Readers Write: Keep criminals off streets; get US out of Afghanistan; let kids play
Letters to the Editor from the weekly print edition of February 6, 2012: One reader says reducing prison populations won't come from releasing criminals, but rehabilitating them and preventing crime. Others praise the recent cover story on the importance of free playtime for children. Another argues the US shouldn't stay in Afghanistan for access to resources or influence in the region.
Keep criminals off the streets
I found a contradictory message in two pieces from the Jan. 16 issue. One of the stories promoted on the cover ("Progress Watch: Violent Crime") is titled "How serious crime fell in US." It credits part of the reduction to "increased incarceration, including longer sentences, that keeps more criminals off the streets."
In the same issue, however, Arjun Sethi's commentary piece "Four low-cost ways to reduce prison overcrowding" advocates sentence reduction for habitual offenders and urges limiting the use of pretrial detention.
I think I prefer keeping the criminals off the streets. Reductions in prison populations must be driven by education and opportunity (jobs). Once the crime is committed and the perpetrator is on that path, society has a responsibility to keep its citizens safe from those who choose to do it harm.
Child's play; Afghanistan
Regarding the Jan. 23 cover story "Time for play": I find it sad that the existence of schools where children play in kindergarten is not known or mentioned. They exist, and some of the best are the Waldorf schools [in some countries Rudolf Steiner schools]. To enter a Waldorf kindergarten is like entering a child's paradise. Kindergartens are considered the foundation and most important part of these schools.
The 19th-century German national poet Friedrich Schiller said: "Man is only truly man when he plays." Albert Einstein's take was that "imagination is more important than knowledge."
I would also like to comment on Alexander Benard's op-ed in the same issue, "Leave Afghanistan, forfeit a region." Mr. Benard blatantly admits that the goal of keeping a US military presence in that country would not be to bring freedom and democracy or even kick out the Taliban, but to have US presence and influence in a strategically important region.
Of course, those strategic interests sound more like greed for Afghanistan's natural resources – "oil and gas reserves ... lithium, copper, rare earth minerals, gold" that apparently can only be obtained by military might, not by trading and paying for it.
In German there is a saying that applies to this issue, too: "Wo Wissen endet, beginnt Gewalt." That is, "Where intelligence ends, violence begins."
I am a newly retired school psychologist with three decades of experience working in public schools. The "Time for play" cover story is too good and the information contained is too important to limit its reach only to Monitor subscribers. It should be turned into a brochure and distributed to all public schools.
We need public schools to rethink their vision of what constitutes childhood success before it is too late.