Baby panic and drug tests

Readers respond to recent articles on Sylvia Ann Hewlett and mandatory drug testing in public schools.

Published April 26, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

Read "A Woman's Place" by Michelle Goldberg.

Truly brilliant. Thank you.

What do they argue that a single woman does: not think? Are we stupid? It doesn't seem any of us are likely to "space" having children. It's not like forgetting to buy chocolate chips at the store. I rather believe that women HAVE thought about children and DO think about children. It is innate in women more than in men. But what they decide is up to them. If the gallery makes her happy, let her keep the gallery.

The feature illustration is also very appropriate, cartoon-style. The alarm is truly ridiculous. Thanks for an enlightening read.

-- Maria Ilieva

Michelle Goldberg's analysis of Sylvia Ann Hewlett's new book and the accompanying media hoopla hits the mark. As I read article after article discussing "the baby bust," I kept wondering whether all the debate about the alleged fertility crisis been put to rest in the last century, by Susan Faludi and others. Personally, I knew that I had a greater chance of getting pregnant and married and having a healthy baby in my 20s or early 30s, and didn't need to rely on any survey to tell me so.

And, in research for my coming book, "How To Avoid The Mommy Trap: A Roadmap For Sharing Parenting and Making It Work," I met many high-achieving mothers who have it all, and love what they have. We need to move beyond laments about how hard everything still is and instead emulate those around us who have found a better balance of life, family and work. Feminism has enabled today's women to design the lives they want, a gift worth using.

-- Julie Shields

Read "The Baby Panic" by Joan Walsh.

As a career woman who is child-free by choice, I agree with Joan Walsh's assessment that Sylvia Ann Hewlett's book reveals her to be preoccupied with motherhood, and with measuring all career women by her own limited mommy-yardstick. Hewlett seems unable to compute that some professional women simply are not interested in making child-rearing a priority, or in having children at all. Hewlett's statistics on regret and motherhood are skewed pseudo-science, hardly deserving of the credibility lent to them by talk shows and newsmagazine articles.

Where Walsh loses me, however, is when she pulls out the rusty old "we should care for mothers the way Europeans do" shotgun and fires a few rounds from it. This entire argument assumes that motherhood, and bringing more human children into the world, is such a valuable cause that its subsidization should be a priority for corporations and individuals alike. This premise is false. Walsh's position that the feminist movement has failed and ignored mothers, while common, is based on another false assumption: that all women are mothers or potential mothers, making issues of importance to mothers important to all feminists.

Mommy politics are of no greater importance to feminists as a whole than the interests of people who choose to eat only beets are important to vegetarians. The feminist movement is about providing choices for women. It does not exist to enable women to avoid making choices (i.e. between career and child-rearing) and have their waffling soothed by employer concessions and public money.

There are over 6.2 billion people on this planet. A woman's (ethically questionable) choice to bring more children into this world remains a matter of personal preference, not societal benefit. We do not need to compensate people for choosing to have children, because number one, they'll choose to do it anyway, if that's their lifestyle preference; and number two, because it is paying in advance for services society can't be certain parents are rendering. There's no guarantee that my co-workers who have chosen to have children are doing a good job of parenting, and there's certainly no proof of any kind that they are advancing society by having children. There is plenty of proof, however, that reproduction in these times is a destroyer of our world, and a detriment to our way of life.

-- Gabrielle Kaplan

Read "Why Drug Tests Flunk" by Janelle Brown

If the students are being asked to submit to random drug testing, shouldn't the teachers and administrators be tested as well? I think it's called "leading by example." Let's see how many of them want to be tested ...

-- Jo Ann Smith

Let me see if I understand this right: Drug tests have essentially become avoidable hurdles where results are faked or modified to allow even the least desirable candidates to pass, while compromising the privacy of and humiliating worthwhile students?

FINALLY the war on drugs has caught up with academia! Now students can cheat and flush their drug test just like their standards of learning rote memory. We can all act like the silver-spoon fed G.W. Bush and get promoted and off scott-free regardless of our aptitude or crack use.

Oooh! Ooh! Test me! Test Me!

-- Dean Browell

In your recent story "Why Drug Tests Flunk," you didn't mention the thing that, to me, is the most dangerous part of the whole process: false positives.

Drug testing companies seem reluctant to reveal their false positive rate, but if we assume that it's 1 percent, one out of every 100 students will be wrongly labeled a drug user (or, with a 37 percent drug use rate, 1 out of 38 of those who test positive). With 25 students tested every month, this means that about two students per school year will find themselves removed from extracurricular activities or expelled due to bad test results.

It's important to note that these are often not "lab errors." There are some people who will always show a positive result with some tests, regardless of whether they use drugs or not. Retesting with the same test will still show a positive. A second different type of test is necessary, but few managers, administrators, or officials understand that.

-- William Beegle

Janelle Brown writes: "Even at Rushville ... six years of drug testing have had no quantifiable impact on student drug use."

One wonders whether this is to the point. Perhaps testing curbs drug use. Perhaps publicly kneecapping known offenders would do so as well. Does anybody seriously doubt that there is a wide range of unconstitutional measures that would be fairly effective in minimizing drug consumption? The key word being, unconstitutional.

-- Tim Kenyon

"The Linkes joke that they have always viewed the Indiana Civil Liberties Union as 'the devil,' although, as mother Noreen Linke puts it now, 'when the devil is on the right side, where are you supposed to be?'"

Who is willing to take on the hysteria surrounding unconstitutional random searches? The devil, of course. The Civil Liberties Unions have consistently stood for one thing: the defense of everyone's rights as defined by the Constitution. Please note: EVERYONE. That means conservatives, liberals, atheists and people accused of crimes (to name some of the more unpopular elements of our society). The Linkes called the ICLU when their rights were violated, but did they care while it was someone else's problem? Reading this article, I felt like bursting into song: "When they came for me, there was nobody left to defend me..."

I wonder how George W. Bush would have scored on random drug tests in his own youth (which apparently lasted from ages 6 to 40). If his parents had their property seized without an arraignment or he was thrown out of school without a trial, would he still be as active in destroying privacy rights?

How about Ashcroft? Since he has nothing to hide, I would like to be sure he's as upstanding as he says he is. After all, hiding stuff is rampant in our society, and the criminal profile includes lots of hiding of stuff! Mr. Ashcroft can keep the locks on his house, I just want the police to have a key so they can easily get in when I anonymously denounce him as a terrorist. Two or three times a week, maybe; I am very suspicious of people.

But, maybe I shouldn't be so sarcastic. This is a serious issue. A lot of people in sensitive jobs could put us in danger with their drug use. Like the Supreme Court. After all, they interpret the Constitution for us all. My God, they could all be high up there on the bench! Caught up in some LSD-induced "trip," they might give legal control of our nuclear arsenal to terrorists! Clearly, all 9 justices should be tested for drugs weekly by a fellow with a gun and a badge. Except for Thomas; he should be tested twice a week (David Horowitz is always reminding me that blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites, nothing personal). What a great civics lesson: How Your Rulings Affect the Nation.

Maybe self-described "conservatives" should take a look at the nation we all live in, and say "thank you" to people who do a lot more to defend our rights than put their hands on a Bible and "swear."

-- Joseph Balsama

By Salon Staff

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