More power to Marline Pearson and her course that teaches how healthy relationships reduce poverty and other hazards of single-parent child rearing ("The Power of Love," 5/25/07). She's taken on a huge challenge by opposing the pervasive effects of every kind of media and peer pressure on young people. The comments and reactions of those taking her classes were so telling of the attitudes and established mindsets single young women face at every turn.
I was surprised and even a little perturbed over the comments of UW psychology professor B. Bradford Brown. His political-correctness antennae are so sensitive that, aimed in another direction, he probably could detect life in other solar systems. He objects that Ms. Pearson's teaching might contain "a certain value orientation" that would be inconsistent with someone's cultural or personal beliefs.
I wonder what this professor, whom the article says specializes in "teen relationships," could possibly be teaching teens absent a framework of values?
Doesn't Brown realize that a philosophy void of guidance for reasonable behavior also contains a value system? The problem is that it emotionally starves those looking for responsible ways to avoid the problems of single parenthood and its consequences in their lives.
Bob Crawford Sun Prairie
Your article reinforces many stereotypes, including the fact that poverty is caused by failure to marry and stay married. Poverty primarily is caused by low wages and the inability to work continually at a 40-hour job because of ill health, temporary layoffs or jobs providing less than full-time employment.
The real reason marriage prevents poverty is not primarily because good relationships help people enjoy more successful lives, although they do, but because it provides two incomes and shared expenses.
The article also implies that poverty is caused by black women having babies out of wedlock using welfare. The majority of women on welfare throughout its history have been white and have had fewer children than other women in their age bracket.
The article also fails to explore the reasons that black women might have had difficulty finding husbands since the 1970s: the decline of well-paying, unionized factory jobs that enabled men to marry and support a family; the War on Drugs, which was primarily targeted at black youth; the disproportionate jailing of blacks for minor offense; and continual racial prejudice.
A Milwaukee study found that black men with no criminal records were less likely to be hired than white men with criminal records, even for entry-level jobs.
I commend any efforts to help people maintain better relationships and certainly think solid marriages benefit the individuals and their children. But marital difficulties are also related to unemployment and the lack of treatment for mental health, drug or alcohol problems. Ignoring these enables us to conveniently assume that poverty is primarily caused by irresponsible behavior of black women.
Monona (The writer holds a Ph.D. in sociology and is the author of the forthcoming book, Connecting the Dots: Government, Community and Family.)
I was dismayed at the tone of Vikki Kratz's piece on me leaving my position as city's Community Services director ("Mayor May Retool Child-Care Agency," 7/13/07). I have had a good long run of 30 years, and I feel proud of our achievements in child care and community services. I really hate to have this sour note be the final public statement about my job.
Ms. Kratz got it wrong, from my point of view. I told her that I think Mayor Cieslewicz has every right to reexamine the structure of the agency, and that in his place I would do the same. I also told her that it was not my desire, nor did I think it was in the interest of the program, to get into a fight with the mayor.
What we have been able to achieve is much more than the work of one person. The community has supported an amazing municipal effort to improve the quality of life for young children and for other vulnerable people.
Half of our kids are in accredited child care, and hundreds of low-income children have had the life-changing experience of early stimulating care because Madison has been willing to step into this neglected arena.
Do I hope these very successful programs will be preserved as I leave? Yes indeed I do. Do I think it will take knowledgeable leadership? Certainly. Do I expect everything to stay just the same? Nope.
The decisions on the table are not about me. It's about the road ahead for the community, and the kind of community we want to become.
Dorothy Conniff director of Community Services city of Madison
Vikki Kratz replies: Dorothy Conniff does not say I misquoted her, but that I got the tone of her comments wrong. But the tone is inevitable given what she had to say - that the possibility of merging her department with Block Grant is "kind of a blow" and that she fears it will jeopardize the program she spent 30 years building.
In praise of Becky
It was nice to see the Atwood Community Center getting credit for its good work and for Isthmus to endorse its fund-raising campaign (Making the Paper, 6/1/07). I suspect that many of your readers don't know that executive director Becky Steinhoff is the driving force behind the center's continually reinventing itself.
Madison is blessed with local treasures like her: hard-working, committed people who make this city a better place to live. They don't care about the publicity, political office, or even the pay. (Some, like Bob Queen, do their work as volunteers.) They care about providing programs and cultural experiences to make all our lives richer.
Becky Steinhoff's name is at the top of that list. A donation to the new center would help acknowledge her tireless efforts to make Madison a better place to live.