I'm writing in regard to a snippet of information published in the March 18 "News Briefly" column. Under the heading "More Good News," you published information about a Tennessee comptroller's study on adult literacy, which stated that 53 percent of Tennessee adults are barely literate, and literacy levels in the South are historically low. The possible reasoning behind this is also stated: "But it doesn't help that Tennessee spends only about $3 million a year on adult literacy programs, compared to about $240 million in Florida, for example."
Has anyone considered the reason why any state should have to spend anything to teach adults how to read? How does one become an adult without learning to read and comprehend the basics of the English language? Perhaps instead of teaching adults to read, Tennessee should spend a little more money, time and effort on making sure no one reaches adulthood without these basic skills. Teach people correctly the first time through the system, and you won't have to teach them the same things over again.
Strictly speaking, of course
I was surprised to read Martin Brady's review of ACT I's production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (Theater Review, March 18). Let me start by admitting that I've not yet seen the play, though I plan to do so. Secondly, I appreciate and respect the relatively generous review given the production. But what concerned me was this: Mr. Brady's across-the-board declaration that Chekhov is "beyond the reach of strictly local actors." Should we, nonetheless, accept that it is not beyond the reach of a strictly local journalist to make such a judgment call?
A voice from across the tracks
I've lived in District 5 (the pro Wal-Mart side of the tracks) for nine years now and am a proud member of the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Associationseveral of whose members are quoted in Matt Pulle's article "Unlikely Adversaries" (March 11). I also happen to be a satellite member of the vain, white and wealthier (VWW) club that opposes Wal-Mart and shares in the same sort of neatly urban-planned vision for this side of town. It puts me in a kind of schizophrenic space between two demographic spheres, but it's between these spheres where the value of this whole thing takes place.
I was glad to see that Matt's article was under the heading of "Race." That dichotomy of black vs. white is sort of accurate, but the divisions aren't equalas with most things, the real truth is a lot more complicated. On the white side, I see a pretty much homogeneous group of folkseducated, similarly aged, politically progressive, upwardly mobile. On the black side, I don't see a black side at all, but a complicated intersection of ideologies, incomes, ages, ethnic groups, religions and lifestyles.
The real crux of this situation can be found in the fact that there actually is a black side and a white side to the argument. I think the "white" side would like to think that their vision incorporates diversity into the picture, but it doesn't. In practice, white East Nashville is this little enclave that has been growing from a coherent, bleached-out center of white-owned, white-focused businesses and neighborhoods. Horns are tooted about being "pioneers," about buying homes and starting businesses in a shaky area. In reality, a truly new and brave pioneer would move into a crack-addled, economically diverse neighborhood accepting and working with all the complicated differences that exist among everyoneeven when some of us want something that doesn't look like all that good of an idea.
In the end, I see two groups who can't see past their own noses. My neighborhood needs this Wal-Mart, but unfortunately can't seeor doesn't careabout the larger ramifications. On the other side is a bunch of well-meaning but isolationist white folks who have no ideaand don't careabout what life is life outside their tiny, fresh-roasted circle of friends.
Wants vs. needs
One would think that with the intellect of your "Committee of Insiders," they could distinguish between "needs" and "wants," but their article "10 Things Nashville Needs" indicates they do not. The closest they came was No. 6, "It's all about retail," but they blew that by asking for boutique lodging, sailboat renting, a cooking school and the like. One wonders if this committee also writes the Fabricator.
If you are looking for real needs, here are the top five:
1. A Board of Education who will present a budget for the school system to do its jobeducating Nashville childrenwith reduction options listing consequences for each, so that Mayor Purcell and Metro Council can make a judgment on the impact cuts will have in comparison to those for other programs.
2. A downtown facility with major and unique retailers not found in "backyard malls" to attract conventions and visitors.
3. Downtown residential complexes and supporting amenities to provide compelling reasons for people to live there, thus reducing urban sprawl and traffic congestion.
4. A serious mass-transit system, based on real planning for energy conservation.
5. Elected officials more interested in the city than in their political careers and other self-interest.
Who should make these happen? Maybe we can get another Watauga or Zodiac club, maybe some "movers and shakers" will get off the sidelines and into the game, maybe politicians will find they can win votes this way, or maybe the Committee of Insiders will step up and do something useful.
Changing Nashville from a good city to a great one is not a spectator sport. It requires getting involved. I wonder who will join the effort.
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