May 8, 2006

Reading Wars
The balanced literacy approach to the teaching of reading is a breath of fresh air at a time when the No Child Left Behind mentality of teaching for the test has placed a stranglehold on innovative and child-oriented public education [“A Is for Apple, B Is for Brawl,” by Robert Kolker, May 1]. I know from personal experience as an elementary-school principal for 30 years that the approach to teaching reading espoused by the phonics advocates is a rigid, fragmented, and dumbed-down system with no place in a reading program in the 21st century.
—Joseph A. Ricciotti, ED.D.Gradute School of Education and Allied Professions, Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn.

It’s no surprise that Michael Bloomberg is smitten with the designer pedagogy called Balanced Literacy. It’s quite seductive and certainly appears very impressive. Teachers provide instruction in the format of a mini-lesson using the workshop model. All the many components make it one heady elixir. But could the young Joel Klein ever have read his favorite book on baseball and decoded the words if he had not received strong phonics instruction? The old-fashioned “drill and kill” hardly put some of the best adult thinkers off learning for life. It might have provided the necessary discipline to succeed in their academic pursuits.
—Marjorie J. Levine, Manhattan

Purple Party
You hit the nail right on the head with “The Purple Party” [by Kurt Andersen, John Heilemann, and Ryan Lizza, April 24]. The prospect of a rational, open-minded, honest, progressive candidate/party makes me weep with anticipation. If you have a bumper sticker, I’ll take one.
—Sally Palmer, Westport, Conn.

Kurt Andersen’s essay on the Purple Party is one that I’ve been writing in my head for years, not to mention foisting upon weary friends and relations (I’m a little jealous of how well he’s written it). He captures the depth of frustration many of us feel with the “backward-looking ideologues and p.c. hypocrites” now driving American politics. Since I’m a lifelong Chicagoan, I can’t knowledgeably comment on the idea that New York would be the breeding ground for the party he describes, but I can confidently assert that my city is already “purple.”
—Paul Botts, Oak Park, Ill.

Your article on the launch of a third political party neglected to mention the most important springboard to such action: instant-runoff voting (irv). With irv, voters select their first choice but also their second (third, etc.) choice. If your first-choice candidate gets too few votes to win, your vote then goes to your second choice, etc., thus mitigating the possible spoiler effect (e.g., Nader in 2000). Voters can thus choose third-party candidates without fear of wasting their votes. irv can go far toward alleviating the insider advantage by giving candidates outside the two-party system a fair chance. Without it, a successful third-party candidacy in these times will remain a dream.
—Linda J. Arden, Stamford, Conn.

Big Love
We at Ganas appreciate your interest in us [“Big Love on Staten Island,” by Annalee Newitz, April 24]. But by unsuccessfully attempting to sensationalize a group of fairly ordinary people, you overlooked the extraordinary thing we are doing. Here we are in New York City, sharing resources on such a scale that we have drastically reduced our ecological footprint. For 25 years, we’ve demonstrated that sustainable living is not only possible but desirable; that conflicts over resource use and privacy can indeed be resolved amicably; and that a genuine, caring community is truly possible. We’re all for love, and we’re sure you are, too, but your story about “open relationships, little people, [and] 100 kooky housemates” missed the mark.
—George Caneda, Melissa Van, Eric Hirsch,Ganas Community, Staten Island

Corrections: In “The Imperial City: The Way We Boom Now,” by Kurt Andersen (May 1), it should have been stated that Google’s first-quarter profits this year rose 60 percent, not 477 percent, which was the increase for the first quarter in 2005.

In “Brooklyn Style: The Slow-Motion Dream Sequence,” by Alexandra Lange (May 1), Fred Leak of Plan Construction should have been listed as builder of the exterior-shell package of the Appelbaums’ Boerum Hill house.

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May 8, 2006