Letters from the Issue of , 2002

The Story Is Not All Right

How easy to avoid the tough questions and aim for the sensational: Rebecca Wakefield's article "The Kids Aren't All Right" (September 16) was a sensationally crass attempt at journalism. Although the information she used may be publicly accessible, her "look at these nutcases" portrayal of the incidents in question was not only exploitative but completely devoid of any regard for the parties involved.

The story's appalling lack of humanity or sympathy (really, it seems like Ms. Wakefield is dying to lock up these kids in an Emotionally Unstable Zoo for South Beach tourists to gawk at) was exacerbated by a lack of plausible solutions or even the most simple analysis: Why are these kids so sad, angry, and destructive, and what is it about the public school system that causes so many of these dramatically violent occurrences?

Answering those types of questions would take a little more research than was required in assembling a shock-factor-focused, blow-by-blow list of incidents. It looks as though Ms. Wakefield didn't much care for either effort or sympathy.

Matt Preira

Miami Beach

The Story Is Exactly Right

As a teacher I can tell you it's truly weird out there: I loved Rebecca Wakefield's piece on the strange things happening in our local schools. From what I've seen and heard in the several schools where I've worked, I felt I could have written it myself. Just last week a pregnant sixteen-year-old told me "Shut your white ass up, cracker!" after I asked her to put a book away (we were about to take a test). Then, ten minutes later, after she had time to cool down, she approached me and said, "I do kill crackers, ya know."

All the incidents Ms. Wakefield described (okay, maybe not the latest school murder) easily could have happened in our school system in one single day. But most of this stuff doesn't get written down. For instance, I didn't reduce to paper the above-mentioned threat on my life. Why? Because that kind of thing happens all the time -- and this cracker hasn't been taken out yet.

Please don't print my name. I like my job despite its weirdness.

Name Withheld by Request

Miami

The Real Story Is Much Worse

I'm also a teacher and I can say it's a tragedy: I've been an educator for a decade and just spent two years teaching in a local high school that was mentioned in Rebecca Wakefield's story. Thanks for bringing to the general public's awareness some of the harsh realities of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Maybe if people knew what was going on, they would put more value on education. But the truly horrifying fact is that, compared to how bad things really are, Ms. Wakefield's report, sad to say, makes our beloved school system seem tolerable.

In fact the schools do a horrible job documenting what really goes on. The incident reports included in "The Kids Aren't All Right" were written by adults. To get the full story, you need to read the essays written by the 180 ninth-graders in my English classes. Or learn about how many students are being drugged by parents and school psychologists because our outdated school system hasn't figured out how to deal with the modern student. Or you need to talk to a fifteen-year-old who is pregnant for the third time.

But even then, without spending a week or even a day in a Miami-Dade County public school classroom or hallway, it is impossible to fathom the tragedies that take place. Impossible. One must spend time to discover that the children are the least of the problems. It can never be our children's fault. What I observed among the teachers, administration, and parents was truly sickening. The youth are what we make of them -- nothing more and nothing less. But here in Miami-Dade County people are doing less and less.

The only way to solve the crisis our culture faces is to get connected with youth; whether one person or twenty, connect yourself with the young. They're lost and confused and starving for attention, guidance, and limitations. This is a truly sad time for our community. We're failing our young people miserably.

Name Withheld by Request

Miami Beach

The Three Most Terrifying Words in Miami Politics

The Herald Recommends...:Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column "The Million-Dollar Question" (September 16), asking how José Cancela could spend so much money seeking to become Miami-Dade County mayor and yet lose so decisively, overlooked a most important aspect. This is something I call it the Kiss of Death.

Cancela was endorsed by the Miami Herald. That sealed his fate!

Years ago the Herald had some followers for its endorsements. Not now. Furthermore, just look back and see how many of their favorites who did get elected later were jailed on corruption charges. Makes one wonder who interviews these candidates and how they come to such mistaken endorsements.

Regarding Jimmy Morales and his runoff for mayor against Carlos Alvarez, I have a question of no little importance. As a county commissioner, why did Morales not show some disdain for the trick question on the August 31 ballot about limiting terms for county commissioners while at the same time giving them a huge salary increase? It was a vote for both, not one or the other. The public saw through that farce.

Regarding Maurice Ferré and his never-ending quest for political office, I can only say he is one of too many parasites trying to live off the labor of the industrious!

Ronald C. Rickey

Miami Beach

I Too Was an MTV Seat-Sitter

And it was a near-religious experience: In response to Beverly Power's complaining letter "My Life as an MTV Seat-Filler" (September 9), I also was selected to be a seat-filler and was required to be at the Miami Arena by 2:45 p.m. Once I arrived I found which line I was supposed to be in (which apparently Power did not), went through a security check, showed my ID (I am 32 years old), got my red (not black) wrist band, was checked in, and then sent to wait inside the Miami Arena. Inside the arena, we were given instructions while waiting for our bus ride to the American Airlines Arena. When the buses dropped us off at the AAA, we walked up the stairs at the back of the arena and waited there for a while. MTV treated us great -- giving us free cold water and sodas and making sure we weren't in the sun or standing in the grass. It did seem a bit disorganized at first, but after a short while they let us inside and told us in what section to sit.

We sat there for a little while before the show started and then the stars began arriving, first Lil' Kim, then Omarion from B2K. It was crazy. I even got to shake Hulk Hogan's hand. The seat-fillers had to start moving around so the stars could actually sit in their seats before the show began. I was amazed at how close I was to everyone, including Mandy Moore, the Real World cast, Trina, Shaq and his wife, Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, No Doubt, Hilary Duff and her sister, Queen Latifah, the Olympic gold medallists, and the group Good Charlotte. Jennifer Lopez, Mark Anthony, and Will Smith were only a few rows away.

As soon as the show started and stars were moving around, it was like musical chairs. I ended up sitting in John Kerry's daughters' seats for most of the show -- third row right behind Queen Latifah! I even got to sit next to Carson Daly. When John Kerry's daughters came back, I was sad to have to give up that great seat, but I ended up getting an even better one -- I got to sit in Shaquille O'Neal's seat. I couldn't believe I ended up working my way up to the front row!

This was one night I will never forget. I took Shaq's reserved-seat sign as a souvenir and even made it on television four times. It was totally worth it!

A word of advice to Beverly Power: Next time you want to be a seat-filler, make sure you're in the right line. If you had been, you could have experienced what I did.

Gayle Roseman

Coconut Grove

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