Letters at Length

'Superman' filmis propaganda

In his review of "Waiting for Superman," Chris Honoré clearly depicts the thrust of the film's message which is to demonize our teachers (and their unions) — that is to say, to blame the teachers for all the inadequacies of our public schools — and to support the expansion of so-called "charter schools." Honoré explodes both of these views. He demonstrates that high performance in any school requires "small classes, well-paid teachers, counseling, a national curriculum, preschools and after-school programs, intensive tutoring, parent and student accountability, staff accountability and a new and far more egalitarian way of financing our schools."

Well said and right on point. Is America ready to make the necessary commitment?

One caveat here: Honore's essay is headlined —ˆ'Waiting for Superman' educates audiences." That is an inaccurate description. The film is propaganda directed against our teachers and our public schools and, as well, a factually erroneous commendation of "charter schools," most of which are definitely not doing better than our public schools.

Dianne Ravitch, a true professional expert on these issues, writes: "The propagandistic nature of 'Waiting for Superman' is revealed by director Guggenheim's complete indifference to the wide variation among charter schools. There are excellent charter schools, just as there are excellent public schools. Why did he not also inquire into the charter chains that are mired in unsavory real estate deals, or take his camera to the charter schools where most students are getting lower scores than those in the neighborhood schools? Why did he not report on the charter principals who have been indicted for embezzlement, or the charters that blur the line between church and state? Why did he not look into the charter schools whose leaders are paid $300,000 to $400,000 a year to oversee a small number of schools and students?" ("The Myth of Charter Schools," The New York Review, Nov. 11.)

Those who view this film should know its ideological purpose. As Ravitch writes, "There is a clash of ideas occurring in education right now between those who believe public education is not only a fundamental right but a vital public service, akin to the provision of police, fire protection, parks and public libraries, and those who believe that the "private sector' is always superior to the public sector. 'Waiting for Superman' is a powerful weapon on behalf of the those championing the 'free market' and privatization. It raises important questions, but all of the answers it offers require a transfer of public funds to the private sector."

Despite the utter collapse of our "free market" economy and the rampant greed and stupidity of the banksters who still call all the shots, far too many Americans will buy into the mantra that there should be private, for-profit and even greedy school systems instead of that old-fashioned public school system that once was a cornerstone of American democracy. More's the pity.

Gerald Cavanaugh


Food Bank system needs some work

I've found the Ashland Emergency Food Bank to be an invaluable resource, especially coming from a big city. The Food Bank has an impressive amount of dairy and protein choices, which many food banks in the big city rarely had. Also, there is generous organic farmer or two that donate fabulous produce. However, I'd like to bring to the community's attention a few suggestions:

1. Every time I go, I leave with a different amount of food. It would benefit everyone if the "food points" were posted at each station. Then, instead of volunteers walking Ashlanders through the aisles (with an awkward and confusing explanation as to what you are actually allowed to collect), they could instead check food bags before departure. This would be more efficient and everyone would get the same amount of food each trip.

2. There is no "bag crisis." This "crisis" is the result of kind, but fussy elderly ladies.

3. There is a new, pointless numbering system that requires you to take a number before you register. If you register after the person that has a number behind you, that person may still go "shopping" first.

4. These wonderful volunteers need a computer database, so they don't have to go fishing through loads of note cards for your last name.

My arguments may sound ungrateful and that is not the case. I am very appreciative and am able to survive on a small income from my job that was difficult to obtain in this economy. Ashlanders always pull through and I am confident that we can and should have more options. I am looking forward to what the future has in store and am excited to be involved in any solution to these minor issues that presents itself.

Dana Hanchette


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