Barbara Kantrowitz

Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • A Room With A Point Of View

    There are people who look at a bare window and see ... a bare window. And there are people who look at a bare window and see an opportunity for valances, draped swags and pelmets, Austrian blinds, Roman blinds, slatted blinds, roller blinds and mini-blinds. If you're one of the latter, PBS has a show for you: the new 13-part series "Decorating With Mary Gilliatt," which is running on stations around the country at various times this summer and fall. The show begins where "This Old House" leaves off-with bare walls aching for just the right touch of paint or paper-and PBS obviously hopes to capture "House" aficionados along with new-home buyers. ...
  • Tina: The Talk Of The Town

    The groom is 67, still witty and elegant but a little gray at the edges, with a predilection for long discourses on arcane topics. The bride is 38, an expatriate Brit who has made a brilliant career combining flash with dash. Can this marriage survive? ...
  • There's Life After Yale

    American schools have been called the best in the world, the worst in the world and a lot of other names in between. But until recently, few people would have thought of schools as a potential gold mine. Enter Chris Whittle, a Tennessee-based media entrepreneur. Last week he surprised the education elite by hiring Benno Schmidt, the president of Yale University, to help him develop a chain of profiitmaking elementary and secondary schools. Whittle's controversial plan, which he calls the Edison Project, is to build 100 campuses for 100,000 students by 1996. Eventually he hopes to enroll millions. Tuition will be about $5,500, the average annual per-pupil expenditure in public schools. Whittle plans to keep costs low by eliminating excess bureaucracy, using parent volunteers and installing state-of-the-art technology. ...
  • Taking A Lesson From Japan

    Picture this: in an elementary-school mathematic's class, children are drawing cubes. One boy is having trouble; although he's diligently copying the teacher's model, his cube still looks crooked. The teacher tells the boy to go to the blackboard and try again. He spends the rest of the class there, his work on display before all the other students. In an American school, a youngster subjected to such scrutiny might well burst into tears; the teacher would be considered harsh. But this was Japan, and the boy seemed unperturbed, says University of Michigan psychologist Harold W. Stevenson, one of the country's leading experts on Asian education. By the end of the class, the boy drew a decent cube and his classmates applauded. ...
  • One Nation, One Curriculum?

    In the last three years, 10-year-old Nick Lang's family has moved from Alaska to Colorado to Texas. For Nick, the moves !ant three very different schools in three very different districts. Some adjustment's were minor--studying Texas history instead of Colorado lore. But others were more taxing. "When we moved to Texas in January, the teacher expected every child to know their multiplication tables by heart," says Nick's mother, Roslyn. "In Denver, fourth graders hadn't memorized them yet. Nick started having stomachaches and didn't want to go to school." ...
  • The Calm After The Storm

    At the University of Chicago, Gerhard Casper earned a reputation as a legal scholar and a brilliant administrator. But the most important credential he brings to his new job as Stanford University president may be his status as an outsider-with no connection to charges that Stanford overbilled the federal government by up to $300 million in research grants. A sense of humor doesn't hurt, either. When he was named Stanford's ninth president last week, the 54-year-old Chicago provost had his own theory of why he was the search committee's unanimous choice. The German-born Casper joked that the trustees wanted someone who could correctly pronounce a Stanford motto: "Die Luft der Freiheit weht" (The wind of freedom blows). ...
  • Ask Your Boss About This Idea

    Leading the list of desirable employee benefits in the 1980s was help with child care. Now RJR Nabisco is pioneering what could become this decade's most sought-after perk: college-tuition assistance. Executives of the cigarette and snack manufacturer say their lofty goal is to eliminate financial barriers to higher education for all their employees' children. Starting in the 1992-93 academic year, RJR Nabisco will offer a range of financial aid, including scholarships and loan subsidies. Under a tax-deferred savings plan, the company will match annual contributions of up to $1,000 for each of a child's four years in high school. The plan is available to all of RJR Nabisco's 35,000 U.S. employees-except for the top 147 executives. "We have no doubt that those people ought to be able to pay for their own children's education, "said a spokesman. "This is not meant to be a perk for senior management." ...
  • Sexism In The Schoolhouse

    The girls in Jill Gugisberg Wall's science class at Farnsworth Elementary School in St. Paul, Minn., get angry when they think about the bad old days. At the schools they attended before coming to Farnsworth, "the boys got all the attention," says Carrie Paladie, 12. "Every time we asked a question, the teacher would just ignore us." Her classmate, 11-year-old Jennie Montour, agrees: "The boys got to participate in everything." Jennie says the teachers made her feel "that I was stupid." Their new science teacher's mission is to change all that. "In my classroom," she says, "I encourage everyone to be involved." ...
  • An 'F' In World Competition

    President Bush calls his plan for fixing schools "Education 2000." In that year, he promises, American students will lead the world in math and science. But judging by the results of international achievement tests released last week, Bush may have to rename his program "Mission: Impossible." South Korean and Taiwanese students whipped Americans in the math and science exams for 9- and 13-year-olds. The United States ranked near the bottom. Americans did excel in one part of the test, a survey of leisure and study habits - although the distinction was nothing to be proud of. As Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander noted: "It was not among our six education goals to lead the world in the amount of TV our students watched." ...
  • Sociology's Lonely Crowd

    Kai Erikson, the chairman of Yale's sociology department, could think of a word that aptly described the mood of his colleagues last week. But, he cautioned, "you can't print it." A more genteel synonym, he suggested, might be "outraged." It was an understandable reaction to the news that a faculty committee had recommended slashing the department's staff by almost 40 percent as part of a broad cost-cutting plan. Like most major research universities, Yale is struggling with the recession and a decline in federal research grants. Although two other departments, linguistics and operations research, would be closed outright, the blow to sociology struck a nerve. "Sociology has always had an image of being more liberal than the other social sciences," says Princeton University's Paul Starr. "In a generally conservative time, sociology may seem expendable." ...
  • A Head Start Does Not Last

    Head Start is virtually the only antipoverty program backed by liberals and conservatives, parents and early-childhood experts. Even in the midst of the recession the federal government doled out $2.2 billion this academic year for programs in all 50 states, guaranteeing up to two years of preschool for 600,000 3- to 5-year-olds. This week, President Bush is expected to announce that he is asking for a record increase in Head Start funding in the fiscal 1993 budget. Much of the support for Head Start is based on the belief that it levels the playing field for poor kids, giving them, as Bush put it in his 1988 campaign, "an equal place at the starting line." But now, a new long-term study suggests that underprivileged youngsters need a much bigger boost if they are going to finish the race. ...
  • Breaking The Divorce Cycle

    There is one day they all remember, the day they first heard the news, the day their world changed forever. For Sara Dadisman, it was her 13th birthday. Even now, two decades later, talking about it is difficult. "It seems as though my mom did it almost to hurt me," says Dadisman, who lives in Madison, Wis. "Sometimes I think, 'Was that real? Did she really do that to me on my birthday?' But I can remember her giving me a present, a Barbie doll or something, and then telling me she and my dad were getting a divorce. I was devastated." The year that Dadisman's parents broke up, 1971, fell in the midst of a watershed period in the history of American marriage. Before that point, divorce was relatively rare and youngsters felt ashamed of their status as products of what were then called broken homes. But over the next decade the divorce rate soared to a record high. In 1965, the divorce rate was 2.5 per 1,000 population; by 1976, it had doubled, to 5.0. Through most of the 1970s and...
  • From Hero To Crusader

    Bart Casamir is gay, black and HIV-positive. Last week, after he watched Magic Johnson's press conference, Casamir was so inspired by Johnson's courage that he wrote a thank-you letter. "He can address the issue better than anyone I can think of," says Casamir, who works for a San Francisco AIDS-education group. "God couldn't have picked a better spokesman." ...
  • Showing Its Age

    Stanford's centennial celebration this week should have kicked off a season of triumph. The university that started as a tribute to the dead son of a railroad magnate has become one of the world's great centers of learning and research. The faculty now includes nine Nobel Prize winners and five recipients of the Pulitzer Prize. More than a third of this year's incoming freshmen had SAT scores of 1400 or above; 79 percent were in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. The campus, 30 miles south of San Francisco, has become a magnet for federal research money, receiving nearly $300 million this year. All in all, says political-science professor Stephen Krasner, "it is the best place in America to be if you want to do serious scholarship." ...
  • A Is For Ashanti, B Is For Black ...

    At Shule Mandela Academy in East Palo Alto, Calif, students are pursuing the African ideal. At their early morning assembly (called mkutano, the Kiswahili word for assembly), the school's 42 pupils--all African-American-pledge to "think black, act black, speak black, buy black, pray black, love black and live black." Students sing Bob Marley, not Francis Scott Key. They recite Langston Hughes, not Vachel Lindsay. "We have a rich tradition to share," says executive director Nobantu Ankoanda, who wears African attire. And a bright future: the academy's graduates are the only blacks in the local high school's advanced-placement classes. ...
  • The Right To Fight

    To many feminists, the armed forces have been a model for change. A woman has been selected head cadet at West Point. During the Persian Gulf War, women commanders led troops through minefields in the desert. On base, day-care centers are standard issue. But despite these advances, women are still locked out of the heart of the military: combat. Many military women complain that combat is the missing step on their career ladders. "Instead of a glass ceiling, they have a lead ceiling," says Carolyn Becraft, a military consultant for the Women's Research and Education Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. But many other female soldiers and sailors say they don't want the right to kill. According to a NEWSWEEK POLL, Americans are almost equally split on the issue. While 52 percent of those surveyed said women should be assigned to ground-combat units, 44 percent said no. And only 26 percent thought women should be assigned to combat on the same terms as men. ...
  • Putting Value In Diplomas

    For the last few years, employers have been complaining that high-school graduates can barely read and write. A diploma means nothing, for some students, except evidence of attending class regularly. Now, legislators in Oregon have approved a drastic overhaul of the state's schools designed to produce a work force that can add, write and think. The reform plan rests on a series of basic-skills exams that culminate in a "Certificate of Initial Mastery" for 10th graders. The ones who flunk will be held back until they pass. With the certificate, every student has a choice of two tracks: college prep or job training. Diplomas, goes the theory, will be worth the paper on which they're printed. ...
  • Tipping The Odds On Abortion

    Abortion-rights advocates had reason to worry last week. Although the Supreme Court already has a conservative majority, Thurgood Marshall's resignation makes it even more likely that there will soon be a serious challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion. Four of the justices William Rehnquist, Byron White, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy - are considered already prepared to overrule Roe. It's not yet clear how Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter would vote, but either could choose to be the fifth vote to overturn Roe. Marshall's replacement, another Republican appointee only shortens the odds in favor of a flat reversal or more severe limitations on a woman's right to abortion. ...
  • Doctors And Aids

    It is 80 degrees in the Florida dusk, but Kimberly Bergalis huddles under a quilt on the couch in her family's living room. At 65 pounds, she is half her normal body weight. Her skin is chalk white and her eyes stare blankly at the television blaring out music videos just six feet away. In late March the 23-year-old Bergalis took long walks on the beach; now she can barely lift her arms. She is in the last stages of an AIDS-related tuberculosis that wastes body and brain. Sometime in the next few days, Bergalis will probably become the first American to die of AIDS after being infected by her dentist, Dr. David Acer, who died of AIDS last year. ...
  • Growing Up Under Fire

    Lafeyette Rivers, 15, and his brother, Pharoah, 13, live with their mother in a crime-ridden public-housing project in Chicago. Avoiding neighborhood violence is an integral part of their daily life, as routine as a trip to the mall in the suburbs. They know the rules of survival: at home, drop to the floor at the sound of gunfire; outside, look to see where the shots are coming from before running for shelter. "If I grow up, I'd like to be a bus driver," Lafayette told writer Alex Kotlowitz, when they first met in the summer of 1985. Unlike most children, he wouldn't presume to begin a sentence about his future with "when." ...
  • A Real Test For Vouchers

    In Milwaukee's bold experiment, some kids gain but others find the private sector isn't much help ...
  • The Profits Of Reading

    The ubiquitous radio and cable TV ads for the reading program Hooked on Phonics promise a lot: illiterate adults will finally learn to read and children will be "extraordinary readers." The program's manufacturer, Gateway Educational Products Ltd., of Orange, Calif., claims more than 400,000 satisfied customers since it was introduced in 1987. But last week a panel of reading experts attacked the effectiveness of Hooked on Phonics, charging that the system promises much more than it--or any single learning tool--could possibly deliver. "It totally defies decades of research in learning to read," says Carl Braun, president of the International Reading Association, the educational group that convened the panel. ...
  • Naming Names

    At first, she was simply The Accuser, The Victim, The Woman in the Palm Beach rape case. But when a supermarket tabloid--and then NBC, The New York Times and several other newspapers--disclosed her name and details of her personal life last week, she assumed a unique and precarious spot in the annals of modern celebrityhood-exposed, yet still hidden. Millions of people have now seen the grainy black-and-white picture with the Mona Lisa smile. They've shared her secrets: her drinking habits, her high school grades, her unwed-motherhood, even her 17 traffic tickets. But to everyone else, she is still a tantalizing cipher--silent and faceless, trapped by her self-imposed exile, perhaps in the sanctuary of her stepfather's house. ...
  • The Pregnancy Police

    In Seattle last month, two cocktail waiters were fired for rudeness after they balked at serving a pregnant woman a strawberry daiquiri. They instantly became local heroes for standing up for their principles. One newspaper columnist praised the two for caring, "which is more than 90 percent of us ever do." But in New York, feminists recently battled a new state law requiring liquor sellers to post alcohol-warning signs aimed at pregnant women. Molly Yard, president of the National Organization for Women, charges that the legislation is a first step in setting up "a pregnancy-police state." ...
  • Wanted: Miracle Workers

    College presidents find it exhausting at the top of the ivory tower ...
  • Cloak And Daggers

    If only this were one of her best sellers - "The Spy Wore Red" or "The Spy Went Dancing." Then, Aline, Countess of Romanones, would surely triumph. Alas, this is real life and the villain is neither the Gestapo nor the KGB. The countess deftly overcame operatives of those enemy forces in three accounts of her years as an American agent (the last volume, "The Spy Wore Silk," has just been published). But this time, she's under attack from what could be considered friendly fire - Women's Wear Daily, the fashion trade paper that also chronicles the glittering international social set where the American-born countess has reigned since her 1947 marriage to a Spanish aristocrat. ...
  • Psychic Shock For A Generation

    It could have been a scene out of the '60s: hundreds of young people demonstrating in front of the White House as a line of graying veterans march past in opposition. But for this encounter, just days after the gulf war started, the generations switched sides. The young people - almost all twentysomething - were passionately in favor of the war. They carried signs that read BE A PATRIOT, NOT A SCUD. The veterans, many of them scarred and wounded survivors of Vietnam, stared in disbelief. "They don't know what they're talking about," said one vet in his 40s. "They're just children." ...
  • Forgetting To Remember

    For two decades, the murder of 8-year-old Susan Nason was a mystery. Police Fin the San Francisco suburb of Foster City, Calif., ran out of leads not long after finding Susan's decomposed body in a wooded ravine. Then, in January 1989, Eileen Franklin-Lipsker, Susan's best friend at the time of the murder, looked into her 6-year-old daughter's eyes and suddenly remembered. The murderer, she claims, was her father, George Franklin Sr. Franklin-Lipsker, now 30, says she watched helplessly as her father molested Susan and then smashed the child's skull with a rock. When her father threatened to kill her if she told anyone, Franklin-Lipsker locked the horror deep in her subconscious, a traumatic response psychiatrists label "repressed memory." Years later her daughter's blue eyes--the same color as Susan's--triggered the flood of remembrances. ...
  • Diagnosis: Harassment

    For more than a decade, a male professor at the University of Iowa medical school spread lies about a female colleague. She was trading sexual favors for career advancement, the stories went--sleeping with her boss, sometimes in a motel, sometimes in his office. He told these tales to faculty members, graduate students and staff members. She complained repeatedly about the harassment. And what did the university administration do? ...
  • 'Somebody In Saudi Arabia Loves Me'

    One night last week, more than 300 Army wives and children crowded into a meeting hall at Fort Campbell Ky., desperate for news about U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. The speaker was Col. Greg Gile, just back from the Persian Gulf. He patiently described everything--from their husbands' diets to a Saudi Sears store. Afterward, the families anxiously gathered around monitors to watch tapes of their soldiers. Every time they saw someone they recognized, the wives hugged. A soldier: "Hi, K.C. I love you and miss you, baby." A wife: "Oh, that's so sweet. Please let my husband be on this." Soldier: "Send me a new watch, 'cause this one's broken." Wife: "Oh Lord, please let my husband be on this." Soldier, holding up rations: "Send food. Look what they feed us. " A wife: "Oh, that's my husband!" She paused. "God, he's gotten so skinny." ...
  • The Soldier-Parent Dilemma

    Mary Wax of Rohnert Park, Calif., isn't a soldier, but in September she found herself in one of the Army's toughest battles. On one side were her three children; on the other were two nieces and a nephew recently arrived from Fort Benning, Ga. The visitors were her sister's kids, and they desperately missed their mother, Sgt. Lori Moore, whose unit was about to leave for the Persian Gulf. When her orders came through, Lori and her drill-sergeant husband, Fred, decided to ship the kids out, too--at least until the sand settled in Operation Desert Shield. ...