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A satirical scold

Although Hal Crowther marshals his considerable rhetorical gifts with vigor against the worthy target of television, I can't agree with his conclusions, particularly his remark that "TV tells us we can enjoy a healthy economy without benefit of culture, compass or conscience, and never miss them at all [Oct.18]." Crowther has his finger in the vicinity of the pulse, but not quite on top of it: Television is our culture, compass and conscience, whether we have a healthy economy or not.

Did Crowther see the television coverage of the Yugoslavian revolution earlier this month? A turning point came when the anti-Milosevic mobs seized the state television network and cut the transmission. What was the state propaganda machine broadcasting at that very moment? The national orchestra, playing a Beethoven symphony.

This is the sort of nutritious programming Crowther would presumably endorse, yet it was being used by Milosevic as an instrument of political control. If democracy takes root in Yugoslavia in the coming years, and there is an attendant proliferation of commercial television programming, it's a safe bet that not all of the new networks will be broadcasting classical music.

Even in the cultural wasteland of America, it's possible to find Beethoven on television. What really offends Crowther is that the vast majority of the population prefers to watch trash. I don't like Oprah or Larry King any better than Crowther does, but we have the option of not watching, a right that I exercise with great enthusiasm.

Crowther closes his essay with the declaration that television has driven him to the brink of suicide. I really hope that he will reconsider. From Aristophanes, Jeremiah and St. Francis to Swift, Mencken and Vidal, great cultures have always had their satirists and scolds. Crowther is heir to a noble if generally unheeded tradition, and it would be terrible to lose him. --David Fellerath, Hillsborough


Killing the spirit

Your article "On the Bubble," [Oct. 18] was right on the money. Our children are being robbed of creativity in the classroom, and our teachers are being beaten down with unbelievable stress. We have tried to reduce student performance and teacher accountability to one simplistic form of measurement. It is sadly ironic that this testing model takes its cue from business and industry. Our business leaders are now desperately seeking employees who can think creatively, but we are killing that spirit before it ever gets developed.

While most teachers will acknowledge that testing has helped them do a better job of meeting the needs of individual children, they will also assert that there are inherent problems with the tests themselves. Too many children are being set up for failure with the current plan, and once it is implemented statewide, we will really find ourselves in a crisis. Perhaps if we require every political candidate to pass these tests themselves, we'll begin to re-examine what we're doing to our most precious resource--our children and our future. --Parker Call, Raleigh

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