Letters to the editor of the Boston Globe Magazine
Readers sound off on an essay about eating habits, a cover story on UMass Amherst’s bold leader, a story on coding skills, and more.
Thank you, Jenai Engelhard, for bringing some common sense and philosophy to the diet debate (Perspective, January 13). Control over diet is a poor substitute for control over life. The one word you might have added is “narcissism.” I think there is a connection between Facebook and diet that reflects the narcissism of our time.
I take great exception to Engelhard’s article that blithely assumes all of us who have chosen a way of eating [have done so] due to a need to be seen as special, or to fill some unmet religious need, or maybe to be fashionable, or maybe to find a quick fix. She has not considered that those of us who choose vegetarianism may be doing so because we feel the slaughter of other creatures for our consumption is wrong, especially in the hormone-filled, abuse-filled factory farms where millions of animals are slaughtered daily.
Hilary V. Greene
One of the most important reasons to pursue a primarily plant-based diet is not just for personal health or a sense of special purpose, as Engelhard suggests, but out of environmental concern. The climate and other environmental impacts of meat production are enormous, and all the more concerning as expanding populations with greater income seek to eat more meat. It’s not necessary to give up meat entirely, but just eating less meat (and being selective about meat you eat) can have a beneficial effect [on] the planet.
As UMass Amherst alumnae, we are proud of our alma mater and its continued progress under the strong leadership of Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. So while the Boston Globe Magazine’s in-depth profile of UMass on the rise was heartening (“Change Agent,” January 13), we cringed at the [reference to “ZooMass”]. To suggest UMass was ever “ZooMass” perpetuates a false, elitist, and demeaning stereotype of students focused more on partying than academics. Use of this label does a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of UMass students and alumni, not to mention faculty and staff, who have had to combat this mischaracterization throughout college and beyond. It also runs counter to our personal experiences and those of our fellow UMass grads, who enjoy success as leaders in business, government, academia, medicine, and the arts, not just in Massachusetts but throughout the country and world.
Kathleen Melley / Charlestown
Kristin Miller McGovern / Needham
Lynn Frankel Findlay / Belmont
Annie Schwab / Arlington
I am a graduate of UMass Amherst, where I got my BS in botany in 1977 and my PhD in plant cell biology in 1985. I now teach biology at Cornell University. The statement by Rick Kelleher in the following paragraph is as true as true can be: “After Subbaswamy refers to UMass grads as ‘PhDs — prepared, hungry, and driven,’ Kelleher admits he favors applicants from his alma mater over those from Cornell’s ivy-covered hotel management program. ‘The Cornell kids all want to be CEO — they don’t want to work,’ he says. ‘The UMass grads know how to work.’ ” I worry about the downside that comes with UMass striving to be an elite university. To put it succinctly — being an elite university in this day and age means to me — putting the measurable before the meaningful.
Ithaca, New York
I would argue that Massachusetts does indeed need an “elite public university” as the key to ensuring the continued economic and technical success of our great state; but that opportunity needs to be more affordable. The state needs to recognize how good the university is, as well as how necessary it is, and move to restore the funding so drastically cut over the past 30 years. That is the way to ensure the opportunity and the quality both continue. Our students deserve no less.
Lorrey James Bianchi
My Sunday morning reading includes several publications. I was planning to skim through Globe Magazine when I saw Neil Swidey’s article, which captivated and motivated me to read it in its entirety. His style flowed so smoothly. Good job!
In 1630, John Winthrop pledged the Massachusetts colony to be “as a city upon a hill.” How can Swidey seriously question the state’s deserving of a top-tier public university system just because we’re flush with privates? I offer that sightline as someone who served as director of admissions at Brandeis University across a quarter century, always with a watchful eye to higher education in the Commonwealth. As the well-tutored John Winthrop might have said, Excelsior!
I read Stacey Hall Burge’s reminiscence about her Aunt Brenda who died when she was 3 with chills and smiles (Connections, January 13). I, too, was blessed to have a doting aunt who has followed me through life in the best ways. My mother’s only sister, Angie, was my godmother and namesake, a legend in their humble Italian world of mid-20th-century Camden, New Jersey. As a kid, it wasn’t always easy carrying her name. Nana would chasten, “Angie would have done (not done) that.” I loved this dark-haired woman who had no children of her own .
I loved the piece written by Burge. It made me think of my own childless aunt, although she lived a full life and died in her early 90s. I find her walking with me through my life as well, and remembering those things she taught me. Burge’s beautiful words about her aunt will stay with me for a long time.
Audrey Crossman Peck
Plaistow, New Hampshire
I wanted to write to Burge to tell her how much I loved her story. It brought back wonderful memories of my favorite aunt with whom I was close, both when I was little and during college. I attended college an hour from her and had a wonderful home away from home for four years. My aunt was kind of an Auntie Mame, someone I could confide in and have fun with. I remember her teaching me how to bargain for some champagne glasses at a flea market. I miss her spirit and love but I feel like I incorporated some of her style and zest for life.
Rethinking the Basics
Excellent suggestion to add coding to the list of basic skills all kids should learn (Perspective, January 20). To learn coding is to learn not only new ways of thinking, but also the value of intellectual rigor in general.
I thoroughly enjoyed
Marina Umaschi Bers’s outstanding article [on coding]. As one who finally became a published
mathematician at the age of 68, I’m very much interested in the education of our children. To me, being able to think analytically is of enormous importance in a digital age, whatever the path a child of today might take intellectually. Keep up the good journalistic work.
Remembering through Music
Leslie Martini’s story (Connections, January 20) brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my mother and her “empty shell.” She, too, rarely spoke, but when I or my siblings entered the room those “desperate eyes” lit up and a big smile crossed her face. I loved reading the part where Martini took out her iPad and played [a song from] Phantom of the Opera and she sprang to life. Now you know how to find her, as long as she is in there. Thanks for helping me remember my mother who died 20 years ago.
Broadway [music] is a gift to so many people in so many different ways. Martini’s essay brought tears.
John K. Kjoller
No child should be forced to give hugs and kisses (Miss Conduct, January 20). Being polite, saying please, thank you, and excuse me should suffice. I used to get weird vibes from my mother’s aunt and uncle. I hated to feel I had to give them a kiss. All I did was act out. Saying hello and perhaps nice to see you is enough social etiquette for a child who doesn’t like touching. Whose body is it anyway?
posted on bostonglobe.com
When my son was about 4, we were in the vestibule of our church chatting with others after Mass. An elderly corpulent woman we knew pinched his cheek, told him he was a cute little devil, and he instantly pulled her hand away and said, “Hands off, fatso!” I was mortified. I apologized to her and told him to apologize, which he did, albeit not very convincingly. I took him into our car and told him that was not very nice. He countered with “Well, she pinched me hard and it hurt. And she is fat! You told me to always tell the truth!” Yep, he was right, told the truth, which hurt, and I had a hard time trying to explain what tact is to him.
Atkinson, New Hampshire