").

I greatly admire Miss Holder's ability to make rules and standards and stick with them. How does she do it? Because she is backed by her administrators. Because the parents, if they do try to get her to back down, get nowhere. And Mr. C'de Baca? I can relate to his frustrations. I can relate to each of his experiences and to those of the other teachers mentioned in that article. I am a had-to-retire teacher in a suburban district. The frustration was too much for me. It became apparent to me several years before I had to retire that the education system is really all about numbers and statistics, not about education. Marginal or total goof-off students were to leave with a diploma. Adjust the grading system. Allow points for this or that, all meaningless. Never look at the student, only at the teacher to find the reason a student did not do well. I witnessed formerly excellent teacher after teacher bow to the political pressure, lower standards, play games and throw out the window academic excellence as a criteria for grades.

True, there are some students who still excel. But all too many are passed along because of the numbers game. It is very difficult to explain to an excellent student why a do-nothing student still passes. Whatever standard is set, whatever rule is made--they are all Play-Doh in the end. Standards and rules are squeezed and reshaped to fit the "individual case" so that at the end of the year, very, very few are disappointed by not receiving a diploma. For those teachers who are unable due to conscience to play the numbers game and make the statistics look good, the pressure is enormous--in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, as mentioned in the C'de Baca article.

Some teachers, like Miss Holder, are somehow able to stand firm. Many others are sold out by or sell out to the Play-Doh rule-bending that is forced upon them. Building administrators are under pressure from the central administration. If the statistics don't look too good, there's automatically something wrong with the teaching. The teacher is deemed incompetent or guilty until proven innocent as the cause of those less-than-politically-correct numbers.

Mr. C'de Baca--I can relate!
James Bahrenburg
Wheat Ridge

Neighborhood Watch
I read Harrison Fletcher's April 16 column, "There Goes the Neighborhood," while eating breakfast in my favorite hash house in Wheat Ridge. It is a well-crafted piece of journalism, poignant and unbiased.

At the risk of being labeled a xenophobe and curmudgeon, I must climb up on my soapbox and respond.

Growth and development are not all bad, if they are truly "radical," which is Greek for "deeply rooted." Henry Johns's plight is a perfect example. He is a man with deep roots. Yes, his ancestors and mine were the ones who disenfranchised the true Colorado natives. Yet my family and Johns's were, and are, tied to the land. They dug deep, planted themselves and respected the earth. They were formed by the land as much as they formed the land in this place called Colorado.

What burns my butt is this insidious infiltration of a "Californication" madness mentality. It is a rampant, money-hungry, rape-and-run mindset that has been Colorado's legacy in a continuous cycle of boom and bust since the first gold was found in Cherry Creek. Listen to me, and see what I see:

*As a child, I kicked up pheasants in the cornfields in Wheat Ridge, where huge houses are now built on tiny lots, packed close together and yet isolated island monuments to greed.

*There is a locked and gated upscale community on Genesee Mountain where my great-uncle and his sons once hunted mule deer and elk. The animals' age-old wintering grounds and migration routes have been destroyed without a thought.

*At the top of Crow Hill near Bailey sits an 800-acre ranch that has been in the same family for over 100 years. It is an island of sanctuary for wildlife in the midst of super-urban sprawl. On every side, three- to five-acre "ranchettes" clutter the landscape, block migration routes and foul the air, earth and water table. Every weekday their owners commute fifty-plus miles to and from Denver, further besmudging the environment with petro-chemical waste.

All of the aforementioned are an ever-growing and bitter testament to the shallow-minded, rootless, empty souls who have no connection whatsoever to this land. No longer is this earth to be worked and husbanded; it is simply real estate to be bought and sold for empty profit. This is madness.

Development is not wrong; it is a given. What is truth is development through husbanding of the earth, not the unbridled and wanton destruction of this very fragile land. Go ahead: Walk out the door, reach down and grab a handful of Colorado soil. Clear your head and take a big whiff. This is truth, this is life. This is our legacy and that which sustains us.

Stephen Anthony

Mr. Bill
The cover of your April 9 issue suggested a story exposing to ridicule Colorado treasurer Bill Owens, the Boy Scouts and the "religious right." The real story, however, was the point to which writer Ward Harkavy came and retreated several times. Mr. Owens's political appeal is a direct result of his ability to bring together people of disparate views and inclinations, to achieve consensus where possible and to raise the level of debate where necessary.

Bill Owens is not the only person in American politics capable of this feat, but he appears to be better at it than most. If informed public discourse is a necessary element of governance in our system, hobgoblinizing religious people and liberal-bashing each militate against the reasoned conversation free people must have to preserve the great institutions of our society. Mr. Harkavy tells us that Bill Owens understands that point.

Colorado benefits when our elected officials have deliberated and articulated their own views of leadership. We benefit, too, when they listen to others.

Whatever Westword's intentions in "Life of the Party," what emerges is a portrait of Bill Owens, mainstream conservative. To voters' ears grown weary of the hyperbolic debates that divide us into warring camps, Governor Bill Owens sounds very good.

Ed Arcuri
via the Internet

Ward Harkavy's "Life of the Party" provided the Colorado electorate with some much-needed information regarding the "real life" of gubernatorial candidate Bill Owens. Sadly, there's even more, and that "more" casts serious doubts on Owens's ability to serve as governor of Colorado.

During the 1994 legislative session, then-state senator Owens proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution #1 (SCR 94-1), "Promotion of Obscenity State Control," which, had it gone its full route, would have had remarkable effects on the public's right of free expression and would have dramatically lowered the legal threshold at which Colorado law enforcement officers could have enforced societal mind control.

Testimony on SCR 94-1 was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee April 11, 1994; thankfully, it was defeated--postponed indefinitely--on a 6-3 vote. James LaRue, of the Colorado Library Committee on Intellectual Freedom, testified that if Owens's resolution were to pass, libraries would be "ensnared" in a state censorship law that certainly would "challenge school and public libraries" and that the adoption of such a resolution could "affect the classics" and "create a 'chilling' effect on all public libraries."

Lino Lipinsky, then-chair of the Bill of Rights Committee of the Colorado Bar Association, also testified. He said that were it to be adopted, Owens's resolution would "limit free expression in Colorado" and make Colorado "the first state to have placed such an overly broad definition of obscenity into its Constitution."

Bill Owens has every right to observe and adhere to his own religious beliefs; we all respect that fundamental core of American rights. What he may not do, and what he might do if he were to be elected as chief executive officer of Colorado, is impose his beliefs on others--he's tried it before.

The real question is not whether Bill Owens is a religious man. The real question is whether Bill Owens is a "book burner" and, therefore, fundamentally ineligible to serve as the governor of Colorado. I, for one, won't vote for him.

Richard G. Hamilton

In "Life of the Party," Bill Owens labeled Senator Dorothy Rupert (D-Boulder) as a person "who thinks less than anyone else in the legislature." Interestingly, Bill Owens made this comment while cautioning a group of fellow Republicans not to engage in "liberal-bashing" and to put on a moderate face.

There is nothing wrong with Bill Owens disagreeing with some of Senator Rupert's ideas or even objecting to her proposed legislation. However, suggesting that Senator Rupert is thoughtless not only violates reality, but it also violates generally accepted decorum. Those of us who work with Senator Rupert feel that she is nothing less than a thoughtful and thought-provoking legislator. Senator Rupert possesses an outstanding record in her concerns on human rights, children's issues, the environment and health care.

In a representative democracy, honest debate is necessary to illuminate divergent political convictions. However, in an age of declining political civility, statements such as those made by Bill Owens can only further erode the public's confidence in the ability of elected officials to work in a cooperative manner for the public's interest.

State senators Doug Linkhart (D-Denver), Pat Pascoe (D-Denver), Terry Phillips (D-Louisville), Peggy Reeves (D-Fort Collins), Frank Weddig (D-Aurora), Stan Matsunaka (D-Loveland), Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), Bob Martinez (D-Commerce City), Dave Wattenberg (R-Walden), Dottie Wham (R-Denver), Mike Feeley (D-Lakewood), Gloria Tanner (D-Denver), Joan Johnson (D-Denver), Rob Hernandez (D-Denver), Bill Thiebaut (D-Pueblo) and Jim Rizzuto (D-La Junta)

Dog Days
T.R. Witcher's April 2 article about bounty hunters and bail-enforcement agents, "Bondage & Domination," was rather interesting. Rather scary, too. The fact that a character like Dog is able to engage in this type of business shows that the state legislature missed the boat a long time ago by not regulating the bail-enforcement industry.

At the present time, anybody who wants to can become a bail-enforcement agent. The way it sounds, the bail-bond industry isn't too picky about who gets licensed, either, so it isn't so surprising that the whole industry is under a cloud thanks to a few oddballs.

Apparently, somebody finally woke up. A bill to regulate these types of operations was finally introduced during the 1998 legislative year, but it got the ax for some reason. Hopefully, somebody at the State Home for the Terminally Bewildered will get a workable piece of legislation in the hopper again; we need it. Until the bail-enforcement business is regulated, those people that are doing a good job will continue to live with the bad rap caused by a few bad apples.

Them that lays down with "Dogs" gets up with fleas.
Name withheld on request

Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:

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