Do community colleges skimp on humanities?

Regarding the July 17 Learning column, "In a technocratic age, study of the liberal arts is even more important": While Francis Conroy rightly calls for renewed emphasis on the traditions and disciplines of the liberal arts, he mistakenly connects the "decline of the liberal arts" with the growth of community colleges from the 1960s through the end of the century. Liberal arts requirements are central to the associate degree awarded by community colleges. The liberal arts are a fundamental part of the curriculum at community colleges - and we trust that Mr. Conroy joins with many of us who are working hard to further strengthen the humanities and the liberal arts in the nation's two-year colleges. The Community College Humanities Association has been one of the leading organizations devoted to this effort since 1979, and our hard-won successes should not pass unnoticed.

David A. Berry Newark, N.J. Executive Director, Community College Humanities Association and professor of history, Essex County College

I agree with the commentary by Francis Conroy. I'm a 20-year-old who has just given up on local community college and will be applying to a liberal arts college. I had started college hoping to find a place where I could take a broad range of classes and not just learn subjects, but learn how to think about them. I discovered more of an assembly line toward a four-year degree: I was strongly encouraged to pick one skill/subject and specialize in it and neglect all my other interests. For someone who loves the process of learning as much as what is learned, this was rather discouraging.

Electra Allen-Tonar Escondido, Calif.

Katharine Graham as role model

It's almost as difficult to do justice to an individual like Katharine Graham as it is to say good-bye to her ("The courage of Katharine Graham," July 20, opinion page). Although I never met Mrs. Graham, she has always served as a personal role model. She was a pioneer, strong-minded, gifted as a business executive, and an engaging writer. Furthermore, she possessed strong instinct and judgment, a tenacious and unequalled work ethic, and outstanding interpersonal skills.

As with all great people, her success is ultimately the result of the priceless qualities of depth of personality and strength of character.

David Matthew Huff Arlington, Va.

Fostering independence in girls

Thank you for your article "Young women, prominent men, bad choices" (July 24, 2001).

As a mother of two daughters (17 and 12), I am amazed at the need many young girls feel to have a boyfriend, and at how they define and view themselves in terms of these relationships. Obviously, this carries on into later life and can only sadden those of us who believe in empowering girls and women.

I suspect that parents contribute to the idea that girls and young women need some form of "protection," a cocoon beyond which they are practically not allowed to thrive. Most parents treat their daughters differently from their sons. Boys are allowed more leeway to experiment and have fewer controls imposed on them (the "boys will be boys" syndrome). In general, girls do not enjoy the same freedom and are subjected to a far more controlling environment at home. Because of this, they are often not independent enough, and, when given independence, they do not necessarily know what it is or how to deal with it.

Ewa Rurarz-Huygens Reston, Va.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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