City Paper is not for tourists
Humility, industriousness, tolerance, peacefulness, and modesty should not be disparaged, as Joe Eaton does in his superficial feature on the price of Sidwell Friends’ pre-K (“What Does $26,790 Buy Your 4-Year-Old?” 11/16). It is curious that while the article focused on the cuisine and soup, it never mentioned the most important thing for any school: the teachers. No one in their right mind would send their kid to a school for the organic vegetables, tasty as they may be. The teachers at Sidwell are among the finest I have ever seen in any school. Had your writer interviewed families whose children recently completed Sidwell pre-K (as my son just did) instead of simply maligning the classroom, they would have had to deal with this inconvenient fact.
The article errs on virtually every level. There are repeated graphics throughout the piece of Sidwell’s children as two blond preppy white children. That’s a curious image for a pre-K that is 46 percent minority. My son is Hindu, and his best friend hails from Zambia. As someone who has fought for diversity in education at the highest levels of our government,
I am convinced that Sidwell does a far better job at it than its peer institutions, public or private. Your article makes it out to be that only the connected and rich get into the school. We are neither. We knew only one family at the school, and yet the admissions office spent two hours personally interviewing us. I don’t pretend for a moment that an admissions process for a 4-year-old makes any sense, but your article implies that only white, moneyed, connected children get in, which is not at all the case.
Perhaps the most demoralizing feature about the piece is that it concludes with the absurd suggestion that by sending your child to Sidwell, “your child could be off to Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. If you can’t secure a spot, there’s always Dartmouth.” No one sends their child to Sidwell pre-K because of college admissions 14 years later. That kind of instrumentalist thinking is absurd. Again, as any pre-K parent will tell you, the reason you send your child to Sidwell is because of the education and values the school instills. Some in college admissions will say that it is actually harder to get into elite universities from private schools such as Sidwell. But parents want the school for their child despite that—because we value the process of education and moral development as an end in itself.
No price tag can be set for the value of character, and character is what Sidwell sets out to teach, starting at age 4. The dedicated teachers at Sidwell teach children to question the status quo, to see the purpose of social responsibility, to become vocal members of their community. Personally, I am thrilled to pay the bill for that kind of education.
Maligning a school might make for good copy, and sell (or in your case, move) newspapers. But it is unfair to the teachers, families, and students to do so without getting the facts first.
Lab in the Dark
New D.C. crime lab director William T. Vosburgh, in complaining about the purported unfairness of the City Paper’s 10/26 story about him (The Mail, 11/9), widely misses the mark.
For more than a generation since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors have been obliged to reveal evidence favorable to the defense in criminal prosecutions. Nevertheless, Vosburgh attempts to defend his failure to report exculpatory forensic test results in a murder case because he was just following the “usual guidelines.” Whatever standard practice Vosburgh claims he was following, since Brady it hasn’t been standard practice under the U.S. Constitution for the government to suppress exculpatory evidence—and I did not rely on “hearsay” (as Vosburgh claims) to say that he did—Vosburgh admits it.
The significance of Vosburgh’s contention—that he was just following the “usual guidelines”—cannot be overstated, because the real issue is not him, but whether the new $200 million D.C. crime lab will be structured as part of the prosecution team rather than an independent and neutral evaluator of forensic evidence. Vosburgh has apparently succumbed to the “CSI effect” in believing that his job is to be a shill for the government in criminal prosecutions; D.C. should not, however, allow forensic science in its new undertaking to be so devalued. It is critical to the long term success of the D.C. crime lab that it truly be independent of the police and prosecutors who too frequently get caught up in the often competitive enterprise of criminal prosecutions.
Vosburgh is not the man for that job.
Stephen B. Mercer, Esq., P.C.
What’S up With the Doc?
With all due respect to Mike DeBonis, he is seriously off-base here (Loose Lips, “Defraud the D.C. Government, Keep Your Job,” 10/26).
Giving us no independent evidence of Department of Health Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration Medical Director Dr. Charles Hall’s actual guilt with regard to the serious fraud charges against him, Mr. DeBonis takes the D.C. government to task for not jumping the gun and at least suspending him in advance of a final verdict on the charges.
As Mr. DeBonis himself points out, we in America believe someone is innocent until proven guilty. He then dismisses a most cherished American practice, simply saying that the D.C. government is empowered to suspend someone who has been charged with an offenses related to his/her position.
Empowered, though, simply means that the government has the right to decide either way. It seems to me that even with regard to an interim suspension, the burden of proof is on those who want to impose that sanction. With no evidence of his own to prove either Dr. Hall’s guilt or the need to suspend him immediately pending final resolution, Mr. DeBonis is in no position to criticize the D.C. government’s decision to keep Dr. Hall on the payroll at least for now.
Last but certainly not least, the headline as well as Mr. DeBonis’ agreement with D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer’s statement that Dr. Hall “[has been taking] advantage of the government and the taxpayers,” are in the worst “traditions” of “trial by media.” Without even a pretense of looking at the facts of the case, Mr. DeBonis has branded Dr. Hall and, by extension, the D.C. government, guilty before the trial.
I would have thought that a newspaper in the best liberal traditions, such as the Washington City Paper, would never be caught dead doing such a thing. I certainly hope it never does so again.
Severna Park, Md.
To say Tim Carman’s article “Server Trouble” (Young & Hungry, 11/16) is misogynistic in tone would be an understatement. In it, Carman portrays fine dining as a battle between skilled, righteous men and the onerous female customers whose apparently ridiculous needs male servers have to satisfy for a paltry $1,000 a week. I found it particularly alarming that in the effort to make a valid point about the skills and rigorous training required of fine-dining servers, Carman chose to refer to women diners as a “pain-in-the-ass,” an “old battle-ax,” and “cold little lunching prima donnas.” The first two of these terms were used in reference to a woman who ordered a salad with chicken and had the audacity to send the dish back when it arrived without chicken and the last one to describe women who are not charmed by what Carman seems to think is his winsomeness. Ah yes, what crazy and demanding women! What in the world could they have been thinking to send back food with essential components missing?! Carman could have made his point without using old-fashioned tropes of women as cold, hard, and demanding if they simply ask to receive that for which they are paying a lot of money. It’s not funny, and it’s not salient.
Finally, the article left me with the impression that this sexism seems to be condoned by the staff at PS 7’s. Now I wonder who is more sexist: Tim Carman or the staff at PS 7’s? I can’t imagine that any self-respecting man or woman would dine at PS 7’s knowing full well, thanks to Carman’s article, that asking for what you ordered in the first place will have the staff there competing to see who can come up with the best reason to blame you for their mistake.
Until the Washington City Paper can raise its journalistic standards beyond misogyny as a rhetorical tool, I will be getting my food reviews and spending my money with advertisers in other publications.