Nov|Dec 2011 Contents
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  Correction

We usually save our mistakes for the end, but this case requires more prominent placement. Many readers alerted us to what one called “a small typo with tremendous implications in your otherwise inspiring article, ‘Horror and Hope’” [Sept|Oct]: The number of Rwandans killed in the country’s 1994 genocidal conflict is estimated at 800,000—not 80,000, as the article misstated. We deeply regret and apologize for the error. —Ed.


Truly Inspirational

The story of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for Rwandans and the participation of Penn students is truly inspirational. We never had such opportunities back in the 1950s (and would our parents have permitted us to join if we had?).

Although there were a few students in those days who volunteered in the inner city, most of us were totally centered on our own lives, whether it be grades, dating, partying, or a combination of those activities. World War II was over and the rest of the world was far away and mostly forgotten.

I have huge praise not only for the dedicated students in this program and others like it, but also for those individuals and organizations that make these programs possible.

Barbara R. Cooper CW’52 White Plains, NY



Mind Boggling

The unmitigated speed and progress of this cataclysm still boggles the mind, especially in light of the fact that the United Nations had representatives on the ground at the time, who were rendered impotent by deaf ears on the part of the global community, including the Clinton Administration.

Having read a bit on this disaster, I still recommend one of the first publications on the genocide, especially to get a feeling for what it was like there as it was happening. It is Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed Along With Our Families. I do hope that some of your readers will be motivated by Penn’s work in the area to read his book or view the PBS Frontline documentary, Ghosts of Rwanda.

Elizabeth Attig G’91 Nu’96 GNu’99 Merion Station, PA




Commendable Work

I commend Anne Heyman and her husband for their work with Rwandan orphans, and the Penn students who joined them, however briefly, particularly in light of the personal resonance for many of them. Thank you for this story.

Catherine (Taffy) Field CW’70 Portland, ME




Healing Efforts

I have a Rwandan brother-in-law who lost much of his family in the 1994 genocide, and so I appreciated your article, “Horror and Hope,” which touched on some of the continuing efforts to bring healing to that nation.

Mark W. Hayes G’78 Pennsylvania Furnace, PA




More Hope, Less Horror

After receiving my first Pennsylvania Gazette, I was excited to see an article on Rwanda, a country where I lived in 2010. Overall, I feel the article failed to deliver a message of “hope” and instead focused on “horror.” I’m particularly frustrated, because Rwanda is trying and doing an exceptional job of moving past the tragedy of 1994. Unfortunately, articles like the one printed highlight the tragedy and not how far the country has come since.

I was hoping the author would try to highlight some of the incredible accomplishments of Rwanda since 1994. Many articles highlight these but here’s a quick excerpt from “The Life After,” an article in the May 4, 2009, issue of The New Yorker by Philip Gourevitch: “On the fifteenth anniversary of the genocide, Rwanda is one of the safest and the most orderly countries in Africa. Since 1994, per-capita gross domestic product has nearly tripled, even as the population has increased by nearly twenty-five per cent, to more than ten million. There is national health insurance, and a steadily improving education system ... Most of the prisoners accused or convicted of genocide have been released. The death penalty has been abolished.”

The country is not perfect by any measure but at least mentioning the accomplishments would shed light on the “hope.”

Please do better next time.

Steven Dildine WG’13 Carmel, CA




What Speech Says About Class

As a 1971 graduate of the Department of Linguistics, I read your article about Annette Lareau’s work with fascination [“Perils of Parenting Style,” Sept|Oct].

As a psychologist, I believe that there are cultural norms in our country that prohibit an open discussion of class. Such discussions are relegated, in the minds of academics at least, to those who are politically incorrect or downright ignorant. Yet, if social scientists need to examine phenomena related to socioeconomic status, they need the freedom to publish their findings.

Annette Lareau has done so with great courage. In recalling the thesis of Penn linguist Bill Labov, The Social Stratification of English in New York City, I find there clear empirical evidence of social markers in speech that differentiate socioeconomic levels and age groups from each other. Labov held that such speech markers are unconscious. To my mind, Lareau’s findings are consistent with those of Labov. During group meetings I attended with Labov, he mentioned his studies of communication style in middle-class and working-class speakers, demonstrating, once again, empirical proof of the differences. He published a book, The Study of Non-Standard English, where he described aspects of differences in speech among different ethnic groups; he was also studying the differences in dialects among Hispanics, African Americans, and Caucasians. I mention these facts in detail to support Lareau’s hypotheses.

In reading your article about her work, I found myself wishing that she would be interested in describing the narratives that were shared by families of different socioeconomic groups. The facts of the structure of the different narratives would serve to buttress her hypotheses with empirical data to counter the charges that observations about class status is subjective and unscientific.

David H. Herman G’71 Elkins Park, PA




“Disruptive” = Better

In “The Other Health Care Revolutions” [Sept|Oct], William Hanson laments that he and his wife had to “resort to something like the [nurse practitioner-run] MinuteClinic to get flu shots for the kids.” I am not sure why he considers retail medical clinics a “disruptive technology.” He cited data that this type of health care: a) has comparable preventative care and quality scores to doctors’ offices and urgent care centers; b) has higher preventative care and quality scores than emergency rooms, and c) costs less than care rendered at doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms.

Insurance companies perversely reimburse health-care providers more for medical procedures that treat established medical conditions rather than for care that prevents the condition in the first place. For this reason, physicians work to “retain higher-end and more profitable customers” as evidenced by cardiologists’ race to balloon, stent, and roto-rooter the coronary arteries before the cardiac surgeon can bypass them.

As a nurse practitioner, I think treating coronary lesions pharmacologically with statin-class drugs to hopefully avoid treatment with invasive procedures is a fine goal. An even better one would be to reimburse health-care providers for counseling patients on effective diet and exercise regimens and smoking cessation programs which would reduce the need for pharmacological and invasive treatment of coronary lesions in the first place!

So, I want to be clear … A set of health-care providers came along with an efficient, time-saving, cost-effective way of delivering quality health care that keeps patients out of emergency rooms and primary care offices, where the relative value unit for this activity is considered “not profitable” anyway? And because the providers are not physicians it is considered “disruptive?”

Nurse practitioners in retail medical clinics are willing to care for patients who need services at “the lower end of the value scale.” This type of health care sounds better for patients … the only thing retail medical clinics sound “disruptive” to is physicians’ bottom lines.

Yvonne A. Ruddy-Stein Nu’91 GNu’94 Ridgefield, CT




Not Laughing

In “The ‘Uncreative Writer’ in Washington” [“Arts,” Sept|Oct] Kenneth Goldsmith is pictured standing at a podium dressed somewhat like the clown he apparently wishes to be. But alas, he is not at a circus; he is an honored guest at the White House, reading his “work” at an “Evening of Poetry.” Goldsmith’s shtick (all contemporary artists must have one) is unoriginality. He simply transcribes or copies something that already exists—in one case, a traffic report. He seems to understand that his audience is sufficiently steeped in the postmodern ether to at least pretend to go along with the joke.

I just can’t laugh at this stuff anymore. Thirty years of writers who can’t write, painters who can’t paint, and musicians who can’t play is quite enough for me. Why can’t the bar for art be set at the same level as science, medicine or, for that matter, plumbing?

Oh, did I mention that Goldsmith teaches at Penn?

David Bolger D’79 Williamstown, NJ




Off-the-Rack

I was disappointed to read the article about Kenneth Goldsmith. He certainly has the right to his opinions about (so-called) writing, but it is wrongheaded for Penn—one of our finest institutions of higher learning, I hope, still—to encourage, in the person of one of its instructors, “cutting and pasting anything you want from the Web and creatively remixing and rewriting it.”

Having until very recently (spring 1993 through spring 2011) taught Freshman and Sophomore Writing in the English Department of Baruch College here in Manhattan, I have seen my share of this kind of mishmash, and it is always embarrassingly superficial. (I hope for better at Penn.)

The Web has indeed changed a lot about our perceptions of the world, as did the wheel. But does that have to include eschewing anything other than quickly texted jottings off the top of our heads? Does it mean that gaming is as highly valued as reading, maybe even a classic? What is wrong with writer’s block wherein one can choose to journey inward, discovering what’s going on inside oneself? Is it better to appear hip, slick, and cool to one’s eager fellows than to slow down and search for that unique, human self, thereby possibly contributing something substantial to the world where, it is true, our choices seem overwhelming sometimes? Should Penn join the ranks of standup comedy, where the laughs are loud, fast, and furious and relegate intellectual and philosophical curiosity and redemption to the past?

Incidentally, Mr. Goldsmith’s suit is no more avant garde than his views on teaching writing. It is a cheap-shot, off-the-rack costume, perhaps an empty shell.

Lorye Watson CW’56 New York




“Beep Beep” Deserved Better

The Sept|Oct issue contains an obituary which reads in full: “Adolph Bellizeare Jr. C’75, Scotch Plains, NJ, April 21.” Although I do not expect the Gazette to do in-depth research prior to writing obituaries, it is sad that the issue which contains the preview of the football season would not at least note that Adolph—whose nickname was “Beep Beep” for his speed and elusiveness—left Penn as the school’s all-time leader in rushing yardage and was a key contributor to the renaissance of Penn football.

In addition, he was a very nice guy, with no pretense or arrogance. His death deserved greater commemoration.

David Machlowitz C’74 Westfield, NJ




BMOC But Not in Gazette

I was taken aback to see that the Adolph Bellizeare death notice in the recent Gazette had no obituary whatsoever. During my first two years at Penn, he was a football star at whose performance on the field everybody marveled and who was consistently featured in the sports section of the DP on autumn Mondays. He was certainly a Big Man on Campus and a frequent topic of conversation. To a 17-year-old freshwoman he seemed bigger than life. There were rumors floating around that he had been offered scholarships to other universities with expensive toys thrown in, but he had chosen Penn.

Many years later I had a temporary teaching job at East Middle School in Braintree, Massachusetts, which he had attended before Braintree High. The long-time administrators remembered him and his football prowess. I read his on-line obituary at NJ.com, and there were some notes posted from Penn alums, including a former DP photographer. A child of one of the Penn football coaches fondly remembered a dinner at their home with Adolph and his girlfriend Joanne, who he apparently married.

I think some alumni of his era, including me, would have been interested to know more about his life after graduation. If his family requested privacy, then it is understandable that no information was provided.  In any case, at least some words about his stellar football career at Penn should have been included next to his name in the obituary section of the Gazette.

Betsy Carr C’77 Silver City, NM




Supporting Social Justice

I am delighted to see Penn’s emphasis on diversity and social justice as shown in the Sept|Oct issue and previous issues of the Gazette. When I was an undergrad in the late 1950s, agitating on those issues could get one redbaited. (I did and was.)

Of course teaching students that working for social justice is more important than making money might tend to reduce the ability of future alumni to contribute to Penn, but that’s okay with me. It just means that more work will have to be done to convince government officials to support education at all levels. That will require electing government officials who believe in public support of education at all levels. So it goes.

Eliot Kenin C’61 Emeryville, CA




Big Talk, Small Acreage

I have just read your article, “The Park of a Thousand Pieces” [July|Aug]. There are a few things that I do not understand.

First, it seems that more than half of the 500 acres discussed in the article have nothing to do with anything that recent public policy has initiated. Credit is given to the Penn Park, Kroc Center, and other private-initiative open spaces that were planned long before the Penn Praxis plan.

In truth, the new pertinent public acres always mentioned as 500, might be 100-200 acres or less? The Hawthorne Park, a Fairmount Park project with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, was planned a long time ago. Upper Roxborough Reservoir has been discussed for a decade or more. Why are these unrelated projects, all initiated before Penn Praxis existed, included in the good works of Penn Praxis, of the mayor, and others? This does not seem honest, but it has been repeated over and over again in numerous articles, yours being the most recent.

Second, the original Fairmount Park Commission, before being abolished in 2009, had been working on a list of 5,000 acres to add to the park; why is everyone excited by 100-200 acres? A campaign slogan for a mayoral race only a few years ago was going to be “Double Fairmount Park,” which referred to an idea of adding 10,000 acres to the park, for no acquisition cost at all, from city-owned land listed in its Vacant Land Study then.

The park had added 2,000 acres to its inventory all by itself over the last 20 years. Curiously, in all the arguments to abolish the commission, information about how well Fairmount Park had been operated, such as acquiring all this new acreage, was never reported in local papers; now, numerous articles are being written about adding a mere 100-200 acres of open space to the city.

Gardner A. Cadwalader C’70 GAr’75 Philadelphia


The writer was a member of the former Fairmount Park Commission.—Ed.



Voice of Reason

I look forward to the Gazette even if I do not understand some of the words or may disagree with some opinions expressed. I appreciate correspondents who add information or correct misinformation as they perceive it. I would like more explanations or pictures sometimes—for example, the article about the ARCH building [“Gazetteer,” July|Aug]. I can’t picture it.

It has been a long time since I walked the paths at U of P and my specialty (occupational therapy) is no longer available through the School of Education, but I find many articles interesting or informative and I ignore what I do not agree with. In matters of opinion, there is no right or wrong (but of course some of those idiots who don’t agree with me have crazy ideas).

Elizabeth M. Warner Ed’46 Milwaukee, WI




Kudos!

I just wanted to let your team know that the July|Aug issue was particularly terrific—full of interesting and well-written articles. I have noticed a progressive improvement in the editorial over the past year. Thank you for all you do for our community. Kudos!

Yvette Edidin EAS’98 W’98 Roslyn, NY




Different Realities

Two points regarding the article in the July|Aug issue reporting on Alumni Weekend panel discussions:

In “Varied Views on the Economy,” the writer notes that hedge fund manager Karen Finerman has “a less gloomy outlook” on the economy than reporter Binyamin Appelbaum does. Their respective quotes make it pretty obvious why. Appelbaum is describing the economy as experienced by workers, while Finerman talks about what finance capitalists are experiencing. Different classes, different realities.

In “Something That Is Always Fascinating” it is stated that, “A good producer can sniff out mass appeal from a stack of casting tapes like a dowser sensing water.” Fact is, dowsers have no ability to sense water. But such credulous reference to pseudoscience fits right in with an article that uncritically quotes the same producer’s facile rationalizations for distorting reality in “reality” TV.

Eric Hamell C’84 Philadelphia

 

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