Letters to the Editor

Readers write about college diversity, use of the Mahdi Army name, fuel budgets, and praeteritio.

Education quality is not dependent on diversity

In response to your April 14 editorial, "Redefining campus diversity": You argue that America's elite universities must attempt to become more "diverse" by enrolling more students from low-income families. Although following that idea probably won't do much harm, I fail to discern any reason why doing so would make any appreciable difference.

Even though we speak of selective or elite schools as if they are markedly superior to other schools, when it comes to actual education, they aren't. Mathematics, physics, economics, and other subjects are not taught differently or better at an "elite" university than at a solid state institution. Nor is it true that having a degree from an elite college does much to improve one's lifetime earnings.

Nor is there any benefit from the supposed increase in "diversity" in having a few more students from lower-income families. The notion that there is some social or educational benefit from increasing racial diversity is pretty weak; the idea that economic diversity somehow improves the campus is risible.

The best admission policy is to forget about trying to engineer a "diverse" student body and just worry about admitting the brightest students.

George Leef
Raleigh, N.C.

Vice president for research, Pope Center for Higher Education Policy

Don't perpetuate Mahdi Army's name

Regarding the April 15 article, "US aims to counter Mahdi Army clout": In our efforts to undermine Moqtada al-Sadr's so-called "Mahdi Army," we should begin by no longer calling this group of suicide bombers, assassins, and evildoers by that holy, halo-polishing name.

After all, in Shiite Islam, the Mahdi happens to be the Twelfth Imam.

So when the radical, self-anointed cleric, Mr. Sadr, has the audacity to label his own personal bodyguard and vigilante-style killers by that blessed name, do we really need to parrot that patently false label forever more?

Instead of the "Jaish al-Mahdi," why not the "Jaish al-Sadr" (al-Sadr's Army).

If they are not truly godly, let's not call them that.

Jim Guirard
Alexandria, Va.


Gas prices strain drivers cutting back

In response to the April 2 article, "With gas costly, drivers finally cut back": I am at my wits' end trying to figure out where to cut back on spending. My wife and I both work. We live in the country, so anything we do involves driving. In the summer of 2007 we started to cut back on driving. I myself travel 25 miles a day for my work while my wife travels 38 miles a day. So when we both get done with our jobs, we each make sure to do any errands before we leave town, and you know what? It is still hard for us to make ends meet each month.

Tom Clausen
Ridgeland, Wis.

The danger of alluding to stereotypes

In response to the April 16 article, "A sharper focus on troubled students": The article, paraphrasing Carolyn Reinach Wolf, said "Still, people with mental illness shouldn't be pegged as violent...." What we "shouldn't be pegged as" ought not enter the discussion. The technique of planting a negated pejorative has a name, praeteritio. It is so effective that it is widely employed in debate.

Harold A. Maio
Fort Myers, Fla.

Advisory Board, American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.

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