Airport security checks serve their purpose

Regarding Terry Hong's Oct. 10 Opinion piece "Wanded for being nonwhite": I am a Central European who has lived in the US for the past six years. I am tall, my hair is dark, my skin is very pale, and I look nothing like a Middle Easterner or an Asian.

I travel by air frequently. Yet I, too, am selected and wanded, sometimes even patted down, with an amazing regularity. I have had to take off my shoes on every single occasion I've had to fly after Sept. 11. But I still fail to see a pattern of discrimination.

It's inconvenient to be selected so often, but it proves nothing. These checks are a serious matter and should continue, even if a few of us occasionally feel put upon or discriminated against. It's not such a big price to pay.
Katerina Pavlitova
New York

Regarding "Wanded for being nonwhite": I'm a white woman with gray hair. I'm not as well traveled as Terry Hong, but I did end up being randomly "wanded" and patted down recently on a flight to Houston, and it is unnerving to say the least.

Even though the people at the airport gate say they are randomly checking you, it makes one think: "Why have I been singled out?" Each time thereafter as I approached an airport gate, I wondered if it would happen again. Thankfully, it didn't, but that one time was almost embarrassing.

I'm sorry that Ms. Hong has been searched so many times, but then again I'm grateful no more incidents such as Sept. 11 have happened.
B.W. Wade
St. Louis

When 'outstanding' becomes the norm

I was struck by your Oct. 8 article (Learning) "What to do when 'outstanding' is average," about ways to deal with the competitive college-application process. First of all, an "average outstanding student" either cannot be average, or else cannot be outstanding, for if this person is truly outstanding, average is impossible by definition.

I understand the dilemma, especially having taught at universities for more than 10 years. I have to insist, however, that students' intellectual preparation is in fact declining. Grade inflation and many other factors have been cited as the reason for this decline; elite institutions practice this sort of inflation more than middle- to lower-class institutions, under the assumption that their students are just generally smarter.

The only places that impress me with large numbers of outstanding students are Asian schools. Despite the stress and pressure put on those kids, they stand the best chance of raising the bar enough that outstanding actually does become the average. But when that happens, at least for those students, it will cease to be "outstanding."
Christine Boese

False cries of antisemitism

Regarding your Oct. 8 article (Learning) "Protest or prejudice": It is Israel, not its critics, that has chosen to combine a nation-state with a religion. Israel's choice to do so should not immunize it from conscientious criticism or political pressure tactics.

The cry of antisemitism has become a red herring now used in a fraudulent effort to stifle criticism and legitimate political action against Israel.

Israel deserves to be singled out for criticism and hostile political action, not because it is a Jewish state, but because it is the only country in which a forced exile of a group is an emerging policy, illegal expropriation of occupied territory is a national strategy, and the routine killing of civilians has become a daily military procedure publicly praised by its prime minister.
John Mansour
Rochester, N.Y.

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