Only Family Can Fight Gangs

Marc Fisher's Nov. 15 Metro column, "A Good School Is Best Weapon Against Gangs," shows why news coverage of education fails to reveal why D.C. public schools find it so difficult to improve. A good school is not the best weapon against gangs -- a good family is. Family factors are also the most influential elements in academic performance. Unfortunately, family life is hard to legislate. And castigating families in the news media would be less satisfying than castigating public officials.

-- Mark Stein

Washington

No More Murder Countdowns

It seems unhelpful, dehumanizing and detrimental to do a countdown of the murders in Prince George's County, as if we were trying for some noir version of the Guinness World Records ["Prince George's Slayings Pile Up; '91 Record of 154 Might Be Broken," Metro, Nov. 13]. It was loathsome when murders in the District of Columbia were reported in this manner (remember "Murder Capital of the World"?), and I was relieved when that phase passed. Now it's happening with Prince George's County, and it seems as if those who commit these murders, those who value life so cheaply, could actually be encouraged to kill for killing's sake, by this morbid way of announcing each murder, with talk of breaking records, as if it were merely a sporting event or even the weather.

-- Harise Poland

Greenbelt

Redistricting Dishonesty

The Post rightly editorialized on Oct. 24 against partisan and pro-incumbent redistricting of legislatures nationwide, and it drove the point home on Oct. 25 with another editorial, this time regarding the Virginia legislature.

But in the District, our home rule charter empowers the D.C. Council to legislate on elections, including its own. After the 2000 Census, the council self-protectively redistricted the wards from which its members ran. The Post not only did not object, but it endorsed all the incumbents running for reelection in 2002.

As The Post said on Oct. 24, "Politicians are choosing their voters, rather than the other way around. It's wrong, and it has a corrosive effect on the very idea of popular sovereignty." The Post should support nonpartisan redistricting in the District, regardless of the political interests of incumbents.

-- Lars H. Hydle

Washington

The writer is a member of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Crabby Over SpongeBob

Tom Shales made a serious error in his review of the "SpongeBob SquarePants" special episode, "Where's Gary?" [Style, Nov. 11]. It's Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, not Barnacle Bill. For Shales's information, Mermaid Man is voiced by Ernest Borgnine and Barnacle Boy is voiced by Tim Conway. Barnacle Bill was a sailor; Barnacle Boy is a retired superhero sidekick.

-- Desha Ditman

Bethesda

Did He Watch the Movie?

I cannot let Stephen Hunter [Style, Nov. 11] blithely trash the 1940 film version of "Pride and Prejudice" with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, which he dismisses as "said to be dreadful." It is a funny, touching and effective film that for years stood as an excellent big-screen introduction to "Pride and Prejudice," made when Hollywood excelled at making popular entertainment out of the classics.

The star power of Olivier, who had just finished "Wuthering Heights" and "Rebecca," and Garson, who was soon to do "Mrs. Miniver," adds a magnetism that is rarely seen these days on screen. Mary Boland's performance as Mrs. Bennett is one of the great comedic performances of the era.

Perhaps I could accept Hunter's criticism of the film more easily if he hadn't implied that he had not seen it. Condemning a film on hearsay cannot be the manner of a critic who expects to be taken seriously.

-- Brian Judge

Washington

Scene from "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie."