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October 05, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Letters Letters (October 05, 2005)

A time to fight


Recent articles and interviews in the Weekly on bullying were sorely lacking in character building. They seemed to imply that the solution to bullying was psychological counseling and better enforcement by teachers.

Each of these solutions is a "run to mama" approach that solves the problem in the short run but destroys manly character in the long run. I was reminded of body builder Charles Atlas: "Are you tired of getting sand kicked in your face? Nobody picks on a strong man. Truest success is but the development of self."

Thus, the best response to being bullied is to learn the art of self-defense -- and to fight back.

No amount of counseling, running to mama and enforcement by teachers will substitute for fighting back. The bullied person who walks away may avoid some physical abuse today but he pays the price in years of shame and low self-esteem. No amount of hugging will substitute for taking classes in self-defense.

Instead of searching for the bully, and instead of looking for protections from government, the Palo Alto Weekly should have insisted that the schools teach classes in judo, karate, bodybuilding and self-defense. Many womens' groups understood this principle when they formed classes in self-defense to deter potential rapists.

Robert Bly, the great modern American poet, wrote and taught classes about the "Wild Man Within." When boys are coddled too much, pampered and weakened, they lose their sense of self-worth.

Everything can be taken too far, even cuddling and hugging. At some point those who are bullied need to take a stand and fight back. And more often than not fighting back will deter the bully in the future. No amount of cuddling will substitute for the self-confidence gained by the act of self-defense.
Jerry Udinsky
Miranda Road
Los Altos Hills

Avoid over-achieving


As the parent of a freshman at Paly and a recent Paly graduate, I have followed the Weekly's stories about student stress. Many ask the same question: "What can we as a community do about this terrible problem?"

In the Sept. 26 column about the Adam Ojakian tragedy, the Weekly states that "finding a balance between academics and just being kids can be tricky in a community where high school students often stay up after midnight finishing their homework."

I believe the Weekly is making the problem trickier. I shook my head in amazement when I read yet another cover story (Sept. 21) about Channing Hancock, the Gunn student-body president and her daily grind of a schedule. The article lists 10 separate extra-curricular activities in which she participates, her four AP classes, her hours of nightly homework, 20 college applications, etc.

When our community holds up these over-achievers as role models with a multi-page story and photos, what message does this convey to our students and their parents? Channing says: "The overwhelming majority of students at Gunn are high-achieving because they want to be."


But any aware adult knows there are many factors at work here -- subliminal messages from anxious parents, messages from a successful and achievement-oriented community about values, and the media, to name a few.

I was struck by one sentence in that article: "For the most part, Channing seems to float along her busy schedule without any trouble, save for the occasional yawn."

I guess that makes students who can't keep up with or reject this sort of 24/7 schedule wimps.
Kaye Storm
Madrono Avenue
Palo Alto

Neglecting the obvious


I couldn't help being amazed at the Weekly's recent article, "Abuse of Power" (Sept. 28) and its subtitle, "Recent coach, teacher misconduct no surprise to experts."

Beginning with the latter, why do we have to ask "experts" to see or predict what should be obvious to everybody, namely that if you put a male coach in charge of a group of girls, the coach will be tempted (a useful term with religious overtones if you will) to misconduct.

I guess C.S. Lewis had it right in his Screwtape Letters when he spoke of "that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious."

Thus I was bothered that in the long article, no one even seems to consider the idea, obvious to other cultures or times, that a practical remedy would be to have women coaches for girls' sports. If we weren't so enamored of abstract ideas of what should be (equality at all costs) and focused more on what is (higher likelihood of sexual misconduct), this would be uncontroversial.

But evidently it is something that no one wants to mention.
Filippo Radicati
San Antonio Road
Palo Alto

City leader criticism


I've tried to remain quiet about the incompetence of our city's "leaders," but it's starting to hit too close to home.

Our once excellent neighborhood park is now covered in yellow caution tape and has been for nearly a year. Equipment has been disappearing for a variety of reasons. When the Parks and Recreation Commission was asked what can be done to restore the equipment, we were told that there isn't any money for it and there will be a renovation in 2007-08.

Has the city manager messed things up so badly that our tax dollars no longer fund even the basics of an enjoyable neighborhood?

We've been hit with increases in fees, levies, surcharges, taxes, etc., over the past several years. Where is all of that money going? How can someone not be held responsible for this?

City leaders also have a theoretical "office/housing balance" they are trying to achieve. So high-density housing has been springing up at any available lot. But the school district can't handle all of the new students. How can the district not have seen this coming?

Palo Alto is a great place to live because of its schools and the amenities it offers it's residents. Our officials are doing all that they can to destroy both. In most companies, when something gets so poorly managed, someone loses his or her job.

In Palo Alto, we give them breaks on their property tax, low interest loans and car allowances.
Keith Ferrell
Escobita Avenue
Palo Alto

Strategy backfires


Eleven years ago, the Republicans took control of Congress. When they did this, they rallied around the "Contract with America." At the heart of this contract was the idea that government was inherently a problem and that we should all want the government to be weak and ineffectual.

The Republicans have held this view for a long time; remember the words of right-wing strategist Grover Norquist, who said in the 1970s that the goal was to shrink the federal government until it could be drowned in a bathtub.

Well, now we have Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and we see that the federal government has been completely weak and ineffectual in dealing with the incredible damage and destruction unleashed by these forces of nature.

So listen up all you Republicans out there. This is what the "Contract with America" looks like. Do you like it? If not, then shut up already about how "big government" is the problem.
Peter Stone
Alma Street
Palo Alto

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