As a longtime resident of Tucson (and one who still owns a home in Tucson) I read the online version of The Weekly every week. The recent batch of letters (November 7) criticizing your stories on Dietz Elementary School and its principal Lisa McCorkle (The Skinny, October 24) are interesting for several reasons.
I don't know Lisa, or what type of principal she is, but I do know that all of the letters defending her (and I know some of the letter writers) miss a very important point: People feeling good about a principal does not improve student achievement, nor does offering the same old excuses we have been hearing for years--it's the families' fault for keeping their best kids at home and sending the worst kids to the public schools. If Ms. McCorkle really wants to prove she is cut out for the position, she (as well as all public school administrators) should honestly address the issue of why students are not achieving and not be afraid of taking a long, hard look at Dietz's teachers, curriculum and overall academic performance, and let the public know, warts and all. That would demonstrate true leadership and demonstrate that Ms. McCorkle is up to the task of being a public school administrator.
Time and time again, whenever public schools are criticized, reactions are knee-jerk and personal. No one doubts how hard everyone works in public schools, but working hard does not mean working smart. As one of the letter writers points out, often the only way you can determine if someone deserves to be a public school administrator is to give them the job and see how they perform. Ms. McCorkle has an opportunity to demonstrate that she is the leader many seem to think she is. My advice to her is to embrace the complexity of her job, make the tough decisions and improve her school.
My advice to the letter writers is instead of writing letters defending an adult in a public position, write letters to the Arizona Legislature to fund public education appropriately. Then maybe we will see resources being committed to the schools that need it the most.
Planning and Program Development
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory
Regarding Tom Danehy's column ("Bad Rap," November 7): I couldn't have said it better myself. He's a man after my own heart.
--Marc E. Herman
To the Editor,
To Tom Danehy: If you are going to write a book review, you should know what you're talking about. Your arrogance and ignorance in regards to "hip-hop/rap" artists and culture is outrageous ("Bad Rap," November 7).
First of all, I have not read the book--The New HNIC [Head Nigga In Charge]: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip-Hop by Todd Boyd. You gave me very little information about the book. What it did expose was your crude, unabashed arrogance and total ignorance of the history, culture and present state of hip-hop.
If all you know about hip-hop and rap is what you observe on MTV or in the mainstream airwaves and media, then you know little about what makes up the culture of hip-hop today. If you believe that commercial rappers like Nelly and Snoop Dog represent rap and hip-hop, that's like saying that Kiss and Black Sabbath are representative of rock 'n' roll and are the same as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. But from the sound of your pomposity, you probably believe that Bob Dylan hasn't written anything relevant since "Blowing in the Wind."
There is an entire hip-hop "underground" culture, full of diverse artists of all races putting out their own poetry to music, unsigned by any record companies because they refuse to be co-opted by the record industry and refuse to give up their own artistic freedom. Have you ever had the pleasure of listening to artists who have sprung from the streets, like Freestyle Fellowship, Eligh, the Grouch, the Mystic Journeymen and Scarub, just to name a few? You say there was no socially conscious or revolutionary history of rap/hip-hop. You obviously have never heard of The Last Poets--rappers whose poetry was totally revolutionary--nor have you heard of The Watts Profits, KRS1 or Mos Def, just to name a few of the highly socially conscious hip-hop artists in existence.
You spoke of your awareness of the civil rights movement. I grew up in it, surrounded by it, breathing it. I went to jail in the '60s during a demonstration in Los Angeles in solidarity with the historical March on Selma. My father spent a year in prison defending civil liberties and civil rights and was a friend of Dr. King. I have been a singer of songs of struggle all my life, and have sung with some of the most outspoken folk singers of my generation, including Pete Seeger. I have also had the pleasure of singing on several hip-hop albums, including "Almost Famous" by the Living Legends, and the soon to be released "Poltergeist" by Eligh. Music, poetry, art are the reflections of our culture. They are also tools by which we can open our minds and our hearts to new ideas or deal with uncomfortable societal issues like racism, sexism, poverty and greed.
What turns my blood to boiling oil is the narrow-minded attitudes of people who have made assumptions based on faulty information, and then have the audacity to speak from a place of "knowledge." You took an art form and called it "trash." You went so far as to discount the author's point of view that hip-hop is a social movement, and called it a "bowel movement." I don't know what Professor Boyd's book says, but I intend to read it. It is clear that he has far more insight in this area than you do.
Wow, it's like you just lunged across the table and slugged Ernesto Portillo (Downing, "The Best o' Ernesto," November 7.) Personally, I'd be leery of zeroing in on someone to that degree. I'm certain the very next day I would find myself seated next to his party's table at the Olive Garden or something.
Having expressed this reservation, what has always annoyed me is when he devotes whole columns to arguing points that are self-evident. The best example of this to my memory was his admonitory column which, trimmed of frills, can be reduced to this: Skinning puppies alive is bad but we mustn't forget that murder is bad too. Thank you, Ernesto, for checking our imminent slide into moral amnesia. Also, in regard to the recent tragedy at the UA, I believe he argued that it was unexpected.
I have been an avid reader of your paper since moving to Tucson almost four years ago. I have appreciated the Chow and Arts sections, relied on City Week for entertainment ideas and turned to The Skinny for a fresh, liberal view of the politics in our state and city. Articles in your paper have provided me with thought-provoking and motivating issues (such as the article on the working poor).
Therefore, I cannot adequately express my disappointment and disgust at the "cheap shots" fired at Ann Nichols in The Skinny (November 7). Do you have nothing better to do than publish dirt about one of the most respected women in our community? Ann Nichols has been a driving force in improving children's health and child care in our community. True, she works to oppose the death penalty (which is not necessarily a downfall), but she is also a strong advocate for human rights, working to improve conditions for immigrants, children and others.
As one of Ann's former students, I can attest that the $42,702 you wrote is spent on her salary is well spent. Not only is she one of the most knowledgeable and active professors I have had, she has a Ph.D. from Columbia and more than 25 years of experience. She has served on the Peace Corps and numerous committees in the area. Ann Nichols is a pillar in the community, an example of someone with courage, brains and a heart.
Today's mainstream media is full of corporate-filtered, big business propaganda. I have turned to alternative news and newspapers for a fresh, honest look at politics. But I don't consider muckraking and cheap shots "relevant news." From the looks of the Mailbag last week, neither do your other readers. The comments in The Skinny are forcing me back to the "morning paper." If you keep making enemies, you won't have any friends left.
Thanks for the letter by Steve Brandon ("Hate is Eternal," Mailbag, November 14), which responds to Michael Parnell's October 31 column, "Violence Hits Home."
Parnell's column, relating to the murders of three UA professors, seems to say that rather than allow the fear of violence to rule in our lives, we should be more loving. While Brandon's letter seems to say that hating evil is the way to go. And that doing good, rather than loving, complements hating evil.
Now, as much as I like Brandon's letter, and with all due respect, he seems to have missed the obvious. (Of course, I couldn't tell you how often I've missed the obvious in my life. So I'm speaking from experience.)
Unless my discombobulator is acting up, it seems to me that if we hate evil, we must therefore "love" good. This means that, in addition to hating evil, Mr. Brandon must therefore love good. Presumably, he tries to "do" good because he "loves" good.
So, apparently, Mr. Brandon wants "us" to do good in the face of evil, not just because he hates evil, but also because "he" loves good.
I guess love is with Mr. Brandon. Just as it is with Mr. Parnell. And as it is with all those who suffered loss on that evil day at the College of Nursing.