Letters to the editor

Paglia fuels debate on schools; should we blame guns -- or government?

Topics: Camille Paglia, Guns, Gun Control

American poison
BY CAMILLE PAGLIA

(04/28/99)

Paglia’s tart assessment of the deplorable state of public education at
the high school level was dead on. No surprise, then, that home-schoolers are
blowing conventionally schooled students out of the water with their high
test scores and sophisticated socialization skills. I agree that lowering
the compulsory age of attendance is a good place to start some type of reform at the secondary
level, but I think very few American parents would have the guts to allow
their kids to voluntarily leave school at age 14. Why? It would disrupt the parents’ bland, comfortable
lives and incur more responsibility upon them.

– Isabel Lyman

Amherst, Mass.

If Camille Paglia believes religion can serve as a tempering influence
to our natural ferocity, then she’s as ignorant about the realities in
parochial schools as the media pundits who wail about computer games
while ignoring the violence and hatred children learn in powdered
communities like Littleton.

After eight years of St. Richard’s and four years of St. Edward’s, I can
report that jock worship is alive and well in religious schools. After
hearing about the realities of Columbine (as opposed to the happy
rhetoric of the faculty) I was struck the by the similarities to my
experience in Catholic schools. The notion that
participation in sports magically bestows character and integrity was
virtually a religious dogma unto itself.

Instead of having students mutter bland, insincere prayers before class,
perhaps schools can turn away from this false and vulgar value system,
which goes so far as to require attendance at bizarre pep rallies where
one is expected to cheer for the thugs who make school dangerous for
you.

– Bernard Gundy

San Francisco



In her column on the Columbine massacre, Camille Paglia makes the classic
reactionary error of assuming that things must always have been better in
some mythical past era. Thus she can ignore the horrific reality of child
labor conditions in the last century and advocate allowing children to be
pulled out of school at age 14 to be thrust into the labor force. My wife is
a high school teacher in a poor district in California where a lot of her
students are the children of migrant workers. These parents are only keeping
their kids in school because it is legally required, and would be quite
happy to put them to work instead, supplementing the family income. Would Camille be where she is today if her parents had
yanked her out of school at age 14 to pick beets? Somehow, I doubt it.

Another point: If the Columbine massacre can ultimately be blamed on the
Industrial Era’s replacement of the extended family with the nuclear family,
how come we are not seeing similar incidents in schools in Europe and Japan,
where a similar shift occurred? The answer is twofold: easy access to guns
(sorry, Camille, but guns are part of the problem) and America’s worship
of individualism. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that our love of
individualism is one of the things that has made the United States strong and unique in
the world, but it also has a dark side. At its worst it encourages a
solipsistic attitude in which the wants and needs of the individual take
precedence over those of society as a whole. Thus we
have teenagers who are so wrapped up in themselves that their fellow humans
become just targets in a video game.

– Matt Frey

Am I the only one that finds it laughable that lesbian Camille Paglia
considers herself to be an authority on male homosexuality? Once again
Paglia drags out her rather dated (and somewhat offensive) theory that gay
men are the result of some kind of early childhood developmental failure,
and implies that there are certain sexual personae that are less valid
than others.

Humans and animals are gay, straight, and
bisexual for many different reasons, none of which really matter. If we
lived in a culture where people weren’t constantly trying to figure
out why people are gay (and what went wrong in their developmental path),
maybe there would be fewer Matthew Shepards and godhatesfags.coms.

– Bryan Keller

Manhattan


Littleton every day

BY JAKE TAPPER

(04/27/99)

I cried when I read Jake Tapper’s article about Washington’s ignorance of
the life and death of sweet Marcus Owens.

Our elected officials place far too much importance on campaign checks from
the NRA and far too little importance on saving our school children. Tapper
is right: It’s not television or out-of-touch parents or naughty song lyrics
that kill children, it’s guns, plain and simple. Until we rid ourselves of violent weapons, we will continue to lose children
like Marcus and the children in Littleton. How many more have to die before
our elected officials realize the Second Amendment has nothing to do with
what’s happening in our schools?

– Karin Walser

Washington

One important distinction between the Littleton episode and the tragic death
of Marcus Owens that Tapper misses is that in Littleton, the shootings took
place in school. There are not a dozen kid shootings a day in school across
the United States; the episodes he cites for May 1998 were all threats, not deaths,
and that is a meaningful distinction. It is the context of the recent
killings that sustains a large part of America’s horror.

We expect that a government-run school will provide
some level of protection: not from everything, perhaps, but from mass
slaughter, at least. There is nothing unreasonable about that expectation
and its explosive overthrow has caught everyone off guard.

In the wake of Littleton, it is hard not to support Tapper’s call for
reducing access to guns, though I think it unrealistic to expect that a country
that cannot keep guns and drugs out of the hands of imprisoned felons can
keep weapons away from kids. But we all must recognize that there is no “one
variable” solution to the problems of an self-centered, violent and
increasingly empty culture and the adolescents and adults it helps create.
And the government is not the only player in solving those
problems.

– Michael Derman

Lewisburg, Pa.

I don’t understand why guns are treated differently then cars. Every weapon should be registered. The registration should require the owner to carry insurance and pass a written test regarding the proper care, maintenance and safety requirements necessary. When ownership is transferred, the law should require that a transfer of ownership form be registered and proof of insurance be provided.

If you leave the key to your car in the ignition with the door unlocked and anyone drives the car and injures someone, you are responsible. If you leave a gun, without a lock, accessible to anyone, you should be responsible for any harm that may occur.

– Susan Matz

New York


Microsoft’s flawed Linux vs. NT shootout

BY ANDREW LEONARD

(04/27/99)

I am a Novell shareholder, and Mindcraft pulled this same stunt with Novell Netware a few months back, including attempting to hide the sponsor of the study. They claimed
that NT Server outperformed Novell, but after some digging on the part of
some very technical Novell stockholders several things emerged.

1) Microsoft paid for the study lock stock and barrel.

2) Mindcraft attempted to conceal this.

3) Mindcraft attempted to portray the study as an objective one.

4) Mindcraft deliberately set the Novell parameters to the most inefficient settings possible for their test.

5) Mindcraft deliberately set the NT Server parameters to the most optimized
settings for their test.

6) Mindcraft deliberately constructed tests to achieve the a priori result
that they had in mind in the first place — namely, that NT Server outperforms Novell.

7) When fair and impartial tests were actually constructed, Novell handily
outperformed NT Server.

After being repeatedly flamed and castigated about this, Mindcraft finally
apologized. Now after the hoopla of the fiasco has died down, they are at it again.

Mindcraft has acted as nothing more than a paid mouthpiece for Microsoft.
Their credibility in this should be accurately portrayed for what it is –
zero or even negative (i.e., users should consider the opposite of whatever Mindcraft claims).

– Noah F. Stern


Mad humanist

BY FRANK HOUSTON

(04/27/99)

Critics be damned. If science fiction is the urinal of the literati,
then Kurt Vonnegut is the Marcel Duchamp of science fiction.

– Stephen Waters

Pflugerville, Texas

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