Our readers talk back.

TAAS & Teaching Don't Mix

Dear Editor:

Seven years ago I began my teaching career full of enthusiasm and hope. I chose to teach and live in East Austin because I wanted to make a difference. Now, each year I think of quitting. Often I feel angry, tired. Most of my colleagues feel just as overwhelmed and upset. Often administrators make decisions and choices for the staff, and a sense of community, trust, and shared vision does not get built. Teachers are easily criticized, blamed for low test scores, and made to feel inadequate either directly or indirectly.

As a child I asked a lot of questions and was labeled "gifted." As a teacher I ask a lot of questions and am labeled "negative" or told, "No, you don't want to ask questions."

Each year I see high turnover at the schools where I've worked. Teachers who feel devalued and stressed will not perform at their optimal levels. Much stress comes from the pressure to raise TAAS scores. In a panic to prepare students for TAAS, teachers waste time on multiple-choice drill and kill worksheets.

One colleague works at a school where 16 of her students are pulled out daily for 45 minutes of TAAS drill. Another 30 minutes are spent in class on TAAS practice.

Language is the key to school success. Sitting passively and filling in bubbles does little to promote the language development needed to lay the foundations for reading and writing success.

I work with many hard-working and dedicated teachers. Often, we are not trusted or respected. Our talents and experiences go ignored. Why do we stay? Our students, who sometimes call us "mom" by accident, keep us going.


Diana Garcia

Allan Elementary

AISD: The Barrio Scenario


Come on, Señor Black; it's been just three months that you ran a shallow story on Johnston High, and here you are again focusing on a group of excellent teachers but bad planners manipulated by Interfaith to bring order to a "problem" school ["'If Not Edison -- What?'" March 22], and again, you skipped the parents, the old teachers, the volunteers, and didn't even mention how the neighborhood imposes a burden on any decision affecting Johnston. You know, the barrio factor? It's not just a nice packaged plan that succeeded in New York or Houston that can be applied here. This community still holds some old values, mixed with the new immigrants', that result in a skeptical squint when these guys expose their plans. I admire Mr. Sterling Lands' bolas though, mainly for exposing the stupidity of Mr. Forgione and his team -- all outsiders -- that keep on restraining the beautiful talent and abilities that these people have, wasting them as janitors and cooks.

Paul Aviña

ACC Wants Audience

Dear Louis:

In the 2000 citywide elections, your periodical endorsed candidates for the ACC Board of Trustees race without having met with all of the candidates in that race. I can recall reading letters to the editor which mentioned this (very disappointed.)

ACC's board is once again having elections this May. I urge you to speak with all of the candidates in each seat's race before you make any endorsements. All of your readers as well the students from ACC would appreciate this.

Thank you kindly,

Marie Loya

ACC part-time music student

SIMS Doesn't Earn Paycheck

Mr. Black:

After reading Ken Lieck's mention of yet another sizable check being placed in the coffer of Peyton Wimmer and the SIMS Foundation during the Austin Music Awards in one of his daily columns during SXSW, my blood was raised to the point of a rolling boil ["SXSW News," March 15].

While beautiful and brilliant in terms of its concept and basic intention, the SIMS Foundation is currently worthless, and the example of its absolute inertia are too many to mention specifically. So hey, let's go generally ... people who want to volunteer never have their phone calls returned, therapists who wish to donate their services never have their phone calls returned, individuals who have donated their services for past fundraisers never have their phone calls returned. Further, there is no membership drive, no business plan, and no marketing campaign as far as I can tell.

While undeniably irritating, this predicament is hilarious on a perverse level. A foundation is created to help people, but it doesn't help people at all because the man in charge refuses to let anyone help him help anybody else. What are the odds?

Yo, SIMS Foundation board: Make Peyton Wimmer do a better job, or fire his ass. As someone who's suffered from depression most of his adult life and couldn't get SIMS to return his phone calls in a time of need, I think that it's a disgrace to let this foundation remain relatively useless to so many musicians and other music business professionals that need its help.


Christopher C. Grady

710 For Yellow Bike

Dear Editor,

I am writing on behalf of the Yellow Bike Project, which is sponsoring a benefit concert for two local cyclists who have some broken bones and are unable to work. It will take place on Sunday, April 7, at Room 710 (710 Red River) and the lineup includes the Free Range Bastards, One-Fifth Griffith, Powersquid, and Littermeet. It is sure to rock and if you would inform your readers you'll make some injured people very grateful. For more information contact Pete Wall at 478-9162. Thank you for your consideration.


Pete Wall

Bush's War Games


The Bush administration's recently unveiled plan to target non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons is shocking and unthinkable. The use of a "usable" nuclear weapon, such as a "bunker buster," would destroy the movement to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in developing countries. Every country would want its own "cute nukes."

These plans are outrageous and a threat to humanity. Will we add ourselves to the Axis of Evil after we murder people with radiation?


J. Charles Bierley

Evil Empire Rising


I can't agree more with Michael Ventura, whose March 22 column ("Letters@3AM: The Shadow of Totalitarianism") encapsulated a growing dread that our executive branch is acting with increasing impunity and shedding themselves of accountability to the other branches of government or the public at large. This smacks of the worst excesses of the Nixon administration, who felt justified in wresting power from the hands of the U.S. electorate, by any means necessary. Bush and company are seemingly of the same ilk.

Peter Noteboom

Lefties, Open Your Minds!


This past weekend, here in groovy old Austin, there was an "event" sponsored in part by KGSR. "Grassroots democracy" yadda yadda. Pay $5, listen to some good music, and then sit and listen to fringe liberals make up cute names for people they, well, hate. Molly Ivins? She's funny, if you like people who make a living polarizing people and trivializing real issues. Molly said in her Jan. 25, 1995, column that Republicans wanted to reform welfare to punish minority voters for voting Democrat. Sixty-three percent of the people on welfare in America are white. Molly knew it, but she wanted to smear the GOP as racist, so she deliberately perpetrated a racist, dehumanizing lie, that most of the people on welfare are minorities. She was cute and clever when she said it, of course, but she said it, and to be honest, I would hope that anyone who takes politics seriously would not give people like Molly the time of day.

It seems impossible for people like her and Jim Hightower to imagine that people can have honest differences of opinion when it comes to issues that affect all Americans. They are what liberals claim to hate: intolerant, close-minded people afraid of change, who engage in personal attacks against people and their families who do not agree with them absolutely. I always thought that in this country, democracy meant that all sides and points of view were valid and all should be included in any real debate on important issues. Instead, the "Democracy Forum" didn't even include moderate Democrats, and certainly nobody conservative. Not very tolerant, not very open-minded. Actually, more like the meeting of a hate group than anything. In fact, that was what liberals called it when people on the fringe right held meetings claiming Clinton sold out America to the Chinese ... they called those people Hate Groups. Seems a lot of liberals qualify ... makes you wonder.

Carl T. Swanson

Piss on Your Ad

Dear Mr. Black,

I find the ad on page 25 (March 15, of the people urinating) to be in very poor taste. I can't think of any good reason why you would run it and I can think of a lot of reasons why you wouldn't. Thank You.


F. T. Taylor

Kickin' It Hellenistic

Dear Editor,

It seems in objecting to the "anti-Catholicism" in the "Worst Catholic Saint" edition of "The Straight Dope," our man Steve Braden ["Postmarks: 'Bigoted and Tasteless,'" March 22] is guilty of making an error himself. "Were," he asks, "the ancient Greeks concerned with rational explanations for the world they knew?" Rather than answer the question directly, I encourage Mr. Braden to look into the esteemed careers of the following Thoughtful Guys: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, all of Miletus; Pythagoras of "Pythagorean Theorem" fame; Xenophanes, Heracleitus, Parmenides, Zeno, and the Eleatic School, Empedocles, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, Leucippus, Democritus, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. I won't even touch the Hellenistic period! As for Greek mythology being the "main survivor" of the Greek's heyday, I have to emphatically disagree. The Greek contribution to what we call "Western Civilization" is much more than a body of myth that the Greeks themselves were poking fun at (see Aristophanes for starters ...) by the latter half of the "Golden Age of Athens." Discussing that would take much longer than practicality allows here. Although I understand and respect Mr. Braden's concern, I would caution him to be careful about casually tossing history about lest he commit the same sort of "error" for which he chastises the poor ol' "Straight Dope"!

Sincerely Yours and Happy Reading,

Christopher Lee

Quiz: Are You a Libertarian?


The big story in the Republican Travis County Commissioner primaries was the demolishing of the libertarian-leaning Republicans.

Republicans Roger Settler, Ira Yates, and Mike Hanson all scored libertarian on the "World's Smallest Political Quiz," a political affiliation survey they filled out for me. Yates' opponent, Gerald Daugherty, scored authoritarian, the opposite of libertarian, and won big.

Settler was soundly defeated. Hanson ran unopposed, but go fewer votes than the losers of any other county commissioner primary, Democrat or Republican.

Why the trouncings? Because every time Republican politicians like George Bush propose more federal education standards, more military spending, import tariffs on steel, or government support for faith-based charities, they teach their constituents that the solution to their problems is more government.

I used to be Republican. I began disagreeing with them on personal liberty issues. But, as they repeatedly demonstrated their ineptitude at lowering taxes, deregulating markets, and ending corporate welfare, I saw no more reason to support Republicans.

I asked two libertarian-leaning Republicans why they didn't run under the Libertarian Party banner. Their answers were something like, "Because Libertarians don't have a chance to win!"

Now I ask, what have you done for freedom by losing your Republican primaries, other than demonstrate that Republican voters have forgotten what freedom means? As "Ron Paul republicans" or "progressive republicans" as you have called yourselves, I consider you theoretical friends, but as Republicans, you are political enemies.

I want you all to join the growing Libertarian Party, run for office as Libertarians, and lose with honesty, dignity, and honor. When enough of you do this, freedom will start winning.

R.C. "Wes" Benedict, Jr.

Libertarian for Travis Co. Commissioner, Pct. 4

Secretary and Newsletter Editor, Travis Co. Libertarians

deviantART No 'Goth' Site


I was surfing your SXSW Interactive coverage and was very disappointed to discover that Michael Connor, who wrote the short write-ups on recipients of the Web Awards, had completely misrepresented our site. His description, which can be found here ( inaccurately portrays us as a group that releases art packs, is subscription-based, and can be characterized as "goth."

DeviantART is a community Web site that offers a place for a range of digital artists, photographers, and writers to post to free, online personal portfolios and receive criticism and feedback from other members. We do not, nor have we ever released art packs. All of the "customized viewing software," or skins, as they are known within the graphics community, are produced and uploaded by artists who have free access to this site to distribute their work in real time. Finally, while we do offer subscriptions, we are not based around a subscription model, and are currently ad-based.

Perhaps most confusing, though, is the entirely unnecessary and unfounded suggestion that we are a "goth" community. With 60,000 registered members, we have a very diverse age, creed, and racial range. How such a statement could have been made after actually viewing the site is beyond me. Had Mr. Connor done so much as read a supplied description of our site (found on page 19 of the SXSW Interactive program) or even contacted myself or another deviantART staff member who were present to accept the award, he could have easily done an accurate write-up. As a longtime reader of the Chronicle and a journalism student at UT, I was especially disappointed to see such an odd generalization included in the brief coverage.

Elliott Blackburn

Staff Writer,

Admin | |

Winners of the 2002 SXSW Interactive

People's Choice Awards

Thanks From Caritas

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your March 15 article and coverage of the First Annual South by Soup Fest (SXSF) which was held at the Caritas of Austin Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. Andy Langer did a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the event in his article. Fifteen artists from four countries, five U.S. states, 11 different cities volunteered their time to come and play their music for the hungry and homeless clients of the Caritas of Austin soup kitchen. As the organizer and promoter of SXSF, I wanted to publicly thank all of the artists for their eagerness and willingness to play my humble showcase. It was a wonderful success, and I plan to organize this event again next year. Also, I wanted to let local artists know that I do organize Friday Kitchen Concerts at the Caritas soup kitchen one or two times per month. More can be learned by visiting my Web site: comboplate.

Thanks again for bringing attention to one of the finest not-for-profit agencies in town.

All the best,

Laura Thomas

ComboPlate Booking

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