2006-12-22 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor’s Desk

What They
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Sometimes, a columnist just has to let people speak for themselves because what they have to say transcends anything that he or she can write about that quote. The opinions below are often strong and I believe that at least some of them are seriously flawed. Others meet with my personal approval, but you might feel otherwise. Read what they have to say, and then decide for yourself. I reprint them here because I believe that they are interesting and to try and get our readers thinking about the issues of the day.

From Calvin Butts, long considered a “moderate” black cleric, speaking about the Sean Bell shooting:

“[Rogue members of the NYPD who are] ignorant savages who continue to prey on our people as if we have no respect by virtue of our humanity or our citizenship. There are police officers who have to be dealt with. They are culturally ignorant and culturally insensitive. For too long we have tried to make changes, only to be disrespected.”

From Richard Iannuzzi, the President of the New York State United Teachers, on the issue of increasing the number of Charter Schools:

“Charter Schools have not lived up to their promise. Students enrolled in charter schools do no better and, in most cases, actually do worse than students in comparable public schools. Comparable is the key word, because the indisputable evidence is that most charter schools, perhaps deliberately, service fewer English-language learners, students with disabilities and poor children than traditional public schools in their districts.”

From Richard Green, the executive director of the Crown Heights Youth Collective on reducing the firepower available to police officers:

“As a peace dividend earned from years of plummeting crime, it is time to strongly consider adjusting police firepower. Specifically, we should think about trading the semiautomatic 9-mm weapon cops currently carry – and their 16-round magazines – for a modified version of that weapon that fires fewer shots per magazine, or perhaps even for the traditional .38 caliber pistol police upgraded in the 1900’s.”

From Randy Mastro, deputy mayor under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg is handling the Sean Bell shooting:

“To bring in elected leaders and local clergy, to meet with the family, those are the things that I think that mayors have done successfully over many administrations. The one thing we didn’t ever do, if some sort of incident happened with the police, was to call Al Sharpton into City Hall. It’s something that the current administration is sure to regret. Some people have histories of being uniters and some people have well-deserved reputations for being dividers.”

From Kenneth A. Strike, professor of cultural foundations of education and philosophy at Syracuse University from a letter to the New York Times concerning the No Child Left Behind Law:

“There are no doubt repairable weaknesses in the No Child Left Behind Law, nevertheless, it has an irreparable flaw. It is rooted in the myth that school-only solutions can cure educational inequality. In 1983, a presidential report, ‘A Nation At Risk,’ launched the standards movement. This book encouraged two illusions that still undo efforts at education reform. The first is that the problems of American education are system wide and require solutions that touch all schools. In fact, the ills of American schools are largely an urban problem resulting from the fact that many urban schools are overwhelmed with the children of poor and minority parents, who are concentrated in urban areas. The second is that schools have the power to overcome inequalities in achievement apart from other reforms that address the circumstances of disadvantaged children’s lives. There is no credible research to substantiate either assumption. We cannot successfully reform education if we decouple educational productivity from broader issues of inequality.”

From Ben Williams, the music critic for New York magazine, in a two-page review of the culture of rap music that states, “like the thugs in The Wire, the latest crop of rappers turns to hard drugs to fuel their gruesome, operatic narratives.”:

“Of course, hip hop has long trafficked in drug imagery. What’s new is the narrative ambition: These albums are epics –crack rock operas, if you will. They won’t be hailed as sociological portraits of urban decay, but that isn’t why we watch ‘The Wire’ either. We watch ‘The Wire’ because it takes its gangsters seriously, allowing them to transcend their profession. If you set aside the fact that Stringer Bell, the beloved drug lord who was killed in season three, destroyed lives daily, any office striver can relate to his Machiavellian schemes.”

From Novelist Gabriel Cohen, who writes often of crime and who attended the NYPD’s Citizen’s Police Academy program, wrote a recent op-ed piece entitled “I Know What It’s Like To Shoot An Unarmed Man,” for the New York Times:

“Minutes after I received a radio call about a bank robbery, the getaway car sped past me. It entered into a high-speed pursuit, which ended when the other car crashed into a light pole. I jumped out of my patrol car and approached on foot, pistol raised, heart full of adrenaline. Suddenly the passenger door swung open and a man lunged out toward me. I fired and fired again. I soon discovered that I had shot a hostage. Luckily for me, the wound was not fatal. Even better, the man was not real. After the shooting, the lights went on in a small basement room of the New York City Police Department training academy, where I stood in front of a wall-size video screen, clutching a Glock 19 semiautomatic piston that shot laser beams instead of bullets. ‘How many shots did you fire?” asked Officer Joe Gentile, a kinky, easygoing firearms instructor. My heart was still pumping as I struggled to remember. ‘Three,’ I ventured. ‘Nope,’ he responded matter of factly, ‘you fired six times.’”

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