Universal preschool not a good idea

I enjoyed your article "Preschools are popping at the seams" (Learning, July 9) but found the subtext to be disturbing. The Head Start program serves a noble purpose in an attempt to prepare young children from disadvantaged situations for their first years of schooling, enabling them to begin their formal education on an even footing with their counterparts. Universal preschool, on the other hand, accomplishes no more academically than can reasonably engaged parents, the primary early childhood educators. As for the supposed advantage of more structured social interaction, getting 3- and 4-year-olds to set up a utopia is like herding cats. The chaotic behavior of young children reflects their imagination and wonder, qualities important in both art and science that should be nurtured rather than stifled by rigid structure.

Kindergarten used to be considered optional, but as the article states, preschool is now nearly mandatory! Among acquaintances, the preschool movement is driven partly by sheep mentality, partly by economics. If both parents must work, putting a child in preschool, where they might learn or otherwise grow as a person, is preferable to day care or babysitting. But assuaging parental guilt is a poor rationale for preschool.
David Mechem
Norman, Okla.

Better pollution solutions needed

Your recent editorial praising California's efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles ("California's tailpipe leadership," July 10) struck me as hopelessly naive. Previously, efforts to combat air pollution have revolved largely around removing contaminants from the exhaust, not necessarily limiting the exhaust.

But because carbon dioxide is such a large portion of the exhaust, not a contaminant as such, the only way to limit carbon dioxide emissions is by restricting the exhaust. Consumer choice and personal safety will inevitably be infringed upon. Most of the efficiencies your editorial mentioned (e.g., improved transmissions) were implemented long ago. Gasoline-powered hybrid vehicles might be a good start, but California's Air Resources Board has long been focused on aggregating power, foisting inefficient electric vehicles on unwilling consumers, and on interminable litigation.
Marc Valdez
Sacramento, Calif.

Britain's relaxed drug-law enforcement

I agree with Britain's decision to reform its cannabis policies ("Tough-on-drugs Britain softens line on marijuana," July 12). It boggles the mind that an activity that is so engrained in our culture – smoking pot – is considered a top-level crime in this country. A federal survey in 1997 reported that 20 million Americans smoke this drug on a regular basis. Why in the world are we still wasting our tax dollars on the mistaken notion that we can eventually put every one of those 20 million people into jail?
Adam Wiggins
Pasadena, Calif.

'Ethnic cleansing' on the West Bank

Letter writer Lawrence Cranberg uses only a partial definition of "ethnic cleansing" when refuting that the term can apply to the transfer of Palestinians (Readers Write, July 11). [Editor's note: The definition includes both expulsion and mass execution.] The reason that mass murder is largely associated with the term is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to remove people from their longtime (and rightful) homes by force without killing a great many of them!

Rest assured that if the Israelis attempt to carry out the proposed "transfer" of the Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, there will undoubtedly be massacres in Palestine just as there were in Bosnia.
Avilee Goodwin
Richmond, Calif.

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