It's Salt in the Wound 

Thursday, Jul 29 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, in case you haven't heard, the top two movies in the land, Inception and Salt, are frequently (read: two hours and 20 minutes and counting) confusing. Some readers, such as Michael F., are annoyed: "The moral ambiguity Ms. Longworth extols in her review ("The First [Ambiguous] Action Heroine," July 22) is certainly fundamental to Salt, but I don't know that it does the movie any good in the hands of filmmakers intent on turning it into another Bourne-type franchise (to which its script no doubt bore some superficial similarity). A better or maybe just different director might have made the fact we don't know what's going on half the time intriguing; here it's mostly irritating."

Here at the Weekly, dear readers, we like to encourage you to write in to share your opinions, as well as your good name. So of course we would never make fun of a letter. Never. Unless someone named Angela tried to tell us that Xena the Warrior Princess was ... well: "Still waiting for Xena, the Movie. Her character had a terrific blend of hard-hitting brawn and unsurpassed cunning, complicated by a dark past. Lucy Lawless and the writers managed to avoid oversexualizing Xena, diminishing her brains or brawn, without immasculating [sic] the male villains or allies that played alongside her. Maybe the Hollywood aversion to female action leads has presented an obstacle to bringing this fantastic TV show to the big screen, but perhaps Salt will open the door."

Patrick Range McDonald's story on the failures of bilingual education in the LAUSD and Alice Callaghan's successes with English immersion ("Educating Maria," July 22) drew a lot of responses, such as this one from Jack: "CLOSE THE BORDER, AND SAVE OUR AMERICAN CHILDREN. THE LANGUAGE OF AMERICA IS ENGLISH."

Nicole is a little more nuanced: "Any 'educator' who denies that it is easiest to learn a language in the earliest years of life knows nothing about child development. Any politician who insists that learning the language of the country in which you live is denigrating and deprives you of your culture should perhaps return to their own culture."

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George Bailey blames the union: "I'll make the acknowledgment that many LAUSD teachers work hard and well, and many deserve many times their salary. I know some and salute them. Regrettably, there are also a significant number of uninspired plodders, time servers and worse, who are horrific teachers. They are protected by union rules that deter individual excellence, shelter incompetence and ultimately elevate the welfare of the teachers' union over that of the children who are supposed to be the primary reason we have those schools.

"If teachers were as proud of their profession as they are protective of their pocketbook and benefits," continues Bailey, "they'd get rid of the union and stand with other professions. If teachers were as honest as they are defensive, they'd be ashamed that so many informed and involved parents would — if they could — transfer their kids out of LAUSD and into a small school, a storefront run by a former nun."

Barbara lays it out: "The issue is not bilingual education, or programs such as Saxon Math and Open Court, both of which are mediocre at best. The three issues of main importance are: 1) the insistence that public-school students be judged on one multiple-choice test score that favors stable, upper-class schools with little transiency in their population; 2) LAUSD jumping constantly from one reform to the next; and 3) the economic segregation of schools, coupled with Spanish being viewed as a lower-prestige language by many people.

"Dual-language immersion is successfully taught in several districts in California," continues Barbara. "The problem with leaving Spanish up to the family is many parents have no more than a third-grade education themselves and cannot teach it well to their children. Children who have a firm grasp of their native language can learn English better. However, this requires that the district be more focused on supporting teachers than building fancy schools."

Herb thinks we need to look at the larger issues: "But the larger issue goes unsaid: Why us? That is, why do we have to educate the world's poor? The flood of immigrants inundated us, beginning as far back as the late '70s, because our government cynically refused to enforce immigration laws, because it was beholden to corporations that wanted to keep wages low and the labor market loose. If this country enforced its immigration laws, we would not even be in the position of debating how to educate the children of poor, semiliterate subsistence farmers."

Marie Ketcheshawno has memories: "I attended schools in the Baldwin Park Unified and Covina Valley Unified school districts between 1968-1981 and I knew then that the bilingual education was not working. The bilingual students were being held back and it took five or more years for some students to learn English, and then a lot of them can't make it to graduation. Whereas my father came to the United States when he was 10 and there were no bilingual programs, and he learned English quickly and did well in school, graduated and started his own business. I am so glad I was not a student in the bilingual program and I wish the politicians would get the message that the experiment failed! It may have been started with good intentions, but it failed!"

Final word goes to George: "In any decent city, the mayor would be cracking heads to get some fresh blood into LAUSD, and the old deadwood out. But I've lived here 35 years and know it won't happen. Too bad."

From Noah: "I love the name Evelyn!"

The above letter ought to prove once and for all that we will print almost any old thing you want to write — to readerswrite@laweekly.com. Please include your name and contact info.

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