Barbara Kantrowitz

Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • Take The Money And Run

    CALIFORNIA IS THE STATE that spawned the tax revolt (remember Proposition 13?) and term limitations. Now some Californians hope to add school vouchers to the "you saw it here first" list. A referendum that would give parents $2,600 in public funds to spend at any private school is the hottest item on the November ballot. Vouchers have been on the agenda in other states in recent years, but California's effort is the most visible and one of the best financed. Backers of Proposition 174 include an unwieldy coalition of conservatives, libertarians, minorities and Christian fundamentalists. They say that California public schools are so terrible that private schools can't be any worse and might be better. Proposition 174's powerful opponents are national and state teachers' unions, which claim that vouchers will destroy public schools by taking away badly needed funds. ...
  • The Fugitive

    After 23 years, Katherine Power turned herself in. The Vietnam-era radical could no longer bear "the shame and hiddenness' of life on the lam. ...
  • Live Wires

    SO, YOU'VE GOT YOUR VOICE MAIL, YOUR OFFICE FAX, YOUR home fax, your car fax, your cellular phone, your car phone, your pager, your laptop...and you think you're totally wired? ...
  • A Woodstock For Hackers And 'Phreaks'

    It was billed as Woodstock for the Nintendo generation. The techno-freaks who gathered at the Hackers at the End of the Universe conference in the Netherlands last week had at least one thing in common with their '60s counterparts: they believed rules were made to be broken. Example 1: Organizers labored to set up a sophisticated computer network at their campground outside Amsterdam. But just a half hour after the session opened, hackers had already cracked the network wide open, reprogramming the system to reject the selected password: guest. Example 2: A day later, other hackers tapped into the conference's phone system, leaving one line open to the United States for four hours without bothering to pay for the privilege. Not too nice, but what else would you expect? Even at a gathering of hundreds of their own kind from all over Europe, hackers are an anarchic breed, intent on outwitting any impediment to access. No code, even the most elaborate, is ever safe from their prying...
  • My First Date With Newton

    Most of the time, you'll find me in the slow lane on the electronic highway, but Apple Computer, Inc.'s Newton MessagePad, introduced last week, held out an irresistible lure: total control over all of life's little details like my schedule, my address book and my endless "To Do!' lists. Newton is also supposed to be able to read my handwriting: a feat heretofore unattainable by any living human. I had to know. Would it help, or was it hype? ...
  • Wild In The Streets

    Charles Conrad didn't have a chance. He was 55 years old, crippled by multiple sclerosis and needed a walker or wheelchair to get around. The boys who allegedly attacked him earlier this month were young--17, 15 and 14--and they were ruthless. Police say that when Conrad returned to his suburban Atlanta condominium while they were burgling it, the boys did what they had to do. They got rid of him. Permanently. ...
  • No Cheering In The Press Box

    Like most reporters, Sandy Nelson of Tacoma's Morning News Tribune is a champion of free speech. But while her colleagues worry about pressure from advertisers, Nelson says the villains in her story are her editors, who shunted her off to the copy desk because she was active in a gay-rights organization. Now she's suing them. "Journalists are like serfs," she says. "We have become the company's property 24 hours a day." Her editors, who plan to fight Nelson's court challenge, say they were just protecting the paper's integrity. "This case is not about lifestyles, freedom of speech or an individual," says managing editor Jan Brandt. "It's about protecting a newspaper's credibility. When a journalist takes a highly visible political role, it undermines the credibility of the paper." ...
  • He's The Next Best Thing: A Student Of Genius

    Mention Howard Gardner's name to a growing cadre of educators and the response verges on the reverence teenagers lavish on a rock star. "I think Howard is a genius," says Ann Lewin, founder of the Capitol Children's Museum in Washington, D.C. Whether or not he deserves Lewin's label, Gardner is certainly a careful student of geniuses. In his latest book, "Creating Minds," he profiles great minds of the 20th century. The book is sure to get attention not only for Gardner's typology of intelligence but also because of his guru-like status. ...
  • A Town Like No Other

    Country-music fans gravitate to the Grand Ole Opry, painters dream of Provence and ski bums settle in Aspen. Lesbians have a mecca too. It's Northampton, Mass. a.k.a. Lesbianville, U.S.A. in a profile of the town las year, the National Enquire claimed that "10,000 cuddling, kissing lesbians call it home sweet home." While n one really knows how many o Northampton's 30,000 residents are homosexual women (the best guess is one in 10 women), lesbians are clearly an important and somewhat controversial presence. "It's more an issue of visibility than numbers," says Mayor Mary L. Ford, who is straight but has many lesbian supporters. ...
  • Very High Tech, But No Pencil

    An artist's studio should be messy, littered with half-finished canvases and wilting still lifes. But David Poole's work space is as orderly as a scientific laboratory, filled with impersonal machines. Two desktop computers are his easels; highpriced software transforms their circuitry into electronic paint and paper. Shelves full of recording equipment are his accompanying orchestra. The machines give Poole the power to create 3-D illustrations and animation that would be impossible for a single person to produce by conventional means. Recently, he worked on a poster with a science-fiction theme. With a few keystrokes, he could create and then examine mutant monsters from dozens of angles. In seconds, he could change texture, lighting, color. It's certainly impressive-but is it art? ...
  • An Interactive Life

    To get an idea of what the future might bring, step into the past. At the Edison National Historical Site in West Orange, N.J., there's a room full of a dozen old phonograph machines. Some were built by Thomas Edison, who invented recorded sound in 1877, and others were produced by competitors. In the decades represented by the display, the concept and purpose of sound recording changed dramatically. Edison conceived of his phonograph as a business machine that would help people in distant places communicate. He intended to record voices-nothing more. His competitors envisioned the greater potential for entertainment and art. Where he saw internal memos, someone else saw Beethoven. ...
  • A Fantasy Crashes

    Walls embalmed in 18 coats of lacquer. Chintz here, there and everywhere. Curtains with enough fabric to make dresses for Scarlett O'Hara and half the women in Georgia. Those were the interior-design emblems of the '80s, and the statement they made was intentionally blunt: we've got money to burn. The pinnacle for many designers and owners was a spread in Architectural Digest (AD to aficionados), HG and Metropolitan Home. Their influence was so great that even after the stock market and real-estate prices crashed in the late '80s, readers were loyal. ...
  • The Group Classroom

    In a typical high school, a noisy class usually means there's a substitute teacher on hand. But in room 403 at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, Conn., chatter is actually part of the learning process. Gone is the traditional format: teacher at the head of the class, students lined up at individual desks. The 34 sophomores are grouped in clusters while four teachers mill about, overseeing their work. The curriculum is innovative, too. It's an interdisciplinary course called Project Discovery, which combines English, social studies and biology. Each student within a cluster has a project; on a recent day some were writing biological classifications on note cards while others were putting together essays. ...
  • Day Of Judgement

    The announcement blared over loudspeakers just before dawn on April 19. Many of the Branch Davidians were sleeping; a few were awake, reading their Bibles. "This is not an assault! Do not fire! Come out now and you will not be harmed!" FBI agents were warning cult members to leave Ranch Apocalypse on what the agents hoped would be the last day of the standoff. Survivors heard a different message. "Some of the very religious people," says Jack Zimmermann, a cult member's lawyer, "thought it was the last day of the world." For most of them, it would be. ...
  • A Nation Still At Risk

    It could have been just another dull report, one of thousands issued annually by faceless bureaucrats and academics. But "A Nation at Risk," published 10 years ago this month by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, proved to be a landmark in the history of American school reform. With the sobering prediction that the country could soon be swallowed by a "rising tide of mediocrity" in elementary and secondary schools, it was a forceful call for major change. ...
  • Was It Friendly Fire?

    The first shots were fired shortly after 9:30 on that bloody Sunday morning in Waco more than a month ago. An hour later, four agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lay dead or dying. Sixteen others were injured. As the standoff between the law and the Branch Davidians continued last week, NEWSWEEK learned that some federal law-enforcement officials now believe that at least some ATF agents were brought down by friendly fire. ...
  • Verdict After A Day Of Horror

    They were high-school football players, the pride of an affluent New Jersey suburb. But they were accused of a shocking crime: brutally ramming a baseball bat and a broomstick into the vagina of a mentally retarded young woman while nearly a dozen of their friends cheered. The chamber of there horrors was the finished basement of the neat clapboard house where twins Kyle and Kevin Scherzer lived. Last week, a jury found the Scherzers and two friends guilty of charges ranging from sexual assault to conspiracy in the March 1989 attack. The prosecutors singled out Christopher Archer, a clean-cut, handsome 21-year-old, as the "mastermind," calling him a "predatory" sex offender. ...
  • The Messiah Of Waco

    Young girls and old women, innocent and worldly, virginal and fecund. Within the walls of the kingdom on the flat plains of Texas, David Koresh knew them all-in the Biblical sense, former followers say. He began a decade ago with Lois Roden. She was 67 and the widowed leader of the Branch Davidians when the 23-year-old Koresh, still called by his birth name of Vernon Howell, arrived at the Mount Carmel compound. He confessed to the group that he worried about his excessive masturbation. Ex-members say Roden felt sorry for him and they became lovers, even tried to have a child. Koresh now disavows the union, saying she was as ugly as Medusa. ...
  • Mort To Post: Drop Dead!

    Stop me if you've heard this one before. Mogul steps in to save long-ailing New York tabloid. Vows to keep it going and make it the "people's paper." Big-name columnists hustle over to rival, complaining that the new owner is a sleazeball. Pundits predict all-out newspaper war. Readers shrug and turn on the tube. ...
  • A Touch Of The Poet

    His broken nose, a legacy of amateur boxing, keeps Liam Neeson from conventional leading-man handsomeness. But women who saw him awaken Diane Keaton's passion in "The Good Mother" or romance Mia Farrow in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives" understand the Northern Irish actor's appeal. So does Natasha Richardson, who's costarring with him on Broadway in Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie." "He's sexy in the truest sense of the word," Richardson says. "He has raw and open sexuality. It's not contrived. It's not about looks, although he's a terrific-looking guy. It comes from somewhere deeper than that. You feel that he's been through a history." ...
  • The Right Choice For Chelsea

    The Decision was as eagerly awaited as a high-level cabinet appointment-or the color of Hillary's Inaugural ball gown. The Clinton family ended the suspense last week, announcing that 12-year-old Chelsea will attend an exclusive private school, Sidwell Friends ($10,400 annual tuition), instead of one of Washington's much-maligned public schools. Clinton spokesman George Stephanopoulos said it was a personal family choice, not a rejection of the District's system. But proponents of vouchers-using public money to pay for private school-accused Clinton of hypocrisy. The president-elect adamantly opposes vouchers; his critics say that means he's not giving poor parents the same choices he has. Other education reformers felt betrayed. "We are fearful that a message was sent of no confidence" in urban public schools, says Michael Casserly, interim executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of city systems. "We hope that he will prove otherwise." ...
  • The Bloom Is On The Rose

    His style is a mix of uptown and down home, black-tie charm with a North Carolina drawl. For 15 months, these opposites have attracted the A list-viewers and guests-to Charlie Rose's eponymous late-night interview show on New York's public-television station, WNET. One recent week's lineup: Tom Brokaw, writer Oriana Fallaci, boxer Riddick Bowe, columnist Jimmy Breslin, Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, film directors Richard Attenborough and Louis Malle. On Jan. 4, PBS is taking Rose national, with PBS stations around the country carrying the show. Rose doesn't know yet who his guests will be that night ("I'd love to get Clinton, at least for a few minutes") but he says a bigger audience won't change the basic concept of providing "a place where people can come home at night and just eavesdrop on good conversation." ...
  • The Ages Of Innocence

    A couple of years ago, inspiration struck Michael Willhoite as he sat in a luncheonette. A few hours later, he had written "Daddy's Roommate," the story of a boy who lives with his father and his father's male lover. Willhoite, who is gay and has no children, thought his readers would be young kids with gay parents. Instead, he's found a huge audience of grown-ups-some quite hostile. "Daddy's Roommate" is on the suggested reading list for New York City's controversial multicultural curriculum, "Children of the Rainbow," which urges first-grade teachers to mention gays in lessons on tolerance. Other books on the list are "Heather Has Two Mommies," about a child conceived by artificial insemination, and "Gloria Goes to Gay Pride," about a girl who faces bigotry when marching with her lesbian mothers. ...
  • Practicing What She Teaches

    Karina O'Malley's ivory tower is anything but. A parade of young mothers, many with children in tow, walk past her open bedroom. Some poke their head in to ask a quick question, but most respect the raggedy strip of duct tape in the doorway that marks the space inside as her own. Professors need privacy, even in a homeless shelter. ...
  • If He Could Make It Here . . .

    Just because you're a hit out of town doesn't mean you'll shine on Broadway. Look at Joseph Fernandez. When he came to New York City from Miami three years ago to run the nation's largest school system, Fernandez had a national reputation as an innovative educator with lots of political savvy. As superintendent of the Miami schools for two years, he won high marks for reforming school management. But in New York, his achievements have been marred by months of fighting with school-board officials. Last week the battle escalated, with Fernandez in a bitter dispute over how to teach tolerance of homosexuals to elementary-school children. Even his most stalwart supporters were reluctant to predict a winner. ...
  • A 'Sliver Bullet' Against Teen Pregnancies?

    Since it became available in this country last year, Norplant has been one of the most controversial forms of birth control-embraced by some as a silver bullet for myriad social ills and denounced by others as a racist tool. Last week Baltimore became the first city to take that debate into the classroom, announcing that a school-based clinic would soon offer the surgically implanted contraceptive to teenage girls. The program will start next month at a school for pregnant girls and new teenage mothers. If it's successful, the city hopes to include Norplant at all eight of its clinics in high schools and middle schools. "We look at Norplant as just another service we offer these girls," says Rosetta Stith, principal of Laurence Paquin School, where the pilot project will be located. ...
  • The Fourth R: Revolting

    It hasn't been a good year for Los Angeles. First the recession, then riots, then a series of earthquakes. Now a massive teachers' strike is in the offing. ...
  • In Berlin, A World Turned Upside Down

    All my life," says teacher Renate Remke, "I wanted to see the Brandenburg Gate from the other side." In November 1989, hours after her fellow East Berliners began smashing the wall, Remke joined the throngs pushing through the huge stone gate that had stood for decades in no man's land between East and West. When she talks about that moment, her voice wavers. Three years later, she can see the other side any time she wants. And yet the other side still seems so very far away. "People had too many dreams," she says. ...
  • Giving Women the Business

    It may be the year of the woman in the U.S. Congress, but a different trend is apparent in America's business schools. Like a cheap sock on a CEO's calf, the number of women at some schools is slowly sagging. At Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management, for example, women make up only 28 percent of first-year students, down from 37 percent in 1986. And even schools with a relatively stable percentage of female students are looking for ways to attract more women. "Women make up 50 percent of the population," says David Downes, director of M.B.A. programs at the University of California, Berkeley, where women represent about a third of the class. "Why don't women make up 50 percent of our program?" ...
  • What Kids Need To Know

    The kids in Tracey Torres's first-grade class at the Mohegan Elementary School in the South Bronx don't know they're part of an educational experiment. They just know that school is fun. Last week they made sentences out of Native American pictographs hung on a clothesline across the classroom. As one student pointed to the symbols, they yelled out the meaning: "We ... see ... deer." Then Torres and the children moved on to the next part of the lesson, a simplified version of how Asians crossed the Bering Strait to become this continent's first inhabitants. ...
  • Failing Economics

    It was the Golden Dream in the Golden State: opening college doors to all Californians. The state's 32-year-old Master Plan of Higher Education has lived up to its pledge, creating a three-tier system that is a world model. The flagship University of California has nine campuses, including Berkeley and UCLA, with 167,000 students from the top of their high school classes. California State University serves 362,000 students at 20 campuses from Chico to San Diego. The 107 community colleges are a vital entry point for a wide range of students, from welfare mothers to laid-off workers. ...
  • Still Separate After 20 Years

    In 1971, Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, La., had been fully integrated for only a year, and black and white students eyed one another uneasily. It was still the Old South-symbolized by the Confederate monument that occupied a place of honor in the courthouse square. That spring, Captain Shreve students added their own chapter to the city's divided history. When no black girls were elected by their classmates to the cheerleading squad, about a third of the school's 566 black students stormed out of the building. By the next day many of the 969 white kids were also at home. Their parents feared the protest might incite violence. ...