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Shining Lights

Fortunately, both the subject of this issue’s cover story—leading criminologist and new Penn faculty member Dr. Lawrence Sherman—and the photographer—Penn alumnus David Fields C’85—are made of sterner stuff than most of the rest of us around here, who stayed home on January 25, when much of the East Coast was hit with a surprise winter storm. More than a foot of snow fell in Philadelphia; schools, government offices and many area businesses were closed; and the University cancelled classes and shut down, too.
    But Sherman and Fields managed to keep their appointment at the Fels Center of Government, of which Sherman, who also holds the Albert M. Greenfield Professorship of Human Relations, is the recently appointed director. The cover photo was taken on a stairway in the Center’s headquarters on Walnut Street, and some of its rather eerie glow may be owing to the blizzard raging on the other side of the window.
    We thought this otherworldly quality, along with Sherman’s forthright, even slightly challenging expression, made the photo especially appropriate to illustrate the story. Sherman combines a strong spiritual background and moral fervor—as a young man, he was a Conscientious Objector to the Vietnam War and began his career in criminology as an undercover investigator of police misconduct; his parents marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s—with a near-religious faith in the value of empirical data, a “passion for evidence,” as the title of senior editor Samuel Hughes’ profile puts it.
    The January snowfall was also the first significant accumulation of the white stuff that our going-on-three-year-old daughter, Sarah, has ever seen. When we took her out to play, she periodically sang out “Brrr—because it’s cold!” which (as I know all too well) is the refrain from a song sung by Monty the Mounty in the Canadian segment of The World We Share, a Barney tape we bought her.
    Barney rules at our house. While my wife Carole Bernstein C’81 and I have been known to roll our eyes at each other over the show’s sugary tone and relentless earnestness, we know Sarah could be watching worse things—much worse, to judge by the findings of Dr. Amy Jordan ASC’86 Gr’90 and her colleagues at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. For the past four years, they’ve been tracking the level of violence, inappropriate language and sexual innuendo in kids’ programs and rating their educational content.
    In “TeleStudies,” Leslie Whitaker reviews the latest data from the center’s annual survey of the “state of children’s television” and its ongoing research on the V-Chip technology (now included in all new television sets bigger than 13 inches) designed to provide parents with an electronic censor to screen out bad influences. Accompanying the piece is a sidebar on two alumni involved in the creation of children’s television, who offer a somewhat different take on the subject.
    Finally in this issue, architect Barton Myers GAr’64 was thinking of fire rather than ice when he designed his home in Montecito, Calif., overlooking the Pacific Ocean, to withstand the brushfires that periodically threaten the area. Myers’ work has ranged widely since he was a protÈgÈ of Louis I. Kahn Ar’24 Hon’71 in the mid-1960s, but he has become especially sought after as a designer of theaters—most recently, the widely acclaimed New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
    Myers is passionate on the role of architecture in knitting communities together. A recurrent theme in his work, as suggested by the title of Virginia Fairweather’s article, “Looking In, Looking Out,” is the interaction between a structure and its surroundings. The importance that people place on the buildings they use—and the range of opinion they may have about them—has been amply demonstrated locally in the many letters we’ve received in response to the articles on campus architecture in our September/October issue. There are two more in this one, rising to the defense of the much-maligned Superblock.

—John Prendergast C’80

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