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Letters: Aug. 29, 2005

10 minute read

What Does It Mean to Be 13? The special report from inside the mysterious and challenging world of the 13-year-old drew mail from young teenagers who were sometimes a bit skeptical but happy to have the attention and from parents who were relieved to learn that they could survive their children’s teenage years after all

My daughter just entered her teens, a time I had been dreading. But after reading your articles on “Being 13” [Aug. 8], I realized I won’t need to resort to medication to cope with the exciting changes that she will undergo over the next few years. Thanks!

JANE STEELE Winchester, Kentucky

TIME’s special report provided great insight into the minds of young teenagers today. As an adult, I’m aware that many people argue that our teens are more troubled and troublemaking than when we were growing up. That argument is a poor excuse for our failure to meet children’s needs. Kids’ behavior is as much a response to adults’ repugnance as a cause for it. Your stories portrayed teenagers as complex individuals who will live up to the expectations we set for them. Let’s set them high.


My heart goes out to the younger generation now, who have to juggle so many different tasks. The future may not be as bright as 13-year-olds deserve, but I am optimistic that they will make it through O.K. Hats off to them!


Being 13 really is not so easy anymore. I am close to 21, and I remember 13 as an age that was much simpler than it is today. We didn’t have iPods, cell phones or other wireless devices. Kids grow up so fast now, and have become a lot more mature in this fast-paced, high-tech world. The first-person essays by the 13-year-olds you published were very impressive. They showed honesty, insight and a high level of writing. Those young authors had a personal story to tell and are trying to find and define themselves, just as we all are, even if we are way past the age of 13.


I appreciated reading young Duresny Nemorin’s personal essay “Poetry Is What I Love.” Thirteen-year-olds are the most exciting students to teach because they are so spontaneous and filled with curiosity about life. Writing a poem on the theme “Who Am I?” is an assignment I learned about at a convention of English teachers, and I have used it in classes ever since. It routinely produces the finest poetry of any I receive during the school year.

SHEILA BOERNER North Platte, Neb.

I was 13 only three years ago, and I know that is the age at which children are able to fashion themselves into the teenagers they have been waiting for years to become. Many of today’s 13-year-olds believe they are mature enough for sexual relationships, dating and distancing themselves from their family. Their friends have a significant impact on the metamorphosis that goes on during those transition years. Many of the changes teenagers go through take place behind closed doors, and like it or not, parents aren’t invited to the party. Although teens tend to withdraw from family at that time, it is very important that parents keep connected with them. Allowing young teens just to find their own way can be very dangerous.

KRISTIN S. TORRES Fresno, Calif.

The complexities of being 13 pale when compared with those of being 75. The passing of years may well improve their lives, but not so likely ours.

RICHARD H. MCHUGH Shelburn, Ind.

Bravo, TIME, for providing a true picture of the very demanding sport of cheerleading. As a mother of an 11-year-old competitive cheerleader, I was glad to see that cheerleaders are finally getting the respect they deserve. Try explaining to your daughter that many don’t think cheerleading is a sport or that a lot of people don’t consider her to be an athlete even though she practices eight to 10 hours a week, runs laps and performs at football games and competitions. A girl who succeeds as a cheerleader is every bit as much an athlete as any football player.

KELLY PERRY Millington, Tenn.

The kids you wrote about show a rather high level of maturity compared to what I expected. Maybe we don’t have to worry about the future after all.


Safe Spaceflight

“Why NASA Can’t Get It Right” reported on the safety concerns plaguing the space-shuttle program [Aug. 8]. Over the years I have found it difficult to support NASA, a government operation that I believe is basically a welfare program for aeronautical engineers. After a hiatus of 2½ years, NASA engineers launched the Discovery shuttle and encountered the same problem–falling insulation foam from the external fuel tank during lift-off–that doomed the previous shuttle, the Columbia, in 2003. NASA’s engineers, managers and technicians should refund to the government the full amount of their salaries and benefits for the past 2½ years.


Now that the Discovery shuttle is safely back on Earth, I hope you will give NASA the credit it is due instead of bashing the agency about a few chunks of foam. The camera that allowed technicians to see the insulation foam provided information about damage that was assessed and fixed. I believe NASA got it right. After all, the International Space Station has been restocked, the new safety systems (cameras, sensors, etc.) worked perfectly, and all seven American astronauts are back on solid ground having been confident that the agency had the ability to get them home safely.


Suspicious about the I.R.A.

“A Farewell to Arms” reported on the announcement by the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) that it is formally ending its armed campaign to force Britain out of Northern Ireland [Aug. 8]. The story reminded me of 1993, when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo peace accords and shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. We all applauded and thought that peace had finally come to the Middle East. We so wanted it to be true. But terrorists are con artists. Their promises are worthless. They are good at murdering innocents and then blaming the victims. Terrorists quit only when they are tired, afraid or outgunned. And even then, there is always one terrorist who refuses to give up. So I am not applauding the I.R.A.’s announcement. I am tired of being made a fool of again and again.


Al Gore, Entrepreneur

I was happy and not surprised to read that with his new 24-hour youth cable network, Current TV, Al Gore continues to be actively engaged in many of the issues that guided him as a public servant [Aug. 8]. Americans missed a golden opportunity to have a truly visionary leader when the Supreme Court essentially selected George W. Bush in the 2000 election. We now find ourselves in debt and involved in a war with no end in sight. I was disheartened to read that Gore has all but ruled out another run for President, but who can blame him? I just hope that with all his intellect and foresight, he comes to realize that we need his leadership now more than ever.

MATTHEW SOKOL West Bloomfield, Mich.

Teaching Faith as Science

I appreciate columnist Charles Krauthammer’s clear and unequivocal statement on the dangers of the creationist intrusion into science instruction [Aug. 8]. I am a behavioral scientist and university professor, and I have always been dismayed that behavioral-science departments do not include major sections on the power of religious thought and belief. But the theory of “intelligent design” [which claims there is a supernatural influence in the origin of life, as opposed to Darwinian evolution] is neither good science nor good religion. How can well-meaning people genuinely think that our culture will advance by turning our backs on rational thought and empirical evidence? Whether it be fundamental questions like the origin of the species or such applied problems as HIV prevention, global warming and lack of health care, the empirical world will always win out. Self-serving or politically and religiously “correct” beliefs–whether from the right or the left–only distract us from a real understanding of ourselves and our world, to our eventual cost.


Since open-mindedness is necessary for scientific inquiry, let’s not close our minds by promoting only one theory for the origin of life.


I applaud Krauthammer’s piece. As a student in the South, I encounter blind rejection of evolutionary theory on a daily basis. How often have I heard, “You really believe we evolved from monkeys?” That type of ignorance is exactly why evolution must continue to be taught in schools. The people who oppose evolution so avidly are unaware of what it hypothesizes. I am a practicing Catholic but recognize that the church has made mistakes in the past when it comes to science. Copernicus and Galileo were both condemned for their assumptions of a heliocentric solar system. Does their theory mean that there is no God because Earth revolves around the sun? Does Darwin’s theory mean that evolution was not part of God’s plan? Please, keep faith where it belongs, and let science be science.


I consider myself a fairly devout Catholic, yet I cannot help reacting critically to the extreme religious conservatives trying to push intelligent design as science. Every priest and religion teacher I have ever spoken to has vigorously confirmed that according to Christian beliefs, evolution and intelligent design are wholly compatible. Even my school–a Catholic one–teaches evolution in all its science courses. I generally take a conservative view of politics and social issues, but that movement clearly goes too far.

MATT DURAND East Freetown, Mass.

Judging the Nominee

Re your report on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts [Aug. 1]: As a Roman Catholic like Roberts, I want to say that being Catholic does not necessarily make a person a right-wing religious fanatic or a pawn of the Pope’s. Catholics are thinking individuals. I am not a Republican, but I would not mind seeing Roberts as a Justice. Any chance that Bush might resign and John Roberts become President?


Bush’s nomination of Roberts could prove the adage that even a blind hog occasionally stumbles across an acorn.

CAROLE HAIGH HARE Diamondhead, Miss.

Driven to Distraction

Was I the only reader bewildered by essayist Michelle Cottle’s “My Roving Barcalounger” [Aug. 1], in which she complains about all the distractions in her new minivan? No one made her get a car with bells and whistles like a DVD player, a satellite radio, a five-CD changer and three cell-phone outlets. Whether, deep down, Cottle wanted all those gadgets or just gave into the snob appeal of the fanciest model, she has only herself to blame for filling her vehicle with so many distractions.

ELIZABETH NELSON Charlottesville, Va.

Volleyball Block?

TIME reported on the conflict between recent Ecuadorian immigrants and longtime residents of Danbury, Conn., over the raucous volleyball games the Ecuadorians enjoy [Aug. 1]. The Danbury people who complain about the large games should be ashamed. Immigrants in the U.S. seem to be expected to leave their culture, color and accent behind. Long ago France gave the U.S. the Statue of Liberty, which is inscribed GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR. Attitudes have changed so much since her arrival, perhaps it’s time to return the Lady with the Lamp to France.

JOANNE WILHELM Kitchener, Ont.

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