Inspect Your Gadgets
Anyone perplexed by the dramatic rise in autism ("Failure to Cope," July 11) should check out Jane M. Healy's book, Failure to Connect -- How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds -- and What We Can Do About It.
While computer use probably doesn't pertain to infants diagnosed with autism, it could contribute to the overall astonishing increase of "autism-like" symptoms in older children.
In her book, Healy quotes a pediatric neurologist: "We're seeing more and more [autism]. The computer is substituting for personal contact and for other activities in many households. Language, social skills, the ability to play imaginatively -- they're all suffering." Healy says computer use can bypass important childhood experience and actually result in lasting handicaps.
Our culture has such reverence for technology that we overlook the value of simple human interaction in nurturing children. Human contact may have actual benefits to neurological development that gadgets can never replace.
Vivian Warkentin, Berkeley
Our Image Problem
I was offended by the image of a child with autism portrayed on the cover of the East Bay Express ("Failure to Cope," July 11). As a former teacher of children with autism, I couldn't help but think how that illustration would further hurt the parents of these children. While it is true that some children labeled in the spectrum of autism do have frightening behaviors at times, this is only one aspect of their extremely varied and often charming personalities. As for the headline, it is also misleading. After reading the article, it becomes clear that the public schools are the institutions that cannot cope (at no fault of theirs, I might add), yet at first glance the title seems to refer to the children with this disability. Families with children with autism need more understanding, not a propagation of the worst aspects of the disorder.
On a positive note, my concern is strictly with the illustration and headline. I actually found the article well researched and well written. I now teach regular education in a public school, so I am painfully aware of the dilemma. Thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of others.
Emily Strong, Berkeley
Best in Show
Re: "Pit Bulls Need Friends Too" ("Cityside," July 25):
This is a wonderful, yet small, contribution to the breed. I'm happy to see that some cities are working with the good purpose of dog control and not just the focus on the "evil pit bull."
We need to work through the "all labs are great and all pit bulls are killers" mentality and look at each individual dog. There should be recourse for owners of any breed that have a problem dog. We need better training on how to handle and train our dogs, as uneducated people often have problem dogs and are also stereotyping breeds unfairly. Yes, pits have bitten, but so has the cute yorkie and the wonderful lab. Work for fair solutions and everyone wins.
Jennifer Behary, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma
Score: Barrios 1,
Bay Guardian 0
Normally I'll pick up a copy of the Bay Guardian to read. The Guardian has been going downhill since Tim Redmond was put in charge, so today I picked up a copy of your East Bay Express rag.
While I don't agree with the "progressive" content (i.e., socialism), I will give you a five-star rating on other articles in your paper.
The article "Battling the Box" (July 18) by Jennifer Barrios was excellent. It was well written, editorially correct, and a pleasure to read. So well, in fact, that I read other articles looking for the same who, what, where, when, and how. I'm always looking for places to go and things to do.
Mark my words, that "Box" reporter is going to go places. I'll be looking in future issues for the articles. (No, I'm not her relative.)
George Schneider, Oakland
Gee, What Did We Ever Do Without You?
We appreciate the recent article by Chris Thompson in the East Bay Express about the Independent Institute ("Let's Sell the Sidewalks," July 25), but there are a number of errors in the article that warrant correction.
The Independent Institute is exclusively a nonpoliticized, scholarly, public-policy research organization, and specifically not a political or advocacy organization. For too long, people on both the "left" and "right" have accepted on blind faith that government power is a force for good, justice, and social betterment. But the gross injustices of war, political corruption, corporate welfare, and a disastrous public school system, just to name several areas, should be so apparent now, that there really is no excuse for not taking the time to re-examine the basis for what governments do in any area of our lives.
Are there existing government programs that do not seem to measure up to the official claims being made? Why do we repeatedly see that well-intentioned collectivist-style reforms in theory produce corporatist or oligarchic results in practice? We believe that we should look into these assumptions and claims and see whether they can withstand scientific scrutiny.
In reference to Oakland's "progressive" legacy, there is indeed a great deal to be proud of in our heritage of fighting for free speech and civil liberties; yet, simultaneously, our area has also been a major center for corporate welfare in the form of government sports, transportation, educational and shipping systems; the military-industrial complex with extensive bases, defense contracts, and research into nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction; tightly restricted housing markets (especially for low-income people); and arguably the worst K-12 school system in the country.
Instead of the usual treadmill of recycled slogans and evasions, nostrums, and political edicts, the Independent Institute involves the very best scholars to seek real answers to such matters. To do so is not "liberal," "conservative," "libertarian," or any political stereotype, and the many excellent scholars who do such analysis similarly defy political labels.
Incidentally, despite your assertion, the late Nobel Laureate economist and political theorist Friedrich Hayek was not only not a "conservative," but he wrote a rather famous essay titled, "Why I Am Not a Conservative." In it, he attacks conservatives for their mindless devotion to the collectivism and government privilege of the ancien régime and their ignorant intolerance against freeing people to make their own personal, peaceful choices.
David J. Theroux, Founder and President,
The Independent Institute