Keep mainstream flicks out of film festivals

I take strong issue to David Sterritt's May 26 article "Cannes ignores Hollywood at its own peril." He reports that "a pressing question has arisen with increasing frequency: Where are the big Hollywood pictures that just about everyone, from industry insiders to everyday ticket-buyers, really wants to see?"

The answer to that question is, of course, on every commercial screen in the free world and not-so-free world. Film festivals, by their very nature, including the Cannes Film Festival, ignore the big, splashy, overbudgeted, and overproduced Hollywood blockbusters in favor of the "film as art" school.

His article suggests that Cannes is in peril for ignoring films which will be shown in most movie houses around the world. I suggest that we are in peril for ignoring the films and voices which festivals such as Cannes are trying to bring to our attention.

Michael de Socio Cincinnati

Building democracy in Latin America

Regarding the May 24 opinion piece "Latin America's democratic gambles": Carlos Lozada may have wisely counseled Mexican and Peruvian voters, who had hoped for opposition victories over the PRI and Fujimori to celebrate in moderation if they win, but there should be more important matters on the minds of both countries' citizens.

Of course, tough challenges would await Mexico's Vicente Fox and Peru's Alejandro Toledo if they attempted to enact some of their proposed reforms, while trying to hold together their inherently brittle electoral alliances. But their main mission remains trying to build firm democratic institutions on the sandy foundations their autocratic predecessors will have left.

There is certainly a bit of a risk in power passing to new hands, but our major concern should be for the region's victims, rather than on the assumed sensibilities of prior regimes that systematically violated the basic civic guarantees of their citizens and expressed contempt for their democratic aspirations.

To allow strong civil societies to flourish in the near future, they must have the capacity to tolerate some tension as "unwieldy opposition coalitions" are transformed into inclusive political parties. But is this not the ineluctable path to democratization? If a society has to fear ebullience in its reaction to the legitimate ending of a nonaccountable regime, doesn't it have its priorities somewhat awry?

Taylor Mammen Alexandria, Va. Council on Hemispheric Affairs

What - not how - to teach

Regarding your May 31 article "States scurry to lift pupil scores," about less academic content in schools: I went to a liberal arts school where one only "minored" in education and we were able to go into teaching with a few education courses from college and a summer school of methodology courses. The important thing is that we got a well-rounded education and knew something besides "how" to teach.

Without the "what" to teach - there is no point in teaching. A teacher must have a love for the subject he or she is teaching - especially at the junior high and high school levels - and the main thrust of the degree should be in those subjects, not educational methods.

Nancy Dargle Seneca, S.C.

Bird photos appreciated

What a pleasure to open that beautiful spread on birding [May 25, "Bird central"]. I particularly liked the picture of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which we are lucky to see from time to time in the treetops of our yard. Thank you for such a nice report.

Ron Charles Sr. St. Louis

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