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Letters to the Editor

THE FLIP SIDE OF THIRD-WORLD AID

Robert Strauss has painted an extremely dark image of international development ("My Road to Nowhere," May/June) for readers who may have little knowledge or experience in the subject matter. While I fully understand and share his frustration, his implied condemnation of international development in general may have done a great injustice to the thousands of dedicated professionals in the field. Having witnessed and experienced both the bright and dark sides over a 40-year career with international organizations, academic institutions, governments and consulting firms, I remain committed to the ideals of such work. So far, there has not been a better alternative for alleviating the living conditions in needy countries. However, we must learn from successes -- such as those of the World Health Organization -- as well as from failures such as those experienced by Mr. Strauss.

Thank you for bringing this important subject to our attention. I hope it will remain open for discussion through follow-up articles in our alumni magazine.

Mahmood S. Suleiman, Engr. '73
Menlo Park, California


STUDENT TEACHER

"They Pay Me to Do This?" (May/June) was terrific, but you left out one of the less obvious student jobs: teaching other students at Stanford, as an instructor, not a course assistant. At the end of my freshman year, after hashing, delivering ASSU fliers and suffering as an intramural sports referee, I stumbled onto the fact that Engineering 103 (public speaking) was taught by students who, like me, had some background in oratory. My experience as an instructor and course head over the next few years was extremely rewarding -- building others' confidence in themselves and in their power to persuade and to create meaning. The job instilled a love of teaching that led me to earn a PhD and become a "card-carrying" faculty member on the other coast.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, '89
Kennedy School of Government (Harvard)
Cambridge, Massachusetts


SOUL SEARCHING

"Mrs. Stanford and the Netherworld" (May/June) was interesting because it described beliefs held by many folks of earlier years and the relative disdain such beliefs receive in modern society. Our present attitude really reflects intellectual arrogance: if one can't see it, measure it and believe that it is probable, then it is unlikely to exist. Can you see quarks or measure love or understand how DNA arose?

After plowing through the ideas of cosmologists, atheists, agnostics, several religions, the theory of evolution and my own experiences, I have concluded that the supernatural is very likely to exist, but that no study of nature can prove it. "Netherworld" charlatans undoubtedly take advantage of people's grief. Still, acknowledging the existence of the soul makes one wonder where it goes. We must realize that we don't know everything, nor are we ever likely to. Let your mind expand and wonder about the great mystery of life and creation. Mrs. Stanford was searching, with hope, to find an answer.

Glenn C. Waterman, '33, MS '50
Bainbridge Island, Washington


FOUNDING GRANT CAN FLEX

I read with mixed emotions President Casper's column in the May/June issue. On one hand, I share his exasperation with certain hypocritical Peninsula critics of Stanford's open-space stewardship. The very fact that we are arguing about the future of Stanford's open space demonstrates how well the University has preserved its lands.

Still, I am troubled by President Casper's implication that the founding grant is inviolate and that "we cannot limit options for those who will follow." Leland and Jane Stanford were visionaries, but there is no way they could have anticipated what Bay Area life would be like more than 100 years later. I recall that the University once limited the numbers of female students, referencing the founding grant for justification; I am thankful that that restriction was ultimately overturned. And if President Casper is not troubled by other founding-grant constraints on today's leaders, why is he so concerned about placing constraints on the actions of future administrators?

Surely, history has shown us that nothing is permanent anyway; everything is subject to future review and change. However, by our actions today, we do have an opportunity to set down our vision (and the reasoning behind it) for the benefit of future generations.

That, it seems to me, is the best way of honoring the vision of Leland and Jane Stanford.

Chuck Taubman, '65
Cupertino, California


IN DEFENSE OF SPANKING

I agree with much of what William Damon says ("The Parent Trap," March/April), but I strongly disagree with his view on corporal punishment. Done correctly, corporal punishment is highly effective, moral and humane. It seems as though many modern child-training experts do not understand the importance of bringing a child to accept authority. When the child makes his first conscious decision to "do his own thing" (at 9 to 12 months), this would be the occasion for the first spanking. This is neither child abuse nor cruelty. Firm action at this age avoids the need for much painful hassling later. With most children, a few early, firm spankings establish patterns of obedience that last a lifetime.

As a Christian parent, I believe spanking is not only permitted by the Bible, but required. Some of the benefits are the development of a clean inner life on the part of the child, wisdom, a happy future and deliverance from foolishness.

Peter T. Love, '67
Gold Hill, Oregon

In his otherwise well-written and very funny article, Tim Grieve shamefully decided to take a cheap shot at Christian men as being the ones who "mostly" recommend "hit[ting kids] now and then if that's what it takes to keep them [in their place]."

As a Christian man, I take offense at his flippancy. It is clear to me that Mr. Grieve has no clue about the Christian approach to discipline and, furthermore, that he is unaware that the majority of scriptures dealing with corporal discipline come from the Jewish Old Testament and not the New Testament. For example, in Proverbs 13:24, Solomon wrote, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Since Christians hold both testaments as canon, it is hard not to include scriptures like this passage into one's theology. No student of biblical discipline believes in randomly "hitting" his or her children. An appropriate swat on the bottom, however, is a very different animal.

As a pediatrician, I don't feel comfortable telling my patients' parents what to do in the realm of discipline, but I do pity those who spend endless hours cajoling, pleading and explaining to their children why picking up their rooms is important.

Robert C. Hamilton, '41
Santa Ana, California

Professor Damon provides many useful concepts for parenting. He expresses concerns about the need for adults to support one another, set standards for acceptable youth behavior, teach children moral absolutes and instill respect for others. Each time he speaks of others with different opinions, it is in a respectful way.

Unfortunately, Professor Damon's middle-ground advice shares space with the intolerant opinions of the author, who derides the permissive Penelope Leach for scoffing at parents with different views, then scoffs himself at male hard-liners who supposedly advocate hitting kids to keep them in their place. Considering the laws against child abuse, I doubt that any child-rearing counselors today are suggesting hitting kids.

Reaching for extremes beyond reality only perpetuates the perception of divisions among us. Professor Damon's eloquent views do not need such grandstanding to appear remarkable and are sadly diminished by their association.

David Kurz, MS '85
Parker, Colorado


TO THE EX-EDITOR, HAIL AND FAREWELL

On behalf of many friends and former classmates, I want to acknowledge Bob Cohn's departure from Stanford magazine (First Impressions, March/April). We will miss his column, which was frank and to the point, with quirky sidelights and funny anecdotes. It's an unmistakable Bob Cohn style. We all remember having our own conversations with Bob over the years, often leaving us exhausted just listening to the excitement in his tone.

My impression was that Stanford flourished under his direction. As a friend of Bob's during that time, I can tell you that he greatly benefited from the experience as well. I know he will sorely miss his Stanford "family." Onward and upward for both parties.

Mike Conaton, '85
Bronxville, New York


ENCHANTED BROCCOLI DISPUTE

Sonya Schneider's essay "Home Improvement?" (Student Voice, March/April) includes misperceptions of the Capital Improvement Program that I would like to correct.

Ms. Schneider, who was new to the Enchanted Broccoli Forest (EBF) this year, states: "I wish the University had asked us for input before remodeling. That would have fit with the spirit of cooperative living, where open discussion fosters trust."

Beginning in March 1998, the Capital Improvement Program planning team invited residents of all four Lake Houses (EBF, Narnia, Lambda Nu and Kappa Alpha) to a series of meetings to discuss plans for the summer 1999 renovations. Up until the reopening of the houses in September 1999, all residents who wished to contribute were systematically included in the discussions. Wherever feasible, their input was incorporated into the $10.5 million Lake renovations. EBF, with its highly committed residents and house officers, was by far the best-represented house in the process.

The EBF house officers focused largely on preserving the student artwork, which we accomplished in every case where the necessary structural changes allowed it. The carpeting, new common-area artwork and various "homey" accessories were all chosen by the 1998-99 residents in collaboration with our manager of housing design services.

Ms. Schneider writes: "We used to have lovely, old wooden picnic tables on our patio. In November they disappeared, replaced a little later by wobbly aluminum ones." All Lake Houses had new redwood picnic tables purchased for them. In EBF, the house officers asked that the new tables be replaced with nonwooden ones because they had concerns about trees being used to make the tables. Ultimately, the request from the house officers was not supported by all of the residents, and a change back to the wooden tables came later this year.

We continue to consult with students, resident fellows and the Office of Residential Education to ensure that our work reflects programmatic needs and individual house traditions. Over the past seven years, the student feedback on the renovations in dorms and row houses alike has been continually positive.

Imogen Church
Manager, Undergraduate Housing Operations
Stanford, California


NAME BRAND

I commend Shelley Hébert and her office for zealously protecting the Stanford name (Farm Report, March/April). Also, kudos to the folks at Stanford magazine for keeping us in touch with the Stanford community.

Jerry Yen, '89
Evanston, Illinois


'ADVERSARY WITHIN'

Thank you for publishing Joel Smith's poignant essay on his recalcitrant depression ("Falling Apart," January/February). It will take many more such articles to break through the stigma surrounding major mental illness. Nearly everyone is touched by severe depressive illness, because what afflicts those close to us afflicts us also. Our fear prevents us from attacking this killer disease as we have confronted and dealt with cancers, infectious diseases and other severe disorders. Joel Smith's story is a model of truth and courage.

As a student at Stanford, I had to cope with a disabling situational depression and had nowhere to turn until I was sent home and lost my scholarships. My mother battled recalcitrant depression for 81 years, and I was deeply frightened that I had inherited her illness. Not until after she died did I realize what stamina it took for her to survive her "adversary within." I am grateful that I did not inherit her illness and proud that she showed me that even if I had, I could have battled it as she did.

Jean Rosenfeld, '61
Pacific Palisades, California


The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford

MAKING A SPLASH

The Class Notes in November/December had a great story on Jim Penfield, '29, an All-American masters swimmer who holds two world and national records in both the 85-89 and the 90-94 age groups. I have a sequel to that story.

I am also a masters swimmer who "aged up" to the 85-89 group last year. At the 1999 National Long Course Masters Championships, I was fortunate enough to win two events in the 85-89 group. One was the 1,500-meters freestyle; the other was the 200-meters backstroke -- in which I broke the national record held by the same Jim Penfield.

I called Jim after the meet (which he had not attended), and we had a good talk about "golden-age aquatics" as well as our respective years on the Stanford swim teams. I reminded him that he cannot break my backstroke record again, since he has now aged-up to the 90-94s! However, if it were a contest, Jim would win hands down. He holds world records; mine are only regional and national. He was an ambassador; I was a fledgling foreign service officer. You win, Mr. Ambassador -- pick up another medal!

Jim Triolo, ’35, MA ’36
Cupertino, California


URBAN LEGEND

Hats off to Cory Booker, ’91, MA ’92 ("Taking It to the Streets," March/April), for doing something important with his life. PS: Cory, we appreciated all you did for the Cardinal on the playing field.

Brook Wiers, MD ’94
Hanover Park, Illinois


'POEM FOR THE NEXT GENERATION'

When I saw "The Parent Trap," I had to send along the poem my wife crafted:

Hello, dear one. This is your world,
And here's advice for you,
Some hints to keep you thinking smart,
Some notes to pull you through.

First off, you chose a family
That's more than Mom and Dad;
It's Uncle Casper, Ty and Ted,
And many cardinal clad.

Now other folks might call you names.
Ignore these brainless meanies.
(Though if the honest truth be told,
I'll bet you they're Cal weenies.)

Strong character will see you through;
Don't puzzle, frown or worry.
There's wild life out there you can tame,
An Axe you'll quickly bury.

You're brilliant, strong and awfully cute
But all's not grin and coo here.
Because (I hate to tell you, kid)
The Farm? No, it's a zoo here!

The Cougar? He's a toothless cat.
The Ducks are yellow squeakers.
The Huskies? Just a bunch of dogs!
(Could you please check your sneakers . . . ?)

The Trojan is no warrior. Look,
He's spoiled and oh-so-childish.
Don't fret about the Bears, who are
Not even mildly wildish.

For Wildcats, I would recommend
A wire cage, lock and key.
And Beavers can do you no harm --
Just feed them last year's Tree.

When conquering this ancient lot
Be gracious; pardon all.
For blessed life courses through your veins.
Its color: cardinal.

Chuck, '75, and Catherine Wilson
Los Gatos, California


Address letters to:

Letters to the Editor
Stanford magazine
Arrillaga Alumni Center
326 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA 94305-6105

Or fax to (650) 725-8676; or send us an email. You may also submit your letter online. Letters may be edited for length, clarity and civility. Please note that your letter may appear in print, online or both.

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