December 8, 2004: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
I am sure I was not alone in appreciating the juxtaposition between Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye’s essay defining what makes a good Princeton applicant (President’s Page, Nov. 3) and the article by Dr. Marsha Levy-Warren ’73 (feature, Nov. 3) on what makes a well-stressed child. I cannot help but think that the daunting list of expectations enumerated by Dean Rapelye only adds to the anxiety seen by Dr. Levy-Warren in today’s children and their parents.
As I read Dean Rapelye’s criteria, I mentally checked off the ones that applied to me and concluded that should I pull my file from Mudd library and submit it now, I would have little chance of gaining acceptance. I was a good student at a good school who played sports but did little else, my SAT scores were just OK, I had no special talents and, fortunately for me, my only commitment outside the classroom was to help around the house. As I thought about what I did do with all my time I realized that much of it was spent simply with family and friends.
As Dr. Levy-Warren notes, the desire to secure a spot at one of the elite colleges results in enormous pressures being placed on kids to be “competitive,” even as early as preschool. I would challenge Dean Rapelye, a pivotal player in this ever-spiraling problem, to take the lead among elite institutions and find a creative way to “lower the bar” on expectations while still identifying those who would benefit from a Princeton education.
Would I like my daughter to go to Princeton? Sure I would, but choosing between forever shuttling her to a myriad of activities in an attempt to make her “competitive” versus just hanging out with her? Well, that’s a no-brainer, even for this Princeton grad.
R. Mark Grady ’84
Re: Professor Uwe Reinhardt’s letter in the Nov. 3 PAW. The United States military went 7,000 miles or almost halfway around the world, took down the Taliban then liberated Iraq, and in the process put Saddam Hussein in prison and gave 30-plus million people the gift of freedom. Free elections have been held in Afghanistan for the first time in thousands of years and Iraqi elections are scheduled for January 2005.
Professor Victor Davis Hanson, a nationally respected authority on military history and strategy, wrote that this entire operation was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, triumph in military history. Was everything done perfectly? Probably not. But let us be clear: The Abu Ghraib fiasco was blown way out of proportion mainly to hurt the Bush administration, undermine the war effort, and give comfort to the enemy. That story was part of one of the most unrelenting (pre-election) assaults on a wartime president in history.
The New York Times ran in excess of 20 stories on Abu Ghraib that did not differ from one another. Needless to say, the “missing explosives” story was never resolved and does not merit further comment — kind of like the forged National Guard memos.
Gen. Eisenhower once said: “War plans are fine until they meet the enemy.” This country owes a profound debt to Don Rumsfeld ’54, one of the main architects of keeping us safe following 9/11. So, from my entire family let me say publicly, thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Elwin E. Fraley ’57
I was on the wrestling squad at about the same time as Donald Rumsfeld, and “Rummy” was one of our heroes (along with Brad Glass ’53). As Mark Bernstein ’83 noted (feature, Oct. 6), Rummy was a lightning-fast takedown artist: There seemed to be no one against whom he could not score takedowns. He was also good, but not as outstanding, once on the mat. When facing a dangerous opponent, he developed the strategy of scoring takedowns, for which he got two points, and then deliberately allowing his opponent to escape to neutral, for which the opponent got one point. Rumsfeld would then take him down again, repeating the process over and over, building up an insurmountable lead. Shortly after his graduation, the rules were changed (I’ve always thought because of him) to award two points for an escape, so that this tactic no longer paid off.
At the time I thought his technique was terribly clever, and I admired it. However, while he was operating by the letter of the rules, he was violating their intention and spirit. His performance as secretary of defense has made it evident that this was, unfortunately, an integral part of his character. I am truly saddened — our idol had feet of clay.
Sifford Pearre Jr. ’56
Is it a coincidence that in the Oct. 20 issue you feature two alumni who graduated from Princeton in 1981, each underground and each wearing a hard hat?
On page 10 (Notebook), you feature Prof. Tullis Onstott, who received a degree from the Graduate School in 1981, carrying out geological research in a South African gold mine. On page 45 (Class Notes Profile), you feature Paul Bauman ’81, who graduated from the College in 1981, “delicately digging for treasures” at the Cave of Letters in Israel.
What a splendid way to display the breadth of the contributions that graduates of Princeton continuously make to scholarship and to knowledge!
Teri Noel Towe ’70
I liked the profile on Paul Bauman ’81 by Kathryn Beaumont ’96. I was there in the cave with him during the expedition as well. I was the archaeologist recording our work.
Carl Savage ’75
The New York Daily News reported that Sen. Kerry received contributions of more than $41,200 from employees of Princeton University and President Bush has received $250. PAW (Notebook, Oct. 20) reported Kerry received more than $50,000 since March but that no Princeton employees donated more than $200 to Bush since that time. Does this help the administration to understand why many of us do not want to contribute to a university that is so one-sided?
Paul Pressler ’52
I was saddened to read Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin’s comment (Notebook, Oct. 20) that “this year’s overall group of new hires was the most gender-balanced in Princeton history.” How refreshing it would have been for the dean instead to comment that this group of new hires was the best and brightest in Princeton history.
Max Maizels ’72
Thanks for the most informative article on Dean Malkiel’s new grading policy (Notebook, Oct. 20) and thanks especially for her list of definitions for the various grade levels. She has achieved some admirably sharp discrimination among those nine categories of A’s, B’s, and C’s.
But I have to ask: What about the academic descendants of those of us who punched in farther down the scale? Don’t they deserve equal attention? In my day, we actually had distinctions of failure, distinctions that served some of us well, when admissions standards were less rigorous. On the seven-point grading scheme then in force, one could simply fail a course and earn a 6, or one could “shoot the moon” and garner a 7, whose sole criterion remains vivid in my memory: “flagrant neglect.”
Jamie Spencer ’66
I read with interest of the sculpture “Big Figures” now on display outside McCormick Hall. In PAW’s Oct. 20 Notebook section they are described as on long-term loan from a private collection. The reassuring word is “loan.” The disquieting word is “long-term.”
Richard W. Corkhill ’53
Craig Moberg ’83’s letter in the Oct. 20 PAW is based on a premise that should, by now, have been thoroughly discredited. According to Mr. Moberg, the “only thing that would make al-Qaida happy is for the United States to disappear from the face of earth.”
President Bush is still arguing (I’m writing before the election) that the “terrorists” hate us because of our freedom, because of our “way of life,” our democracy, our emancipated women, our freedoms of religion and expression. The “terrorists” are “evil”; they have no cause other than to destroy Western values.
Quite to the contrary, anyone who has read Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer, or who has made an elementary effort to understand the politics of the Middle East, knows that bin Laden hates us not for what we are, but for what we do. We prop up corrupt Muslim governments. We have military bases throughout the Middle East to protect our economic interests. And we support Israel’s right to exist.
Israel’s existence is the biggest thorn in the side of radical Muslims. President Clinton understood this, and he almost succeeded in brokering a historic accommodation. President Bush did not understand this, and although he has been staunchly pro-Israel, his laissez-faire Middle East policy has been an abomination. This situation is a ticking time bomb that must be defused.
Charlie McMillan ’67
Where have you gone, J.D.?
A genuine hero of my freshman year, Jack Davison ’51, has indicated (Letters, Oct. 20) just how detached and confused alumni can become about athletics, and in particular football. Who could ever forget his effort and physical sacrifice in the 1950 defeat of Navy?
Any rebuttal of Mr. Davison’s points should begin with the chronic suppression of the football program by the administration, an attempt to replace Palmer Stadium with permanent bleachers near the Route 1 traffic circle, outrageous books by a former president, football as the only sport at Princeton (and the Ivy League as a whole) not permitted postseason play, and other Ivy schools (not Princeton) welcoming academically qualified athletic transfers. He should also note that Amherst has used the possibility of playing three sports as one of its recruiting ploys. You see, everybody seems to recruit; only the technique differs.
Add the fact that coaches of Mr. Davison’s era, from Lou Little to Munger to Caldwell, made home visits to people I know. Munger and Caldwell even ran a summer camp that provided a little extra tutoring to some of their athletes.
And now Mr. Davison suggests that our skin needs to be scrubbed even harder to achieve a loftier purity. I am certain he could find a lot of company to take yet another swing at the football program. He is undoubtedly unaware that the NCAA scrutinizes each Division I institution for two weeks every 10 years. Princeton’s next audience, confessional, and finally, I hope, blessing from above is due in 2008.
So come back to the fold, hero of my youth, and you may have a somewhat different interpretation of what the rest of us have lived with for decades.
Richard F. Hnat ’54
I enjoyed your cover story on the Detroit News cartoonist Henry Payne ’84 (Oct. 6). As I remember it, when the upstart Nassau Weekly was challenging the Daily Princetonian in the early 1980s, we were especially proud that it was the Nassau that published Henry Payne’s cartoons almost every week, not the Prince. When Payne started publishing in the Prince his senior year, we were disappointed at our competitor’s gain, but glad that the Nassau had given his work a regular audience for so long. I’m sure none of the Nassau staff from those days would be surprised that he has made a career of political cartooning. What a gift!
Kip Bobroff ’86
Blogging (feature, Oct. 20) is not only for the recent grad. The Woodstock Generation does it too. My blog, www.girlinthelockerroom.com, is set up for intergenerational dialogue on women’s education, careers, identity, sex life — how it was back then; how it is now. Please visit.
Robin Herman ’73