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Letters to the Editor 

October 8, 2008

BENEFITS AND BARRIERS

I was delighted to read “Found in Translation?” [September 24]. This is an important story that does not often get told, but please provide an accurate portrayal.

Today’s students need strong academics, critical thinking and creativity. They also need intercultural communication and empathy to be successful in our changing world. With this in mind, the increasing number of English Language Learners and refugees in area schools should not be described only as “hard on school budgets,” but also as an opportunity to provide a high-quality education.

Refugee students and their parents are not helpless victims who “can’t do anything.” They are learning English to survive, communicate, share and learn. Our students who are learning English do not just have barriers to overcome, as you reported; they have strengths and assets.

Having a more diverse population, more perspectives and different experiences should be a bounty to a skillful teacher, not a burden. All our students can learn the skills of empathy, communication and academics from each other in their own schools. It does take work and dedication to help new students be able to participate, but it’s worth it, for all our students’ sake — and it’s needed in a world that is growing more and more interconnected every day.

Thank you again for taking interest in the story of the fascinating changes happening in Vermont. But please, help us all think about the benefits as well as the barriers.

Lucinda Megill

BURLINGTON

GENERATION GAP

I appreciate Mike Ives’ article on the design/build movement [“Angles in Paradise,” October 1]. I think it is a wonderful element of Vermont’s colorful history and a rich topic.

It is interesting that the newer natural building movement is seen as the evolution of the design/build movement and many of the older generation lament a loss of “aesthetic” values. Every new generation tends to reflect the current culture. The culture of the 1960s is different than the culture of today. The older generation of “high art” architects were interested in deconstructionist ideas and improvisation that reflected the break-out culture of the ’60s. It was a cultural revolution.

The new generation of natural builders is more holistic: designers and ecologists who reflect a new understanding of the synergy of life — a second-wave evolution of how to live on the earth well. Each generation should be celebrated for what it brings to the mix.

Ben Graham

PLAINFIELD

Graham is owner of Natural Design/Build in Plainfield.

NATURAL BEAUTY

I am deeply grateful to Sellers, Sanders and the founders of the design/build movement; their work has laid the ground for generations to come [“Angels in Paradise,” October 1].

It saddens me, however, to see a lack of understanding of and appreciation for the natural design/building movement. I understand the criticism that there is a lack of “intellectual rigor” in the designs of many naturally built structures; while this is not universally true, nor endemic to the style, there is indeed room for growth there.

However, to dismiss natural building as a “subculture,” or to view it only as an assembly of natural materials, misses the point entirely. Unlike “green building,” the natural design/build process is rooted in the ideal that people — not just Ivy League-educated specialists — can create modern, high-performance structures of beauty built from their environment in response to their environment. It is about personal and community empowerment, social and cultural change, and creating a new paradigm for providing shelter in an age of socio-ecological crisis.

To deny credit to this process as “true design/build” merely because current examples — many of which were built by novice students through the Yestermorrow curriculum — lack the “high art” design sensibilities of their predecessors, is an elitist and ill-informed position that undervalues natural design/building’s potential as a legitimate architectural style that is supporting today’s shelter “revolution.”

Jacob Deva Racusin

MONTGOMERY

Racusin is a professional natural builder and Yestermorrow Design/Build School Instructor.

MYTH BUSTING

Regarding Jim Douglas’ record, Shay Totten wrote, “But he’s fallen short on a couple of key initiatives, such as . . . luring high-paying jobs to Vermont” [“Fair Game,” October 1].

While this is true, your focus on the goal of attracting jobs from outside Vermont perpetuates a myth that needs to be addressed. Of all the jobs created and destroyed in a given year, only 2 to 3 percent result from interstate moves. The idea that our salvation is waiting in the next state if we only cut taxes (or fix permitting or cut electric costs) is just wishful thinking, and the facts don’t support it.

But this idea allows Jim Douglas (and many other governors) to push for lower taxes on businesses and the wealthy instead of focusing on strategies that matter: infrastructure, workforce education and training, and quality of life. The former strategies are phony, short-term “fixes” that don’t work; the latter are long-term investments.

I encourage you to not get caught up in the misleading talk about “luring” businesses from out of state. It just feeds the myth.

Doug Hoffer

BURLINGTON

NOT COOL

Wow! Does Burton really need to try this hard to be cool [“Blurt,” September 30; “Webpage,” October 1]?

I thought Burton was cool because of its heritage, design and quality. Burton had a well-deserved reputation created by a dedicated team of designers, marketers and sales people. This latest round of board graphics has left me puzzled and disturbed, both as a parent and the founder of GirlZone.com.

My family of skiers has spent hundreds of dollars at Burton over the past few years. We love Burton style, attitude and quality. However, as the parent of a 14-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl, we will not be shopping there until Burton corrects its mistake.

To me, Burton’s mistake is that it has lost sight of its corporate responsibility by acting so edgy while wanting to be mainstream enough to make the big profits. Is the company in a mid-life crisis? Or is it the awkward teenage stage that has it willing to do anything to fit in and be cool?

GirlZone.com has worked with Burton in the past because the company stood for empowering girls with what they could do with their bodies, not for how their bodies look. Burton represented girls being themselves and playing hard and being strong. Burton has made many millions of dollars from teen girls buying its products.

Aside from how the objectification of women affects teenagers, does Burton have any idea how pervasive self-mutilation is among teen girls? With the power of these graphics, will boys be joining their ranks?

MJ Reale

SOUTH BURLINGTON

LUCK IS THE LADY

Judith Levine’s take on the GOP’s VP pick (“‘Country’ Girl,” September 10) was simply terrific and brought to my mind another mind-boggling example of this country’s possessive investment in whiteness.

As an old salt raised in the 1950s, John McCain’s nom de guerre certainly raised my eyebrows. Back then “Maverick” was a very popular television show starring James Garner. It was a slightly humorous Western about a gambler who went from town to town hoodwinking the hicks with poker, occasionally rescuing a “fair damsel” (the usual “whore with a heart of gold”), outwitting corrupt officers of the law and dodging lynching parties. Of course, he always ended up with sufficient stakes to screw the next bunch of local high rollers.

Perhaps it is the fact that Garner’s “Maverick” was always “dressed to the nines,” had the best horse in town and affected the tone of a real gentleman that puts our “brilliant” pundits, commentators, cultural critics and media specialists off the scent.

McCain prefers the cracker style of our current president. You know: “Trust me, I love this country.”

Who is the tall dark stranger there?

Maverick is the name.

Riding the trail to who-knows-where

Luck is his companion

Gamblin’ is his game.

Smooth as the handle on a gun

Maverick is the name.

Wild as the wind in Oregon

Blowin’ up a canyon

Easier to tame.

Riverboat ring your bell.

Fare-thee-well Annabelle.

Luck is the lady that he loves the best.

Natchez to New Orleans.

Livin’ on jacks and queens.

Maverick is a legend of the west.

What more is there to say? Brings me right back to the naked frontier and the Wild West, yes-sir-ee, yahoo!

John Shaplin

BURLINGTON

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