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May 14, 2007

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The Politics of Education
Having been a teacher in New York City public schools for more than a decade, I found “NEST+m: An Allegory” [by Jeff Coplon, May 7] interesting. Principals seem to believe that they will be judged solely on their statistics—for test scores, on attendance, or on suspensions. If their numbers draw negative attention, they lose not only their jobs but their livelihoods. Not surprisingly, some believe they must raise their test scores by any means necessary. Moreover, the notion that educational goals will be reached by prescription is the prevailing view. We work in a system now where teachers are being directed on everything from how to arrange their rooms to how to spend each minute of the instructional period. We cannot expect creative, passionate people to blossom under these conditions.
—Elizabeth Johnson, Brooklyn

As a NEST+m parent, I take issue with your negative categorization of our school’s new principal. Olga Livanis has led our children so that the school can continue to thrive despite having inherited the difficult situation you describe in your article. Her coming to our school is nest’s gain and Stuyvesant’s substantial loss. She oversees a gifted group of primarily young teachers. It’s committed educators like Dr. Livanis who can change our school system after decades of inertia.
—Amie Gross, Manhattan

I am a parent of a student at NEST+m. NEST+m has been fraught with problems since its inception, and even with former principal Celenia Chévere gone, it remains the same, and at times worse, because now the teachers are miserable. NEST+m has become a victim of the politics of education and the emphasis on numbers. Unfortunately, it’s the kids who get lost in that battle.
—Name Withheld, Manhattan

Love and Infidelity
Katie Roiphe’s “The Great Escape” [“Love & Sex,” April 30] was right on the money. Every person handles difficult situations in her own way. In a society where instant therapy is the norm, it was refreshing to read about someone looking at a challenge and taking it on intelligently, despite the herd mentality that decrees she should be curled up in a ball and worrying about her world ending.
—Mary Castillo, Astoria

Caroline Leavitt’s true story is relentless and wonderfully written [“Love & Sex: High Infidelity,” April 30]. I read it with great pain and admiration: It’s cruel and disturbing and breathtaking, and wouldn’t be believable if it weren’t true. I’m in awe of the courage it must have taken Leavitt to go beyond writing fiction, to uncover the hurt that keeps us all looking for love and truth until we find it.
—Nikki Stalder, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

In Yael Kohen’s “The Waiting Room” [“Love & Sex,” April 30], it was notable that the 25-year-old Kelley had “a very traditional Catholic upbringing” and apparently was saving her virginity for the marriage vows. Paul also stated he was a Catholic who intended to be a virgin until marriage, which was reinforced by his research into living a Christian life. Lauren was explicit in that she was raised in a very Christian family and wanted her virginity to be respected in marriage. I wonder, though, if there are any Jews and Muslims who have similar abstinence teachings before marriage.
—Bob Washick, Conyngham, Pa.

Fast-Food Solution
Charles Stuart Platkin’s “Per Se, Per Calorie” [May 7] was entertaining, but comparing the nutritional value of a tasting menu from a three-star Michelin chef with Big Macs is slightly inane. If the average American treated fast food as a “once in a blue moon” splurge like a night at Masa, we would not be suffering from such an obesity epidemic.
—Beau Kjerulf Greer, Fairfield, Conn.

Correction: In “The High Lining of New York” (May 7), it should have been noted that the architecture firm behind the new headquarters for Diane Von Furstenberg is WORKac.


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