Letter Box: June 2009
Some readers have their say. Find out how you can, too.
From the Centennial Pit to Mostar
I must say that two of your recent articles really grabbed my attention. You might even say I was stunned. The article on “The Pit” where I lived from 1976 to 1979 was terrific. It evoked many fond memories and it was gratifying to know that the legendary hi jinks long associated with the Pit endured all those years. Now, 30 years later, I’m still in touch with people I first met in the Centennial Pit.
Also, kudos to Cynthia Paces on her great work with young students in teaching the ravages of War and its effects on children. The photo of Mostar (I included here a photo of my own of myself and my girlfriend Wendy in Mostar.) really grabbed my attention as I didn’t really think I would ever encounter anyone in the US who goes to Bosnia, much less Mostar. It is a truly beautiful place haunted by ethnic strife and the terrible events of the wars in Bosnia and Croatia.
The occasion of us taking a bus tour from Dubrovnik in Croatia up to Mostar was that of the completed restoration of the centuries-old bridge over the Neretva River, connecting the Muslim and Croat quarters. I am part Croatian by ancestry and had an opportunity to speak with many people and hearing various accounts of those awful times. We had a Muslim tour guide by the name of Irfan, a young sandy-haired, blue-eyed, good-natured man of about 21 years old, who I sat down with—Irfan had ice cream, I had a beer—and talked about the things we [had] seen in our lives. He relayed to me [his] experiences…as a 13 year old, dodging bullets in the streets and literally watching friends and family die and having to bury them. I told him of witnessing the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11. We both came away from the conversation with empathy and respect for one another and agreed that all participating parties during those times in Mostar had culpability in the events that occurred, and therefore must participate together in the healing.
I walked the streets with Irfan through the Turkish Bazaar, touring a Mosque and hearing the call to prayer. I’ve never been a religious man, yet this was truly an emotional and enlightening experience. When we parted on the bridge as I continued across to the Croat quarter, we bid each other well and shared a mutual hope that the bridge restoration would lead to a coming together for the people of Mostar and that this coming together might some day be universal so that no more children would have to suffer. I will definitely be down to TCNJ to see the “Children of the War in Bosnia.”
Larry Post ‘ 80
Two more hit by Cupid’s arrows
I really enjoyed reading “Lions’ Hearts.” I also met my husband, Lewis Taylor, at TCNJ. It was fall semester of 1998, the beginning of my senior year, and we met during our first floor meeting in “New Res.” Later that day, my roommate and I searched for him because she insisted I needed to meet him. Lewis and I got married in 2003 and have a 16-month-old little boy.
Lorna (Alexander) Taylor ’99
Decline of American public education system an “inside job”
Given the increasing lack of intelligence in American public school students, it is unfortunate that the solution to improving public education is, according to some TCNJ students, to push outdated feminist dogma on unsuspecting elementary school children. The differences between boys and girls are apparent in the first few hours of life, and become more apparent as they grow to adolescence and adulthood. For the most part, these differences have nothing to do with how society “constructs” them; they are just part of nature. Countless psychological studies have verified that it is nature, not nurture, which makes boys and girls, as well as men and women different. Long before they see their first Barbie or G.I. Joe commercials, boys and girls think, play, and behave differently. Children’s books featuring non-traditional gender roles will not change this. Perhaps this is what frustrates these future teachers most: that some things are beyond their control.
While American schoolchildren are learning about gender studies, tolerance, diversity, environmental activism, and self-esteem, their counterparts (and future competitors) in other countries are learning about math, science, engineering, language, and business.
The American public school system was once the envy of the world; it is now an international laughingstock. US schoolchildren once dominated international scholastic competitions, but now routinely rank at or near the bottom. Articles like this confirm that the long decline of the public education system is, and has long been, an inside job.
Thomas C. Corrigan ’81
Ed’s note: We asked Professor Friedman, who wrote the article “Out-of-the-box Education,” to respond to Mr. Corrigan’s letter.
In response to Mr. Corrigan’s points about nature vs. social construction in regard to sex and gender: Neither gender scholars nor biologists contest the existence of biological differences regarding sex—biological differences between males and females. Yet most scholars recognize that gender is the imposition of culture on biology. That is, society assigns meanings to these biological differences and constructs social roles around them.
In response to Mr. Corrigan’s points about education: Learning about “gender studies, tolerance, diversity, environmental activism” prepares children not only to be citizens of a democracy but also global citizens. It is only common sense that such awareness does not preclude learning about “science, engineering, language and business.”
About the US falling behind in math and science: Teachers trained in gender studies are prepared to address the problem that half of our students are discouraged from pursuing these fields simply because it is assumed that girls are no good at them—or shouldn’t be good at them.
Perhaps Mr. Corrigan should look elsewhere for reasons for the weaknesses in the US education system, such as No Child Left Behind legislation that sometimes causes teachers to teach to a minimum standard test or to the forces that wish to erase the distinction between religion and science in the classroom, as in the controversy over evolution.
Ellen G. Friedman, PhD
February’s “Then and Now” elicits more tales of Registration woes
When it was time to move into new classes for the new semester, we had NO choices. As a music major in the 1950s, and I trust it was the same for students in other departments, we went to our mailboxes in the basement of Green Hall and found the list of classes to be taken that semester—no flexibility, except for the day and time for instrumental/voice/piano lessons, which we could schedule.
Wanda Howell ’56, MA ’64
I really appreciate your memory invoking story on former class registrations. I entered what was still (briefly) the Trenton State Teachers College for the first time in the fall of 1958. I remember well spending what seemed like an entire day trying to register for my classes. I would make it through the first professor hurdle only to find a class already full. Each faculty member or staff member sat in front of a box and my fate and those of others depended on what they pulled in the way of open seats from these boxes. Over and over again I would make it so far only to be told that a class was full and to start again. I graduated in 1962 and just recently retired from the faculty at the Ohio State University. Its a good thing that at the end of the day I got the classes and went home late in the afternoon since real and persistent thoughts of just quitting and going home might well have ended my career and my stay in college on that one rather horrible day. I held no sympathy for those sitting in front of those boxes or metal files at the time but in retrospect it must have been so awful for those who could see the crushed and stressed faces in front of them. It did get a bit better by the time I graduated but each time remained a day that I would have wanted to avoid entirely.
Eleanor Block ’62
I am a 1988 graduate of [the] nursing program. I just received the latest TCNJ magazine. I was quite surprised to see my mother’s face looking back at me in “Looking Back”. Just to be sure, I showed my mom and dad the picture. They agree that it is my mom, (or an exact lookalike) Frances Wooden (Fisher), at the front of the line of girls in white. My mom thinks the second girl could be Elaine Cunningham, the third girl Dolores Solomon, the fourth girl Irma Lasky, the fifth is unknown. These girls were student nurses at McKinley Hospital (later Helene Fuld). During the summer or 1952, they lived in Allen House for the summer. They were later bussed from the nurse’s residence at McKinley Hospital to fulfill college courses like psychology and sociology and others, throughout the year. This was a three-year diploma nursing program at McKinley Hospital in conjunction with [what was then Trenton State Teachers College]. Sorry to say my mom can’t remember what they were doing at the time.
Kris Gail Fisher Al-Daqa ’88
Letters about “The Pit” Just Keep Coming!
Your article has brought back some of my best memories for my college years. We always said “what happens in the PIT stays in the PIT!” I lived in the PIT from 88-90. I would not trade those memories for anything.
Shawn Scully ’92
Posted on June 2, 2009