Info:Correction Date: 02/04/1999
Oh, Brother ...

Reading "Business As Usual" [January 7], the first thing that struck me was the tone of the prepubescent squeal that passes for Richard Connelly's writing -- that and his total disregard of the rules for what I understood to be his craft. Connelly's crimes in this piece are many, from the cliches that he limply rides herd over to his trite, very muddled literary allusion to Moby Dick.

What makes this piece especially pernicious is that Connelly has no problems scoring points at the expense of his characters. Forgive me if I am not objective. I happen to be the brother and son of two of those participants that Connelly took liberties with, Benton and Charles Musslewhite. My father is not the silver-tongued, roguish, maverick liberal charmer Connelly swoons over. But as to my brother, Charles Musslewhite, I'd like to clarify a few of the facts:

Connelly (in describing Charles as a witness) seems to be oblivious to the context, the fact that Charles is having to testify against his father. Perhaps the turn of Charles's lip had more to do with an emotional state than an agenda.

Connelly leaps to another imponderable conclusion later when he suggests that Charles was "seemingly" depressed, throwing in the adverb so that we might believe that the depression was some sort of clever ruse. And, for the record, Charles didn't know what was coming. He was told that someone other than Benton would be the next witness.

Finally, it is not so obvious that Charles had a reasonable opportunity to reply to his drivel. Connelly happened to call when Charles was out. Basically, Connelly is a reporter content to rely upon innuendo and gossip and on the point of view of one character, Benton Musslewhite.

Dickson Musslewhite
Philadelphia, PA

Heavy and Hairless?
I am writing to tell you how much I appreciate being called "pudgy and balding" in Connelly's recent attempt at character assassination. I had always thought of myself as "fat and bald." It is good to see that at least one of Connelly's misstatements cut in my favor. It would have been nice if Connelly had given me the opportunity to respond to his outhouse product. Connelly was more interested in smearing me than in presenting a fair, unbiased piece.

Charles B. Musslewhite Jr.

Lesson to Be Learned
My children just showed me your article about the International Baccalaureate program at Lamar ["IB or Not IB," by Wendy Grossman, January 14].

My daughter thinks it's pretty cool to make A's in her Chem 2 class, but she is sad that the class is not learning anything. She feels sorry for those high-achieving students who will be unprepared to take the IB exam. My daughter lent her Chem 1 notebook to her teacher at the start of the year so she would know what to teach.

While those elite, high-achieving students deserve to have a teacher qualified for the courses they need, other students -- very talented but less high-achieving -- also deserve highly qualified teachers. I believe Dr. McSwain was trying to help them by putting his traditional IB teachers in these roles.

HISD needs a procedure in place to fire or move unqualified teachers. Certainly a basic Chem 2 test for our daughter's teacher would have prevented McSwain from placing her into a position in which she had no chance of success.

Thank you for bringing the problems, previously only gossiped about, to light. If a fine school like Lamar has them, one can only imagine what other HISD high schools must be going through.

Bridget Schmal
via Internet

Shaping Up
Thank you for running Wendy Grossman's insightful article about the current crisis facing Lamar's IB program. As a 1998 Lamar graduate who went through the program and achieved several higher-level certificates, I've been hearing the rumors and stories about the program being in jeopardy. Unfortunately, the article only confirms my worst suspicions.

During my senior year, which was also the first year of Dr. McSwain's principalship, the program was already showing signs of weakening. A few of the IB teachers had either resigned or had announced their intentions to do so. Some, when prodded by students, complained openly of the new administration, saying that it only cared about maintaining a public image, not educating the students. Some teachers were called into McSwain's office and were told that they were not "team players" and either needed to shape up or resign.

I am greatly concerned with Jeff Shadwick's comment that "controls need to be placed on the program." His statement that the program "operated far outside any authority structure" is simply not true. Multinational structures are the backbone of the IB program. Any interference from local authorities could only cause harm to the program and to the stature of the school. Mr. Shadwick's comments only reflect the growing chasm forming between the educational wants and needs of the parents, students and teachers, and the bureaucratic wants of administration officials.

The mere existence of such a program in public high schools is a blessing to the American educational system and should be maintained at all cost.

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