Teachers and school reform in L.A.; war movies and reality; more on the ‘Compton Cookout’


Teachable moments

Re “Learning a lesson,” Editorial, March 3

The Times writes: “If charter operators opt out [of Los Angeles Unified’s Public School Choice initiative], the teachers will have no incentive to put forth their own plans, and the entire initiative fails.”

NO. NO. NO. That is your mistaken view of LAUSD’s challenge. Maybe UTLA doesn’t, maybe the school board doesn’t and maybe The Times doesn’t, but teachers DO have student learning foremost in their minds and hearts. They are dedicated to the work, not to the politics. For us, this is not a spectator sport; it is our profession.

Fear not, our incentive remains. Offer us the schools and we will plan for them, bid for them, take them over and make them better. We want to help students learn -- that is the definition of teaching -- and it is sufficient incentive.

I urge the editorial board and the charters to read Tim Rutten’s column, also in the March 3 paper. He presents a cautionary analytical insight: There is a “difference between standing on principle and standing on pique.”

John Leonard
West Hollywood

What the pink slips say

Re “The year of the pink slip,” Opinion, March 2

Bravo to Nicholas Melvoin for explaining the horrible situation in some of our worst inner-city schools. Children at risk seem to be especially susceptible to revolving-door teachers.

There is a better way to handle teacher layoffs. Courtesy of unions, teachers must be laid off by seniority. Because the newest teachers wind up at the worst schools, they are the first to go, thus setting the revolving door in motion.

Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of poor-performing teachers from the district, irrespective of seniority? By doing that, young, energetic and effective teachers like Melvoin could keep their jobs, benefiting both students and good teachers. The losers would be the teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom.

Larry Sand
Beverly Hills
The writer is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Thank you for running Melvoin’s Op-Ed article, which gives a “boots on the ground” look at the deteriorating condition of California schools.

I hope one day we can live in a state, and country, that puts education above all else, including business, state parks and prisons. What kind of message does it send to kids (and good teachers) when, in tough economic times, education is among the first things we cut?

Ray Lancon
Los Angeles

Battling over war movies

Re “War movie sets off conflict,” Feb. 26

Good, it’s about time someone acknowledged the elephant sitting next to the Barcalounger. I watched “The Hurt Locker” recently. I am a Vietnam vet, and I was at turns laughing and angry at the ludicrous depiction of troops in combat.

Each person I speak to who has combat experience, whether in Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam, says the same thing -- laughable. One Navy diver told me the room erupted in laughter more than once during a screening for his deployed unit.

Each occurrence of cowboy behavior or just plain wrong response to a combat situation is an insult to those of us who have fought for our country. What is wrong with emphasizing individual character, group interaction and appropriate responses to wounds, treatment of equipment and orders from superiors -- as opposed to cigarette-dangling macho types?

Though it’s impossible to get it all right, “Saving Private Ryan,” “Band of Brothers” and “Full Metal Jacket” show it can be done pretty well.

Robert Hall
Los Angeles

How could Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates know that “The Hurt Locker” is “authentic” and “very compelling” when his history in the military was a two-year stint as an Air Force intelligence officer?

The lack of Hollywood accuracy in portraying wars is nothing new. Filmmakers have long sugarcoated and made light of the reality of combat. If anyone feels that Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” was an accurate portrayal of the Vietnam War, they are out of touch.

Only combat veterans know the true face of war -- and maybe that is the way it should remain.

Joseph Crockett
Santa Barbara
The writer is a Vietnam veteran.

“The Hurt Locker” is a great movie. It is not a documentary, nor was it ever advertised as such.

If we demand realism in movies, none would ever be made. Movies are meant to entertain, thrill, awe and touch on many emotions.

One does not generally quote films as a source of truth. It almost sounds as if some Oscar rivals are attempting to muddy the water.

Jim Taylor
Los Angeles

Racism -- it’s the media’s fault

Re “Beyond a ‘Compton Cookout,’ ” Editorial, March 2

As a longtime resident of Compton and its former city attorney, I am not surprised by the actions of the students at UC San Diego. Their racism is based on the prevailing images of African Americans in the media. Consider the following:

During Black History Month, the media focused on the movie “Precious,” a horrendous tale featuring African Americans as the poster children for this country’s domestic violence, drug addiction and sexual deviance.

Second, the media glorify rap artists, gangsters, prostitutes and pimps as representatives of the black community, but they give no such distinction to con artists, serial killers, arsonists and lynch mobs among whites.

Finally, when the media have an opportunity to expose the world to black greatness and majesty, such as the recent revelations about the mummy of the Egyptian boy-king, Tut, history is turned on its head and the pharaoh and the ancient Egyptians are depicted as whites.

Legrand H. Clegg II

All the services you can pay for

Re “Prop. 13 flexes its political muscle,” Feb. 28

Your article notes that polls show that fewer than 40% of voters are very familiar with Proposition 13. This is a direct indictment of the initiative system as a way to legislate. The average voter has little interest in public policy or governance. As a consequence, California has been subjected to slash-and-burn propositions that have beguiled voters into thinking, among other things, that minority rule is what democracy is all about.

That some cities in California have started charging fees for the use of emergency 911 services should serve as a wake-up call. If the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and other small-government advocates get their wish, we can look forward to continued budget gridlock in Sacramento and fees being imposed for any civil service, making what should be universally available accessible only to those willing or able to pay for it.

Steve Peterson
North Hollywood