Great American Conversations
                    With The Alumni of RHS
                   Issue 95 October 22, 2000

From:  Paul W. Ratsch (58)

The State of Texas, under the leadership of
 Governor George W. Bush, is ranked 50th in
 spending for teachers salaries, 49th in spending on
 the environment,48th in per capita in funding for
 public health, 47th in delivery of social services,
 42nd in child support collections, 41st in per
 capital spending on public education, 5th in
 percentage of population of people living in
 poverty, 1st in water & air pollution, 1st in % of
 poor working parents without insurance, 1st in %of
 children without health insurance, 1st in
 executions (avg.1 every 2 wks. for Bush's first 5
 years).  Just think of what he could do for the
 country if he were president.

                      Paul W. Ratsch (58)

Subj: You Don't Have To Get Run Over By A 
Train To Know You Shouldn't Lay On The Tracks
From: Jenny (Smart) Page ('87)

Perhaps Chuck, and probably a few others, are
 finally realizing at least part of my Harry Potter
 point...the fact that it is being discussed. I agree, it
 is a good thing that is being discussed.  And I
 hope in stating my point of view, that perhaps
 Harry Potter isn't the best role model for all
 children, that other's will be willing to stand up to
 their kids, and society, and also say, "Hey, you
 know what.  There's just something that doesn't sit
 right with me about this subject.  Maybe my kids
 ought not to be reading this. I think I'll look into it
 some more before I shell out another $15 for the
 next book."  And they will look deeper into the
 decision, instead just blindly following the path of
 what is the current fad.

Chuck, I'm glad your mother instilled in you a love
 of reading.  My father did the same for me. (My
 mother, God rest her soul, was dyslexic, and was
 never a big reader.  But she instilled many other
 fine characteristics into my life, such as speaking
 what I believe in, and baking a mean oatmeal
 chocolate chip cookie).  And please note again,
 that I have never, in any of my statements, ever
 professed a need to ban or censor or prohibit the
 reading of these books by the general public.

I do not let my child read Harry Potter, just like I
 don't let her listen to Marilyn Manson or any of the
 other hate-filled garbage bands they call music
 these days.  I do not let my child read Harry
 Potter, for a similar reason that I have not
 provided her with a room full of Barbie
 paraphernalia, nor do I let her dress like Britney
 Spears or Christina Aguilera. And, my sons do not
 have posters of Dennis Rodman, the Undertaker or
 Steve Austin on their bedroom wall.  They are not
 the type of role models I wish my children to be

As for the messages you think I am sending to my
 daughter, I am not the least bit ashamed by my
 decisions, as you state I should be.  My daughter
 and I have talked about this, on numerous
 occasions.  She understands that the characters in
 the books do things that are not appropriate in the
 beliefs of our family.  She is a strong child, and I
 have seen her speak her mind to friends as to why
 she can or can not do something, and why. Neither
 she nor I are ignorant, Chuck.  To the contrary, I
 would have to believe that we are informed enough
 to make a decision that this is inappropriate for our

By following your logic, that I am unable to make a
 decision regarding this book without reading it and
 base my decision by only reading reviews, listening
 to others, and reading things such as our ongoing
 debate; then:  -- one could also not know that
 doing drugs is bad, unless one smokes dope and
 shoots up;  -- one could also not know that
 drinking and driving is hazardous, unless one does
 so and experiences an accident or arrest; -- one
 could also not know that putting a hand on a hot
 stove is going to hurt, unless one does so;  -- one
 could not know that music by various junk bands
 today is in poor taste, promoting violence and
 disrespect, without personally purchasing and
 listening to the songs;  -- one could not know that
 slapping a baby around and throwing it against
 the wall is harmful, unless one does so; -- one
 could not decide to travel to Europe, without
 having done so!

I think its clear that people (including me) are able
 to stop, look and listen to what others are saying
 regarding a certain subject, be it personal behavior
 or personal travel, and make a decision based on
 the information collected.  It is done all the time. 
 We read movie reviews by critics.  We listen to the
 evening news. We talk to friends, neighbors,  
 coworkers and family members.  We read trade
 journals, newspapers, brochures and 
 advertisements.  We research things at the library,
 and on the Internet. I don't have to have been
 arrested for drunk driving to know that I need to
 teach my kids that it's wrong to drink and drive.  I
 don't have to be a world traveler to know that this
 isn't the best time to be visiting Yugoslavia. A
 prime example that is very much in the limelight
 today is our presidential election.  I don't have to
 have personally met Al Gore, to know that he lies,
 often and repeatedly, and when its not even

I am not one who parents in a manner to win a
 popularity contest.  I am the parent.  They are the
 children.  I am the one with the adult experience.
 They, again, are the children.  And, being a parent
 first, and friend second, sometimes means that I
 make decisions that my kids don't agree with or
 fully understand (however, Harry Potter does not
 fall within either of those categories, as my
 daughter does understand why we're not reading
 the books, and she also agrees that it's something
 that isn't right for our family).

I've never made any mention of something that can
 be misconstrued as my desire to limit others access
 to these books.  Which also means that I've never
 made an attempt to insult you (or anyone's mother)
 in regard to your ability to think freely.  I applaud
 those who are able to think for themselves, and not
 just blindly follow like lemmings over the waterfall.
 Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do that.  They
 follow along with what everyone else is doing
 or saying, without any regard to the after effect.
 It's the "if it feels good, do it" attitude. They think
 the majority must be right, or it wouldn't be the
 majority!  And sometimes nothing can be further
 from the truth.

As a side note, I wish to publicly thank all those
 who have sent me personal e-mail in support of my
 stance on the Harry Potter books, and sticking by
 my principles in general.  It just confirms that I'm
 not a "wacko" thinking this way; and like so many
 topics, I'm part of the "silent majority" --- I just
 happen to be the one who chose not to be silent.

Sign me, "A parent who isn't always voted #1 Mom
 of the Year, but loved and respected anyways,"

                 Jenny (Smart) Page ('87)

Subj:   Personal Attacks Are Out Of Line
From:  Karen Schildknecht Mateo '67
Richland WA

To Chuck Monasmith:
Re: Harry Potter

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you the one
 who said that reading these books would open a
 child's mind to fair play, help them understand
 diversity, and tolerance? (I'm not quoting, but it's
 close.) So, did you read those books? Because you
 went way too far this time. I can see not
 understanding the fact that someone would raise
 their children a little different than you raised
 yours, or even how you were raised. I can even
 understand you thinking that your way might have
 been better. But stop right there. Jenny Smart has
 every right to keep things from her children, if she
 doesn't feel they would benefit from them. You,
 however, do not have a right to attack her
 personally for her style of child raising. It is simply
 none of your business, and way beyond the scope
 of the Sandbox.  It's okay to disagree with what
 someone believes, but it's not okay to attack them
 for their beliefs. Isn't that why people come here,
 to America? For freedom of speech, freedom of
 expression? To attack that in the defense these
 books makes no sense whatsoever.  At first I
 enjoyed the banter, but you took it too far when
 you attacked Jenny's ability to parent, since I'm
 assuming you do not personally know her. If she
 was not feeding them, or not clothing them, or if
 she left them alone, she might be a bad mother.
 You attacked her (and that's exactly what you did)
 because she felt it her duty as a mother to keep
 certain elements from her children, such as
 witchcraft and sorcery. That's her right as a mother
 to determine what is good fro her kids. So, please,
 for all of us who have been reading the Sandbox,
 consider this the end of the Harry Potter
 discussion. I feel you owe Jenny an apology for
 such a personal attack to her character. Jenny,
 raise your children as you wish, and remember, it
 doesn't take books to instill an imagination. 

To Steve Carlson (65)
Re: Alternative lifestyles

Please accept my condolences on the death of your
 son. But, instead of believing that teaching about
 these lifestyles in school would promote
 homosexuality, I would rather believe it could
 promote understanding and compassion for anyone
 who has been born into this lifestyle. If you really
 saw the pain it brought you son, wouldn't you
 hope that those who treated and judged him so
 harshly would learn to be more open and
 understanding of the next gay man or lesbian they
 encounter? I sure would. 

              Karen Schildknecht Mateo '67
              Richland WA

Subj:    Choices, Body Slams and Winnebagos
From:   Pam Jewett-Bullock (nee Pyle '69)
Stafford, Virginia

I have so enjoyed the recent debates among my
 fellow RHS alumni concerning a variety of issues,
 particularly the Medicare/Social Security
 proposals, Harry Potter, and teaching tolerance. 
 Enjoyed it, that is, until I read the couple of
 relative personal "body slams" delivered in these
 last two issues.

I'd like to thank Stacy Campbell (86) for her quick
 comeback to Chuck Monasmith's (sorry, Chuck,
 I've forgotten your class year) ill-advised personal
 admonition to Jenny Smart (87) concerning her
 parenting.  The fact that I disagree with Jenny's
 approach to teaching her children about making
 good personal choices via imposition of parental
 control over the particular reading materials we've
 been discussing is irrelevant.  There is NO shame
 in Jenny's obvious love and concern for those
 children.  On the contrary, and as one who has
 preceded Jenny in life experiences in Bomberville
 and Parenthood, I'd like Jenny to know that I am
 ALWAYS grateful to witness or read about
 parents who are fully immersed in and taking
 seriously the tremendous responsibility for rearing
 their children.  Chuck, I wish you'd apologize.  As
 ones who have gone before Jenny, I think the best
 we can do for her is to applaud and encourage her
 to continue to express that love in the best way she
 can.  Challenge her on the issues and her opinions,
 if you will, but please don't introduce further the
 notion that she is to be ashamed for trying to steer
 her children in non-violent ways.  The world is full
 of parents who are making LOTS more frightening
 choices with their children!

Thanks, also, to Lynn Hatcher (68) for reminding
 Steve Shipman (51) and the rest of us that
 homosexuality is NOT a lifestyle "choice"; rather,
 it is an innate physiological feature and function of
 the individual, as much as is skin and eye color. 
 (Although I suppose one might argue that it is
 possible for one to choose to TRY to live or act
 like a homosexual might, just as a man might
 choose to dress like a woman or vice-versa; but
 one CANNOT choose to BE homosexual.  It's like
 pregnancy: Either you are or you are not.  Period.) 
 And, as for "God's Law," Steve, the God of my
 understanding is in no way exclusionary, but in
 every way unconditionally loving to each each and
 every creature in existence.  So unconditionally
 loving, in fact, that God gifted us with freewill to
 choose how we would interpret God and respond
 to God.  As I further understand, God issued ten
 laws, the first two of which God considered the
 "be-all, end-all" rules by which mankind should
 measure itself:  "Love the Lord thy God with all
 thy heart, thy soul, and thy mind" and "Love thy
 neighbor as thyself."  Beyond those ten laws, all
 other interpretations and rules are the products of
 the human heart, mind and hand, whether between
 the covers of the book known as the Holy Bible or
 elsewhere.  In my opinion, teaching tolerance is
 exactly what we ought to be doing in our homes
 and our schools.  Tolerance, manners, common
 courtesies, respect for our differences, and value
 of individual gifts--these are all lessons I hope our
 children will learn, but fear they are more and more
 missing today, just as many seem to be missing
 right along with some of the other most basic skills
 we were taught.  (Evidence: the recent display of
 how to win WITHOUT grace and respect for both
 the competition and the nation which they
 represented in the recent Olympics.)  Happily,
 there are all sorts and conditions of men and
 women who were once societally, essentially, and
 literally hidden locked in closets, attics,
 institutions, or placed within fences, because they
 were somehow different, and are today welcomed,
 celebrated and accepted more readily as the full
 members of creation they are and always have
 been.  These include persons of race and color,
 those with mental or physical conditions such as
 Mongoloidism, deafness, alcoholism, depression,
 physical retardation.  I say "accepted more readily"
 because, by all accounts and appearances, we still
 have a whole lot more work to do on our abilities,
 as societies and as individuals, in terms of
 accepting and celebrating differences.  Question: 
 If we HAD BEEN more effective in our teaching
 tolerance and acceptance, would we still face the
 realities of such tragedies as the one at Columbine
 High School in Colorado last year?

Finally, I'd like to say that I just wish somebody
 could effectively explain to me exactly what it is
 that our two presidential candidates are proposing
 to do with Medicare/Social Security and how they
 plan to PAY for it.  ("SHOW-me-the-MONEY!") 
 I confess.  I don't get it.  And, I must say, I wonder
 how many aluminum cans Winnifred Skinner had
 to pick up in order to pay for her Winnebago and
 the gas it guzzled between Iowa and Kentucky. 
 More importantly, did Vice-president Gore think I
 wouldn't ASK that question?  And, relative to
 education tax credits, I'd like Governor Bush to
 explain to me what good the tax credits/vouchers
 are going to do when the schools RAISE the
 tuition--and they WILL raise it--to effectively
 offset the value of the credit/voucher which is
 supposed to help me/my child?  (The last question
 is, for us, purely rhetorical at this point, since our
 son just graduated after seven years of private high
 school/college education--for which we will all be
 paying for about ten MORE years.)  I look
 forward to reading the continuing entries of my
 fellow alumni on these subject matters.

              Pam Jewett-Bullock (nee Pyle '69)
              Stafford, Virginia

                       - 95 -