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Inbox: Apr. 16, 2007

11 minute read

Bring the Good Book to School?

I read with great interest your article about teaching the Bible in public schools because of my own experience [April 2]. As a high school senior taking advanced-placement English, my fellow students and I so struggled to read Herman Hesse’s Demian, with its Christian symbolism, that my teacher decided to have us learn about various books of the Bible. High schools should offer classes on world religions. Hoping that students will take comparative religion courses in college leaves too much to chance.

Melissa Rabey


Young adults need to know that help is out there for them, and God, as he as always does, finds a way to get messages to his children. Teach the Bible in public school, but also teach its history and how it is related to everyone everywhere. Teach that the Bible’s basic message is to love, serve and be happy with God in this world and the next.

Effie Moore Salem, HUNTINGTON, W.VA.

As an ardent activist atheist, I second David Van Biema’s proposal to add the Bible to the curriculum of our public high schools. I do so for the same reason I support teaching English, keyboarding and the U.S. Constitution: each is useful knowledge for informed citizens in a democracy. My only caution: teach all of the Bible. We wouldn’t sample bits and pieces of Macbeth, Jane Eyre, 1984 or Catch-22 in a literature class; we would expect students to read an entire work. Just so with the Bible. My enthusiasm for this proposal is not entirely selfless. I subscribe to the position espoused by the great Isaac Asimov: “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

Richard S. Russell


Great article, great idea. Teaching about the Bible might help exorcise some of the ignorance of the Fundamentalist right. Anti-Catholics would learn that it was Catholic bishops who put the New Testament together. Anti-gays would learn that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality. And those who want the U.S. to be a nation governed by Christian laws would learn that our enemies are to be loved, not smashed, and that divorce is tantamount to adultery. No divorce, no war, no gay bashing, no anti-Catholicism–how downright un-American!

C. Gregory Jones, CHICAGO

Before we teach the Christian Bible to high school students, we should consider the effect on students who hold different faiths or no faith at all. I am not a Christian, so I know firsthand the exclusion that follows from not being like everyone else. Schools should focus first on teaching the rules of logic. Perhaps then a variety of religions could be taught without fear that a minority of students would be abused by fellow students and teachers.

April Woods, ROANOKE, VA.

Rather than offering a course exclusively on the Bible, it might be more constructive to offer a survey course on the major faiths: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Particularly at this time, a little knowledge of Islam would be most helpful to Americans.

Louis H. Schmid, OCEANSIDE, CALIF.

Were you being ironic in advocating the teaching of the Bible in public schools? In the same issue you outlined the savage violence perpetrated by the religiously driven Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Keith Krueger, RACINE, WIS.

Rudy’s Run

The article “Why Is Rudy Smiling?” [April 2] neglected the key element in Rudy Giuliani’s rise in the polls over the past few months: his reversals on abortion, which have made him acceptable to many pro-life Republicans. Prior to the campaign, he opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion (which he now favors) and considered the Roe v. Wade ruling “good constitutional law” (he now promises to appoint strict constructionists–code for overturning Roe). While still nominally pro-choice, he has positioned himself as effectively pro-life.

Philip Landersen, NEW YORK CITY

Reading, Writing and Ranking

College presidents are disingenuous when they maintain that failure to participate in the U.S. News & World Report survey would put them at a disadvantage in recruiting the best students [April 2]. They could effectively circumvent the ratings list by agreeing to measure only what students have actually learned during the school year. But this would require the use of assessment tools that run the risk of exposing their frequently unwarranted educational claims.

Walt Gardner, LOS ANGELES

The rankings revolt will fail without public support, not because such endeavors aren’t virtuous but because the majority of Americans are getting what they want from higher education, at a price most are willing to pay. That education as commerce has led to such marketing aberrations as college rankings, grade inflation and other competitive amenities shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with Pogo’s dictum, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Brian Manhire, HOBE SOUND, FLA.

Bullies Get the Boot

I was surprised by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s “No Jerks Allowed” [April 2]. Cullen said “beastly bosses have shaved months off my life” and then defended them as being “some of the most gifted people I’ve known,” as if that excuses their behavior. It is people like Cullen who create an atmosphere of acceptance for these cretins. Give me an office full of smiley faces anytime.

Suzy Stephens, HAMPTON COVE, ALA.

Smart, challenging, engaged, even-tempered and fair leaders raise the bar for employees a lot higher than do mean bosses. What is harder than treating people kindly? Being an evenhanded manager is definitely not a job for wimps; the faint of heart need not apply.

Mary G. Sims, UNION, N.J.

Was the casual, repeated use of the word a__hole–spelled out in full–really necessary? Thousands of old-fashioned parents have a bar of soap waiting with Cullen’s name on it.

Rob Reynolds, SEATTLE

Beastly bosses don’t reach the top because they’re more gifted than the rest of us. They do so because they’re more adept at practicing cutthroat office politics. I hope that Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule, is right. I would love to see corporate America purge itself of the “bullies, louts and misanthropes” who make millions of workers’ lives a living hell. Of course, I’m not holding my breath.

Rick Ansorge, HOOVER, ALA.

Bono’s Call to Action

Bono’s good intentions for aiding Africa are admirable, but he appears to believe that government-to-government aid will help Africans [April 2]. This is wishful thinking. Liberal Western democracies have poured billions into Africa to relieve suffering, but the money has disappeared, with no benefits for the people. The only hope is people-to-people aid, like what was recently provided by Oprah Winfrey at her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. She funded and supervised the school’s construction and approved the curriculum, instructors and the selection of the most outstanding students. If we could find another billionaire who would do the same thing for outstanding African boys, there would be hope for saving Africa from itself.

Jack H. Stuart, EAGLE, IDAHO

Wow, Bono didn’t point fingers at anyone or accuse the U.S. of not sending enough money to Africa. What a rarity from a celebrity! Bono recognizes that the U.S. isn’t the only country with Africa’s fate resting on its shoulders.

Sarah Gooch, COLUMBIA, MO.

Oh, Give Them a Home

I was interested to read about the flourishing buffalo population, but the author couldn’t resist reminding us that the species Bison bison is not a true buffalo [March 26]. I don’t understand the zeal for upholding this distinction when similar misidentities are usually ignored. For example, the pronghorn antelope is really not an antelope, and the jackrabbit is not a rabbit. Let’s give bison a rest and let the buffalo roam–along with other common usages.

Russell Schofiel, GLENDALE, ARIZ.

Farming an animal for its meat could hardly be characterized as giving it a chance at life. There is something sick about the idea that life is somehow worth living when it inevitably leads to someone’s dinner plate.

Jason J. Yuen, CHICAGO

I raised an orphaned Bison, and since bison are herd animals, he always wanted to be with me. When he was a small calf I allowed him into my house, but only with close supervision. As he grew, I curtailed his house privileges, both for his safety and that of my house. Gentle-seeming or not, an adult bison is 2,000 lbs. of wild animal and sharp horns. I caution your readers to understand that bison are not pets and should be handled only by experienced people with adequate facilities.

Roger Brooks, MANCOS, COLO.

Guns for Hire

I shed no tears for the mercenaries employed by private security firms who die in Iraq or any other theater of war [March 26]. These “dogs of war” are there at the behest of their rich employers, operating without any oversight or rules of engagement. These gun-toting cowboys charging around in their SUVs taint the already sullied image of our military and government. They went into battle for two reasons: blood and money. Those who live by the sword should expect to perish by it. It is foolish for their families to expect that they are going to be safe. When even journalists and humanitarian relief workers are targets of violence in Iraq, why should these armed men be exempt? Their deaths highlight the ineptitude of the government that got us into this mess.

Farhad Sethna, AKRON, OHIO

Better Late than Never

You reported that the U.S. Army has ordered trucks designed to deflect improvised-explosive-device blasts [March 26]. Where has the Pentagon been for the past 30 years? As a member of the South African Defense Force in 1979, I rode in vehicles shaped exactly how you described. They were most effective in diverting mine blasts away from the passengers and thereby saving their lives. That the U.S. military has only now caught on makes it appear it does not have the lives of its soldiers at heart.

Wayne Pringle


Of Politics and Policy

Peter Beinart argued that the Democrats need to be more aggressive in closing the door on the U.S. involvement in Iraq [April 2]. The analysis he employed bears no relevance to the foreign policy objective. Beinart provided no description of what would happen in the aftermath. His only concern was whether the Democratic political machine will gain votes in the next election cycle. A self-inflicted defeat in Iraq would result in a much less safe and secure Middle East. It would embolden our enemies, increase the influence of Syria and Iran and destabilize such allies as Egypt, Jordan and the gulf states. If anyone wants to know why people are so cynical about politics, this article answers the question.

Dan Gardella, LONDON

Working the Borderlands

I read Aryn Baker’s article on Talibanistan [April 2] with interest, since I spent time working in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the early 1980s and ’90s. It isn’t in the least odd that a Waziri elder in Pakistan should look to Afghan President Hamid Karzai as his leader. When I first went to Peshawar, I discovered that Pashtuns had contempt for Punjabis, that they speak a different language and have very different customs. Lieut. General Hamid Gul may be a former director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, but old soldiers in Pakistan never really retire, short of the funeral shroud. He is an éminence grise to be watched. Since its founding, Pakistan has fundamentally been a military state. For U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher to see Pakistan as a potentially “moderate, stable, democratic Muslim nation” shows considerable optimism.

Michael Day-Thompson


Equalize Emissions

Most of the time Charles Krauthammercomes across as an odious right-wing bully, but in “Limousine Liberal Hypocrisy” [March 26] he did well in demolishing sanctimonious grandstanding on the environment. What do Western leaders expect nearly 1 billion Chinese and Indian farmers to do–burn one less cow-dung cake to play their part in saving the world? The problem lies in the consumption patterns of the West, not those of ordinary Chinese or Indians. A meaningful dialogue on the environment can happen only when the per capita greenhouse-gas emissions of the West and the developing world equalize.

Fernando Dias Velho, GOA, INDIA

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