Re "The Jet Age" [Dec. 8]: It has always been fashionable for magazines like TIME to exclusively profile Western saviors "parachuting" into Africa, Asia and other "helpless" parts of the planet to rescue people from hunger, disease and natural disaster. By featuring on TIME's cover a Chinese philanthropist, working creatively and energetically within China, it is my hope that you will inspire other global media organizations to focus more on homegrown solutions and solution providers. Bono, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates (and I dare say Madonna) are doing a great job in Africa. But surely there are African philanthropists and social entrepreneurs who also deserve a spot in the limelight even if the power of their checkbooks is nowhere near that of the aforementioned?
I would have more confidence in TIME if worthier individuals stared out from its covers. Jet Li, no doubt an altruistic and decent man, could do much more to shape China's future in a positive way. At a time when a prominent democracy activist has been jailed for signing a letter asking for competitive elections and openness in China, we are reminded that the country will be sculpted by ideological battles, not philanthropic organizations. Li would be more deserving of the apparent reverence heaped upon him by awestruck Sichuan people if he were to take a real stand and challenge the government for whom he has too often been the smiling glad-hander. In defining the ideal attributes of China's future leaders, TIME's purpose should not be to buff the sheen of uncontroversial celebrities, but celebrate the struggle of real heroes in China.
Judging from this saccharine treatment of an action-movie star's adventures in charity, the writer might have been better served building a golden idol to Li. The story charts Li's noble endeavors with uncritical adulation from plugging shamelessly self-flattering quotes to the strange implication that B-movie plot themes can lay down a foundation for morality. Li's case would have been helped had he received a less frothy and dripping paean. Instead of pushing forward a more thoughtful agenda, TIME used its eloquence to further entrench the celebrity worship that plagues the international humanitarian scene.
Of Teaching and Torment
Michelle Rhee is to be commended for her dedication to students, slashing of school bureaucracy and belief in public education [Dec. 8]. But as a second-grade teacher, I am concerned about her obvious disdain for creativity in the classroom, warm learning environments and such important tools as classroom meetings. I am reminded of a quote by Aristotle: "Education of the mind without education of the heart is indeed no education at all." Perhaps the challenge in Washington is to find a superintendent who believes in both.
Solana Beach, Calif., U.S.
Rhee asks, "What is ... so exceptional about teachers that they should have [tenure]?" How about the fact that they are there when your daughter says she wants to kill herself, when your son is being teased, when your small child forgets lunch and needs a loan. All over the country, groups of teachers worried about youngsters are talking to one another to find answers. These teachers don't go home and forget; they are devising ways to reach their students even as they cook for their families. At first I thought Rhee did not understand D.C. culture, but after I read the entire article, it was clear that the issue is not D.C. culture. It is human culture human feelings and the human spirit that she does not understand.
Banning, Calif., U.S.
I agree that public schools are in dire need of intervention and that one solution is to improve the quality of teachers. But you miss a major roadblock: parents. Even the most gifted teachers cannot inspire students whose parents do not instill in them the importance of education. Parents need to take responsibility by reading to children when they are very young, turning off the television and video games when they are older, making sure they are completing their homework and demanding that they respect not only their teachers but the concept of education as well.
Cara A. Tonn,
Roseville, Mich., U.S.
Decades of research show that two main factors result in better educational outcomes for poor and minority children: intensive, individualized early preschooling and small elementary-school classes. Yet for the past decade, the focus has been entirely on teacher quality. Why? It's cheaper and more palatable politically. Of course, it's better to have a good teacher than a poor one. But if you put the best teacher in a run-down school with a class of 35 students, most of them not up to par with their class level and some with developmental and discipline problems, that teacher is not likely to be able to teach effectively.
New York City
Lame Duck? That's a Quack!
Joe Klein's parting shot at a president who once had an approval rating in the high 70s and still has an approval rating twice as high as Congress's is out of line [Dec. 8]. Armchair quarterbacking is a national sport, and while I recognize that Klein leans a bit to the left, his column shows a stunning lack of perception. To paraphrase a political line from the past, "It's the security of the people, stupid." This President, like all Presidents, has his faults, but the economic results of a decade-plus of putting people into homes everyone knew they could not afford and then having the whole house of cards fall is not as much his fault as it is his responsibility, because of the timing of the event. Klein can and should do better.
Fenton, Mich., U.S.
You absolutely hit the nail on the head. I almost cried. I am not an educated man. I have a high school education. I have always taken comfort in knowing that the person in charge of the country and in many ways the world is smarter than I am. I don't honestly believe, though I have tried to, that this has been the case for the past eight years. It seems that George W. Bush never really got it. It was all just a photo op: "Hey, look where I am, Dad!" It is a shame that so many people had to die because of such childlike whims and lack of caring. I was born in the American South, and I have seen a lot of ignorance and intolerance. I now live in northern California, so I have seen both sides of the coin as far as U.S. culture and attitudes go. I don't think Bush ever took the opportunity in all his travels to see America or, for that matter, the rest of the world. He was never in touch. Thank you for your piece. It struck a major chord with me.
Gregory S. McCoy,
Guerneville, Calif., U.S.
I struggle to find words to express my ever-growing disappointment and disgust with Bush's disastrous presidency, except to be convinced that he is the worst President in my 72-year-long lifetime, if not in the entire history of our country. That's why I really appreciated Klein's "The Lamest Duck." It is a truly classic piece of writing, explaining graphically how so many of us feel.
David B. Lantz,
Fenton, Mich., U.S.
Reviving the GOP
In "Rebooting the Right" [Dec. 1], Ramesh Ponnuru suggests that dejected Republicans can revitalize their rejected party by paying attention to the middle class, addressing global warming, making health care affordable and promoting assimilation rather than xenophobia. He proposes, in other words, that Republicans become Democrats, or at least move to the center, with an eye toward the 2012 elections. But I think the GOP should shoot for 2020. In Britain, as Ponnuru points out, conservatives lost power nearly 12 years ago. It will take at least that long, and probably longer, for Americans to forget the miserable incompetence and wrongheadedness of the past eight years.
I read Ponnuru's essay with great interest. His party has been repudiated because the American people have finally come to the realization that, since Ronald Reagan, the Republicans have gone out of their way to take money away from the poor and give it to the rich through tax breaks, deregulation and Executive Orders. Voting for Republicans is voting against most people's self-interest. If you throw in the death of Americans and Iraqis due to incompetence and illegal wars there is nothing left to love in the Republican Party. If you add the illegal wiretaps and jailing of people illegally in Guantánamo, the picture is complete.
Redwood City, Calif., U.S.
I have been reading TIME for over 60 years and am appalled by the Luxury Index in the Style & Design supplement [Winter 2008]. What poor timing and poor taste to release an issue of overpriced, unnecessary items when the world is suffering from recessions and downturns. I am offended that this issue would be published when so many people are struggling to keep roofs over the heads and food on the table for their children. Watches for $200K! Customized $13,000 purses! How about following it with an issue on how to conserve funds and make the most of what one has?
Portola Valley, Calif., U.S.