Wishing you a nasty Christmas
Jimmy Fowler's article titled "Holiday whores" and featuring a picture of 11-year-old Greta Sleeper in the December 17 issue is one of the worst-written criticisms of a theatrical production I have ever read. In my opinion, Mr. Fowler's article is contradictory, ill-informed, full of generalizations, and, in his own words, whorish.

He states that theater artists are whores at Christmastime for presenting works having to do with or relating to the holiday season. Does it never occur to Mr. Fowler that theater artists are people just like everyone else, and just as many non-theater people make it part of their holiday tradition to attend a "seasonal production," many theater artists make it their holiday tradition to participate in one. We don't feel like whores, Mr. Fowler; we feel like working theater artists. Isn't it rather whorish of Mr. Fowler to write this article just for the sake of being a "...cynical self-appointed intellectual"?

He goes on to criticize the Dallas Children's Theater production of Best Christmas Pageant Ever for talking down to the audience. He implies that he doesn't feel the play is challenging enough for children. What a gross generalization! What age group of children is he talking about? Doesn't Mr. Fowler realize that different works are written and produced for different age groups? He states that the best work trains kids to "...pursue that which they don't comprehend." I guess Mr. Fowler did not understand the meaning behind the play that I saw. The Herdmans in the play do exactly what Mr. Fowler is wishing children to do. They grow from being loutish brutes with no concept of the true meaning behind the holiday into feeling individuals who not only grasp the realness of the Christmas story, but teach the rest of the town as well. They learn and grow. Isn't that what Mr. Fowler wants DCT to be teaching children to strive for? I would say mission accomplished. In the performance I attended I witnessed a theater full of captivated children.

Mr. Fowler makes veiled accusations about the practitioners of theater at DCT being lazy. I would assert that Mr. Fowler is himself the lazy critic if he can't arrive for a show until 10 minutes after the curtain has gone up.

If Mr. Fowler were truly the free intellectual and nonconforming cultural watchdog he aspires to be, he would not qualify his review by stating that in order to avoid charges of injury to a child, he will only critique the adults. Isn't that contradictory to everything you are purporting to be, Mr. Fowler? And if that is the case, why do you spend the next paragraph criticizing the performance of young Crystal Griffith? He says he wishes Miss Griffith had interpreted her character of Alice more along the lines of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here Mr. Fowler shows his ignorance of character analysis. Alice is a character that grows intellectually and emotionally through the play. Veruca never does. Veruca begins the story as a spoiled brat and ends it that way. So I guess Mr. Fowler prefers two-dimensional, cartoonish characters to three-dimensional, real ones.

Finally, Mr. Fowler states that he wishes the show had been nastier, hipper, and cannier. Why does it have to be? Can't it just be a sweet Christmas show that connects with an audience on a basic level? I tell you what, Mr. Fowler, since you seem to want it, I wish you a hipper and nastier Christmas.

Andy Long
Via e-mail

Learning costs
I read with interest your article in the November 28 issue, "Math wars." Being a Kumon instructor myself, it is great getting any kind of press to promote our system. I have to take issue with one statement in the article, though. On page 13, the writer says, "...enthusiastically endorses Kumon--despite its hefty cost."

Hefty cost? Have you checked into what other programs charge for their services? I know several private tutors who charge $40-$50 an hour, with a minimum of four hours a month. Other learning centers such as Sylvan charge a minimum of $145 for diagnostic testing (Kumon charges nothing for testing), and their monthly rate is up to three times the amount charged by the average Kumon center.

I personally pay the same amount for my child's piano lessons each month as I charge for one month of Kumon. The difference is that the piano lessons are once a week for 45 minutes. My classes are twice a week, and children spend around 30 minutes a session--or an hour a week. So Kumon is actually very inexpensive when compared with other programs and other activities children are involved in.

Describing Kumon as having a "hefty cost" is way off the mark.
Joe Breneman
Via e-mail