Since When Is Liberal a Bad Word?

To the Editor,

I read with interest the letters that came back with reference to Molly McKasson's article ("Working and Not Making It," Jan. 23) about poverty.

Apparently, one quick way to kill someone's reputation is to call him a liberal. For the life of me, I can't see what's so shameful about being a liberal. Its lexical definition is nothing but positive: "1. favorable to progress or reform, as in religious or political affairs ... 3. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies. ... 5. Of or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties, 6. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.

Now, what's supposed to be so bad about any of that?

Readers who advocate tax and other incentives--which could mean disagreeable environmental and mining concessions, as well as agreements to provide publicly funded roads and utility hookups, etc.--to attract industry need to realize that more is involved than merely that. Large corporations are known to get all that and still pull out, throwing thousands and thousands out of work. An example that comes to mind is General Electric and Schenectady, N.Y. GE was offered everything to stay, but they still chose to set up plants outside of the comity, throwing Schenectady into poverty.

Until large corporations are made to play fair wherever they set up shop, I don't agree with giving them everything they could want, allowing them to wreck the place and then having them pull out and devastate the local economy.

Read Barbara Ehreneich's book, Nickel and Dimed. I guarantee it will give you some added respect for wage-earners trying to make it.

--William B. Winkelman

The Luke Walton Article Was a Dark Day for America

To the Editor,

America has the sixth-best basketball players in the world. Do I have your attention now, Mr. Danehy? There is a crisis in the NBA right now, and this country is being overrun by non-American players. Given that, printing your pro-European article "The Golden Boy" (Feb. 20) was a dark day for The Weekly and a dark day for our country. Instead of pandering to European players, your column should support America's young men now fighting for their basketball careers.

To cure your insolence, I suggest you visit Springfield, Mass., where in 1891, Dr. James Naismith descended from the New England Alps, like Moses, bearing a papyrus inscribed with the 13 original rules of basketball. Even though he was Canadian, or perhaps because he was Canadian, Dr. Naismith believed the game of basketball was too good for Europe and Eurocentric countries.

Dr. Naismith's vision is now in jeopardy. Today's European player rarely plays defense and never shaves. Given that, it is a wonder our guys can even compete. God help us if they quit smoking. The last thing our players need right now is to read about their inferiority in the local paper. Instead, to give our boys a morale boost and a shot at the 2004 Olympics, your column should demand a U.N. resolution repealing the international rule that allows goaltending. A fourth- or third-place finish in Athens will show the world that America is not washed up.

--Samuel Washington

Props for the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Association

To the Editor,

Thank you for "The Toughest Job" (Feb. 27). I hope that the insight the returned Peace Corps volunteers provided will help to further convey the message of peace.

What Peace Corps volunteers do is to open two-way doors wherever they are assigned. More than teaching or providing technical aid and skills or medical treatment in the various places served, volunteers establish relationships with the locals that help to dispel many of the false stereotypes of Americans. Conversely, they also learn to respect and appreciate the differences amongst peoples. When individuals become that familiar and accepting of other cultures and peoples, the concept of war becomes anathema to them.

There is a nationwide organization, the Returned Peace Volunteers Association, with numerous local chapters, including one in Tucson. The purposes of this organization are not merely to meet and reminisce, but to continue to fulfill the mission of the Peace Corps both domestically and in host countries. We accomplish these objectives in several ways. We attempt to reach out to immigrants in our locality, especially those escaping from atrocities. There is a speaker's bureau so that we can provide community outreach speakers for schools and groups. We also provide funds for Peace Corps Partnership Projects in which current volunteers create a project in his/her locality based on need.

The Peace Corps spirit is alive and well not only with each new generation, but also with the prior generations. Being a Peace Corps volunteer remains the "toughest job you'll ever love."

--Alan Pedolsky
President, Southern Arizona Chapter of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Association

The Nation Could Learn a Lesson From the Corps

To the Editor,

Many years ago, I found myself part of the alianza para el progresso at the beginning of the Kennedy administration. I just thought of myself as being part of an adventure as a member of the first Peace Corps group that went to Peru. I wanted to live in and learn about another culture. Oh, yes, I also wanted to escape the draft and the potential of becoming cannon fodder in Vietnam.

These were the early days of the Peace Corps, when it was experimental for the administration as well as the volunteers. We helped build the training camp in Puerto Rico, and our arrival in Peru was delayed many months because of an overthrow of a newly elected government by four generals, one of whom I subsequently met. He tried to eliminate the other three.

We all have intriguing, funny and sometimes sad stories to tell. Most important for me was an education about myself, about gaining perspective about people, cultures and language. And let's not leave out food! Also, it taught me about my own education. We were a different element of American life. We crossed class barriers, sometimes naively, but there was no reason to worry.

I gasp and even choke when I hear phrases such as "axis of evil," bring "a Democratic model to the Middle East" and "old European nations." I have the impression that risk analysis comes out of a computer model from people who have never lived outside their own culture. I also wonder about my nation's mental, moral and political health.

--Leon Haller

Public School Problems Mirror Society's Problems

To the Editor,

Connie Tuttle ("Enlightened Education," Feb. 27) paints a very Norman Rockwell-type picture of kids at Montessori schools: cooking, gardening, practicing yoga and dance, being well-behaved and having fun. She also presents a very good picture of what is happening in most public school classrooms I have taught or visited the last 28 years.

As an itinerant speech and language pathologist, and once a teacher of a self-contained classroom for children with severe language impairment, I have come in contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of children and many hard-working educators over the course of my career. I have never personally seen a child humiliated or yelled at, but I am sure it has happened somewhere, at sometime.

Tuttle then proposes what is going to be done to "solve the problem of public education," but has she really thought this whole thing through? With the current teacher shortage, and many due to retire in a few years, does she really expect the new hires (if we get them) to jump yet through another hoop for low pay? Where does one get certified for Montessori? And how much does it cost to go through their program? I'm sure it isn't free.

Her biggest oversight, and statement of complete ignorance, is that if students are all given the "same learning tools in identical environments," then children will just automatically learn or be self-motivated to educate themselves. The kids she hasn't thought about are the ones who didn't eat breakfast, didn't get any sleep last night because someone was up partying, living in a shelter or with relatives because they have been removed from the home, the disabled, etc. These are the day-to-day challenges we face in the public schools.

There are 30-35 hours a week during which students have contact with educators. That's not a whole lot of hours when you consider there are 168 hours in a week. It's amazing to me how much is learned and how much impact we have on kids given that short amount of time.

Sure, the Montessori "method" works because it serves a small cross-section of society: Students whose parents are involved in their health, well-being and day-to-day education. Any public school's problems mirror society's ills, but we are still trying to make it work, and something has to be working, because the majority of students attending state and Ivy league colleges are still from the public school sector.

And I have to end this by asking where Connie went to school to obtain her degrees, and how long has she been teaching?

--Cheryl Ann Palen

Your Overwhelmingly Positive Review Wasn't Positive Enough

To the Editor,

I thought I would take you up on your call for beefs ("Peeved At Us? Let Us Know!" Feb. 27), to register my profound disappointment in the Yoshimatsu restaurant review ("Robots and Pizza, Japanese Style," Feb. 27). My partner and I--frequent diners there and serious aficionados of Japanese food in general--felt like you really missed the gist of this place, which is the absolutely terrific and extremely low-priced food in a festive and comfortable setting.

In fact, the Star did an excellent review on the place several months back, which focused on the fact that the owner is a youthful cancer survivor who had once been a Tokyo fashion designer, and attributed her illness, in part, to a hectic and unhealthy lifestyle. After her recovery, she decided to open a restaurant that served delicious and healthful food.

But your review seemed not only not to know much about Japanese food (the soup only "decent, not spectacular"?), nor the pop culture décor (Godzilla on TV, those ubiquitous good-luck cats with the raised hands which grace nearly ALL Japanese restaurants) that make Yoshimatsu a fun place to go. The comparison to Café Terra Cotta was bizarre at best, and the assertion that it was a "strange" dining experience was puzzling and a bit insulting.

If you start going to Yoshimatsu more often, you will find a large and loyal clientele whom I'll wager would not recognize their beloved restaurant in your review. Perhaps I'll see you there.

--Beverly Seckinger

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