Letters

Summer 2003
Gender Snatchers

To the editor:
Marjorie King’s “Queering the Schools” [Spring 2003] should put to rest once and for all the myth that the contemporary gay-rights movement is animated by a desire for tolerance. On the contrary, it is driven by power and the quest to annihilate the normative order. That the NEA cooperates in this subversion is damnable.

William A. Donohue, President
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

To the editor:
After 15 years of teaching, I recently quit the NEA. When I showed this article to my (former) NEA representative, he did what he always does when the NEA is questioned: he laughed—and denied everything.

John R. Hankel
Via e-mail

To the editor:
This hijacking of the public school curriculum and culture is a frightening form of social programming—turning the American child into a kind of Clockwork Lavender. Why aren’t famous homosexual intellectuals—those who still maintain that sexual orientation is fixed and inborn, not fluid and a matter of personal choice—taking the lead in condemning GLSEN?

Eamonn Roche
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Teenagers’ same-sex attractions need not mean that they are homosexual. Many teens go through episodes of idealizing their same-sex peers and should not prematurely label themselves as gay; GLSEN urges impressionable youth to self-identify as “gay” and thus ensure a future homosexual outcome.

Regina Griggs, Executive Director
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays

To the editor:
Marjorie King should have titled her article “Invasion of the Gender Snatchers.” No right-thinking person wants to be hurtful toward others; nor does she want to wake up one day and find her child an ungendered stranger who points at her and hisses, “You’re not one of us!”

Chris Van Dillen
Via e-mail

To the editor:
I am confident that Senator Joe McCarthy, were he alive, would be proud of “Queering the Schools.”

Matt Snyder
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Never have I read a more sensationalistic and unprofessionally alarmist article. GLSEN doesn’t want to queer your kids; it simply ackowledges that some of your kids are queer.

Lauren Lee
Phoenix, AZ

To the editor:
When activists—gay or otherwise—hear the opposing view, they always label their opposition “bigot.” Those demanding tolerance have two problems: they haven’t learned the difference between tolerance and acceptance, and thus they practice the very bigotry they claim to fight.

Jerry Pryde
Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada

To the editor:
I am just sick about what is happening in our schools. Help! How can I make a difference?

Mary Ann Smith
Saint George, UT

To the editor:
I will be home-schooling my children, effective immediately.

Shawn Landon
Via e-mail

Ex-Con Compstat

To the editor:
It’s gratifying that City Journal has come to see that existing incentives in prisons and parole discourage individual responsibility, government accountability, and reintegration of ex-convicts into society. “How to Straighten Out Ex-Cons” by Heather Mac Donald suggests that progressives and conservatives might collaborate to create an accountable system.

While we agree on some fundamentals, Mac Donald is wrong on key points. Substance abuse and mental illness are lifelong struggles, and relapse should not automatically be a crime because it happens to someone on probation. Contrary to her assertion, quality drug treatment is not widely available: New York’s program has only 1,400 slots for 40,000 inmates with drug problems. Nor is adequate education available: prison education programs have been cut, and people jailed for drug offenses are no longer eligible for Pell Grants.

Work should be a non-negotiable condition of parole, but there must be jobs with adequate wages and support available to help people leaving prison to qualify for them.

Using a system like Compstat to hold probation and parole systems responsible for job placement and retention is imaginative, but computers alone aren’t a solution. Mac Donald seems not to recognize how much the current system’s incentives promote rather than prevent reincarceration. Parole officers with caseloads of 200 haven’t the time or resources to help a screw-up get back on track. New options can be developed only by involving and supporting the private sector and institutions of civil society with a record of helping people reenter society. If we don’t strengthen the capacity of receiving communities to absorb returning residents, no amount of prison dollars will stem recidivism.

We must rethink how to create incentives to reduce recidivism and increase safety. We disagree on key points, but Heather Mac Donald’s essay is an important contribution to that new thinking.

Susan B. Tucker, Director
After Prison Initiative
Open Society Institute

To the editor:
Good article. It affirms many of the observations I’ve made in 25 years in corrections. But it simplifies some complex problems. The use of the Compstat model intrigues me, but how do you hold any particular warden accountable for an inmate’s recidivism? He may have done time under several wardens: Is the one who had him for years or the one who had him last most responsible? How much time does one warden have to make him into a new creature? Holding wardens accountable for staff professionalism is valid, but wardens don’t actually hire officers. And union protections often limit a warden’s efforts to instill discipline. But there’s a lot to explore here. Thanks.

Mike Murphy
Via e-mail

Heather Mac Donald responds:
I’m glad the Open Society Institute acknowledges the need for accountability in corrections, and I welcome a dialogue about reducing recidivism. Far from failing to recognize the suboptimal incentives in corrections, my article was about changing those incentives to reward success and penalize failure.

Parole officers should expect that the prison system send them ex-convicts who have, at a minimum, completed their GED, clocked eight months of good behavior, and started to reestablish family ties. Prison officials should feel the consequences of failure to meet those minimal standards. Likewise, parole officers should be evaluated on their charges’ job retention and clean arrest records.

At the same time, advocacy groups should stop making excuses for both system failure and individual failure. No addict I spoke to was denied access to treatment programs during or after prison. To lower expectations for success until some always unreachable ideal of “quality treatment” is universally available is not helpful. Likewise, to seize on the elimination of taxpayer-funded college education as a cause of crime diverts attention from a more pressing need: ensuring that all prisoners emerge literate and properly documented for employment.

I’ve seen no evidence that drug relapse is “automatically” treated as a crime. New York’s corrections system bends over backward to find treatment alternatives to jail.

When advocates argue that a lack of “jobs with adequate wages” obviates the obligation to work, prisoners listen. Instead, society should speak with one voice: every job is a good job, because doing it well will start you up the employment ladder.

Mr. Murphy raises interesting technical challenges to a system of warden accountability. These can be overcome, given that the average tenure for wardens is over five years—sufficient time in most cases to have an impact on prisoners and to plan for reentry. The first imperative is to start winning agreement on the principle of bureaucratic responsibility.

Long Daley Journey to the Right

To the editor:
I enjoyed Janet Daley’s journey from Marxist to rational thinker [“Up from Liberalism,” Spring 2003]. As an American expat and Berkeley graduate, I sympathize with her observations of British life, but feel her piece gave short shrift to the absence of the self-examined life at Berkeley. Whatever Joe McCarthy’s excesses, communists had infiltrated the State Department and American universities, and Berkeley was the center of America’s radical Left. Daley’s participation is not excused by a youthful romance with socialism. The consequences of her support linger to this day: political thought at American universities is dominated by the Left with scant tolerance for conservative thought. Daley should have acknowledged this legacy, rather than simply rehashing her passions of the day, which were, frankly, juvenile, self-indulgent, and unexamined. Anti-communist propaganda may have been overdone, but you can’t bemoan a lack of critical thinking among adults and then fail to think critically about the validity of their message. Without romantic notions of socialism, the Soviet march might have slowed, and tens of millions of lives wiped out in the ensuing decades—those in which Daley was converted—might have been spared.

Richard Stanaro
London, England

To the editor:
Janet Daley would have us believe her “radical” youth guarantees her sincerity as a critic of socialism. But all she does is prove that her original idea of socialism was immature and shallow. In most “socialist” European countries, the problems of balancing incentive, distribution, and labor rights are worked out. America’s incentive society, on the other hand, doesn’t really reward the vast majority, who are yoked to a corporate work regime far more onerous than most Europeans endure, with far less security.

Mark Haag
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Only a discerning outsider could pen Janet Daley’s brilliant analysis of class in England. English myself, I immigrated to America after graduation from university. A coal miner’s son, I knew that I couldn’t penetrate England’s class structure, so I set out for a land where I’d be on an equal footing with everyone else.

Basil Weir
San Jose, CA

To the editor:
I spent two years in London in the sixties, and I was struck by the lack of personal freedom the English felt. A British friend visited the U.S. years later, and after a summer working as a gravedigger, he changed his life plan because he realized that he could do anything he wanted. I was stunned: Didn’t he know that already? It was something in the atmosphere of America, he said.

Judy Warner
Via e-mail

Janet Daley replies:
Mr. Haag’s letter is startlingly naive. Most “socialist” European countries “work out” the problems associated with balancing incentive, distribution, and labor rights? Why, then, are the French and German governments in the grip of their worst economic crises in a generation? Germany’s economy is collapsing under the weight of an unsustainable welfare program. France has disastrously high unemployment due to the over-regulation of its labor market and its unaffordable pension system. The consequences of “socialist” government are proving almost impossible to reform because of resistance by trade unions (who have held a wave of crippling strikes in France) and public resentment.

America’s work regime is “far more onerous” than Europe’s. Many Europeans enjoy a statutory maximum 35-hour week, with full state pensions at 50. That is why their economies are in such appalling trouble, and why the U.S. economy, whatever its difficulties, is so productive and robust.

Destination: Elsewhere

To the editor:
The narrow-minded attitude of your city council has made me postpone a holiday I was planning to take in New York City. After reading about the council’s recent decisions [“The Council’s Confederacy of Dunces,” Spring 2003], I won’t spend my money to help finance its regime. Perhaps I’ll see New York again in another six years. For now, I’ll find another city.

Michel Graylynn Cooper
Chattanooga, TN