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Questioning bilingual education,
feeling left out, Perelman Quad complaint.


IMMERSION WORKS BEST IN LANGUAGE LEARNING

   
The article “The Education of Pedro Ramos” and the “From the Editor” column in the September/October Gazette note that Mr. Ramos once marched in favor of bilingual education. As I read that, I recalled an article in a recent Washington Post by a California educator extolling the success of non-bilingual (monolingual?) education that was dictated in California by one of its famous voter propositions. The author said that, despite his skepticism and disapproval, English-only education was successful.
    For many years I have believed that English immersion education for non-English-speaking students is the best solution. I came to this conclusion after hearing of a young (pre-teen) non-oriental girl who defended a Japanese immersion program in Fairfax County, Virginia, in very credible Japanese. My question then, as now, is why is immersion considered the best way to teach foreign languages to American students, but is not the best way to teach English to newcomers?
    Have we assumed that, because foreign students struggle in American classrooms, it is because of the language, rather than because their prior education was not up to U.S. grade level? In other words, how can you do multiplication in any language if you haven’t yet learned to add and subtract?
    I would like to hear Mr. Ramos’ thoughts.

William D. Sieg, Parent
Burke, Va.

ARTICLE IGNORED DISPLACEMENT
OF UNIVERSITY CITY NEW SCHOOL

    As an educator and a Penn alumna, I was annoyed by Susan Lonkevich’s article “The Community’s Schoolhouse” in the September/October Gazette. The article was well-written and informative, and the school Penn is building sounds like an excellent educational environment for both students and teachers.
    However, Ms. Lonkevich neglected to mention that in order to build this school, Penn displaced an existing school, University City New School, which had been leasing its facility from the University. UCNS also is a pre-K-8 family school with a racially and economically diverse population, small classes and fairly low tuition compared with that of other independent schools. Rather than working with and building on an existing school, possibly enabling more low-income students to attend, Penn chose to end UCNS’s lease, causing disruption in the education of many children. In addition, Penn’s lack of clarity about its plans left UCNS and its families in limbo for about two years, thus causing disruption in the very community Penn’s school is intended to serve.
    It is only after an agonizing, prolonged period of emotional and financial strife that UCNS will open next fall at a new West Philadelphia campus. Elizabeth Ratay, head of UCNS, and its board of directors deserve an enormous amount of credit for their dedication to UCNS and its families. Penn, on the other hand, needs to be more sensitive to what it disrupts when attempting to serve the community.

Terry R. Clark CGS’71
Philadelphia

UCNS HEAD: “TIME WE SPOKE UP”

    For two years we have suffered the insult of implied non-existence as we struggle through a major trauma in the life of our school. Your most recent article touting the new Penn-assisted community school has let go another arrow, and it is time we spoke up.
    In the two years since the University announced its intentions to build this school, the property on which we sit has been variously referred to as “the former Divinity School site”, “the block bounded by 42nd, 43rd, Spruce and Locust Sts.,” “the 4200 block of Spruce” and so on, as if it were a vacant lot. In your most recent article, you finally make reference to the Parent-Infant Center, which will continue to offer childcare on the site after the new school is erected and to the Penn Children’s Center, which Penn has relocated. Both institutions have thrived on the property for a long time and both were accommodated so as to ensure their continued existence. Never has there been a mention made of the third educational institution that has operated on the property since 1975 and whose existence has been significantly threatened by this building project.
    The University City New School is a small, progressive independent school that has made a significant contribution to the life of West Philadelphia since 1973. Founded on the principles of John Dewey (the theoretical basis of much of the instruction at the Penn Graduate School of Education), UCNS has offered a comparatively economical independent school education to many University City children, as well as to children living in other parts of the city and in the near suburbs. The school offered personalized education long before it was the norm, provided a model of parental involvement, dedicated itself to offering a financial aid program well above the national norm, and offered a model of a widely diverse, yet peaceful and dynamic, community of parents, children and staff. We have been Penn’s tenants since 1975, and the University has made many contributions, both philosophically and monetarily, since that time. Despite that aid however, we have struggled financially over the ensuing years. Never large (the highest enrollment was two years ago at 115), UCNS has always been what is referred to as a “tuition-driven” school, in part due to the generous financial aid program we offer (50 percent of our children, 18 percent of the overall budget) and in part due to the lack of any endowment. That we continue to exist is a testament to the dedication of many staff members and parents over the years. What we offer to our families, however, is priceless, especially in light of the current educational climate.
    Understandably then, we have felt ignored, unacknowledged and hurt by the constant lack of reference to our small but vibrant school in every article written about the project that has originated from the University community. We do understand, of course, that it is “bad press” to make reference to the fact that one’s exciting new project threatens the existence of a 1ongstanding educational alternative in the same neighborhood. Perhaps that is why the University writers would rather skip over the fact that we are here. Nonetheless, it is the right thing to do to tell the whole story, and University City New School plays a major role in that story.
    As a postscript, I would like to add that UCNS has not given up, although the road ahead is a challenging one. We are relocating to a neighboring church in January, at which time we will commence a campaign to obtain a new site and to construct a school building of our own. We are dedicated to continuing our contribution to the life of this community.

Elizabeth A. Ratay, Head of School
University City New School

COLD COMMONS

    The photos of the newly-completed Perelman Quad project featured in your September/October issue [“Perelman Quad, Complete”] filled me with mixed feelings. Like President Judith Rodin, I too feel a strong attachment to Houston Hall [“From College Hall”]. I spent my freshman and sophomore years helping to put myself through Penn by working in its kitchen and I ate many a meal in both the distinguished dining hall and the upstairs sandwich and coffee shop. On a visit several years ago I felt that the collection of fast food eateries and warren of basement shops that then occupied the structure did nothing for its dignity.
    So to the extent that Houston Hall has undergone “restoration, renovation, and rejuvenation,” in President Rodin’s phrase, I am pleased, and likewise am glad about the many improvements to Irvine Auditorium.
    Unfortunately, the central feature of the new quad, the outdoor Wynn Commons, is another story. I remember the space between Houston and College halls as indeed “a pleasant … outdoor venue for lunch breaks,” but it was more than that. It was grassy, leafy respite from the hurly-burly of city traffic and the crush of crowded pavements.
    It was an aesthetic treat and a refreshing interlude between classes. In spring it was bursting with flowers. Now all I see is a cheerless sterile expanse of concrete gashing its way in patterns of rigid regimented squares. As I look with sadness at the photo on page 34 the words that spring to mind are oppressive, uninviting, totalitarian. It’s disappointing and frustrating to think that after all the puffery and promise and after the expenditure of millions of dollars this was the best a great university could come up with.
    A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of strolling through Harvard Yard and can report that there continues to be a lot to be said for grass and trees. I realize that at Penn we don’t have that kind of green space but shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to preserve what we have? Let me just say that if this is what we can expect from supposedly sensitive architects such as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, please keep them far away from the front of College Hall and the area stretching to Van Pelt Library and Walnut Street.
v Had I been able to view an artist’s conception of the plaza before all the concrete was laid, my feeble input might have done some good, but even though I inquired during a number of visits to Penn none seemed to be available. I would be interested to hear how students present and past are reacting to the new Wynn Commons.

Jacob R. Sherman C’64
Rutland, Vt.

Please turn to page 16 for a related story on Perelman Quad’s Grand Opening.—Ed.

 

MISSTEP ON DANCE AT ANNENBERG

    As the artistic director of the annual Dance Celebration/NextMove Series of contemporary dance at the Annenberg Center, I naturally read with great interest Monica Anke Hahn-Koenig’s article, “Audience Participation Requested” [September/October].
    The series is in its 18th season at the Annenberg Center, and I am celebrating 30 years as a dance presenter in Philadelphia. Naturally, I am very familiar with all the challenges the center has faced financially, artistically and culturally. However, we’re proud to say that the dance series has been phenomenally successful, both in artistic quality and in ticket sales. Such an established and well-regarded cultural asset deserves more than just a quick passing mention of dance as being among the featured programs at Annenberg Center.
    We have a stellar 2000-2001 season coming up, starting this fall with a provocative rendering of tango by the all-female TangoMujer, the incredibly exciting Elizabeth Streb Ringside Performance and a world premiere by the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
    Because I have a significant role in the production of this series, I was quite disappointed to have been “left out.” The dance program deserves better. During the past 17 years, 121 dance companies and 22 solo companies have been presented in 647 full-length performances, with nine new works commissioned by and premiered by Dance Celebration Series. In 1999, the series was selected as a “Best of Philly” winner by Philadelphia magazine. Perhaps a feature article can appear in the near future to remind all alumni of this valuable cultural resource.

Randy Swartz C’67
Philadelphia

ANOTHER TEST?

    Marci Nusbaum’s excellent article “East West Marriage Test” [“Alumni Voices,” September/October] is sure proof that she is perfect Peace Corps material. Like my wife Lynn, whose response to my question, “How would you like to live in Afghanistan?” was “Give me three days to get ready,” Marci was also gung ho. We enjoyed our two years in Kabul so much that we extended twice, to live in Swaziland and then India. But I don’t know what Marci would do with her husband, Gary. I never saw an American Club in our travels.

Jack Cole M’41
Bethlehem, Pa.

“PEACEFUL, PRAYERFUL” VIGILS WILL
CONTINUE AT ABORTION CENTERS

    It was sad to read that Penn alumnus and physician, Dr. Wayne Goldner M’78, would choose to perform abortions [“Alumni Profiles,” September/October]. I am one of the many people who go to abortion centers to pray/“protest.” Most of us are there to pray for the baby that is being brutally dismembered and killed in the name of “choice.”
    This is not an issue of forcing our religious views on pro-choice persons. It is a scientific fact that life begins at fertilization. When the sperm and the ovum meet to form a single cell, a new human life is created. All characteristics of each person—sex, eye color, intelligence, etc.—are determined at fertilization by the baby’s genetic code in the 46 human chromosomes. At three weeks the baby’s heart begins to pump blood. The blood type is often different from the mother. At six weeks the baby has brain waves that can be measured with an electroencephalogram. The end of human life can be defined as the cessation of brain waves, but many ignore the scientific evidence of brain waves in unborn babies.
    Those of us who pray at abortion centers will continue our peaceful, prayerful vigil as long as this abomination is permitted. In my opinion the people outside the abortion centers are nonviolent and peace loving. It is unfortunate that Dr. Golden feels the need to have 18 halogen lights come on when he drives into his driveway, when the light of the world is so close at hand. However, I suggest he focus security concerns on the father of the dead baby, who may have been denied a choice in the decision to kill the baby. Also, the father, husband, or boyfriend of a woman who has been mutilated or has died as the result of abortion.

Robert J. Walsh WEv’68
Bronx, N.Y.

BUSH AD “NASTY AND UNFAIR”

    The advertisements for The Economist on pp. 7-8 of the September/October issue portraying presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush were in poor taste, to say the least. It looked like the “liberal establishment” at work with an attempt at humor in both cases, but nasty and unfair concerning Bush.

Donald M. Solenberger W’46
Media, Pa.

DIVING FOR “DADDY”

    This is in reference to the Gazette’s explanation of the “Daddy” song [“Letters” July/August]. The Pennguinettes synchronized swimming group (founded in 1946 and now in their 50th year) used the music described in their aquatic musical of 1962. The show had a nightclub theme and was titled, Neptunes Rendezvous.
    Enclosed is a photo of the swimmers as they appeared on the deck of Hutchinson Pool.

Doris D. Beshonsky, coach emeritus
Ed’47 GEd’48
Wyncote, Pa.

TITLE TROUBLE
I enjoyed the article on Lily Yeh [“Lily Yeh’s Art of Transformation,” July/August]. May I point out, however, that my colleague Malcolm Campbell to my knowledge never was designated “director of Fine Art.” He has been a professor in the history of art department, chairman of the department at least twice, and was for a few years before his retirement acting dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts. Currently, he is an emeritus professor in the history of art department.

Michael W. Meister, Faculty
Philadelphia

COOL RECEPTION

    Penn is proud of the accomplishments of John Wideman C’63 Hon’86, and justifiably so [“Wideman on Campus,” July/August]. Unfortunately, my personal impression of him is not so high, as the following narrative indicates.
    Approximately 10 years ago, Mr. Wideman came to Houston, my new hometown, as part of a tour to promote his new book. The book signing was held at Rice University, and I very excitedly traveled to the campus and located the table where he was signing copies and discussing his work.
    As I approached him, he was surrounded by a group of students. I dutifully waited my turn, then went up to him and introduced and identified myself as a Penn graduate. He barely acknowledged me before turning away and starting up another conversation with the students. I had brought along a copy of one of his books for him to autograph. This he did, and when I tried to engage him in conversation, he made light of what I was saying and again turned away.
    Obviously, Mr. Wideman was more interested in talking with the “brothers” who surrounded him, and I really felt shunned. I can’t say he was doing this because I am white, but given the tenor of his books until that time, I, perhaps unfairly, came away with that impression.
    Certainly, at least in his earlier works, one can see why he might be justified in exhibiting a degree of “coolness” toward the white race. Hopefully, experience and maturity have tempered his feelings in this regard, and he is more realistic about (and at ease) with the realities of the black person’s experience in society at large.

Michael Brown C’69
Houston


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