Letters to the Editor

It's easier to dope kids up than to deal with their problems; blame the system, not Henry Louis Gates.

Letters to the Editor
June 24, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Johnny get your pills



A disturbing but interesting article. I am an attorney in a small town in
Ohio and a lot of my practice involves domestic custody cases and juvenile
court cases. In the juvenile court cases, at least a third of the kids I
deal with are medicated, and I don't think I can remember even one kid who has
been medicated that isn't taking a least two different medications. The
worst I've seen is a kid who at one point was on incredibly high doses of
eight meds. The kids usually see the prescribing doctor once every three or four
months; they are usually poor, and their parents are always overwhelmed by
the kids and their problems.


What is going on is a fear of these kids and, in most of the cases, a refusal to deal with their
real problems with more expensive talk theories. We give them some dope and stick them away.

It's strange and quite scary: Kids who do the kinds of things I did when I was in
school (in the '50s and '60s) are considered "disturbed" and in need of
some very serious mind-altering medication; but if they drink beer or smoke
dope, they are criminals.

-- Ronald C. Couch


Waters does readers a disservice by
continually intermingling the use of stimulant medications such as Ritalin
with antidepressants. Ritalin has been studied for more than 30 years, and has never shown any
significant long-term problems. A recent study found it was most likely
underprescribed rather than overprescribed. Attention deficit hyperactive
disorder, while sometimes found with depression, is a completely different
disorder and it makes little sense to try to focus on both at once.

-- Patricia Saperstein

The only thing the recent school shooters have in common -- aside from being male and
young -- was the fact that they were all prescribed medication:


  • Shawn Cooper, Ritalin, blasted shotgun inside school.
  • Eric Harris, Luvox, Columbine H.S.
  • T.J. Solomon, Ritalin, shot six of his schoolmates.
  • Kip Kinkel, Ritalin and Prozac, blasted parents and killed two at his
    school -- and wounded 22.

Maybe psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz, director of New York
University's Child Study Center (obviously an advocate for medicating
children) should get into counseling himself.

-- Jeffrey Abelson

New York

I am 19, and I have been taking some sort of mood medication, on and off,
since I was 8. I believe that taking Ritalin at an early age has
partially caused my ongoing sleep disorders. Diagnosed with ADD (as it was
then called), I "grew out of it" at about 10 and stopped taking Ritalin. At 13, when I was besieged with depression, a psychiatrist put me on Prozac after
talking to me for 10 minutes. But without a mood stabilizer, I became
manic. In one horrifying instance, I was put on Halidol to control
delusions, and I shook so hard I frightened my schoolmates.


Managed care is the scourge of modern medicine. Neurology, especially children's neurology, is little understood, as
are the ramifications of mind-altering drugs, but self-absorbed yuppie
parents would rather dope up their kids than address their family problems.

-- Lillie Wade

The making of Henry Louis Gates, CEO



Having worked both as an academic and a manager at the Encyclopaedia
Britannica, I find that Craig Offman's piece rings very true. Unfortunately, the situation he describes is
characteristic of the way multimedia encyclopedias are produced.
Encyclopedias have always been deeply commercial ventures disguised in
academic garb, and print encyclopedias were often as rushed and
badly managed as Encarta Africana. The digitization of encyclopedias has only
increased that trend; and in a period also characterized by a greater
reliance on outsourcing and temporary labor and greater attention to marketing,
the results have been predictably bad both for people who work on these
projects, and for the products. Usually the devotion of serious writers and
editors, who don't want their names to be associated with shoddy work and are
willing to put in the overtime necessary to do the job right, is the only
thing that keeps this work on track. Good products can come out of these
efforts, but despite the system, not because of it.

It also comes as no surprise that this style of content production should
find its way into the university. Academia has long benefited from skilled,
underpaid labor in the form of graduate students; more recently, it has
subsidized faculty superstars with underpaid adjuncts. (It's no coincidence
that the superstar system was built in the same decade that saw the explosion
of adjunct teaching.) Now corporate alliances with universities are giving
profit-making ventures access to that pool of talent, but what those on the
shop floor will gain from this brave new world is unclear. In simpler times,
their low pay was made up for (at least in principle) by career-advancing
training in new research techniques, mentorship or co-authorship on scholarly
papers. Whether they'll be able to benefit from future efforts to commoditize
their intellectual labor -- when universities and "dot coms" begin turning
leveraging Web sites into money-making ventures in distance learning, for
example -- remains to be seen.

-- Alex Pang

Project Manager, SiliconBase

Stanford University

Stanford, Calif.


Offman writes, "In today's university, academics in the science and technology
departments can easily turn a profit from their intellectual work. With
the help of a technology licensing office on campus, an academic can
become an entrepreneur, often collaborating with a company to distribute
his or her invention/discovery in the form of a marketable product."

Offman doesn't cite any examples or other support for the facile argument he makes here -- probably because he is entirely wrong. Employees of a university sign a contract with the university, giving the rights to all inventions and other intellectual property to the university. So academics, especially in the humanities, aren't making any money. Why would they have to rely on corporations for support if they did?

Offman implicitly condemns academics for being remote with his
repeated use of the term "ivory tower," yet he also condemns Gates'
very public dissemination of knowledge. I wonder if Offman has ever
read any of Gates' work, which is highly accessible and interesting,
not at all the stuff of the "ivory tower."

If this Web page is supposed to encourage people to think, why does it use
such superficial, ranting rhetoric? Why not offer facts and analytic tools
rather than cheap and obvious rhetorical strategies?


-- Amy Vondrak

Syracuse, N.Y.

Nothing Personal: No pierced nostril for Barbie

Exactly how is Sen. Inhofe responsible for the private, unauthorized
behavior of some of his staffers? How does their behavior make him a
hypocrite? If he hires a homosexual, does that make him a hypocrite also?
According to that view, he must avoid hiring homosexuals in order to be moral.

Actually, we all know why this is being publicized. This story is being
used as a club in order to beat Inhofe by those who disagree with him politically -- nothing more.


-- Paul Osborn

Nothing Personal: The nearly nekkid netrepreneur


Regarding the "Look out! He's got a fish!" item: One thing which I think we can all agree is really funny is a man assaulting his partner. It's pretty funny when he just uses his fists, but when, in his rage, he gets all inventive -- well, that's for sure going the extra
mile. The thing that made this so incredibly hilarious was the way it was
accompanied by stories about the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Nancy
at the hands of abusive partners. Genius!

Today's Salon was a class act all the way.


-- Melissa Curley

Drunk like me


In Burgess' last paragraph, he goes badly astray. Jack Trimpey's "venom" toward AA is by no means misplaced. Thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, countless people have been led
down a destructive path whereby their chances for recovery are chained to an
arbitrary process that forces them to think about booze constantly.

For example: On the rare occasion I feel tempted to drink, I merely swat the idea
away like an annoying fly. A member of AA, on the other hand, must go
through an unnecessarily drawn-out process of running the steps through
their mind, gnashing their teeth as they wait to get to a private phone, get
to such a phone and call their sponsor, endure their sponsor's so-called
wisdom and, finally, run off to a meeting. My method takes about 24 seconds;
AA's consumes nearly 24 hours. While I'm
sure that Burgess' experience was more pleasant, mine was more typical:
I faced sanctimonious, smug peer pressure and self-righteous demands that I get
a sponsor and "work the steps". Thank God for Jack Trimpey (yes, I'm a
Christian, and I still dislike AA) and his egalitarian ideas for rational

-- Rob Anderson

The great Silicon Valley soap opera


Apple did not, in fact, steal the ideas for the Mac from Xerox PARC: They purchased the rights to use them, and they have never denied that PARC is where tools like bit-mapped displays,
mice and GUIs were invented.

-- Steve Hull

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