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Best medicine

Your report on Central Prison titled "Hard Time" [March 6] I found to be very interesting, because from March 1995 till Jan. 2001, I was locked up in Central Prison's Unit One, not allowed to return to the Death Row population. While on Unit One I wrote many corrupt staff up on complaints of food tampering, unlawful assaults on inmates, etc. The results were that some were disciplined but others weren't; those that weren't attempted to find ways to get even with me by means of using my so-called fellow inmates against me. Some inmates even covered for these corrupt guards' unlawful beatings.

Just a month ago my attorney Frank Wells asked me if I wanted him to assist attorney Robert M. Hurley in filing legal action. I told him, "Don't get involved because those inmates are now getting a taste of their own medicine." They once laughed with and supported the acts of corrupt guards on Unit One. Now they're crying for help. It's not hard time. It's Unit One chow time.

Charles Walker
former unit one death row inmate
raleigh

Thanks, but no thanks

I read with interest the letter from Henry Johnson, Associate Superintendent with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) [Back Talk, March 7]. I was especially pleased to learn that DPI "will not recommend any curriculum change that de-emphasizes North Carolina history" in the public schools. However, in order for this to be the case, the current proposal by DPI to revamp the social studies curriculum must be rejected.

North Carolina schoolchildren currently receive a course in fourth grade entitled "NC: The Land and Its People" and a course in eighth grade titled "NC: History of an American State." Under the proposed revision, these two courses will be condensed into a single fourth-grade course entitled "NC: The Land, Its People, and History." I fail to see how this can be interpreted as anything less than a "de-emphasis" of North Carolina history in the public schools.

Mr. Johnson claims that DPI's proposal merely recommends that some social studies content be "taught at different grade levels." The current eighth-grade course includes such competency goals as "Judge the effects of progressivism, war, and religious controversy on North Carolina," and "Evaluate the effects of national economic, social, and political change on North Carolina and the South in the late 19th century." It is difficult to see how this content can be taught at the fourth-grade level.

DPI officials have attempted to further deceive the public by claiming that NC history is being expanded to all three middle grades, and also being added to the high school curriculum. What they fail to point out is that the three-year middle-school course is entitled "NC's Global Connections," and focuses on Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The proposed high school course is one of nine elective courses, which I estimate will be taken by no more than 5 percent of high school students. Also, the course is entitled "Issues in Contemporary NC History." I'm not sure what that means, but it does not appear to be a traditional history course. The end result is that most students will lose one full year of instruction in North Carolina history under the proposed revision.

This level of deception is unacceptable in a public agency. Mr. Johnson made the point that the proposed curriculum revision was developed by a committee that included teachers and parents, and was based on surveys of "teachers and others." DPI should release the results of the survey, including the geographic location and affiliation of all survey respondents and committee members. My hunch is that it will be apparent that neither the committee nor the survey are representative of the general population of this state.

Timothy Robert Wyatt, Ph.D.
Raleigh

Henry Johnson's recent letter to The Independent [Back Talk, March 7] is full of chatter about broad-based participation in the decision-making process whereby a new curriculum will be put in place.

Having served as a public school educator for a decade (K-12 through community college and state university) I declare there is no American institution--with the arguable exception of the American military--that is as autocratic.

Public Instruction invites public participation only to display the stuffed head as a trophy.

The multiple levels of community involvement to which Mr. Johnson proudly refers comprise an obfuscatory haze having negligible impact upon the State Board of Education's "final action."

Unless one participates in these public forums as an accusatory burr-under-the-saddle, the outcome will be the ugliest sort of co-optation.

When the process is finished, Ms. Ruley's "Homeschooling" allegations will be a mild indictment of the curriculum that the Board of Education (abetted by DPI) actually puts in place.

Alan Archibald
Hillsborough

Oscar trouble

In "Beyond the Envelope" [March 14], at least two pieces of information are flat-out wrong. At one point, James Morrison says that " ... you could track the Best Picture awards of the last decade, from Pulp Fiction to American Beauty. Stop right there! Pulp Fiction did not win Best Picture. Later he praises Emily Watson's "Oscar-winning performance" in Breaking the Waves. What is he thinking? She didn't win. These are basic facts that can be found in any World Almanac or home video guide. I can accept that the guy doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to fascism, but he really should get his information straight in his so-called area of expertise.

Karin Abell
Carrboro

Welcoming porch

I am a long time resident of Raleigh, currently living and working in New Orleans. I was given a subscription to The Independent to keep in touch with home. Having given up on TV news a decade ago, reading local and "national" newspapers for sports news only the last year, and finally abandoning even NPR this month, I was thrilled this morning to read the hard-hitting (deserved and accurate in this case), witty and insightful columns by Bob Geary and James Morrison that filled the Front Porch in your Feb. 28 edition. That page alone will keep me going until your next edition arrives. Thanks. John McLachlan
New Orleans, La.

Taking risks

A year or more ago, I was compelled to write a letter to your paper chastising art critic Kate Dobbs Ariail for a piece in she lamented the fact that no local galleries were showing local artists. I pointed out the fact that she had not been seen in the many small experimental galleries in Raleigh--including the one I own and operate--in years and was thus not qualified to make such a statement. I invited Kate to visit our gallery and observe local emerging artists being given a chance to show their work in a proper space.

Well, it's more than a year later, and Kate has still not found time to visit my gallery or others in this area. And I find myself compelled to write again. In the March 21 edition of The Independent, Kate offers her review of the current show at the Contemporary Art Museum under the grand heading, "The Contemporary Art Museum emerges as the Triangle's most risk-taking venue for art." Isn't it strange that she should be able to make such a sweeping statement when she still hasn't paid a visit to most, if not all, of the experimental spaces in Raleigh? And how can she describe a museum, with its paid staff and donors, as "most risk-taking" when there are several small spaces, with no funding and no staff, consistently offering fresh work that challenges the eye and the brain of the public? The really big question is this: How can Kate make statements about "taking risks" when she seems patently unable to take any herself?

The Contemporary Art Museum is a valuable resource, and their current effort should be applauded. However, Kate manages to drag herself to Raleigh only when there is something big and flashy happening at a museum. Then, based on this very limited experience, she draws her conclusions about art in the Triangle. This is not good art criticism. It's lazy, it's spotty, and it's unfair. Unfair to the small galleries that work hard to show new work, unfair to the artists who show there, and--most of all--to Independent readers who expect to be kept informed about what is really happening in the Triangle arts scene.

Come on, Independent--we deserve better.

Med Byrd
owner, LUMP Gallery
Raleigh To submit a letter to the editor, write backtalk@indyweek.com.

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