Week of April 18, 2001

Our Own Oddities
The absurdity of seeing people in St. Louis: While Eddie Silva's "Street People" [RFT, April 4] succeeds admirably in pointing out the absurdity of St. Louis' ill-conceived public-art project, another point to make would be its similarly surreal qualities. After all, part of the joy of cows, pigs and dogs on parade amidst skyscrapers and pedestrian hotspots is the unexpected, historical and anthropomorphic self-reflectivity of it all. Bravo to St. Louis for realizing that the most absurd and unexpected thing to find in the city would be people! I fear that the best we can hope for, compared with the "Wow, cool" or even "Oh, how cute" responses associated with our four-legged friends, is perhaps a resounding "Hmm, that's odd!" Odd indeed -- but at least we're not a cowtown!
Douglis Beck
St. Louis

Failing Grade
The MAP test hurts students: Give Jeannette Batz a raise. A big raise. She scooped the Post-Dispatch big-time with her article on testing ["Testing, Testing, Testing," RFT, April 11]. I've taught for 28 years in Missouri's public schools. The MAP test hurts students. Batz did a great job getting toward this truth. I hope she or someone else at the RFT can follow up on this story. There's much more to say about the damage these sorts of tests do to our students and thus to all of us. Batz deserves a huge round of applause, if not a huge raise, for writing so intelligently about such an important issue.
Mike Holdinghaus
St. Louis

Overdue Bill
Proposed legislation needs a fix: Thank you for your update on Steven Toney and Ellen Reasonover, exonerated and released from Missouri prisons [Najeeb Hasan, "Show Me the Money," RFT, April 11]. The article poignantly described the hand-to-mouth existence these individuals have confronted since winning their long-delayed freedom. It did not, however, mention a glaring weakness of the legislation proposed by state Rep. Betty Thompson to allow the wrongfully imprisoned to sue the state for compensation.

The bill would not allow compensation for anyone who was serving a sentence for another conviction at the same time he or she was serving a sentence for the wrongful conviction. In Toney's case, parole for a prior conviction was revoked in 1983 when he was wrongfully convicted of rape and sodomy. Even though DNA evidence exonerated Toney in 1996, he was not cleared of the prior conviction for which he had finished out the sentence. Reasonover, too, served time for another conviction during her wrongful imprisonment. Neither would be eligible for compensation under the bill as written.

I pointed out this weakness to Rep. Thompson and then-state Sen. Lacy Clay after I testified about the bill before the Missouri Senate last year. It would be ironic if Toney and Reasonover could not benefit from a wrongful-imprisonment compensation law passed because of the very injustices they suffered. I hope Rep. Thompson offers an amended bill or writes Toney's name into the bill along with Reasonover's.
Rebecca S. Stith

Et tu, Hartmannus?
"It's not the critic who counts": I have followed but not participated in the work of St. Louis 2004, but I find the tone and content of Ray Hartmann's critique of St. Louis 2004 to much more closely exemplify the demoralizing impediments to our community's progress than any shortcomings in St. Louis 2004's efforts to timely meet its goals ["2004: A Wasted-Space Odyssey," RFT, April 4].

It is as though Theodore Roosevelt wrote his famous dictum for Hartmann: "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

If, in the end, our community fails to timely move toward ending racism, rebuilding affordable housing, fixing health care, uplifting education, improving the environment -- goals, breathtaking in their ambition, announced by St. Louis 2004 at its inception -- I say to Hartmann, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in St. Louis 2004 but in ourselves."
Eddie Roth
St. Louis

Masturbation isn't art: Regarding James Ribble's comments about his live masturbation performance at the Arousal festival with his female companion ["Letters," RFT, April 4]: Hey, James, masturbation is not art! Look it up in the dictionary, if you have one. You push the envelope too far and call it art ... now even more people will think the art community has really lost its mind. But you probably don't care, do you, James? Many people involved in the field of art education care, though. They work very hard to advance the field of art and create an environment of pride and professionalism with people who don't have the same appreciation at all.

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