Critiquing college admissions, advice for Natives at Penn, Israel debate debated, and more.
Extra Online: More Letters
The School Is Doing Something Right
I was horrified to read of the attacks on the college admission system [“College Admissions in Crisis,” Jul|Aug]. When does this end?
I was not a math major at Penn, but when there are 45,000 applicants and only 3,345 accepted, I am guessing that more than one person may be unhappy. It does not mean there was discrimination or favoritism.
The good news is that your interview with Dean Eric Furda showed a man that will stand up for Penn’s process, that will not allow outsiders, who know nothing of that process, to force him to deviate. Furda showed both an open mind and a terrific resolve. He knows that the government should mind its business, too.
I am not sure why people cannot take “No” for an answer. I have done alumni interviews for several years now. Last year, I interviewed many super strong candidates. I was shocked when none got in. However, I understand there is more to it than my interview. I wish the rest of the world would understand that very simple concept.
I graduated from Penn in 1980. Since that time it has risen up the ranks of desirable schools to attend. I doubt I would be admitted to the Penn Class of 2023. Obviously, since there is a record number of applicants, the school is doing something right. I am happy that Dean Furda remains the head of admissions. I do wish they would consider my notes a bit more. No worries—I am not taking anyone to court.
Alan Dvorkis C80, North Stonington, CT
Lottery Would Benefit All Stakeholders
The fairest way to settle the controversy over admissions at Penn is to acknowledge the principle of the flat maximum. All applicants who are bunched at the very top of the curve possess qualifications that are quite good enough to succeed. It’s a fool’s errand to try to split hairs among the 45,000 or so high school students who apply for only 3,000 spots. Using a lottery for admission under these circumstances would benefit all stakeholders.
Walt Gardner C’57, Los Angeles
Eliminate Early Decision Program
I would take more seriously Admissions Dean Eric Furda’s (and Penn’s) commitment to assembling a diverse student body if the University would eliminate the Early Decision program through which Penn currently fills around half its freshman class. This program gives preference to applicants who commit to attending Penn before knowing which other schools have offered them admission and what their financial aid awards are.
Dean Furda has said publicly that alumni children need to apply via Early Decision in order to get a benefit from their family connection, which demonstrates clearly that it rewards people from backgrounds less diverse than today’s applicant pool. The Early Decision system—which, to be fair, is also used by other elite schools—rewards not only alumni children but, more generally, the kinds of high school students whose parents have the means to hire admissions consultants to advise them on how to maximize their chances of admission. And it penalizes those who need to consider finances as part of their college decision and/or are unfamiliar with the realities of the college application process.
Requiring students to declare Early Decision to maximize their chances of admission is discriminatory and unfair. It’s also ridiculous, if you think about it. What 17-year-old can truly know that any one university (even Penn!) is the perfect one for them?
Rich Gordon C’80, Evanston, IL
National Service Is a Better Way
Dean Furda is quoted as saying—among many other things—that the admissions process tries to achieve “a four-year period where students are going to be able to learn from people who think differently, have different backgrounds, different contexts.”
This is an admirable end result for the (admitted) college student. But what happens to citizens who do not matriculate at Penn—or at any other college? Should these people not be afforded the opportunity to learn and appreciate individual or group differences?
It is my contention that one to two years of national service should be a requirement for every citizen of this country. The programs must run on a level divorced from the comfort of one’s community, putting “units” together in which strangers all live and work together for goals. Everyone would depend upon each other’s contribution for a desired outcome, while learning idiosyncrasies of various groups represented.
Penn could then get on with scholarly instruction; non-college educated artisans could work well with all kinds of business partners; interpersonal and group animosities would soon be passé. America might then, indeed, return to greatness.
Malcolm B. Zola GD’60, Fairfield, CT
Regarding the very nice story, “The New College Try” [“Alumni Voices,” Jul|Aug 2019]: the young woman not accepted is the luckiest applicant. She now owns title to herself. No doubt she will become extremely successful; just wait and see. God bless her.
Larry Bandoni D’77, Hanover, MA
Advice From One Who’s Been There
I was delighted to read “Native Pride” [Jul|Aug 2019]. When I studied in the Am Civ PhD program from 1967 to 1971, there was nothing like the Natives at Penn student group, and there were no powwows. But, fortunately, the Am Civ program’s interdisciplinary nature was way ahead of other American studies programs. I was permitted to have Navajo acculturation as one area of my comprehensive doctoral exam. The training I acquired at Penn encouraged me to continue in Native Studies; I’m the coeditor of the Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature. What’s more relevant to the article, I’ve been the faculty advisor for our Native student group for 25 years. Even though the University of Texas at Arlington has many more Native students than Penn, I can identify with the Penn students’ challenge. One of the keys to our success—the 24 powwows, 38 scholarships awarded, many speakers, a Top 200 rating for colleges for Indigenous students by Winds of Change—is that we are supported by the Dallas-Fort Worth Indian community. If they haven’t done so already, I strongly advise the Penn Native students to make connections with Philadelphia Indian communities. That will amplify their efforts tremendously.
Kenneth Roemer G’71, Arlington, TX
Be Who You Are
Samuel Yellowhorse Kesler’s essay “Half Claim” [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Jul|Aug 2019] resonated in my life. My mother converted to Judaism from Catholicism before my birth in 1957 so that she and my Jewish father could raise a Jewish family. She admired Jews she had met while being at odds with her Catholic school upbringing beginning at age five! My half-breedness is religious and cultural.
Throughout my life people told me that I looked too Irish to be Jewish. A taxi driver once told me that conversion to Judaism was not a possibility, that I had to have come from a Jewish mother! I came to understand that only Reform Jews would accept religious conversion. I gave up arguing altogether with anyone, because I knew who I was.
You have to be you and “not fret” about not doing enough for your Native and white cultures. You can only speak for yourself. You are saddling yourself with a problem. Forget the “we” unless you have consulted with every Navajo. The only thing to know is all of who blend to make you you. It is a waste of time to worry about others not having an Ivy League education. Most people do not, whether they have an obvious cultural middle name.
I am a white, third-generation American with Irish, Scotch, French, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Jewish, and Catholic heritages, but most of all I am an American Jew. Survivor’s guilt or imposter syndrome won’t do anything for you except keep you down! Be who you are: a man of mixed heritages. There will come opportunities to speak as a white Navajo man and represent the totality of who Samuel Yellowhorse Kesler is!
Follow your bliss, Mr. Kesler (a saying of Joseph Campbell). Embrace all of you. I, too, know the sting of being a “half breed.” Be proud of your white and Navajo self. Go to powwows and watch the proud people in their beautifully beaded and feathered outerwear. Celebrate!
Vicki Rothbardt Oswald GEd’89, Wyncote, PA
Biased Report on Israel Debate
Why does the Democrat, left wing, “progressive” mindset have a need to impinge on Israel, a tiny country which is an oasis of calm in a region churning with turmoil?
Your very biased report of a debate at Hillel between Bret Stephens and Peter Beinart demonstrates this tendency [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug 2019].
The article gave Beinart more column space than Stephens, allowing him to spew his bias and fabrications not only against Israel but against the US as well. Beinart was given the final word; Stephens was allowed no space for rebuttal.
But not only that. The article also inserted a bold, blue-colored, two inch high pull-quote of Beinart, splashed across two columns, accusing Israel of subsidizing Israeli Jews moving into settlements. There was no mention that this increased aid is almost entirely due to the heightened security needed to forestall Palestinian terror attacks.
The eviction in 2005 of every Jewish resident, alive or dead, from Gaza demonstrates conclusively that “Settlements” are not the root of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The abandonment from Gaza has resulted in an unending siege of terror attacks along with thousands of rockets raining down on the heads of Israelis.
Penn has many Jewish students, faculty members, and alumni. Many of us have an unwavering affection for Israel. The ties of religion, family, and fraternity run deep and strong. And this is the way the Gazette treats us!
Hershel Barg C’58, Philadelphia
I appreciate the article summarizing the debate between the two gentlemen presented by Penn Hillel in May. If I participated I would have made some additional points regarding some of their statements:
“We both desperately want to see the Palestinian people have full access to their rights, both civically and as human beings.”
This is worded in a way to imply that Israel has something to do with blocking full access to rights. In fact, Arabs and Muslims living under Israel rule have full rights, including to pursue education and careers of their choice. It is those living under the Palestinian Authority that don’t have full access to their rights. Any restrictions imposed by Israel may have something to do with frequent ground or air attacks that Israel needs to control.
“I think if Israel was interested in creating a Palestinian state …”
It is not Israel’s job to create their state, and they have had decades in which to do so. Since they are focused on destroying the Jewish state, and not on peace, they have not focused on building a state in which to be good neighbors.
“Mohammad Abbas is a very weak leader.”
He has been chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization since 2004 and became Palestinian president in 2005. He is in his 14th year of a four-year term, and after decades of “peacemaking,” he hasn’t even acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, let alone preparing a state to live alongside a Jewish state. This doesn’t sound weak to me.
Q: So, if the current prime minister has given up, who can blame him?
A: Most of the world.
Jeffrey Gold GrEd’87, Philadelphia
Debate Wouldn’t Pass the “Giggle Test”
I was somewhat less than amused to read of the so-called debate at Penn Hillel.
Bret Stephens is the “plantation” conservative at the New York Times, at best a RINO (Republican in name only). Peter Beinart is the genuine liberal who questions the Israelis’ interest in creating a Palestinian state. Simple logic dictates that the question to be answered and explored is whether the Palestinians want a separate state. Clearly, the Israelis chose, in a democratically run election, Netanyahu as prime minister, believing that he represents their best hope for security against the Palestinians—who deny any historical Jewish presence in the land of Israel; declare Jesus to have been a Palestinian; and heftily reward, monetarily, perpetrators of terror against unarmed civilian Israeli or Jewish visitors to the State of Israel. Now there is a welcome candidate and neighbor for a two-state solution!
As far as the bogus calumny against the so-called settlements, remember that after the Six Day War, Egypt refused to reassert its sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, so Gaza became a “Jewish settlement” until its suicidal relinquishment to the Arabs. Sorry that Beinart fears future violence, unlike what the Arabs now reap today?
As a former member of Penn Hillel in the 1950s, I believe this hokum debate between these soi-disant intellectuals would hardly have passed the proverbial giggle test then, let alone be reported in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Joel Lewittes C’56, Aventura, FL
Opioid Recovery Doesn’t Require Medication
I read with interest the piece on the Silfen forum on the current opioid crisis [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug 2019]. However, I disagree with the panelist from Harvard, Bertha Madras, who was quoted as saying “without the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), you cannot really climb out of that uncontrollable urge.” There is no doubt that MAT medications for addictions are very helpful and, unfortunately, underutilized. However, it is misleading to state that one cannot recover without the use of these medications. In fact, most people who do recover have not been treated with MAT. There are psychotherapeutic and 12-Step programs which can also be extremely helpful for recovery, even without the use of medications.
Edgar P. Nace M’65, Dallas
Using AI Isn’t Intelligent
Please resist the ecstatic use of the phrase artificial intelligence and its acronym AI, as in “AI Assistants or Digital Despots?” [“Expert Opinion,” Jul|Aug 2019]. These terms are nonsignifiers unless referring to science fiction or fantasy.
Artificial intelligence has not yet been invented, and the usage “AI algorithms” in the article is either a redundancy or a glaring oxymoron. Intelligence is not algorithmic, not programmable, not predictable. Not one of the 8 billion natural intelligences on this planet, for example, knew I would write to you today, and not even I knew precisely (or predictably) what I would say when I did.
Certainly artificial intelligence and AI are currently being (mis)used in the popular media to beatify such mundane accomplishments as the management of traffic lights, the algorithmic processing of data—albeit sometimes on a huge scale (“mega-data,” as it were)—and even to describe the process of finding key terms in job resumes and on college applications.
Black boxes, so-called “machine learning,” neural nets, RISC strategies, incentivized cellular automata, recursive programming, and other computer-age artifacts have not brought machine intelligence into existence. In fact, if processing speed, memory capability, code-nested subroutines, and “machine learning” had any meaning to its ontology, it would have been birthed in the 1980s, and, as in the much-cliched trope of science fiction, would probably have eliminated the irrational beings who deprive it of power, its lifeblood, every night.
Anthony Splendora C’83 GEd’86, Milford, PA
Iowa Deserves Better
As a former Iowa resident, I didn’t like the opening sentence of “My Own Private Iowa,” by Daniel Naegele [“Expert Opinion,” Jul|Aug 2019]. How could he say that “Iowa is not beautiful or even picturesque?”
I lived and worked in two Iowa towns, Grinnell and Iowa City, and traveled extensively in the state for seven years. As I prepared to leave Iowa in 1987, at the height of the farm crisis, I wrote about its poignant beauty:
“The haze of a warm and humid summer’s day makes the Iowa landscape sensual, like the body of a heavy woman reclining, curving, sleepy in the heat. The corn grows fast: locals like to joke that you can hear it growing at night. It’s easy to imagine the steady, cicada-like hiss that it would make under the moon. During a prematurely hot week early in June, it grew 12 to 20 inches in various parts of the state. In the beginning of the season, it was small and tender, close to the ground, hardly like corn at all; but within a few weeks it was two feet tall, deep green, abundantly filling the big fields by the sides of the roads.
“The best place to get a sense of corn is on the back roads, where it starts next to the shoulders, only a few feet from the car. Not flat but gently rolling, Iowa’s land carries the corn on its gracefully shifting back. The sense of fecundity is overwhelming. This is nature triumphantly tamed, in our service, benevolently promising. Yes, we will feed the hungry with our giant harvests. Everything is just and fine, all’s right with the world, as long as the corn grows like this, controlled by our rational hand. The soil, black and rich, cannot help producing millions of bushels, or so it seems from the fast-moving car, from which one can see only outlines and masses of color.
“Life is not so simple. The price of corn is down, and the farmers are not doing well. The more corn they grow, the less money they get. The pesticides and herbicides so abundantly applied to ensure the health of the crop are poisoning the land and the water beneath it. Wells will have to be sealed, river water treated to repair the damage. Birds will sicken and die; people will get sick, too. A lot of farmers are going to go bankrupt. The topsoil is blowing steadily away, and it will never come back.
“Driving by, one can’t help thinking about these melancholy facts. But there is no evidence of them on the land, at least not that one can see from the car. What can be seen are the general features, the fleshy hills, the tender green plants, the haze, the distant clouds, white and unthreatening. Even at the edge of a thunderstorm, when the sky gets so dark that headlights must go on, it is possible to see light far off, or rain falling many miles away, over a strictly limited area. This is a landscape without apparent boundaries or obstacles, except for the ends of the fields, the horizon and the hills. Driving through the lushness of this countryside, one might think that nothing exists beyond this unwinding road and the surrounding land.”
When I returned briefly to rural eastern Iowa in 2017, it was still beautiful in the same way.
The state deserves better than Naegele’s condescending portrayal.
Linda Rabben CGS’74, Takoma Park, MD
On Hope, and Recklessness
Your piece on this year’s commencement speech by “social justice activist” Bryan Stevenson [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug 2019] immediately brought to mind Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer and one of his most canny observations.
The story reads in part: “Through everything, Stevenson urged graduates to stay hopeful because ‘I believe hopelessness is the enemy of justice,’ he said. ‘We cannot achieve the change we seek if we don’t hold onto hope. … Our hope is our superpower.’”
As if in direct reply, Hoffer wrote this: “Where power is not joined with faith in the future, it is used mainly to ward off the new and preserve the status quo. On the other hand, extravagant hope, even when not backed by actual power, is likely to generate a most reckless daring. When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows, and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”
Meantime, I for one hope—and pray—for the preservation and restoration of our Republic.
Stu Mahlin WG’65, Cincinnati
In perusing the recent edition, I noticed a call for “young(ish)” entrepreneurs to be featured in the magazine [“Alumni Profiles,” Jul|Aug 2019]. Honestly, as an older alum, it was off-putting. An MIT study found the average age of startup founders is 42; and that 20-something founders have the lowest likelihood of starting a company with a successful exit. Further, the book Purpose and a Paycheck by Chris Farrell highlights the fact that people in their 50s and 60s are launching start-ups at nearly twice the rate of people in their 20s. Perhaps the Gazette is targeting younger alumni with this coverage; however, it runs the risk of 1) perpetuating an incorrect perception that start-ups are only for the young; and 2) ignoring and alienating a decent portion of alumni readers who may not be young(ish) in age but are in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Cynthia Santana Sommer WG’89, Folsom, CA
The notice (announcing a new web-only occasional series, “Early Stage”) does say “mostly young(ish)”—but the point is a valid one, and we certainly don’t want to dissuade anyone from sharing their start-up stories. We’ll retire, er, avoid that usage in the future.—Ed.
Penn Should Recognize Tantaquidgeon
I don’t remember the controversial Mar|Apr 2019 issue, so the transgender article must have seemed perfectly natural [“Letters,” May|Jun and Jul|Aug 2019]. I like the Gazette just the way it is, and do read it pretty closely. For instance, in the article on the ethnologist Gladys Tantaquidgeon CCT’29 [“Old Penn,” Jul|Aug 2019], I wondered why her own Penn did not give her a retroactive degree, or at least the honorary degree that Yale and UConn did.
Allan Atherton GAr’67, Louisville, KY
Antidote to Discouragement
I cannot tell you how much I needed to read Julia Klein’s great article on Nicholas Christakis [“Good By Design,” May|Jun 2019] to counteract the negativity, despair, and hopelessness that is like the smog we breathe in daily. I have friends who are in a constant state of discouragement—near paralysis—insisting that hearing the news or reading the newspaper makes them want to cry or scream.
Thanks to you, instead of telling my friends to just turn off the radio or TV and put the newspaper down (or put it on vacation hold) I can offer the hopeful research of Christakis that asserts that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the world is getting better. It’s in our genes.
Now I can remind them that people do cooperate and care about each other as friends and as partners, and there is more that unites us than divides us.
Jill Sunday Bartoli Gr’86, Carlisle, PA
Extra Online: More Letters
Majority Hope for Peace
The questions raised in the article about the future of Israel, anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism is logical, within the framing of the article. Here in the US, anti-Jewish acts have increased 197 percent between last year and this. The synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh caused the largest loss of life in a synagogue in US history. The shooting in the synagogue in Poway, California, was arguably a copycat of the Pittsburgh shooting, as both murderers posted manifestos on the internet. Isolated, unaffiliated terrorists whose violent fantasies and plans are triggered by terrorist manifestos on the internet are also a threat to Israel that is both anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. Add to this the fact that Hamas, the elected ruling party in Gaza—a self-proclaimed terrorist organization, whose constitution declares the destruction of the State of Israel to be one of its goals—is clearly not a partner for peace with Israel. Hamas operatives live in the West Bank as well, though Fatah is the controlling party. So it appears that Israel does not have a partner for peace on its borders.
Further, the permanent tunnels used to smuggle arms into the Palestinian territories include thousands of missiles, many of which have been fired into Israeli cities, with many more in the tunnel pipeline. So the Palestinians are fighting a proxy war sponsored by Iran and other nations that wish to eradicate the Jewish State from the face of the Earth.
Despite all of that, as an American Jew I grieve when I see the aggression the Israelis exhibit toward the Palestinians. I’m not particularly pleased by the violence demonstrated by the Palestinians who throw rocks and explosives at Israeli troops to provoke armed conflict.
In spite of all of these obstacles, Israel has become the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. The Arabs who remained in place during the War of Independence of 1948 have prospered. True, there were wartime measures taken by both sides during that war were horrible. As to the claim of restoration of Israeli land to the Palestinians, there is a counterclaim that has never been publicly made for the some 700,000 Jews summarily expelled from the Muslim countries where they had lived for millennia, with only the clothes on their back. Those countries stole their properties and wealth.
Withal, I am keenly aware that there is a difference between the official policies of both sides and the will of the people to live in peace. It has ever been so for much of human history. Yes, I will grant that it is counterproductive for Israel to pay settlers to live in the West Bank. But likewise it is counterproductive for the Palestinians to shoot hundreds and thousands of rockets, inflicting injuries and death upon Israeli civilians (some of whom, incidentally are also Palestinians).
Add to that the trillions of petrodollars earned by the Arab nations. Yet the wealthy few have not chosen to elevate the living conditions of the general populations both in the oil-producing countries and those without oil. There is plenty of wrongdoing on both sides. What Jews face worldwide is a rise in Fascist governments who adopt anti-Jewish policies, such as Hungary. Poland has established anti-Jewish laws as well. So much for the lessons learned during WW II.
Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel, was once asked, When will the Palestinians stop sending over terrorists on suicide missions to kill Israelis? Her chilling response was, They’ll stop sending terrorists when they love their children more than they hate us. So where do we start? With the idea of, Love your children. Teach them well? I don’t even have all the questions, leave alone the answers for the intractable conflicts of the Mideast. Still, I know that the majority of “persons in the street” hope for peace.
David Herman G’71, Elkins Park PA
Get Out of the Way
I lived in “the wilds” north of Santa Barbara, California, for 37 years, and faced fire dangers and evacuation. Our home insurance was very expensive, but our main concern, living in a “chimney canyon,” was getting out alive. Daniel Bercu’s “Against the Fire” [“Elsewhere,” Mar|Apr 2019] brought back memories of the terror and constant awareness, and responsibilities, of living in a place that flirts constantly with the threat of wildfires. Bercu’s comment about how people in the future may respond: “Leave and your house is gone. Stay and you might ensure its existence,” struck a sour note with me.
Firefighters are supposed to control fires. A good neighbor and good person will properly insure their home and possessions, leave as advised, and get out of the way. Chaos rules in such situations. We even posted signs to let firefighters know where water tanks and pools were available for them to refill their equipment—and counted ourselves lucky to have such brave teams to answer our calls for help. If they find a person who refuses to evacuate, the fire crew will stay on that property, rather than fight the fire. When people stay to “save their homes,” they put the entire area at further risk of losing everything, since preserving life—even those of stubborn (and selfish) homeowners—comes above all else. Apparently, one of Bercu’s neighbors found out the hard way that it doesn’t pay off.
Jill Targer SAMP’66, The Woodlands, TX
Authenticity Is Not Propaganda
When I opened the May|Jun 2019 issue of the Gazette, I was gobsmacked to see that you chose to publish so many letters to the editor expressing outrage at the “Beyond the Binary” story [Mar|Apr 2019]. The language and tone used by my fellow alumni was offensive, and I remain shocked that people with an Ivy League education could conclude that stepping into one’s true self is somehow a political agenda. The fact that these folks were willing to have their photos taken decades ago, and by a cisgender heterosexual woman, speaks to Mariette Pathy Allen’s artful, respectful, and compassionate approach to her subjects. Their authenticity is not propaganda. The brazen narrow-mindedness of the letter-writers is disheartening. The only consolation is that their regressive point of view will ultimately fade to black, along with the rest of those on the wrong side of history. I’m grateful for the leadership and LGBTQ+ inclusivity of Penn in general and the Gazette specifically. Keep up the great work!
Elizabeth Schwartz C’93, Miami
As I read the letters section, I started counting the number of negative letters you received (in my print copy and additional online letters) complaining about both the cover and the photographic essay in a previous issue as well as a perceived “leftward leaning” stance by the Gazette editorial staff [“Letters,” Jul|Aug 2019]. Maybe I miscounted, but of 11 such letters, eight of them were from Wharton graduates. (One, unfortunately was from an alumnus of my school: the Graduate School of Education. How his mind could be so closed is beyond me!)
I know I will receive a lot of flack from other Wharton School alumni, but I have to hypothesize that perhaps these myopic Wharton people were so interested in a Penn business degree so they could gain contacts and make a lot of money that they neglected their opportunity while at this fine institution to gain a real education among the vastly diverse population on campus and open their minds to a rapidly changing world where people of many different colors, ethnic backgrounds, and various sexual orientations mingle on a daily basis.
If they were only interested in fluff pieces and non-controversial topics I suggest they get a copy of People magazine and stick to that. As for their cancellations, no loss: their minds are already set in stone, and the next controversial topic you tackle would only have set them off again. So, to these people: bye-bye. Enjoy your Rip Van Winkle slumber in the 19th century.
Martin Weiss GEd’71, Cherry Hill, NJ
Indoctrinating Transgender Values
Concerning the Gazette’s publication of transgender imagery, these raise the question: What is to be done?
Public schools now indoctrinate school children to embrace transgender values and to see sex transformation as a human right. All this happens behind the scenes, without parental consent or even notification. Medical practice and science, now heavily politicized, have been hijacked to ally with the transgender forces. Anyone who dares to critique or debate this new science and new morality is dismissed as a “bigot.”
School districts everywhere now face lawsuits from transgender test cases. The litigants, represented by the ACLU and pro bono volunteers from New York’s white shoe law firms, have far greater resources than the school districts. So the districts have no choice but to cave to threats under strained, if not completely invalid, legal theories.
The Gazette will never report these consequences and I sleep secure in the knowledge this missive will be discarded or sanitized to the point of meaninglessness.
Creighton Meland W’78, Hinsdale, IL
This Is the World We Live In
As a member of the “Old Guard,” I feel I must weigh in on the controversy over the cover and article in the Mar|Apr 2019 issue that so many of our more recent graduates found so offensive.
I am glad that there are so many opinions and that our younger alumni are thinking, but I am sad that they cannot accept that the world is changing and that acceptance is more important than ever.
When I was at Penn, and in my generation, we probably had not even heard the word “transgender.” We even had trouble saying homosexual or lesbian. We waved a pinky finger or used the word “fairy.” The word “gay” was not part of our lexicon unless it meant happy or referred to “gay Paree.” We did not know such terms as bisexual, cisgender, gender binary, gender fluid, or a multitude of others that have come into the modern vocabulary. It was all under the radar and we didn’t think much about people who are now part of the LBGTQ community.
In the past years, I have seen and heard about children and grandchildren who are gay or bi and even a few who are transgender. This is the world we live in and for my fellow alumni who have been so offended as to cancel their subscriptions to the Gazette, I find that more offensive than anything.
Open your minds, please, and accept the fact that we are all living in a world that is different from when you were in school and certainly when I was in school. Broaden your outlook and don’t rush to judgment and remember that every one of us is “different” in someone else’s eyes.
Barbara Cooper CW’52, White Plains, NY
One Reader’s Opinion
My favorite part of your magazine is frequently the letters section, especially when there are spirited debates over contemporary issues. However, it’s a shame that a number of our alumni have resorted to the “I’m taking my ball and glove and going home” tactic of the boy who wasn’t allowed to pitch, or bat cleanup, or play quarterback (in football), and so declined to participate in the game.
As a number of your letter writers aptly pointed out, the whole idea of a university liberal arts education is to broaden minds and experiences. I still remember, almost 50 years ago, forcing myself to take classes in economics, accounting, art history, physics, advanced mathematics (linear algebra), and English literature, even though I initially had little to no interest in those subjects and didn’t need them for my major (history). My theory was that a college education was like a smorgasbord, and if I had to be there to get a degree to get ahead in life, I might as well take advantage of opportunities I’d never have after those four years had passed.
So my view is this: I wasn’t interested in the Gazette cover on the transgender community or in the photography inside, although I do appreciate really good nature and human photography. I didn’t bother reading the article, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that the Pennsylvania Gazette isn’t just the best alumni magazine, it’s one of the best magazines, period. Actually—and I owe this to my education—that’s not a “fact.” It’s an opinion. And I know the difference between the two.
As for the so-called “conservative” alumni complaining and/or canceling their subscriptions because of the perceived “liberal bias” of your magazine, they should heed the words of that great American sage Stephen Colbert: “It is a well known fact that reality has a liberal bias.”
James Finkelstein C’73, Albany, GA
Appalled by Rightwing Bias (Not)
I am appalled by the blatant political slant I consistently see in the Gazette’s choice of letters to print. Month after month I see the bellicose rantings of the far rightwing. And the Gazette publishes these letters in every issue. Your rightwing bias is only too apparent. Cancel my subscription :-)
I do have to agree with some of the recent writers that we should see more in-depth examinations of rightwing policies. Someone in Wharton might write on how Bush et al. led us into the collapse of 2008. Perhaps some of our esteemed colleagues in political science could write about how well our adventures in Iraq have played out. Someone in economics should delve into the wonders of lowering taxes on the ultra rich to help form a stronger country. And marketing or political science professors might touch upon the wisdom of asking Putin to help out with our next election campaign. He was so successful last go-round!
As long as you continue to upset people and force them to think, you are doing your job. Keep up the good work.
Jason Rusoff EE’81, Palo Alto, CA
At 85, More Liberal Than Ever
Some readers of the Gazette need to get over themselves—mewling that the Gazette leans too far liberal, and therefore they cancel their subscription [“Letters,” Jul|Aug]. It is commonly thought that the older one becomes, the more conservative. I have found in my life, quite the opposite. At age 85 I am more liberal than I have ever been. This came about as I learned and accepted the reality that too many social injustices still exist in this democracy.
My father was a professor at Penn and two of his favorite sayings were: “Absolute certainty is a privilege of uneducated minds and fanatics” and “A college education seldom hurts a person as long as they are willing to learn a little something after they graduate.”
Upon my graduation from college with a BA in history, Uncle Sam sent me to Germany for 18 months to serve in the army. I took a book with me written by Bertrand Russell, the great English philosopher and peace advocate which had many quotes in it that I thought were gems. One that is germane to this letter is: “I do not believe that controversy is harmful on general grounds. It is not controversy and open differences that endangers democracy. On the contrary, these are its greatest safeguards. In a democracy, it is necessary that people should learn to endure having their sentiments outraged.”
That about says it all. Keep the Gazette coming to our home.
S. Reid Warren III SW’61, Spring City, PA