As a retired media specialist of 26 years in Colorado, I'm not surprised by Melanie Asmar's story. The politicians have made this nightmare, not the teachers. Lose your job, close your school or help improve scores any way possible?
What really works is what no one wants to invest in: smaller classes, more veteran teachers and a commitment from parents to make sure kids do homework and attend classes. We'd rather spend our money on the military. There have been over 100,000 United States troops continuously stationed in Europe since the Cold War. The Berlin Wall has been down how many years? I wish I had all that money to put into education.
Are my eyes bad, or did I read that only 60 percent of students are graduating? When are we as a nation going to see the benefit of a well-educated populace? This story just begs to be made an example of, so get off your butts and elect public officials who will make education a priority. The kind of priority that emphasizes choice and competition. An open market of the best educators competing for the voucher dollar of each student. Teachers and staff who want to compete, who want to be the very best they can be and pass it along to the students in the form of a well-rounded and completely comprehensive education.
Michael Paglia's review of Margaret Neumann: As I Once Knew It..., the inaugural exhibition at the new Rule Gallery space, leaves ME with a sense of discomfort. Although he concludes on a positive note that the paintings are noteworthy, he does not even give us a hint of why he thinks this is so. Nearly half the article is spent on negative observations concerning composition, choice of color and subject matter.
Twentieth- and 21st-century arts have not been concerned primarily with imparting a sense of comfort to the viewer. Nor have they been primarily about elegant applications or "balanced" composition. I think few contemporary artists would (or should) concern themselves with the criteria Paglia set up to criticize Neumann's paintings. Some significant artists who could not fulfill Paglia's criteria might be Susan Rothenberg, Eric Fischl, Francesco Clemente and everybody's favorite cross-dressing studio potter and winner of the Turner Prize, Grayson Perry ("The People's Princess"). "Off-balance" composition (often combined with the use of large areas of energized negative space) has been around at least since the nineteenth century, when Japanese prints began to fascinate Western audiences (see early Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec and others of the period).
I have received the impression that Paglia is so disturbed personally by these paintings that he is unable to discuss what they might be about (content, subject matter, influences upon the artist and so forth). There is also no mention of the courage of the artist to face difficult subjects (whose meanings remain unexplained) and to depict them.
When painting has the power to engage and shake the viewer, and suggest or impart important aesthetic meaning in a purely visual way, those are criteria enough for good contemporary art. Margaret Neumann's paintings do all of that.
Martha K. Daniels
Desert Hot Springs, California
Regarding Juliet Wittman's review of Billy Elliot the Musical:
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"Best show you'll ever see," New York Post. "Musical of the decade," New York Times. These experts see hundreds of shows and are not impressed unless the show is special. Do not miss this show!