Need for caution - with children and in retaliation

School leaders will shoulder a special responsibility in the coming weeks, as students and staff struggle with the events of Sept. 11: What do we tell our children, and what are the implications for our schools?

There are great similarities to events at Columbine, where acts reverberated well past their actual targets and chaos changed the psychological landscape of America. After Columbine, we had two choices: We could follow a Band-Aid approach and beef up security, or we could deal with the underlying causes, helping students not to feel isolated. The best solutions seemed to mix short-term fixes with the longer view.

Now, we have to take a hard look at helping American children understand that we live in a global society, and we must teach them to see the world through multiple lenses. Patriotism is important, but there is a line between feeling good about your country and feeling superior. The second need in schools is an emphasis on character development. The seeds of terror are planted on playgrounds when one child bullies another.

All this may not put America back together, but it gives us something to think about as we face the unthinkable.

Paul D. Houston Arlington, Va.

Executive Director,

American Assoc. of School Administrators

Reprisals can never stop terrorism. Retaliation, unless surgically precise, will always create a mushroom effect. Every time a military operation claims an innocent person, another terrorist is born. We see it now in America: Thousands would die to exact vengeance. But fighting evil can succeed only if the approach is sophisticated and profound. It must be rooted in forgiveness. Force must be tempered by understanding, punitive action by positive action.

Around the roots of many terrorist organizations are legitimate grievances. To fight these forces - who also believe they are fighting for justice - countries must look beyond questions of who and how, to ask questions of why. As the US chooses a path after Tuesday's tragic loss, may leaders seek justice, not vengeance, and take any retaliatory action with care. May we re-engage the world. The stakes cannot be higher.

Vikram Singh Colombo, Sri Lanka

It is encouraging to many here in Ireland that the US has not, thus far, lashed out in revenge. Further violence would make additional tragedy much more likely. While expressing absolute revulsion at this event, many people worldwide have pleaded with the US to reassess its foreign policy - particularly with Israel. Terrorists' hatred comes from somewhere, and I'm afraid it is a cop-out to simply dismiss the perpetrators as evil men.

My prayers go out to you. Everyone in Ireland stands shoulder to shoulder with America in this difficult time.

John Taylor Belfast

I am gratified and heartened to see Americans rally during a crisis. However, I hope we have the collective wisdom to exercise caution and avoid overreacting. There are demagogues who would exploit any national emergency to turn our country into a police state or a military compound. We suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, we harassed German-Americans during the First World War, and we interned Japanese-Americans during the second. Let's not allow such overreaction to occur again.

The challenge we face is to focus our anger and not let it lash out randomly. In pursuing the terrorists who are responsible, we must have patience and avoid panic.

Donald Draganski Evanston, Ill.

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