Civilian Boot Camps ... What We Don't Need

Was Anna Simons serious in her book review of "Making the Corps" ("In Your Face: the Making of a Marine," Dec. 15) or tongue in cheek when she suggested we institute a compulsory "national service" with Marine-style boot camp training in order to suture the divide between military and civilian attitudes? Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was joking.

But just in case, let's remember: Many of the "inner-city youth" who she suggests would benefit from such training are already completely indoctrinated (and impaired) by a military world view. They have already aborted their own sacred individuality for a gang mentality. They quickly resort to armed conflict or the threat of arms to resolve their territorial disputes. They call their drive-by shootings "missions" and have sworn allegiance to their captains and fellow soldiers to a point where they're prepared to die to demonstrate their semper fidelis.

Unwitting military apologists such as Ms. Simons and the book's author, Thomas Ricks, should not go unanswered when the violent, unworkable paradigm they put forth is once again paraded as a "solution" to our civilian woes.

Jack Gebhardt

Fort Collins, Colo.

Don't forget sign language

The articles "Canada's Chinese Speakers on a Roll as Numbers Rise" (Dec. 17) and "Language Becomes War by Other Means" (Dec. 10) as well as other articles on linguistic minorities in the US have overlooked American sign language and its variants used by the deaf and hearing impaired.

By some reports, sign language is the third most-used language in the US, behind English and Spanish. As with Spanish speakers, sign-language users are a linguistically and culturally distinct group. Unlike other languages, that distinctiveness has been at least partially imposed in a "non-hereditary" fashion. The majority of deaf and hearing-impaired children are born to hearing parents.

Until mainstreaming mandates in the mid-1970s, almost all deaf and hearing-impaired children were educated at state or private residential schools and were raised outside their parents' home and culture. Even those children taught by methods emphasizing speech and lip-reading, instead of partial or total use of signing, were usually raised away from home.

These children came to share a culture with other deaf and hearing-impaired people that was quite separate from the culture of their parents. That culture might prove interesting to investigate, as might the question of whether the mainstreaming efforts of the last two decades have weakened or changed the so-called "deaf culture." At the least, sign-language users should be included in future articles covering linguistic minorities and follow-up articles about "language wars."

David M. Nash III

Texarkana, Texas

Hold on to that Southern drawl

Concerning the article "Losing that Southern Drawl" (Dec. 9): Do we want a homogenized language where we all sound alike? Wouldn't it be better to educate people to the charm of diversity? I grew up in Colorado and have lived in New York City, Vermont, and the South, and I love to hear the regional differences in dialects. It would be a boring world if we all sounded the same - Vive la difference!

Marguerite Schenkman

Central, S.C.

New cartoonist a good addition

I am pleased to see that Clay Bennett will be the Monitor's editorial cartoonist. I followed Mr. Bennett's 13-year career with the St. Petersburg Times with much enthusiasm. I look forward to seeing his insightful and humorous work on a daily basis again. I expect the addition to the Monitor staff of this talented young man to be a most valuable and rewarding one for all of us. Congratulations to the Monitor and to Bennett.

Pat Richardson

St. Petersburg, Fla.

Your letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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