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Letters

Cambridge 02138

Training teachers, global health, climate change

January-February 2017

The Death Penalty

I am not familiar with the Steikers’ work, other than through the comprehensive article in the November-December 2016 issue (“Death Throes,” by Lincoln Caplan, page 56). However, over the years (I suppose like most lawyers), I have given considerable thought to the death penalty, and I simply do not believe that much of the scholarship is useful or relevant.

People either believe that under certain circumstances it is appropriate for the society or the government to extinguish the life of a criminal, or they don’t. Trying to eliminate the death penalty under the rubric of the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is pure sophistry. Where the founders’ intent cannot be ascertained because of subsequent factual or technological developments that they could never have anticipated—e.g., a crowded urban rather than agrarian society, automatic assault weapons, infrared surveillance tools—then there is some leeway for interpreting the Constitution other than by asking what the words mean or even might mean. It is a far more extreme argument to take a concept and its application of which the founders were certainly well aware and try to ignore the people’s judgment simply because it’s no longer fashionable in certain segments of American or European society to believe in the death penalty. The proper course is to treat this as the political issue that it is and work through state legislatures and Congress.

Moreover, even within the Constitutional framework, it is illogical to reach the conclusion that because the death penalty is unpredictable or rare, it therefore is within the ambit of the phrase “cruel and unusual.” Is it not true that in criminal law generally, in connection with both violent crimes and white-collar crimes, results can be characterized as random and unpredictable, highly subject to the discretion of prosecutors, and sometimes bizarre? That does not make the punishment unenforceable as cruel and unusual, though discrepancies and disparities often lead to its being voided as a violation of due process or equal protection. 

Finally, even if randomness is seen as a necessary practicality, and therefore normally a tolerable element of the administration of justice, one might still say that such a thing is intolerable where a person’s life is at stake and a mistake cannot be corrected, but the reason lies not in the Constitution but in quite justifiable and honorable religious, moral or philosophical objections to the death penalty.

Robert Kantowitz
Lawrence, N.Y.

 

One wonders whether the authors’ speculation recounted by Lincoln Caplan, that if the Supreme Court abolishes capital punishment in the states, abolition of the federal death penalty is likely to follow, eventually even for terrorism, would include the Obama administration’s determination that it currently has the authority to impose pretrial capital punishment via drone strike on American citizens abroad who are suspected of terrorism, although outside the theater of war.

Thomas V. Glynn, LL.B. ’68
Vero Beach, Fla.

 

In his Commentaries, Blackstone traced the English common-law death penalty for murder to the Mosaic Code. He affirmed that, according to the Noahic covenant, murder was not just a capital offense but also unpardonable. 

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away from Blackstone, ruling that it was unconstitutional to require a person found guilty of murder to die. Instead, the Court insisted that not all murders deserve the death penalty, only those that meet Court-approved guidelines. 

Today, the Court is reaping what it sowed. The death penalty is unevenly and disproportionately imposed. One would think that in response to this sorry record of discrimination, reformers like the Steikers would at least consider the possibility that what has gone wrong is the abandonment of the Noahic principle that the death penalty must be uniformly imposed, the life of every victim being equally precious in the sight of God. See Genesis 9:6. 

Instead, the victim is forgotten. Death-penalty critics like Lincoln Caplan fuss over “botched executions,” causing unnecessary pain to the convicted murderer, without regard for the pain suffered by the victim. His myopic approach is typical of the incestuous work on capital punishment promoted by the elite American Law Institute. 

Providentially, the American people know better. On November 8, the people of the deep-blue state of California defeated Proposition 62, calling for the end of the death penalty, but instead voted for Proposition 66 that would close the time gap between conviction and execution, restoring the natural deterrent effect of the death penalty: Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11.

Herbert W. Titus, J.D. ’62
Chesapeake, Va.

 

Speak Up, Please

Harvard Magazine welcomes letters on its contents. Please write to “Letters,” Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138, or send comments by e-mail to yourturn@harvard.edu.

 

It has always mystified me why intellectuals think it is good to expend much thought and energy trying to save the lives of individuals who have done vicious and inhuman things to innocent people. Yet these same intellectuals are happy to expend thought and energy trying to kill innocent infants in the womb who have never done anything bad or criminal.

Civilizations rest on a foundation of laws and commonsense. An almost universal understanding across different cultures is that individuals who greatly harm their fellow man should be prevented from ever doing any further harm.

Don Boyd, Ph.D. ’68
Greenwood, Ind.

 

I AM A RETIRED LAWYER. I have degrees from Harvard (physics, 1971) and UCLA (Law, 1975). I was immersed in the death penalty in California for approximately two decades. There are those who saw me as highly skilled and those who saw me as highly unskilled. I was probably both at different times, so take your pick. This letter is based upon personal observation of the death penalty’s administration in California, where Death Row contains approximately 750 men. Many of them have been sitting there over 30 years, and only 13 have been executed in the last four decades.

The reasons the death penalty in America has to go are quite simple: They include: (1) No one at all belongs on Death Row under the legal criteria presented to juries.. (2) It is absolutely impossible to root out conscious and unconscious racism from the system. What is wrong?

In 20 years I only saw men who fit in three categories: the crazy, the abused, and the innocent. A skilled lawyer will keep his or her client off Death Row if he or she is in any one of these categories. That is only confirmed by the minute percentage of the “condemned” who are ultimately executed. How does this come to pass? It is perfectly natural. Capital murder is, thank God, not normal human behavior. So if you look, you find aberrations of nature (craziness) or nurture (abuse). Those are the reasons for capital nurder in the first place. Take, for instance, Douglas Stankewitz, a native American from the hills ouside Fresno, California.who was convicted and sentenced to death 37 years ago and is still on death row for kidnapping and shooting a young woman while he was on alcohol and heroin, to obtain use of her car to get from Sacramento to Fresno. His parents had both committed homicides. He was a victim of his mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy, and also of her beatings, for which he was taken away from her. He had 10 siblings, all felons, with whom he lived in a one-room house with no electricity or running water as a child until the house was arsoned by the tribal leadership. He ran away from home after his father took him to a bar where a killing occurred, was determined to be “out of control” as a result, and was accordingly placed in the California Youth Authority, where he learned to be tough when he was raped within two weeks, never having—before the experience—performed any violent act. He was introduced to heroin and paint-sniffing at age five, the latter being known to create psychopaths because of its effect on the brain’s amygdala. And so things went. He is currently on trial for the third time on the death penalty, his prior lawyer having been preoccupied by his fanciful campaign for governor of California and not having presented any of the above to the jury because the death penalty in the case was in his view,”God’s Will.” That is the California death penalty for you. Abberations of nature and nurture will ordinarily keep a man off Death Row, but they are the reasons for capital murder in the first place. And if they are not found, the person is most likely innocent of the crime, which needless to say will also keep him or her off Death Row.

And then there is the racism problem. Most of my clients were, “of course,” minority individuals like Mr. Stankewitz. A prime reason for the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision was the inherent racism in the system. When they reinsttuted the death penalty, they set up an elaborate system of safeguards that they hoped would solve the problem. They didn’t. It is quite clear that the statistics on race in the death penalty cannot be explained by minorities being “more bad.” It is found, for example, that the probability of death sentences goes down in the order of blacks killing whites, blacks killing blacks, whites killing whites, and whites killing blacks. Hmmm. In this writer’s opinion, the reason why raciscm can’t be rooted out of the death penalty is quite simple. When a prosecutor or judge or juror is told about redeeming facts in a defendant’s life and asked whether the individual should be relieved of the death sentence and sentenced to life without parole, he or she is in essence asked to have understanding and compasskion and put themselves in the shoes of the defendant. If they can say, “There but for the grace of God go you or I, they will be more forgiving. But it’s harder to put yourself in the position of the defendant if he or she seems different from you, e.g., of a race with which you do not have day-to-day contact. And so race-consciousness creeps into administration of the death penalty. It’s innate.

And there we have it. Less competent lawyers, different races, different results. And a lack of understanding that there are significant redeeming facts in every capital case because it would not have happened otherwise. End of story.

Nicholas C. Arguimbau ’71
Warwick, Mass.

  

Teacher Fellows

Having graduated from the College and the Graduate School of Education, I am long gone from the difficulties faced by teachers in their first weeks in a classroom (“Educating Teachers,” November-December 2016, page 34). I was fortunate to have had a thoughtful mentor and to have begun my career in a supportive school system (in Newton, Massachusetts). Several years later I had the good fortune to visit an elementary school in Pittsburgh that demonstrated how local school administration can pave the way toward excellence in an underprivileged area. I recally very clearly how its brilliant principal did it.

First, no new teacher was allowed to teach full-time for the first two or three months. Instead, they were required to sit in the classrooms of experienced teachers for half of their otherwise scheduled classes.

Second, every teacher was assigned a route from his or her home to the school with stops along the way to inquire if any untoward events had occurred that might affect students. If any such event had occurred, any student from that area was met at the door and escorted to a special room where a parent would meet and talk with him, let him talk, and offer modest treats before sending him off to his classroom.

Third, the principal dictated that no parent was ever to be summoned to the school to hear bad news. Instead, he made it his business to bring the news to the parent himself, at home, sitting on the doorstep to await the parent’s return if necessary.

And perhaps most important, he organized parents to invite new teachers home before school began, to meet neighbors and talk about the school and their concerns.

What a man! What a school!

Randolph Brown ’51, M.A.T. ’56, A.M. ’61
Bay City, Mich.

 

I commend Katherine Merseth’s Harvard Teacher Fellows Program, Sophia Nguyen’s article on it, and Harvard Magazine’s decision to publish the article. The program is based on the seemingly straightforward idea that effective teaching, especially in high-needs schools, requires careful and sustained preparation. The program combines the acquisition of content knowledge and teaching knowledge and learning how to apply these under the supervision of expert teachers for the benefit of schoolchildren. The program is designed to help novices to learn to teach while minimizing the harm they may do to students. The article documents that achieving this goal is very hard work.

However, the import of the program is potentially far greater than the small numbers it is likely to graduate. Harvard and other elite institutions have disproportiate influence over the way in which policy leaders view complex endeavors like the role of teacher preparation on the quality of schools. For too long, elite institutions have wittingly and unwittingly advanced ideas that have been detrimental. In fact, learning to teach is hard work; teaching is a knowledged -based profession; effective teachers are more likely to stay in teaching; most teachers continue to improve for many years, and many expert teachers can help prepare novices.

The idea that any good college graduate with a minimum of training and virtually no supervision can teach in high needs schools leads to continuous teacher turnover. Some students are taught year-after-year by underprepared beginners. Is it any wonder that the achievement gap persists?  Is it any wonder that beginners, experiencing failure, leave early? To be sure, there is much work to be done to reform the terrible system that allows beginners to teach the students who most need effective teachers. However, respecting the idea that learning to teach is hard work is a good beginning. 

Arthur E. Wise ’63
Education Policy Consultant
President emeritus, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
Potomac, Md.

 

 

Global Health at Home

Thank you for publishingGlobal Health at Home: Harvesting innovations from around the world to improve American medical care” (by Howard Hiatt, Charles Kenney, and Mark Rosenberg, November-December 2016, page 49). In 2010 I founded the Moms2B program in Columbus, Ohio, in order to help pregnant women living in poverty have healthy babies.  We are a weekly group pregnancy and parenting program located within four impoverished neighborhoods. There is such a need, we are expanding every day. We have over more than 100 pregnant and parenting women plus their partners and children every week. They participate and receive a heart-healthy meal and connection to services to address their social and medical determinants of health. And we train community health workers.

Dean Hiatt (who was serving as dean when I attended the School of Public Health) champions this model outreach worker. We agree. Our community health workers graduate from our Moms2B program and then train to earn a community health worker certificate.  Our community health workers are invaluable. They understand the needs and reach out to pregnant women living in poverty.  They make a difference in reducing our unacceptably high, Third World-country levels of infant mortality.

Patricia Temple Gabbe, M.P.H. ’74, M.D.
Clinical professor of pediatrics, Ohio State  University and Nationwide   Children’s Hospital
Columbus

 

“Global Health at Home” got my attention, but the text seems to me off kilter.

Health care, like clothes, needs to fit…and the needs of people in what UNICEF calls the “least developed nations,” where “global health” is most needed, are nothing like the needs of the American public.

This is not to say that we cannot learn from innovations from anywhere, but unfortunately what’s needed in, say, Niger or Nepal, where a woman is 80 times more likely to die in childbirth, and her child is five times more likely to die by age five than here, is usually not applicable here. What she needs is education, good food, and “good enough” primary health care right where she lives, whereas her U.S. counterpart often knows what to do, can call for help, and can if necessary get a ride to a hospital miles away. So much of what we know (i.e., excellent tertiary care at a hospital) is irrelevant for moms in Bolivia or Botswana, mainly because they can’t get there, and even if they could, can’t afford the services.

We tend to take income, literacy, adequate food, reliable transportation, civil order, enough water, and basic sanitation for granted. It’s unfair that billions of mothers and children exist in societies lacking these basic requisites to health and survival. Highly motivated doctors like Paul Farmer want them to have access to the kind of care we deem excellent. I would argue that despite all our huge environmental advantages, our care system in terms of cost/benefit is pretty lousy…but as a solution for those most in need in the least developed nations, “fuggetaboutit”!

So, what lessons could we learn from “global health”? I agree that we could use a “better relationship…between doctor and patient,” but that’s not what we learn from the Third World, where the few doctors are concentrated in the big cities and unavailable for most folk. What they need are vastly more midwives, auxiliary nurses, and community-health workers.

As to health care “preferably in the home,” while that outreach is needed to find and recruit the outliers, who are at highest risk of death and disability, the only practical solution is for the entire target population to gather regularly in low-cost community-based dispensaries and health centers, with the far more expensive secondary and tertiary care reserved for those referred from primary-care facilities. But this is hardly “innovative”! The assumption that hospitals are what is most needed usually comes from adult clinicians, not from pediatricians or those with wide public-health experience.

Finally, what’s needed, both here and in societies stranded in the demographic transition zone, is health care based on trust. Attracting people away from indigenous practices, superstition, false health gods, or just plain ignorance starts with guiding them through safe childbirth and the risky early childhood years, integrating curative care of “felt needs” with preventive education around exclusive breast feeding, stimulation and limit-setting, child spacing, immunizations and accident prevention, and good living habits. By this time, most families will believe in modern medical care, will be willing to co-pay for it, and will fight to own it.

Once we accept that basic health care is a human right, we can start building systems both here and abroad (wherever the needs outstrip local capacities), of which we can all be proud, and therefore willing to support! And only then will “global health” be worthy of the name!

Nicholas Cunningham ’50, G ’51
Professor emeritus of clinical pediatrics and public health, Columbia
Springfield Center, N.Y.

 

Sorry, but the “Global Health at Home” innovations will bankrupt the medical system as well as the country. Payments to a union organized Saul Alinsky type community medical activist will go a long way to the 20 percent of GDP or more we will be looking at down the road. On the other hand, answers to medical-practice problems may have occurred in the 20 years post World War II. The ideal of the Hippocratic doctor in the community was at its height. The Nuremburg trials on aggressive war and medical experimentation reemphasized the teachings of the Hippocratic Oath. Medical schools supplied the community doctors who visited the patients in their homes and were taught by the medical doctors who trained during World War II. A major best seller of 1959 was Taylor Caldwell’s Dear and Glorious Physician, a story about the Biblically beloved Hippocratic physician Saint Luke. Luke was the aide of Saint Paul who introduced the Hippocratic Oath into the Catholic religion. Another famous Hippocratic physician is John Locke, who is seen as a philosopher who brought forth the Enlightenment and the Natural Law that imbues our Constitution. One of his natural rights of man was the right to health and not health care.

A reading of the Hippocratic Oath will reveal that Hippocrates respected the Temple doctors and priests of Asclepius and Apollo. Today they are the hospitalists and administrators. A second group of doctors were those that used the knife, the surgeons and today those who enter the body to diagnose medical problems. The Hippocratic doctor was always within a minority group of physicians. This community doctor found it financially hard to practice when removed from financial remuneration when setting up laboratories that reported the same-day results of patient’s diagnostic tests, moved under the eyes of physician gatekeepers after 1980, and was later responsible for computer-based records.

The Hippocratic suggestion would be that instead of one Board of Registration in Medicine, we should have Boards of Registration for Hospitalists, for the Surgeons, and for the Hippocratic doctors. This will allow each group of doctors to have their own ethical codes—which would promote the best practice of medicine in their specialized areas.

Another development of the postwar era was when Duke University, in coordination with U.S. Special Forces, developed the Special Forces medic, or today’s professional assistant. My Special Forces unit was responsible for over 200 active Special Forces medics in Vietnam during the war in Vietnam. Their training took 18 months. They provided professionals who would be under their own Board of Registration. They are a part of the answer to community problems.

Another highlight of the post-World War II era was medically provided charity and voluntarism. These are presently not part of our vocabulary.

A third of my 1960 medical-school class from a medical center in upstate New York came through the Boston area for postgraduate training, [among them those who] stayed to become the first head of Partners for a decade, the recently retired, long-term head of the Framingham Study, as well as another who technically performed the first heart cauterization at the Beth Israel. The training of the Hippocratic doctor did not limit the work done by my classmates for the Boston area community. Before going globally for answers to patient care, one can look at past solutions to problems that have gone out of fashion. Today we cannot allow the doctor to listen to patients for only 10 to 15 minutes, without eye contact, while typing away on the computer and answering telephone calls.

Leonard R. Friedman, J.D. ’69, M.D.
Middleton, Mass.

 

McNamara at Harvard

I do not recall Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara having been “shouted down” when speaking to an anti-war crowd during his visit to Harvard in November 1966 (John Bethell, quoted in The College Pump, November-December 2016, page 80). I could hear him pretty clearly.

McNamara was spending two days at Harvard, in a series of closed-door meetings with various individuals and groups. The antiwarmovement had about 1,800 signatures on a petition asking that he stand up and defend his policies in public if he thought he could. This petition was rejected. We then caught him on his way from one closed-door meeting to the next, and demanded that he speak to us. I felt, and most of those in the crowd with me seemed to feel, that if the point of the exercise was to get him to speak to us, shouting him down would not be helpful.

Edwin Moise ’67
Clemson, S.C. 

 

The College Pump recalls a 1966 visit to Harvard by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, during which he was confronted by a large antiwar demonstration while on his way to participate in a seminar.

I was one of the graduate students in the seminar, which was taught by then-professor Henry Kissinger. When McNamara arrived, the first thing he did was ask if someone could find out if any of the demonstrators were hurt. (They weren’t.) He then proceeded to answer all the questions which time permitted, albeit in the quiet atmosphere of a Law School meeting room.

Ray Soifer, M.B.A. ’65
Green Valley, Ariz.

 

According to The College Pump, John Bethell quoted McNamara as shouting at antiwar demonstrators in 1966, “I was tougher then, and I’m tougher now.” I was a Quincy House sophomore and was drawn to the commotion when McNamara climbed up on a car. As I recall, he actually said something to the effect that “I was tougher and more courteous then, and I’m tougher now.”

Jonathan Hubbard ’69
Evanston, Ill. 

 

Climate Change

A letter in the November-December 2016 (page 8) issue stated: “I am embarrassed by your editorial policy regarding climate change. You are supposed to represent one of the greatest intellectual institutions on the planet, and you continue to promote the obvious partisan big lie that Earth’s climate isn’t stable enough and that it is determined by trace gases rather than by the sun.”

Harvard Magazine replied: “The magazine does not have a policy on climate change, or other issues. It does cover the research of faculty members active in this, and other, fields.”

The existence of climate change and the impact of trace gases on global temperatures are not policies, but scientifically established results. The magazine or the featured researcher should have corrected the correspondent’s claims.

That there are relatively small amounts of trace gases does not prove they cannot have a big effect; germs were also once considered too small to be dangerous. Climate researchers have been led to the same, consistent, result via many different tests and models. If one wants to claim otherwise, in the face of all evidence and logical analysis to the contrary, one needs to show evidence and logical analysis to explain the observed facts in some other consistent way. Ideally one would also show why the other conclusions are wrong.

Having a strong feeling or opinion does not make it true, even if many other people share that opinion. The truth remains, no matter whether we believe it or not. This is why scientific analysis, such as that reported in your article, is so valuable.

Climate change is happening, and we ignore it at our peril.

Joanne Cohn ’83, RI ’97
Berkeley, Calif.

Editor’s note: Other correspondents weighed in similarly. To clarify the note in the prior issue: the magazine does not editorialize on such topics. It has devoted many tens of thousands of words to covering climate change and global warming in the past decade and more (likely more than on any other topic covered during that period). The articles report on the work of Harvard scholars—scientists, public-policy researchers, law professors, and so on—who focus on climate change and warming. None of their research suggests even slightly that climate change is not real or significant.

 

7 Ware Street notes the virtues of reconsideration, even when doing so is difficult or comes at a cost (“Do-Overs,” November-December 2016, page 4). One such challenge—and opportunity—is presented by the ongoing fight over fossil-fuel divestment [Editor’s note: mentioned in that column].

After years of letters, meetings, debates, and protests, the Harvard Corporation and divestment proponents are locked in a war of attrition. Is the end game for our fair Harvard a perpetual civil war until climate becomes a non-issue or fossil fuels are no longer available for investment? That war may be a long one, and may not serve the University well.

The world has changed since divestment first became a topic of discussion in Harvard Yard. First, with the ratification of the Paris Agreement we have an official global consensus on where the boundary of unacceptable climate harms lies. Second, and crucially, we are obtaining a clearer understanding of the resource economics implied by that boundary.

In particular, it is now clear that investing in additional fossil-fuel exploration is not consistent with the Paris climate goals. Perhaps more surprising, a growing literature shows that investing in additional fossil-fuel development and infrastructure (e.g., new pipelines and power plants) is also not consistent with those goals. If Harvard supports the Paris goals, then it would be logical to draw down its investments in new fossil-fuel exploration, development, and infrastructure at this time, including both new equity and outstanding stock. If the Corporation continues to invest while professing support for the Paris climate goals, then it is either not being honest about its support, or it is not fulfilling its fiduciary duty to seek sound investments.

Harvard can take a do-over on divestment with little to no moralizing, only the question: is this investment economically consistent with climate goals?

Benjamin Franta, Ph.D. ’16
Palo Alto

 

I have no intention of giving to Harvard or Radcliffe while they continue to refuse to divest from fossil fuels. Climate change is terrifying and Harvard is not doing anywhere near enough. They should be providing far more leadership in this crucial area. We unfortunately live in a country where Big Oil has an incommensurate amount of power in politics, leading to politicians’ climate denial in the face of science. Faced with this situation, it behooves Harvard, as the most famous university, to lead in concrete and symbolic actions to galvanize all Americans so that together we can push our government to quickly reduce carbon emissions. The very livelihood of our offspring is at stake.

Science demands that we KIITG—Keep much of the declared fossil-fuel reserves IN THE GROUND. This means they are not assets. Fossil-fuel companies inflate their worth with these worthless assets. This makes fossil-fuel companies a bad investment. I divested several years ago, and my portfolio has only continued to grow. I am ashamed that Harvard has not done the same.

Yes, I know that Harvard is greening the campus and facilities, and that professors do research. But that is not nearly enough. I expect LEADERSHIP from Harvard. On climate change, it is severely lacking.

The Radcliffe Institute is “dedicated to transformative ideas.” So let’s get on with it. Let’s admit the enormity of the climate crisis and start transforming the American way of life. Ideas do not transform until they lead to ACTION. Divestment would be a good first action, a first step towards showing some climate leadership.

Susan Ringler ’74
Cambridge

 

Charter Schools, Redux

The six letters responding to Paul Peterson’s article (November-December 2016, page 2, regarding “Post-Regulatory School Reform,” September-October, page 37) fascinated me because none of them mentioned the sine qua non for the success of any school system—and the necessity has been made crystal clear both in charter schools and the Catholic parochial school system: viz. concerned, caring, and, above all, interested parents who will spend the time to work with the school for the betterment of the child, which includes homework and discipline.

For example, in New York, charter schools, drawing from the same demographics as the balance of the public schools, regularly outperform and have, in some instances, literally five times the amount of applications as space available. Those parents applying wish to see their children succeed and are prepared to do what is needed to accomplish this.

You need to start at ground level; you need to understand this and your systems must implement it. Then, the comments and their differing points of view become relevant and interesting.

Howard G. Seitz, LL.B. ’66
New York City

 

It’s a truism that “You’re entitled to your opinion but not to your facts.” The letters piling on Peterson for his article holding out charter schools as an increasingly sound solution to the failure of American K-12 education all (with one exception) claim there is no difference in outcomes between charters and traditional public schools (TPS). False.

The best detailed work comparing charters and TPS is from CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes), at Stanford. It compiled exhaustive data from 27 states for its National Charter School Study 2013. Measures were taken to nullify the charge that charters skim the best by discharging underachieving and difficult students.

It shows that while white students, Asians and non-poverty blacks and Hispanics do not improve in charters (indeed, whites do worse), minority students in poverty do substantially better. And where there is concentrated poverty, there are wonderful positive outcomes from charters: in Washington, D.C., 99 days of additional learning equivalent; in New York City, 92 days.

The KIPP organization has 11 schools in Brooklyn, Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights, areas of minorities in poverty. They get near-incredible results: 96 percent graduate; 89 percent enter college (nearly twice the rate for low-income students); and 44 percent get a B.A. or equivalent (versus 9 percent for low-income students nationally). They must be doing something right.

Yes, as the letter writers claim, we do not respect teachers, do not train them effectively, and do not pay enough to attract the talented. Yes, many students come to school with tremendous learning deficits, due to parents in poverty who failed to instill a love of reading and the like. Pervasive poverty is a problem. But KIPP and like charters are meeting those problems head on and prevailing. Let TPS schools learn from those successful charters, as Peterson urged.

Winthrop Drake Thies, J.D. ’59
New York City

 

I WAS NOT SURPRISED, given the contemporary Harvard ethos, that none of the letters re educational reform even suggests the possibility that differences in performance along social class, ethnic, and racial lines may be due more to deeply rooted cultural differences than anything schools do or do not do—or even more heretically, to differences in native ability.

John Braeman ’54
Champaign, Ill.

 

Democracy and Exceptionalism

Arguments about U.S. exceptionalism are dangerous (“Toward Democracy in America,” a review by Alan Wolfe of a book by James T. Kloppenberg, November-December 2016, page 74). To say that the United States of America was “the world’s first democratic nation” is factually incorrect. It is not all just a story about English and Scottish writers and U.S. Founding Fathers. Moreover, it is not all just a matter of being a “republic” rather than a “constitutional monarchy.” Representative democracy has antecedents in European history at least a century before the Declaration of Independence. Does Kloppenberg mention the Netherlands and Belgium? If so, Wolfe should have made note of that. If Kloppenberg himself failed to do so, Wolfe should have mentioned the Netherlands as a nation-state. The Kingdom of the Netherlands (which initially included Belgium) was created in 1815 but, like the United Kingdom and other constitutional monarchies, the Netherlands and Belgium are still highly democratic nation-states.

J. I. (“Hans”) Bakker
Professor (retired), University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

 

Final Clubs and Gynophobia

In the November-December issue (page 6), admirably respecting the First Amendment, the editors chose to print a nicely phrased but ultimately intemperate letter about President Drew Faust and what one might summarize as a perceived conspiracy against final clubs under the false flag of political correctness. Rape (not to mention alcoholism, social discrimination, etc.), the letter alleged, isn’t really a problem, merely a red herring. The problem is “correctness cabals” limiting personal freedom that have infected Harvard and other institutions of higher learning.

I remember the hubbub at the New York Harvard Club that night, years ago, as to whether the time had come to make de jure, the de facto reality that Radcliffe students were as much Harvard students as the young men who were officially so.

Much has rightly been written about the problems of homophobia. I think it is time, however, for scholars, doctors, and researchers to tackle head on the problems of gynophobia—the pandemic of distrust/fear/hatred of women, and the subsequent violation of their physical, personal, social, and economic rights. Gynophobia is deep, pervasive, and seen in a global dimension: as destructive as any mosquito-borne plague. It is unquestionably among the greatest failings of humankind in the twenty-first century.

James Lichtenberg ’62
Beacon, N.Y.

 

“Locker Room Talk Becomes the Talk of Harvard,” The New York Times, November 5, 2016. In the world of Trump, this is not an issue. For me, it is. I read, “Harvard found sexual assault is “a serious and widespread problem” of the class of 2015, with 35 percent reporting unwanted contact…”

I attended the sixtieth reunion of my class of 1956 this spring. I relished talking to student, many young women, who graduated that day. I am thankful that the Uinversity canceled the season for the men’s soccer team.

Sexism has become a thing “so common” that it has come to be tolerated, says a young woman student at Harvard. NO, I say. The University must take the high road. This is as immoral as is the “N-word” for African Americans. Every effort of the University must be made to counteract this. It must be done with care, like dealing with minority men and police departments.

Rev. Dr. David T. Strong ’56
Farmington Hills, Mich..

Editor’s note: For more on final clubs and other gender and sexism issues, see “Gender Agenda,” page 23.

 


Photograph by Kevin Grady/Courtesy of Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Schlesinger Library

Political Pins

The November-December Treasure,Pins for Women” (page 96), referred to “the Cosmos Club, an elite Washington social club that didn’t allow women to enter through the front door (a policy it would end, begrudgingly, in 1988, after the city found it in violation of anti-discrimination law).”

Virtually every assertion in this statement is false. According to Tedson Meyers [LL.B. ’53], a former club president, the “front-door policy” for women entering the club was eliminated long before he became a member in 1974. Women were admitted as full members on June 18, 1988, not “begrudgingly” but by a membership vote of 775 in favor, 12 abstentions, and 14 opposed. The club was never found in violation of the District of Columbia’s anti-discrimination law, no hearing was ever conducted on such a charge, and no penalty was ever imposed. Eighteen women were admitted within months of the vote and a number have served as presidents of the club.

Daniel A. Reznek ’56, LL.B. ’59
Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: The Cosmos Club voted to open its front door to women in 1973, but rejected proposals to grant them membership in 1973, 1975, and 1980. According to a 1991 Washington Post report, the club in 1985 “reprimand[ed] retired economist Samuel P. Hayes for his activities as leader of the movement to admit women.” According to a 1988 New York Times account, the club’s vote to admit women followed a Washington Human Rights Office ruling the prior fall that “ ‘there is probable cause to believe’ that the club’s men-only policy violated the city’s anti-discrimination law. The office was ready to order public hearings on the case, which could have resulted in the loss of all city licenses and permits if the all-male policy had continued.”

 

The article about the library’s political pin/button collection has borne fruit! Forbes Maner ’74 just sent us a Votes for Women pin in beautiful condition and a little stick pin with a tiny gold hatchet on the end that reads “carry a nation” in teeny tiny letters. He thinks the Votes for Women pin belonged to his Southern grandmother, who, according to family lore, wore it to a meeting with the governor of Georgia and suffered the ignominy of having her photograph in the paper. The hatchet pin, he thinks, belonged to a great-great-aunt in Richmond, Virginia. Another great-great aunt (who drank sherry) claimed the pin’s owner “gave piety a bad name.”

Kathryn Allamong Jacob
Curator of Manuscripts, Schlesinger Library
Radcliffe Institute

Editor’s note: Treasure should have identified Jacob as the library’s curator of manuscripts.

 

Renaming

I have been following the developments this year at Yale, Harvard, Brown, and other noted U.S. educational institutions to revise certain elements in our history, as well as to revise fundamental principles like freedom of association embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Your comments on these developments (“Do-Overs,” 7 Ware Street, November-December 2016, page 4) appeared to support a “ pivot,” as you characterize it, away from Yale president Salovey’s original decision not to rename Yale’s Calhoun College. John C. Calhoun did support slavery as an institution, but more importantly Calhoun boldly articulated the right of a minority to “nullify” the acts of a majority to impose its will on a minority.

 While a senior at Harvard College, I took a course on American intellectual history taught by Professor Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Hardly an anti-liberal, Professor Schlesinger characterized John C. Calhoun as the most important political theorist ever to develop in America. Schlesinger’s lectures and the readings he assigned us by Calhoun opened my eyes to the possibility that one does not have to be a compassionate liberal in order to be profound. Perhaps to be a contrarian is more likely to encourage independent thinking than any other. Another example—alchemists like Harvard’s John Winthrop opened the way for scientists to explore the makeup of matter and the possibility that matter could be altered through chemistry. Though alchemy is discredited these days, chemistry and its lessons remain with us.

So let us leave these famous men honored because they stood out in their times—not because they conformed to our current ideas of what is now an acceptable Ideology.

Walter S. Rowland ’61
Wilmington, Delaware

 

Bob Dylan, Cantabrigian?

RegardingPumpiana” (November-December 2016, page 80):

I’ve always thought “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was Dylan’s most Harvard-esque song. As noted in the column, he was certainly around the campus in that 1960-65 era (“Green Pastures” reference). Not to indulge in revisionist nonsense, but just to pick out a few choice lines: 

“Johnny’s in the basement/Mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement/Thinking about the government” might harken to a scene inside and outside a dorm, while “A man in a coon-skin cap/In a pig pen/Wants eleven dollar bills/You only got ten” is as evocative of the colorful panhandlers of the square then as now. 

“Get sick, get well/Hang around an ink well” could recall dorm life, even the extracurriculars (“Hang around the theaters”)…and what could be more Harvard Square than “Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parkin’ meters”?

Finally, stuck in the head of just about every student who’s ever heard it, “Twenty years of schoolin’/And they put you on the day shift” leads off the final stanza containing the “vandals/handles” line that might have particularly piqued a pump’s ear (if only he had one), and maybe a Nobel committee’s too?

Dan Cooper ’95
WHRB D.J. (1992-1995)
Oak Park, Calif.

 

 

Copley’s Backdrop

I will defer to Jane Kamensky as to whether Copley’s ultimate handling of Thomas Hancock is uncertain (“Facing Harvard,” November-December 2016, page 42). What is certain is that Hancock’s architectural backdrop is definitely not a roofless classical temple. Rather it is clearly intended to represent an English Baroque quadrant colonnade such as might be expected to form the forecourt of a very high-style palatial building of the period. The paired columns most directly suggest Sir Christopher Wren. The quadrant colonnade, although in a different order, suggests James Gibbs’s work at Burlington House.

Dennis De Witt, M.Arch. ’74
Boston

  

Alan Seeger

A Harvard graduate sent me the Vita of poet Alan Seeger (November-December 2016, page 54). The comment by Dick Friedman that “death was (to be blunt) a good career move for Seeger,” gave me pause. Spewing a remark like that is not only sarcastic, it shows a lack of respect for life as well as poets (who tend to suffer more than most writers from suicide and depression). Writing poetry is a vocation—a calling; a poet’s value is found in the life he or she was born to live. 

Kathleen McGraw
M.F.A. ’88, School of the Arts, Columbia
New York City

Editor’s note: Dick Friedman, a career writer, wrote from that perspective. No one here, writers and editors all, took his joke in any other spirit.

 

Endowment Concerns

In the issue I just received, an article states that the Harvard Campaign has “fortunately” been infusing hundreds of millions of dollars into the endowment (“The Endowment Ebbs,” November-December 2016, page 18). I fail to see why this is considered fortunate. Rather, it strikes me as an excellent example of “moral hazard,” a phenomenon very well known to all of us from the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

In contrast, nearly 13 years ago the magazine reported the $100 million paid by Harvard Management Company  to the top six endowment fund managers in 2003, with $35 million each to the top two. While I do not know the amount of compensation paid to the current managers, if they can do no better than, and generally worse than, their respective benchmarks, then HMC should simply stick to index funds, the way many of the rest of us do.

The hubris of very well-paid managers who think they can beat the market, even though the reality is that they have simply lost us money, has no place at our learned institution. The magazine should be vigorously pointing this out, rather than indicating that our modest contributions are “fortunately” making up for very poor and very expensive management.

Richard S. Winslow Jr. ’64
Mercer Island, Wash.

 

Save the Kiosk

A recent New York Times article talks about the proposed “repurposing” of Out of Town News at the heart of the Square.

I’m from the generation that remembers the wooden shack next to the subway entrance. What better ornament for Harvard Square than a place dedicated to communication via print? So what if they don’t sell the Times and The Washington Post-—they are readily available online. It’s the more esoteric publications that are the draw and the importance of this little business.

And equally important, the proposed move is “part of a relentless crush toward homogenization” which is making Atlanta indistinguishable from Seattle and Boston visually the same as LA. I hope Harvard grads will help protest this move.

Gibbs Kinderman ’64, M.P.A.’71
Union, W.Va.

 

An Issue of Truth

I have pondered what is written in Harvard Magazine for 40 years now. Recently, I was surprised to learn of grave difficulties still facing the world. Based on the awards chronicled herein, I had mistakenly thought that most serious problems had been solved. Now I feel compelled to speak to two items appearing in the November-December 2016 issue in The College Pump on page 80. One refers to “this year’s presidential political perturbations.” The other, quoting Derek Bok, speaks of “the Cambridge conceit.”   

I wonder, will my considered viewpoint be shouted down as was Robert McNamara’s in 1966? Because, as in his case, my college radicalism has morphed into mid-life conservatism. I have found out from pundits and candidates alike that I might be a “deplorable,” or a gun clinger. If outed by arbiters of fact and mutual admiration societies, I might be exposed by the radiance of truth shining then upon me.

Nevertheless, I feel some shame about having been schooled in the Ivy League, where Truth is parsed (Obama was not fully briefed about ISIS), we must not say “radical Islamic terrorism” (Obama again), we choke on verbal correctness (a wall vs. a fence) and it is ok to wear a mask on your face concealing age, gender, identity and intention…so long as you call that mask by the correct name. And where it is appropriate to stand on stage to lecture a VP-elect and then call that a “conversation.” Where was the intellectual and moral outrage? To lie by silence is to dissemble.

It occurs to me that it is pointlessly arrogant for the enlightened society of both ordinary and tenured Harvard folk to continually Usurp the Moral High Ground. We who grew up as “Americans” have rights. We are tired of having our “core values” trampled by those who “know.” Do they “know” that electric vehicles are powered mostly by coal? The problem, as often is the case, is broader in scope then what shows at first blush?

It would be best for Obama to stop stitching together his legacy. Best for Brandon Dixon to “shut up and sing.” Best for all to help save the nation, and not start the 2020 campaign, lest they look puerile or self-involved. It would be best for the colleges to reinitiate dialogue, and to teach the difference between Representative Republic and Direct Democracy. Best for them to be honest by telling the Truth to others. Best for them to indulge Integrity by telling the Truth to themselves. Cambridge conceit aside. 

Thomas M. Zubaty ’72
Marston Mills, Mass. 

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