Alice Yasuna
Cortlandt Manor, New York

Lam excuses

Re Nat Hentoff's "Puppet Chancellor" [March 24-30]:

I agree with the concerns about the mayor's recent high-handedness in dealing with the Department of Education. However, Hentoff's take on Diana Lam seems overly dependent on the opinions of conservative educational critic Diane Ravitch. Lam no doubt made questionable decisions regarding the handling of her husband's employment. But the soundness of her policies, general personnel decisions, and choices of programs cannot be dismissed as fundamentally flawed simply because Diane Ravitch doesn't like them.

The textbook-by-fiat mentality that is one of the many despicable aspects of No Child Left Behind has given professionals who really know curriculum little room to exercise their best judgment. The Phonics Fascists and Testing Fanatics in Washington have rigged the game so that "research-based" becomes, simply, anything they like; research that shows they're wrong is dismissed or ignored. There has been a recent outcry against this policy by many world-renowned scientists, who have pointed out how the Bushites value politics over science on a host of issues. It's no different in education. And it's sad that Hentoff appears not to have done his own research before diving into bed with Ravitch and attacking programs about which, quite frankly, I believe he knows nothing.

Yael Goldenberg
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Nat Hentoff replies: I have been reporting on, and in, classrooms for many years. Diana Lam's rigid restrictions on teachers—how many absolute minutes to apply to each segment and how the chairs must be arranged—stifle individual learning by both teacher and student. I have written continually, both in the Voice and in my books, against high-stakes testing and continually in opposition to the built-in failures of No Child Left Behind. What I have learned is that reading literacy depends on phonics at the beginning. Teachers, not tests, determine how well students learn. And the ultimate responsibility is on the principal, to whom Lam did not give nearly enough authority.

Not necessarily the nude

While Richard Goldstein's "Grinning and Baring It" [March 31-April 6] definitely contained very eloquent examples of women's empowerment and, more to the point, men's abomination of women's empowerment, he seemed to overlook one aspect of the whole phenomenon.

Many acts of nudity, as in the case of Karen Finley, are very much rooted in activism à la performance art, but I am hard-pressed to see quite the same motivation in those Girls Gone Wild videos. Surely Goldstein can't be equating all forms of tit chic with empowerment? Americans may nurture a perverted sense of sexuality steeped more in Puritanism than progressivism, but that isn't to say that the objectification of women still isn't alive and well.

The image of drunken, self-disrespecting sorority women lifting their shirts can hardly be grouped with Liberty Leading the People in the sense that it's at all empowering. Although I do think that Goldstein was very much on target about Love's pathetic escapades as a woman on the edge, ascribing politics to them is a bit of a stretch. Instead, the rocker being suckled by a stranger outside Wendy's seems more a case of someone taking advantage of a train wreck than an expression of girl power.

Natalie Hope McDonald
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Truman show

Goldstein's article comparing Courtney Love to Janis Joplin is an insult to the memory of one of America's great musical voices. Janis was charged with sexual energy, while Courtney just acts whorish and slutty. If that is female power, then women have no hope of dignity in this violent man's world.

Pete Truman
Avenel, New Jersey

Another little piece

Goldstein talks about Janis Joplin, saying that her death was "why I stopped writing about music in the early '70s," and adding, "but that's another piece." I'd love to read that piece, and I'm sure others would agree. I hope Goldstein writes it and the Voice publishes it.

Ana Bozicevic-Bowling
Prospect Heights


Nat Hentoff's "Bloomberg's Accountability" [Liberty Beat, April 13-20] incorrectly identified a New York magazine contributing editor as Richard Kolker. His name is actually Robert Kolker.

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