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Lay off Exploris
As a teaching assistant at Exploris Middle School in the Spring of 2001 and a social studies teacher at a Southeast Raleigh charter school throughout the 2001-2002 school year, I say, "Lay off Exploris, Bob Geary, Todd Cohen and Ruth Sheehan! It fills a big educational vacuum for middle school students and teachers from all over the state--and fills it well!" ["Exploris Under Fire," July 3].

This has not exactly been your Super-Flagellistic Successful Year for anything financial or educational in North Carolina or America. For example, look at the state's standardized writing tests this year. So why gang up on Exploris to take out all your frustration for big overall disappointments in public education and state revenues this year? Remember, this is only the third year of Exploris' existence! Rome wasn't built in a day.

If the Carolina Hurricanes, the Wolfpack basketball team, or the Carolina Courage had another bad year as they have had in the past, would you be calling for the Entertainment and Sports Arena and the SAS Stadium in Cary to be closed down as a waste of taxpayers' money? No, you would grant them a longer grace period--or find your collective heads on pikes high above Hurricane heaven.

A children's museum is not a professional athletic team where you fire the coach and trade for new players after a losing season. Pulling the public financial support or the experienced, visionary leadership out from under Exploris after such a good educational--however losing financial--start, just doesn't cut it. It is not surprising that the mass media, so overwhelmingly economic and commercial in its own values, has misplaced values when it comes to judging a cultural institution like Exploris. The commercial mass media needs to remove the log from its own eye before it goes for the splinter in Exploris'.

If Exploris' mass media critics had the everyday task of motivating sixth grade students to study ancient history, they would realize what an incredible tool the IMAX film, Mysteries of Egypt was in making mummies, pyramids, and the Nile River come alive in 12-year-old heads. And where else in the state would you have had access for such long duration to the fantastic "Material World" display, which so dramatically and effectively compared what an average family in so many different rich and poor nations have available as family possessions at home?

It's not Exploris' fault that more parents, teachers, and administrators don't take more advantage of such a prime educational resource. Maybe some malls should take out full-page public service ads to make sure Carolinians know as much about Exploris' schedule of outstanding displays and alternative educational opportunities as they surely know about hip-hugger, sneaker and CD sales.

It's really a choice of individual and societal priorities and values. Museums can't be expected to compete with malls and athletic events as financial successes in this pop culture. They either continue to get public financial support or they disappear. The day Exploris and other great museums like it disappear is the day I stop teaching.

You should be lionizing the vision and long, hard struggle Gordon Smith, Anne Bryan and many others had to bring this dream of excellence and opportunity into reality, instead of calling for their heads because they haven't produced a bottom line profit in three years. Maybe media critics should come to see what Exploris has to offer on their "off hours" so they would have a chance to open their minds to see what's really of "bottom-line value" in education.
--ED KING, PITTSBORO

Conspiracy theories
Some people never met a conspiracy theory they didn't like, and it appears that The Independent may fall into that category. I am referring to your item in the Trotline section of the July 3 issue alleging that UNC-TV mysteriously pulled a program called "North Carolina's Addiction to Tobacco" from its June schedule after having already promoted the show in its monthly program guide, CenterPiece magazine. The article suggested that the program was pulled because of pressure from corporate underwriters with ties to big tobacco companies.

I hate to mess up a good story with the facts, but just for laughs let's consider a few:

1. As your reporter was told repeatedly, much of the material in this documentary has ALREADY BEEN ON THE AIR! The program is made up primarily of segments that ran as individual stories on North Carolina Now, UNC-TV's Monday-through-Friday news magazine. As we sometimes do, we were simply turning this existing material into a single program that could provide a more extended look at an important issue. The new material just provides context and transitional continuity for the existing content.

2. If UNC-TV was afraid of provoking underwriters with the content of this program, why schedule it and promote it in the first place?

3. Since UNC-TV has already indicated that the program will be in its September schedule, would it be too much to ask everyone to watch it before deciding whether it has been watered down to mollify The Forces of Darkness?

It may have escaped The Independent's attention, but the state of North Carolina has a few budget problems right now. As a result, UNC-TV has been operating with a reduced staff, which is laboring mightily to keep up with a demanding workload. Unfortunately, the editing on the rough cut of the tobacco program wasn't completed until right before it was supposed to go on the air. A "rough cut" is essentially the same thing as the first draft of an article.

It is not uncommon for the rough cut of any program to need more work before it is ready for presentation. In fact, it happens all the time, not only at UNC-TV but throughout the television industry. For that matter, it is not at all unusual for the first draft of articles to go back for more work after being reviewed by editors. I'll bet it even happens at that paragon of journalistic integrity, The Independent. In the case of our tobacco program, it was simply an unfortunate reality that the rough cut wasn't completed and reviewed until after the program had already been scheduled and promoted. Obviously, we try to avoid that, but it's not the first time it has happened, and it's probably not the last.

So, with all due respect, may we suggest that everyone at least wait and see if the program runs and if it deals directly with the issues before concluding that Something Awful has happened?
--STEVE VOLSTAD, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS, UNC-TV

Seen or unseen?
I am boggled as to why Byron Woods, in his recent report on the American Dance Festival, would blatantly lie about what I wrote for The Dance Insider Online regarding the decision of the respected ADF directors Charles and Stephanie Reinhart to program their own daughter as part this year's festival.

In his article ["Soldiering On," July 3), Mr. Woods, referring to Ariane Reinhart, criticizes "sources like Danceinsider.com who have condemned her work without ever having seen it."

As Mr. Woods--a former writer for the DI--well knows, I specifically did not criticize Ms. Reinhart's work. Here's what I wrote: "Ariane Malia Reinhart may well be talented; I haven't seen her in performance, so I can't say. But even if Ms. Reinhart were the second coming of Martha Graham, Marian Anderson, and Sarah Bernhardt combined, she'd still be the daughter of Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, and it would still be highly inappropriate of them to program her at their own theater as part of the (publicly funded) festival they direct."

If your readers want to read what I wrote on the DI Online, they can go to http://www.danceinsider.com/f2002/f0312_1.html. We also published an opposing point of view by the noted choreographer Mark Dendy--a DI writer who has definitely not "condemned" Ms. Reinhart's work. It can be found at http://www.danceinsider.com/f2002/f0411_1.html
--PAUL BEN-ITZAK, EDITOR AND CEO, THE DANCE INSIDER ONLINE

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