The Media and G.I. Joe
I loved Chris Bray's "The Media and G.I. Joe" (February). But you should have given Bray a look at the cover. He probably could have told you that G.I. Joe is carrying a close replica of a Kalashnikov AK-47, the symbolic weapon of the Soviet Union, its clients, and all insurgents since 1947. Osama bin Laden is usually photographed carrying a similar one.
The media's typical anti-military stance tends to result in willful ignorance. My first encounter with this was the reporting on the Kent State shootings. The caption of one photo read "National Guard officer pointing his pistol at the demonstrators," while the photo clearly showed his M1911A1 .45ACP pistol in full retraction with a case in the air. It had clearly just been aimed and fired, but the editors, in their profession's self-enforced ignorance of firearms and the military, missed a much more significant caption.
Tom W. Glaser
As a former U.S. Army captain, I was delighted by Chris Bray's hypothesis that the media typically lack a basic understanding of how the military works. Unfortunately, Bray's naive presentation unwittingly proves his point.
For starters, "two years and 17 weeks as an infantryman" in the peacetime U.S. Army hardly provides Bray with the grounding needed to tackle the topic. As an enlisted "11B," Bray would have been one of a multitude of "cogs in a machine," to borrow a David Horowitz quote Bray uses, representing a view to which I don't necessarily subscribe. To put it in civilian terms, the assignment was like asking a former IBM mailroom clerk to write an article about the company's intellectual property portfolio.
Aware of his thin credentials, Bray searches out experts. Yet instead of interviewing policy makers at the major military think tanks such as the Army Command and General Staff College, Bray talks to instructors at West Point and their wet-behind-the-ears students. West Point is basically a four-year college that provides a minority of the junior officers to the U.S. Army (the vast majority come from the ROTC program). The few West Pointers who eventually make it to the general ranks will have first gone through years of further academic training on the military arts. To expect that instructors at the school, much less their students, would be at the leading edge of military doctrine would be far off the mark.
Given that, Bray's sweeping conclusion that "there's an extraordinary disconnect, somewhere within the culture of the military, in which leading-edge ideas...are getting to the really sharp colonels...and no one else" struck me as an example of the same media disconnect that he's writing about. While the statement may be true, I found little credible support for it in the article.
Colin P. Cahoon
The thesis of Joanne Jacobs' article "Threatened By Success" (February) -- that the "success" of Edison Charter Academy should be gauged by performance and not ideology -- crumbles when she reveals in her sidebar ("Watching the Numbers") that the most recent test scores for Edison placed the school dead last out of 75 San Francisco elementary schools.
The excuses the Edison community offers for this failure likewise do not stand up to scrutiny. Principal Vince Matthews blames "all those late-night board meetings, all the media tours," saying, "we could have used that time to educate students." I went along on one of those tours, and there was little to no impact on the students' education. We visited several classrooms, each for no more than five minutes. Similar tours for prospective parents take place at every San Francisco public school, including my kids' school, all year. The tour was led by the school's community resource director, not by teachers, the principal, or anyone who would have "used that time to educate students."
Blaming poor test scores on the "late-night board meetings" is even more preposterous. Students took the STAR test last spring during the week of April 16. The test is designed to measure what the students have learned during the 12 months since they were last tested -- in this case, since April 2000. The Edison charter issue was first introduced at the February 13, 2001, meeting. There were exactly three more school board meetings before the week of STAR testing. Could four late nights over the course of eight weeks really wipe out a year of learning?