Letters to the editor

Readers take their best shot at vaccination controversy. Plus: Horowitz needs to learn ABCs of education; baseball seats are for the rich.

By Salon Staff
Published April 21, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Inoculated into



Arthur Allen's story "Inoculated
into Oblivion" was by far the most
balanced of any that I saw on the autism
hearings. I know how hard the
pharmaceutical industry will fight to
pretend that adverse reactions to
vaccines do not occur. My wife was an
immunization nurse. Approximately 12
hours after a hepatitis B vaccine, she
lost the use of her legs. She regained
some movement, but two years later she
still must use leg braces to walk. The
CDC said it was an "unfortunate

It is simply amazing how studies
sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
"prove" vaccine safety. I am an
engineer. If a young engineer handed in a project using the sloppy,
manipulative statistical analysis used
by the CDC, they would not work as an
engineer for long.

I thought it was especially
interesting that at the autism hearings,
the main CDC witness was shown to be a
paid Merck consultant. He was paid to
"educate" doctors about vaccines. Talk
about conflict of interest. The answers
to all vaccine issues will only come
through independent research.

-- David Fluck

Thanks for running the story
about the autism epidemic, "Inoculated
into oblivion."
The experts are saying the cause is
genetic. The experts are wrong. No one
in either of our families has ever had
autism. In a country with a declining
birth rate, how could a genetic
affliction increase so quickly?

The experts are saying the increase is
due to parents milking the system for
benefits. The experts, once again, are
wrong. My son has almost no speech and
we had to fight to get his speech
therapy upped to 40 minutes a week. We
nearly went bankrupt trying to
supplement what little the school
district could offer. My health
insurance won't pay for it either.

The experts say there are no clues as to
what could be causing this sudden
increase. Once again, the experts are
wrong. There are countless stories of
children losing their ability to speak
shortly after receiving DPT or MMR
vaccinations. The rise in autism is
concurrent with the introduction of
vaccine "soups," along with attempts to
find cheaper ways to manufacture

Experts warn the public through the
press that parents' fears about vaccines
are unfounded because there are no
scientific studies that show a link
between autism and vaccines. For once,
the experts are partially right. There
are no studies. Period. None. There is a
full-scale, worldwide experiment going
on about the long-term effects of
vaccines and our infants are the guinea

-- George Johnston

Your author may write about
science, but he knows nothing about
autism. They are not howling mutes. They
are not "crazy." To characterize our
children in that way is to demean them
and remove any humanity about them.
Autistic children do things differently
than you and I. But they can, and many
do, function in our society. They go to
school, they have friends, they take
part in family life. True, some never
progress to that stage, but this article
lumps them all into a stereotype that
today's society knows is simply not

-- Dale Bass

The current fears about vaccines
will probably only end after enough
people stop having their children
immunized to let an old-fashioned plague
sweep through the country. Instead of a
few people complaining about unproven
side effects of immunizations we will
have thousands of children killed or
maimed by easily preventable diseases.

-- Stephen Cumblidge

A shot in the dark: Geekiness may
be gene-linked to Asperger's Syndrome, a
mild form of autism. Perhaps the
"epidemic" of autism is a symptom of the
desirability of computer geeks as mates
in recent years.

-- Corey Lamont

Screw the kids!



David Horowitz has a very shallow
understanding of the public school
crisis in America.

First, he doesn't seem to understand how
public schools receive large portions of
their funding. He offers an alternative
plan where children would receive
full-tuition scholarships to private
schools and claims that this will not
take money out of public schools. In
California, public schools receive money
based on the number of students present
in classrooms on any given day (ADA or
average daily attendance funding).
Schools receive a specific dollar amount
per child present. Therefore, if a child
is not in the classroom for any reason,
the school does not receive the
allocated money.

Horowitz also takes issue with the Los Angeles
Unified School District Teachers Union's
angry response to the movement to give
individual teachers bonuses if they
raise student test scores. What he does
not understand is that test scores
frequently do not reflect a teacher's
skill nor their work ethic. Students in
affluent areas have the benefit of
educated parents, tutors, experiences
that enrich their classroom experiences
(such as travel, museum visits, etc.),
quiet places to study, computers at
home, etc. It would certainly be easier
to blame the teachers, but the fact is,
there are savage inequalities in
America's public schools and tying
teachers' bonuses to test scores won't
solve any problems until there is a more
level playing field.

Last, Horowitz is horrified that
teachers are demanding a 21 percent pay
raise. I don't know what the pay scale
is in Los Angeles for teachers in public
schools, but as a recent former teacher
in Northern California, if I had
received a 21 percent pay raise, I would
have been making $36,300 a year. In an
economy where recent college graduates
are being offered double or even triple
teachers' salaries to work in any
technology-related field, it is no
surprise to me that there is a shortage
of new teachers. The teachers union's
effort to raise teachers' salaries is,
in part, an effort to attract and hold
onto gifted teachers who are seriously
underpaid for difficult work.

-- Catherine Davis

Just because 30-50 percent of
teachers failed a "basic skills" test
doesn't mean that they can't teach.
Many of these tests cover subjects that
the teachers never teach. I don't care
if an American history teacher can do
high school trigonometry. Whether the
teacher can teach is an entirely
different question.

If there existed this incredibly
powerful education union then why are
teachers incredibly underpaid for their
educational level? Compare a union
autoworker's salary and it will be much,
much more than the $24,000 a year salary
that Colorado pays to high school

Horowitz's knee-jerk conservative
solutions of ending social promotion,
punishing teachers and giving vouchers
will reward only the middle and upper
classes, drive out more good teachers
and ignore the problems of poor
students. It's not clear to me how
Horowitz expects that lowering salaries
and scapegoating teachers will encourage
intelligent people to choose that career

-- Anita Bowles

Schools will never have a chance
to change, progress or evolve until the
lay board of education is removed and
some prerequisite qualifications or
credentials are required of those who
choose to serve on the school board. It
is a sad fact that many of today's
politicians at the local level began
their careers as local school board
members. These individuals are elected
with their own agenda. Only rarely does
that include concerns for kids or the
ability to add to the process of

-- Timothy McGonagle

What does a woman want? Season tickets



I hate to be the bearer of bad
tidings, but for all of the baseball
nostalgia and city pride we may feel,
Major League Baseball is all about the
money. With player strikes, owner
strikes, dot-com-ad-plastered,
corporate-owned parks and multimillion-dollar player contracts (not to mention
$3,000 seat licenses), do you really
think anyone is thinking about anything
other than cold, hard cash? If you want
to see baseball played for baseball's
sake, I suggest Little League.

-- Warren Green

Glad you enjoyed the park.
Sadly, unlike you, I don't have the
luxury of feeling guilty about spending
$2,500 on baseball tickets.

Personal seat licenses price the average
customer right out of existence. And
I've got news for you: You're not an
average customer. You're freakin' rich.
Cash like you're talking about buys a
guy like me five months' rent. (Or two
beers and an order of garlic fries at
Pac Bell Park.)

My only consolation is that I'm a
Dodgers fan. I hope your lousy Giants
never win!

-- Tom Collins

I just finished Joan Walsh's
column on the poor, poor San Francisco
Giants and their troubles in the new

As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I can
only respond: Get over it. When it's 92
years since your last World Series win,
call me and we can talk.

-- Barrett Buss

Baby barf rules


An ancient, venerable lady and a
family friend as I was growing up had
been a nanny in her younger years and
always opined that "a pukey baby is a
happy baby." Years of experience as a
general practitioner and a mother of
four have confirmed this observation.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

-- Tam Doey

Salon Staff

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