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Art Critics' Corner 

Week of March 19, 2003

Art Critics' Corner
Insensitive and appalling! After seeing the cover of your March 12 publication and reading Bruce Rushton's accompanying article, "Whack Job," I was appalled. The cover featured a cartoonlike drawing of a woman holding the severed head of a man next to a refrigerator. I felt that the cover art and the article title were totally insensitive and in very poor taste. The story was about someone who was brutally murdered, then cut to pieces. I think that the victim's family deserves more than to have their loved one's death depicted as something to laugh about.
Anitria Frye
via the Internet

Shocking and totally horrifying! I am shocked and totally horrified that your paper would print the March 12 installment of the comic Red Meat. I would hope that most decent, compassionate humans would be shocked at the notion of putting luna moths in a jar with kerosene in hopes of watching them explode when flying into tiki torches. Luna moths are handsome, with striking long tails and a delicate green color -- truly nocturnal beauties that need our protection from environmental dangers. Obviously they need protection from sadistic personalities, too. Shame on you for printing this kind of thing.
Dot Bailey
Webster Groves

Education Critics' Corner
Elizabeth throws down the gauntlet: Since Jeannette Batz did not include any quotes from teachers in her article about the dumbing-down of public education, I would like to offer my perspective as an educator ["Class War," February 26].

First of all, I believe that Marty Rochester is generally correct in his assertions. Many teachers do forfeit educational standards for their students' self-esteem. In several classrooms around my building, some teachers see to it that everyone in their class makes the honor roll at least once a year. Other teachers allow students to complete extra-credit projects, which earn them enough points to get passing grades in that subject. I find it unfortunate that certain teachers carry out this practice, because they are actually setting these children up for failure in life. Consider the fact that most workplaces do not give raises in order to enhance their employees' self-esteem.

Certainly teachers realize that they are doing a disservice to students by lowering the bar. Why, then, do they continue to do it? Frankly, it seems that teachers do it because it makes many parents happy. For some reason, many parents would rather see their children coddled than challenged. And in American public education, parental approval has become the standard by which the majority of students are measured. If the parents are happy, the administrators are happy. Thus it becomes useless for teachers to try to enact change.

The end result is that teachers don't get much of a say in how they run their classrooms anymore these days. I challenge the parents of public-school children to acknowledge the futility of "mass excellence" and demand an end to its continuation.
Elizabeth Wahrheit
St. Louis

Theater Critics' Corner
Down with Brown! I have been in many productions and read many reviews, but the one by Dennis Brown about 42nd Street shows that we have people, hired by a newspaper, that don't have a clue about Broadway productions ["Unhappy Feat," March 12].
Charles L. Sullivan
Titusville, Florida

Up with Brown! Thanks for your review of Violet [Dennis Brown, "A Musical Miracle," February 26]. Glad to hear the show is landing; you never know what happens once it is out of your hands. My little nieces have always felt cheated by being too little to come to the show in New York six years ago -- and they moved from St. Louis to Madison just in time to miss this production there. Such is life. Thanks again.
Brian Crawley
via the Internet

Editor's note: Mr. Crawley is the author of Violet, which he adapted for the stage from a short story by Doris Betts.

Design Critics' Corner
Mediocre modernism: Should Washington University construct buildings on its main campus which blend with the originals on the exterior, or should they construct more innovative buildings, as some feel befits a school of architecture [Eddie Silva, "The Scarlet Letter," January 1]? I find it easier to appreciate the chiseled granite and limestone of the former over the poured concrete of the latter. I like a well-carved piece of timber over some molded plastic, and beautifully finished mortar joints and cut stone win over a well-caulked seam on some unidentifiable material. Thanks to Wash. U., we are able to appreciate a little of the beauty of the English university towns here in our own.

Soon to be constructed is a visual-arts center designed by the modernist Fumihiko Maki. The Maki building, unfortunately, is going to be sited nearly in the front yard of Brookings Hall. I certainly hope the exterior will be more attractive than one of our other celebrated modernist buildings, Tadao Ando's Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. Ando's building makes me think that it would hold up pretty well under heavy shelling.

Surely Wash. U. students can learn cutting-edge architectural design and innovation in a building whose exterior shows respect for the campus and the neighborhood that it occupies.
Doug Houser

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