No monsters in Cupertino
Nat Hentoff argues compellingly about the controversy over a fifth-grade teacher’s lesson plans in Cupertino, Calif., but not from the facts (“Lesson plan for the nation,” Op-Ed, Dec. 20). This is understandable, as the Cupertino Union School District has remained tight-lipped about events, apparently in the hopethatteacherSteve Williams’ lawsuit would be tried in the courts rather than in the media. As a parent of two children at Stevens Creek Elementary, where Mr. Williams teaches, I do not have the full picture, either. But I can clarify the following:
First, a number of parents complained over a period of time about Mr. Williams’ proselytizing in class. These complaints may turn out to be unjustified, but there was not just one.
Second, Mr. Williams has not been stopped from passing out the Declaration of Independence. It is printed in full in the textbook he uses. It also hangs prominently, where it always has, in the school library.
Third, no children at Stevens Creek are deprived of their right to receive information central to their education as Americans. Fifth-grade history, which is taught in full compliance with state and district standards, does as good a job as one could hope in presenting the religious and social setting of the nation’s founding. (My daughter, who was not taught by Mr. Williams, developed a fascination with the religious beliefs of the early Puritan Colonists as a result of history lessons.) The full Pledge of Allegiance, with “under God,” is recited daily in the school.
The principal, Patricia Vidmar, does not need a remedial course on the Constitution. She is a conscientious, patriotic and fair person who bears no resemblance to the godforsaken monster portrayed in some quarters.
Ultraviolet-B radiation fears overblown
By relying too heavily on a few vocal alarmists, the article “Living under depleted skies” (World, Dec. 20) gave a very misleading impression about the Antarctic ozone hole. In truth, fears that the ozone hole would allow a dangerous increase in cancer-causing ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB) have proved to be greatly overblown.
The article quotes two researcher activists from Punta Arenas, Chile (the largest city in the vicinity of the ozone hole) who, we are told “conducted the only detailed studies of local sunburns, skin cancer and ultraviolet-B ray levels.” They claim there has been an increase in skin cancers attributable to the ozone hole.
Completely ignored in the article was a far more extensive study written by a team of distinguished Johns Hopkins University and University of Chile researchers, which concluded that the Antarctic ozone hole has had no discernable impact on public health. This study, also conducted in Punta Arenas and published in the American Journal of Public Health, stated that “no increase in patient visits of conditions attributable to UVB exposure was seen for periods of known ozone depletion compared with control periods.” The study also concluded that the measured increase in UVB levels was too small to be of consequence.
Director, air quality policy
Competitive Enterprise Institute
The gender gap in divorce
Although it was not discussed in your Dec. 19 editorial, “Gender gap myths and legends,”) one reason why the National Organization for Women (NOW) consistently has failed to deliver the white-woman presidential vote may have to do with the unintended consequences for women of one of NOW’s greatest political successes — delivering the apparent benefits of divorce to women and mothers. What NOW accomplished was to change divorce law to deliver children to mothers (nearly nine out of 10 cases of physical custody), transfer wealth from men to women through inflated child-support and alimony payments based on fraudulent feminist research, and give women power and control over the decision to divorce (two out of three divorces are initiated by wives).
However, in successfully disempowering and disenfranchising men and fathers, NOW’s political triumph has had unintended consequences and harms for the very people the organization claims to represent — women and girls. Daughters of divorce suffer, at a minimum, lifelong psychological distress caused by NOW’s forced removal of their fathers from their daily lives. Mothers of divorce suffer from having to deal with distressed daughters (as well as distressed sons).
Noncustodial mothers suffer from the loss of daily contact with their children (as do noncustodial fathers). Second wives of divorced fathers suffer the emotional turmoil of custody and access conflicts left over from the first marriage. Often more critically, they also suffer from the transfer of wealth from their husbands to the husbands’ former wives (who, incidentally, are accountable to no one for the wealth received) and find themselves unable to actualize their own dreams and aspirations for a family and a decent life. Finally, there are the grandmothers of divorce who lose contact with their grandchildren simply because their son or daughter had the misfortune to become the noncustodial parent.
Even with all this, NOW and radical feminists everywhere continue to wonder why they are not delivering the white-woman vote. Harming your own constituency, even unintentionally, rarely is a sound political strategy.
We have not even discussed divorced fathers, who also know who the enemy is.
GORDON E. FINLEY
In defense of Rumsfeld
One of the most depressing aspects of public service in a democratic society is what happens when a strong leader appears to stumble (“GOP senators defend Rumsfeld,” Nation, Dec. 20. Political scavengers immediately try to tear him to pieces.
There are two vivid examples of this kind of political massacre: the first secretary of defense, James Forrestal, and the present secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. When President Truman implemented the Herbert Hoover Commission’s recommendations and created the Department of Defense out of four military departments, the critics insisted that one person could not handle the task. James Forrestal succeeded brilliantly in organizing the Defense Department. In addition, he initiated the policy of containment, whichwasformulatedby George Kennan under his instruction, as well as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and NATO, all of which were implemented by Mr. Truman, who thereby secured for himself an immortal place in U.S. history.
When he was asked his opinion of the Middle East, Mr. Forrestal, who was not anti-Semitic, said he opposed the recognition of Israel on the grounds that the Arab countries would deny us oil, which was essential to U.S. existence. The same view was expressed by Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Gen. George Marshall.
The political scavengers of that day — Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson — zeroed in on Mr. Forrestal. In a series of false and merciless accusations, they made his life unbearable. He resigned his post and died a few months later under mysterious circumstances, a story ably described in the biography written by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley.
The attacks on Mr. Rumsfeld by today’s political hyenas should be interpreted as a compliment for the very difficult work done by a giant among secretaries of defense. His task is threefold: first, to conduct the war in Afghanistan; second, to conduct the war in Iraq; and third, to transform the Defense Department from its previous mission of deterring Soviet aggression in Europe or Asia into a modern rapid-deployment force of smaller, self-sufficient units that can be moved to trouble spots thousands of miles away in a matter of three or four days.
Future generations will pay great homage to Mr. Rumsfeld for what he has achieved. Nobody will remember the vicious attacks of the political scavengers who ignore his successes in Afghanistan, denigrate his work in Iraq and put obstacles in the way of his effort to transform the military. As a veteran of World War II who fought from Normandy to Germany, I salute Mr. Rumsfeld for his splendid work in defense of the United States.
EDWARD J. ROZEK
Professor emeritus of political science
University of Colorado