I read your Dec. 28 editorial, "Quick fix is wrong fix for teen steroids," with great interest. I was a high school and college athlete and was subject to random drug tests at both levels. My experience in high school included a great deal of indirect social pressure to do certain drugs as an athlete. Random drug tests helped counter such pressure. I was not inclined to and did not do drugs in high school or in college, but I still appreciated the "reinforcement" and provision of a reason to say no that random drug testing provided.
In addition, I disagree with your editorial's comment that random drug testing of high school athletes takes a "personal decision" out of the hands of the family and places it in the hands of the state. My memory is that results from such tests often provided families with needed wake-up calls that one of their own was in trouble.
Regarding the Dec. 22 article, "Japan breaking out of economic slump": Although the overall analysis of the story is not affected, having lived in Tokyo the past 25 years tells me that the causality of the following statement is wrong: "Declining consumer prices in Japan have wreaked havoc on the world's second-largest economy by encouraging shoppers to delay purchases of everything from refrigerators to houses."
The main reason for the delaying of purchases that has caused deflation for the past decade is uncertainty about the future, not people's waiting for prices to fall a few more percentage points. Uncertainty is the reason for the development of a low-cost economy, including "100 Yen Shops" and discount supermarkets, and the numerous TV programs and newspaper and magazine articles that show people how to get the most from their money. It even causes the problem of "parasite singles" - adult children who live with their parents into their 30s - because these men and women are uncertain about maintaining a job.
Uncertainty about the future includes worry not only about whether one will have a job tomorrow, but also uncertainty about the solvency of the national pension and healthcare schemes in the face of the declining population.
Your Dec. 29 editorial, "Reading this editorial is a test, of sorts," about the decline in literacy proficiency fails to note a corresponding growth of time spent watching television.
I think one's literacy level depends in large measure on the number of words in one's vocabulary. Thirty years of college teaching convinced me of this. During those years, both students and faculty displayed closer attention to TV sports and entertainment than to alternative topics of conversation.
Assuming that the vocabulary required to discuss the more popular topics is smaller and requires less capacity for abstract or comparative thinking than the more academic subjects, adults' reading skills may very well deteriorate as vocabulary learned earlier atrophies for lack of frequent use.
Finally, I would add that in 1960 my lectures drew upon the Bible for anecdotal examples of ways in which people often act. Students followed the connection quickly. By the '80s, the references were lost on students for their lack of exposure to the King James version of the Bible with its rich vocabulary and characterizations.
William L. Hathaway
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