Letters to the editor (Summer 2008)

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the summer 2008 print issue are marked with double asterisks (**). The original, longer versions of some of those letters also are included here.

Campus politics

**I was pleased to see the mock convention article in the spring issue that gave prominent mention to my father, Professor Paul C. Bartholomew, who not only initiated this outstanding political learning experience but spent countless hours organizing and managing the event.

This embodied my father’s pragmatic and realistic approach to political science education, also exemplified by the yearly Washington, D.C., trips he offered for Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College students. In addition, he often spent summers in Washington and Chicago, when not teaching summer courses, to maintain contact with real world politics which could then enhance his teaching and research. On top of this, he had a stellar publication and teaching record.

It is remarkable people like my father whose dedication and hard work built the foundation for the academic prestige now enjoyed by Notre Dame. Unfortunately, liberal lock-step administrators failed to recognize and reward his substantial contribution because of his conservative leanings. So much for the fostering of diverse views and ideas that should be the hallmark of a university.

Robert P. Bartholomew ’62
Madison, Wisconsin

Home economics

**Linda Przybyszewski’s contention (“Having coffee with . . .”) that the disappearance of home economics from the American educational system may be a root cause for the demise of American fashion sense struck a chord for both my wife and me.

My wife taught “home economics” (the curriculum is now called Family and Consumer Sciences) for many years while I have taught mathematics. As high school teachers we have witnessed the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on the American public school curriculum. One of the unintended consequences has been the marginalization of “non-tested” curricular areas: FACS, art, physical education, music, agriculture, to name a few.

Each spring, since the inception of NCLB, American schools attempt to show that they have made Adequate Yearly Progress in mathematics and reading. In order to reach the pre-ordained scores, students are force-fed increasing amounts of mathematics and reading. On the surface, this may seem praiseworthy. Those two subjects do comprise two of three R’s. But the two “tested areas” will not provide skills that America’s current high school students will need: personal finance, maintaining a healthy diet, marital planning, parenting skills, job seeking skills, time management, personal wellness.

NCLB has made these areas nonessential, and it has made the teachers of those curricular areas feel like second-class citizens. But when one looks at Americans’ propensity for debt, obesity, divorce, child neglect, poor health, it makes a person wonder about the wisdom of that decision. As a mathematics teacher, I assure you that the solution(s) to those very real problems will not be found in the quadratic formula.

Paul Niland
Topeka, Kansas

Daily reading

**Your “Stop the Presses” article predicting the demise of newspapers is premature as long as there are those of us who prefer to read our newspapers at the kitchen table over breakfast or on the back porch swing or out on the patio or on the commuter train rather than in a chair in front of a computer screen. And many of us would rather thumb through the paper than scroll down that screen. As long as there are those of us who prefer this pleasure, there will always be a place for the good, old-fashion, entertaining and informative newspaper (though maybe not as thick as before).

Ellsworth Frankson
South Bend, Indiana

**As a radio-television/journalism major, I have had a love/hate relationship with newspapers for a long time. I learned very early in my career that the “freedom of the press” belongs to those who own the presses. And that journalistic zeal to break the big story sometimes leads the journalist to lose sight of the big picture. However, I, too, am concerned about the health of America’s newspapers, probably for a reason you didn’t consider.

My husband and I have four children and a daily subscription to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The first one up in the morning is the first out the door for the paper, and by the end of breakfast all of us have read at least one article, comic or sports update. It started when our children were in elementary school and discovered the comics, and grew in middle school when they realized that sports scores and local teams were covered in the sports section. In high school, a wise teacher required current events essays, and “The Inq” was a handy resource. And then, headlines caught their eye, or my husband or I would suggest they read an interesting article, and over time our kids became newspaper readers.

“So?” you may ask. Well, reading the paper has given my kids an academic edge. Their vocabulary is better, and they have a comprehension of national and international events that many of their peers simply don’t. What they read prompts questions that lead to dinner table debates, or the desire to learn more about how the world works. A daily paper is the easiest and cheapest way I know to improve reading ability and comprehension. And, hopefully, it has made my soon-to-be adult children critical thinkers and potentially more productive members of society.

So, what will happen in the next 20 years? I wonder, too. I can only hope that dailies, and weekly news magazines for that matter, will be around for my future grandchildren to discover, the way our children did.

Renee C. and Mike Devine
Drexel, Pennsylvania

ND’s Midwest Blues Festival

**In response to your articles on the Blues, it must be noted that the relationship between Notre Dame and the Blues is not a new phenomenon. For a period of about 10 years—roughly the decade of the ‘70s—Notre Dame was a focal point for Blues in the Midwest as it hosted the Midwest Blues Festival. Prior to Midwest Blues’ inception, Notre Dame had brought to campus Blues legends Son House, Robert Pete Williams, Lightning Hopkins, J.B. Hutto and Fred McDowell.

At Midwest Blues students and regional residents came together to enjoy Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Mance Lipscomb, Homesick James, Carey Bell, Jimmy Rogers and Little Brother Montgomery. And that was just part of the first year’s lineup! Ironically, the "star’ of that first edition was not Howlin’ Wolf crawling to the center of the stage and jumping to attention with a crisp salute to the crowd, or Muddy, or even Buddy Guy, not yet the Blues icon he has become. It was a small, unassuming gentleman from Indianapolis named Shirley Griffith.

The MBF went on to feature many artists who would later become regional and national favorites as well as Blues luminaries: Albert King, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Professor Longhair, John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and Hound Dog Taylor. And the crowd favorites were often the “unknowns,” like Dr. Ross (The Harmonica Boss), Lazy Bill Lucas, Sonny Rhodes and many more.

All of this was a true labor of love as the mostly student staff were all volunteers. The MBF also energized several Notre Dame graduates to open Vegetable Buddies, a local bar that became legendary for having the best live music ever heard in the Michiana area.

Sadly, the University community at large always looked at the festival with a slightly jaundiced eye; we were tolerated more than celebrated. Now it appears that Notre Dame has decided to “wake up the echoes” of the Blues that have only been waiting to be heard again after 40 years. The tightly compacted wonderland of stories, images, sounds and feelings that is the Blues remains waiting to be entered anytime we want to step aside from the trials and troubles of our workaday world.

Perry W. Aberli ’69, ’71M.A.
Founder and director of the Midwest Blues Festival
Florence, South Carolina

Faithfully departed

**I can sympathize with Dawn Goldsmith in her article “The Faithfully Departing,” but lest readers believe that ALS is hereditary, it is not. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) takes many forms, but it always results in death. My wife had it for 12 years (about twice as long as other people). There is no cure — ask the many doctors we went to. It takes many forms, and about 40,000 people a year get it.

My wife never lost her voice but gradually lost her muscle strength and coordination. Toward the end she lost much of her normal 105-pound weight. She talked almost daily with our 10 children and said it was their punishment that she never lost her voice. She hardly ate, but she loved dinnertime because it was then she had her Scotch and water.

Gerald J. Welch ’44
Flemington, New Jersey

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading Dawn Goldsmith’s essay in the spring issue. It’s beautiful—and heartbreaking. Poignant, lovely work.

Cameron Lawrence
via email

Favorite campus corner

Your spring 2008 issue asked for stories about “Famous Campus Corners” and here is my mine: Besides the traditional favorite places like the grotto my most pleasant memories were of the free movies in Washington Hall each Saturday. Between the rigors of the engineering curriculum, the brutal fact that we seldom had enough spending money to go off campus for a pizza and the realization that alcohol use was harshly disciplined on campus, the Washington Hall movies offered one of the few great respites from a pressured week.

What made Washington Hall movies so special was knowing that no matter what the movie being shown that night, all were comic relief. The all-male audience was an assurance that the most serious moment or the most tender love scene would predictably be punctured by a comment from the audience that left everyone in absolute hysterics. There were also ingenious sound effects like a poo-poo cushion timed perfectly when a couple embraced in a passionate kiss. Even the newsreels and cartoons which were shown each week were sources of outrageous amusement. Perhaps the commentary became too brutal for the good Fathers or maybe the later admission of women would cause a serious backlash, but the movies in Washington Hall were abandoned sometime after graduation.

Charles B. Kitz ’58
via email

Not liberation

About “The Godfather of Liberation Theology” (Winter 2007–08 issue) It is manifest to everyone the effect of 600 years of Iberian paternalistic and feudalist society and complicity of the church in the existence of that cultural system. One has but to observe the difference between the northern and southern hemisphere countries. Communism does not in any way “liberate” people, particularly the poor. It merely overlays one system of class over another. It is only alike in its proclivity to take human life for granted and to engage in violence and torture to get what it wants. The priests in the Age of Discovery were not even sure the aborigines of the new world had souls. That was the wrong way to begin.

Steven Linnemann
via email

Tridentine Liturgy on campus

Regarding the Latin Mass: it was suspicious enough that for nearly 50 years the universal liturgy of the Church disappeared from America’s greatest Catholic campus. In the Winter 2007–08 issue, editor John Nagy was walking on hot pins confirming that those present were also Catholics while the tridentine rite was never prohibited. In fact archbishop Albert Ranjith, secretary of the Roman congregation for Liturgy recently wrote that hand communion should be reconsidered (*). Rather the university’s administration should also allow traditional philosophers next to the pragmatists in recognition of the Church’s intellectual traditions and not be afraid of alienating the coming generations from the actual world of poverty, unequality, urbanization and nationalism.

Christopher Dawson was teaching that a society is doomed when public and private life are deprived of spirituality and this has certainly come through in our Western civilization: the vast majority of our Eurocrats are secularists (**). Uplifting the spirit remains the foremost function of the Mother Church. In its early formative years near the end of the Roman empire She has weathered the storms between the Hellenists and Latinists establishing the great scholastic schools or the artes liberales, the timeless confrontation of the deductive and inductive thinkers. With mature clergy She can continue to fulfill Her unique mission.

Arnold Van Peteghem (***)
Gent, Belgium

(*) In the Eucharist by Msgr Athanasius Schneider

(**) Only the Poles and surprisingly enough French President Nicolas Sarkozy have defended the Christian heritage of Europe

(***) MBA 1959 from the Wharton School. Attending Notre Dame in 54/55 at that time there were only a couple of European students on campus.

Magazine disconnected

I had concluded over the past years that I had become very different from the classic Notre Dame alum. That is, however, until considering your survey recently received. Your magazine talks at length about the latest Habitat for Humanity construction, the latest work on campus to support illegal immigration, the support for the nun who makes easier the deaths of people on death row. I could go on, but perhaps you see the point.

I am not like any of those persons; nor do I wish to be. After your survey, I realized that I am not disconnected from the bulk of the ND alums, you are. The people I went to ND with were and are focused on working hard, succeeding and becoming someone. You never touch on those kinds of people; you don’t cite, for example, the engineering grad who runs a mega company, the private firm lawyer who has become nationally recognized. Yet, those are the people supporting the school with the major donations. And not one of them has joined Jimmy Carter in building a house. Not one of them wants to open our gates to illegal immigration. Not one of them wants to make life cushier for some prisoner on death row. But you do. You are not Notre Dame.

Eric Wurst
via email