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.

Daniel Tibbets
via Internet

Case Study
What was the motivation of the Houston Press to publish an article that focuses on approximately 25 parents in a school with 2,800 students? The IB program is alive and well at Lamar High School. In the past, 20-25 Lamar students have received IB diplomas each year.

To strengthen and broaden the program, Dr. McSwain sent the IB Director, Dr. Carol Case, to Switzerland last spring. Case and associates also visited a school in Florida where approximately 100 students a year complete the program and receive the IB diploma. Two experienced teachers were named assistant directors to help with the program. The dean of academics and IB counselor were also sent to the training for administrators. This year the IB teachers have been attending training conferences on the subject matter they teach.

This does not sound like a plan to destroy the IB program. Giving additional administrative help and training seems to be a logical way to further strengthen a sound program.

Pat Rosenberg, Lamar IB parent
via Internet

IB Truth Test
As an HISD teacher for over 15 years and parent of two students (one a recent graduate of Lamar's IB program and the other a freshman in the program), I was extremely pleased to see your article about the demise of the IB program at Lamar. Superintendent Rod Paige abhors negative publicity for the district, so perhaps some positive steps will be taken.

What is truly scary is that Ray Reiner, central area superintendent, asks, "What problems?" The IB coordinator of 15 years resigns, and the IB secretary is reassigned. This leaves individuals in charge who are not familiar with the program. An underqualified teacher is hired to teach Chem 2, and within a month a tutor is needed. (Is this an example of Dr. McSwain's hiring abilities?)

I agree with Mr. Calvert that it does not make sense that McSwain would take an internationally known program and dumb it down or let it fall by the wayside. But I have been in the district long enough to know that HISD does not often make sense. How else can one interpret these actions?

If McSwain wants to raise the standards for all programs at Lamar, that is an admirable thing to do, but one does not have to ruin one program to improve another.

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Feed Feds Fiction
Like "John Herrera" ["Down For The Count," by Kimberly Reeves, January 14], I was alarmed when I got a census form similar to his. I was also very concerned about my privacy versus being fined for not responding. There is an easy answer guaranteed to take the sting out: Lie your ass off. Tell them you make over a million dollars a year, or tell them you don't work. Tell them you have 70 people living with you. Dare them to prove anything and -- on the outside chance they do -- give them the standard government explanation (one they are intimately familiar with): "I must have erred." View it as your contribution to the world's collection of fiction. Beats the hell out of Prozac, and it's much cheaper. More fun, too.

P.M. Knox
via Internet

Go With The Flow
I am the 24th Reiki master trained in the lineage of Takata, as well as founder of Reiki Plus Institute and author of the book that Emily Laurel quoted in your article ["State Board of Touchy-feely," by Tim Fleck, January 14].

Reiki, and its broad spectrum of approaches to understanding the spiritual energy of God, does not need licensing. Standards of education and knowledge can be peer-regulated. Reiki is based upon a simple principle that the receiver regulates the quantity of healing energy conveyed through the Reiki practitioner. The practitioner simply and humbly allows God's love to flow through his body into the person he is touching.

I personally do not see that state regulation in the favor of Judy Carroll or the Reiki Alliance is not without great contradictions. Furthermore, the legislative bill has the flavor of antitrust and restrictions on free trade, not to mention the implication of violation of the Constitution in the separation of Church and State.

David G. Jarrell
via Internet  

Fair Enough
I read your Reiki article via the Internet and feel it is well written and honest. I believe this is good journalism and am encouraged by your effort to fairly show the many opinions on both sides of the issue.

J. Withers

Witch-hunting License
The claims of the Reiki Alliance are completely bogus. If one wishes to legislate "spiritual healing" or "laying on of hands," one needs to allow that many viable methods exist and perhaps have written tests to demonstrate a minimal knowledge of ethics, human anatomy and techniques.

Of course, it cannot restrict the use of laying on of hands within a spiritual practice! I applaud protecting the public. However, Reiki is taken by the average person as a self-care technique. Most of us do not make our livings from Reiki.

I can see the Reiki Alliance going on witch-hunts of its own to force people to take their classes and not allow the practice of Reiki by anyone but its members. This would protect members' own incomes but would take this form of healing out of the hands of all but the more well-to-do among us.

Faith Cuthrell, Reiki master
via Internet

No Nonsense
I am a Reiki master who does not believe in esoteric things as the way Reiki works. It simply is guided by God, and fellow Reiki masters I know take a scientific view and have been able to use statistics to validate the practice of Reiki.

The bottom line is that a Reiki master does not have to be a member of the Reiki Alliance to be a valid practitioner, and Reiki is not some touchy-feely nonsense.

I urge people to keep an open mind and find Reiki masters who speak with clarity and simplicity about the subject. There is no need for this type of punitive legislation,

Vicki Grant, Reiki master
via Internet

Gifts and Greed
While admittedly not a regular reader of your paper ( I live in North Carolina), I do have a brief comment to make about the pending legislation.

I am not currently a Reiki practitioner but someday hope to become one. Having only certain "elitist clics or groups" eligible for this endorsement that your article addresses is not only elitist but also discriminatory on a financial basis.

I will never have the $10,000 that these two groups "charge" for the blessing of their endorsement. I do feel, however, that I have a gift that can be channeled and developed. Is this gift, then, to be denied on the basis of some snobbery from those who stand to gain financially from this arrangement your state proposes? I think reason and common sense must prevail. Look at what having those with a vested financial interest involved has done to Salt Lake City. Do you desire a repeat of that debacle?

Timothy S. McHale
via Internet

Unhealthy Alliance
I read with great interest your article on Reiki and the attempts by the Reiki Alliance and Reiki Touch to utilize the legislative process to essentially take over the practice of Reiki in Texas.

Approximately 15 months ago, the Reiki Alliance attempted to trademark the word "Reiki" so they could control its use. The vast majority of Reiki masters are not alliance members, and thus that action would have had the effect of taking away the right to use that name. When that effort was denied them by the United States Patent Office, this legislation seemed to follow.

What the public may not have understood is that these organizations are elitist and believe that only they have the proper teaching and practice. They charge $10,000 for master training and see their power and control of the field eroding as other masters charge far less (from free to approximately $800).

What is the legitimate role of the government in regulating a spiritual practice? Do we really want the government interfering in spiritual issues? I would hope the answer to that is no. Additionally, is government intervention necessary in what essentially is a price-fixing scheme by Reiki Touch/Alliance?

This legislation represents the worst motivations by both the Reiki Touch and Alliance organizations and represents the worst of Big Brother government taking over areas where the constitution forbids them to go.

Vincent Amador
via Internet

Terrible Tom
Tim Fleck has shone a big light on the pest of the impeachment process ["Which Bug Gets the Gas?" January 7]! In a nutshell, "I am Tom the Hammer DeLay" builds a giant PAC machine under campaign finance loopholes, extorts votes for impeachment by threatening to withhold campaign funding and subverts the will of the majority by prolonging this ------? Put a mustache and helmet on the poster boy for the pollution industry, and you have a little FYhrer.  

H. Clay Moore

Down To Earth
This sanctimonious character, Tom DeLay, now professes to judge the character of the president. Believe me, he is not the upright pillar of the community that he professes to be. Please bring the hypocrite jackass idiot down to earth. He is certainly not the one to be casting stones of purity at our troubled president.

Jose M. Sanchez
via Internet
Published:It turns out that Bridget Schmal's letter, published as a letter to the editor in the January 28 issue of the Houston Press, in which she thanked the Press for running the story "IB or Not IB" [by Wendy Grossman, January 14], was not intended for publication. Schmal meant to sent it just to Grossman, but since she e-mailed it to the address where readers mail letters to the editor and didn't write "not for publication" on it, we thought it was a letter to the editor. We are sorry.

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