Readers for the most part were far from supportive of Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency. One woman said, "After 15 years of watching Hillary in action, I still have no idea what her true beliefs, convictions and motives are. I find that unsettling, to say the least. I would love to see a woman president someday, but on Election Day, my vote will definitely not be cast in her favor." Another responded to our cover line, "What Kind of Decider Would She Be?" with "A more important question would be 'How Will She Build Consensus?' " And referring to our interview with the candidate, one wrote, "If Hillary Clinton really believes the threat of force is 'the strongest tool in our toolbox for leading the world' and becomes the Democratic nominee, this Democrat will sit out her first presidential election in 40 years rather than choose between two Republicans."
Political journalists have been advising Americans to look at candidates for insights into how they are likely to govern if elected and not to dwell on their sound bites or hairstyles ("How She Would Govern," Sept. 17). Your cover story provides real information about Hillary Clinton and what makes her tick. Especially telling is how she has learned to work within the system and manage power. I strongly suspect that Clinton is the most likely of all the Democratic candidates to take maximum advantage of the presidential powers that Bush has amassed. I hope her politics will be more progressive, but I think her style will be very Bush-like.
It is obvious what type of leader Hillary Clinton would be: a prisoner to polls and self-preservation regardless of what is best for our nation. Her finger-to-the-wind approach to leading can be best observed by her constantly mutating approach to Iraq, her desperate desire to be accepted by far-left organizations like MoveOn.org (which defamed Gen. David Petraeus without any rebuke from Clinton) and her fawning attempts to appeal to as many voters as possible by promising "free health care." A serial sycophant is not my idea of an inspiring decider.
Americans don't need another "family dynasty" in the White House. Our country is suffering through its third term of the Bush family. It is absurd to believe that Hillary Clinton could be wholly independent of Bill, a two-term president of questionable character and judgment, or of his opinions or those of his former advisers—many of whom would merely exchange seats with those long-term employees of the Bush family. Therefore, I will not support a return of the Clinton family, and the candidate's gender has nothing to do with it. If the American public wants dynasties, let's reimburse the queen for that tea and join the commonwealth.
There isn't a corporate board of directors in the United States that would elect Hillary Clinton as its CEO given no managerial experience. The only large organization she ever managed, other than her staff, was the Clinton health-care project, and she made a mess of that. Almost all the presidents we have elected in modern times have either had the managerial experience of being a state governor or an army general. I hope the country can select a better choice as our decision-making leader.
Donald J. Smalter
In " 'A Much Fuller Understanding'," Jonathan Darman interviewed Hillary Clinton and asked what mistakes she had made as a senator. Even as an Independent voter I found it compelling that she did not point to any. As has become the norm in our political culture, Clinton outlined the failures of others and highlighted her own accomplishments while never fully answering the question. In this era of proclaimed "change" from the upcoming batch of presidential contenders, it is amazing that any of those who are asked apparently have made no mistakes. One of our current president's greatest criticisms has been his inability to admit his mistakes. Surely Clinton's advisers might have realized that American voters are looking for a candidate who is more like us: someone with faults and a sense of humanity who, yes, makes mistakes.
In "Can God Love Darwin, Too?" (Sept. 17) Sharon Begley quoted Prof. Richard Colling of Olivet Nazarene University: "I want you to know the truth that God is bigger, far more profound and vastly more creative than you may have known." The professor is quite correct. As a retired minister of the United Church of Christ, I have never understood why it is thought by so many that God cannot or has not worked through the processes of evolution. Until we can rid ourselves of what I call the superstitious awe of the Bible, we will never understand it rightly. I once asked my Old Testament professor that in the light of what he told us, how could people come up with the things they do from the Bible? He said, "They don't read it," with emphasis on the word, read. God gives us reason and understanding. After all, as we like to say in the UCC, "God is still speaking." And we should still be learning.
Victor M. Frohne
La Porte, Ind.
If Darwinian natural selection is truly "a hint of God's nature," as Sharon Begley suggests, I, too, might take my chances with atheism. The true reason no peace is possible between Darwin's theory and the God of Scripture goes beyond the former's obvious conflict with the Biblical account of origins, real as that is. The fact is that for Christians to accept evolution, they must ascribe to God the brutal, merciless principle of "survival of the fittest," in which the strong devour the weak in the name of advancement and progress. The fact that religion has itself been used to condone oppression and the mistreatment of others is as undeniable as it is tragic. But human dignity and benevolence aren't likely to be furthered by a theory that views such mistreatment as both the norm and the ultimate good in the saga of life.
Kevin D. Paulson
New York, N.Y.
The idea that evolution might be one of God's tools is not a new one. The refusal by religious fundamentalists to consider this graceful reconciliation is puzzling at best. But the real problem with religious absolutism is not whether it is right or wrong. It is that when we teach children not to trust evidence in this arena, we teach them not to trust evidence, period. And in today's world that is hard to justify. Of course, those of us who believe in open inquiry, like those who believe in democracy, are forced to put up with the views of people who would abolish the very openness that lets them speak in the first place. Unfortunately, giving the anti-science zealots a seat at the table is not just distasteful—it has become a threat to our national security and competitiveness.
San Francisco, Calif.
I've read Richard Colling's "Random Designer" as well as Darrel Falk's "Coming to Peace With Science" and Francis Collins's "The Language of God." Theistic evolution makes sense to me scientifically and Biblically. God is the source, resource and goal of my variation and selection. Jesus doesn't do magic for me; he works miracles in, through and beyond me.
La Crosse, Wis.
I would like to disagree with the authors' hopeful recommendations for parents in "Homeroom Zombies" (Sept. 17). I discovered long ago that I am not a morning person and deceiving my body's natural p.m. circadian rhythms is foolhardy at best. In high school, I went to sleep late, often slept in class and graduated with a less than spectacular scholastic record. In college, I selected classes starting no earlier than noon and finally consistently slept a full night. I graduated with honors. Now, as a commercial airline pilot, I choose to fly the afternoon and evening flights and continue to get a full eight hours of sleep. Some people are just "PMers," a label in my company for flight crews who go to sleep late, and nothing will change that. I would recommend that children and adults who are also PMers choose schools and careers that will allow a later wake-up, as their lives will surely benefit.
The phenomenon of "Homeroom Zombies" is a direct consequence of our schools' starting too early in the morning. I have never understood why schools do not start at 9 a.m., as was the case when I was growing up in India in the '50s; our schools were modeled after the British system. The only real reason I see is that we want to use the same buses and drivers to transport the kids from the elementary, middle and high schools, and therefore we have different starting times for the three levels. It is just a matter of buying a few more buses and hiring a few more drivers or replacing the full-time bus drivers with part-timers. When millions are being spent on building elaborate stadiums and auditoriums, and on expensive field trips, among other activities marginally associated with academics, it is a travesty not to direct some of that money to transportation so that our kids can get their education during hours when they can learn without being plagued with sleep deprivation.
Julie Scelfo only looked at the tip of the iceberg in examining the dwindling numbers of men going into teaching ("Come Back, Mr. Chips," Sept. 17). When I entered the profession in the early 1960s, many of my colleagues had National Defense loans that forgave 10 percent of their loans for each year they taught or were in some form of government service. There were federally funded fellowships for graduate students in math and physics. Most of these incentive programs were ended during the Reagan years. Student-loan programs replaced the grants. Young graduates are now burdened with higher loan debt. Why, I ask, would a young college graduate take a job paying $30,000 to $40,000 when starting salaries in the private sector are double teachers' pay?
George K. McHugh Sr.
In 1996, after 36 years in the military, I returned to school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington to earn teaching credentials as an elementary-school teacher. At the age of 55, I and two much younger male classmates produced a major research paper entitled "Where Are the Men in Elementary Education?" The issues in your article are the same issues that we reported in 1996. Nothing has changed in 11 years and, in fact, the situation has worsened. Were I just starting out as a new teacher in North Carolina, I still would not be earning $30,000 a year.
Thank you for publishing the article on celiac disease and noting not only the severity of the condition, but also the positive side of what the future holds for those with the disease ("Waiter, Please Hold the Wheat," Sept. 17). Being of the mind-set that I am young and invincible, I was struck dumb by my diagnosis of celiac disease. After three doctors, one hospitalization and countless blood tests, it was a miracle that at 18, my maladies finally had an official diagnosis. At first I was relieved, but then I panicked. All foods seemed to be drenched in gluten, from bread to pudding to some ketchup. I expected to live off leaves and nuts for the rest of my life. But with family support and education on the subject, I discovered countless items that contained no gluten. Nearly a year later, I cannot express how happy I am and how great I feel. I am gladly gluten-free.
Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Lorraine Ali has written a wonderful article for parents, grandparents and educators to think about as another school year begins ("You and Your Quirky Kid," Sept. 17). As a parent in the early '80s, I objected to my child's diagnosis as "hyperactive" and the need for medication. As a principal in the mid-'90s, I questioned with concern the third medicine cabinet being installed in my middle school. As a grandparent, I observe and hold my concerns for yet another day. What ever happened to children's growing up and being treated as individuals, without labels that carry them into adulthood to be used as crutches and excuses? I don't discount the need for the mandates of No Child Left Behind or Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, but what ever happened to common sense? I wholeheartedly agree that we need to look at our children as individuals and "provide them with the basic skills they need to navigate in that world." Then we have done our best in preparing them for their future. It is up to them to follow their dreams.
Glen Allen, Va.
The Asperger's Syndrome "label" is important for my child because it qualifies him for support and services at school, and helps his fellow students understand his brain differences. It is no more "damaging" than the labels "asthma" or "food allergy." Only education will move us closer to the vision of a "world ... sufficiently kind and welcoming" to all people and their quirks.
Clifton Park, N.Y.
Lorraine Ali's "You and Your Quirky Kid" is the best piece I've ever read about raising "quirky" kids, or children who aren't considered "normal." As the parent of a child who is developmentally delayed, I enjoyed reading a positive article written by another parent who isn't discouraged by society's need to label our kids with a negative diagnosis. Sometimes, as Ali points out, there are no answers to behavior we can't always explain. My 4-year-old son has taught me tolerance of others, that "normal" is subjective and that taking one day at a time is the only way to live. He's also helped me pick my friends: ones who aren't quick to judge and who welcome every silly thing he says and respond with something even sillier. Like Ali, I can't wait to see what he becomes, this little guy who has been taking his sweet time in every phase of development ever since he was born.
Chadds Ford, Pa.
"You and your quirky kid" pointed out that more and more children are being diagnosed with sensory-integration dysfunction, dyspraxia and pervasive developmental disorder. The article also mentions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 150 kids has an autism-spectrum disorder and that diagnoses of bipolar disorder have soared from about 18,000 in 1994 to an estimated 800,000 in 2003. Currently we have toys being recalled that have had more than 180 times the permissible levels of lead paint. Since lead may be toxic if ingested by children and can cause brain damage and learning problems, why isn't more being done to determine whether excessive lead in toys is linked to the high incidence of learning disorders and dysfunctions being diagnosed today?
Cave Creek, Ariz.
As a veterinarian and pit-bull owner, I commend Ben Rehder for "A Dog Who Was Pure Muscle and All Heart" (My Turn, Sept.17). Rehder states what everyone should know about pit bulls: they are loving and happy companions. They receive a frustrating amount of bad press, but the pit bulls I encounter at my work are friendly, excited patients who only ever hurt me by slapping me with their wagging tails. It's true that not every pit bull is a wonderful pet, simply because not every dog is a wonderful pet. I have encountered just as many aggressive golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers (breeds that are often held up as the ultimate family pet) as I have pit bulls.
Wendi Velando Rankin, D.V.M.
University of Missouri-Columbia
I read Ben Rehder's essay about his beloved pit bull with very mixed feelings. While I can relate to his fond memory of his dog's friendliness and loyalty, I am struck by how similar his description is to the one given by the owner of the pit bull that mauled my Belgian sheepdog, resulting in a permanently severed jugular vein and 50 stitches across his body. Stories in newspapers across the country report maulings by pit bulls whose owners almost always describe their pit bulls as friendly and loyal. It's amazing that pit- bull owners are willing to accept the risk and liability of harboring such a potentially lethal weapon. It's even more incredible that they never think the "killer instinct" label applies to their dog.
San Francisco, Calif.