Firefighter saves dog in L.A. River; girls, boys, schools and learning; New York City’s new guidelines for sal

Stop the woofing

Re “A last blast, then home,” Jan. 23

While reading of the helicopter rescue of a German shepherd mix from the Los Angeles River near Vernon last week by L.A. Fire Department firefighter Joe St. Georges, I was angered to read that “some criticized the use of city resources to rescue a dog.”

Interesting that there is criticism over spending money to save a dog but silence about what we spend every day at city shelters to kill dogs.

My heartfelt thanks to all of those involved in the rescue, and for knowing that all lives have value.

Marjorie Hirsch Loeb
Los Angeles

Regarding criticism of the use of city resources to rescue a dog from the L.A. River, I must point out that many thousands of years ago, humans and dogs made a pact to live together and take care of each other.

Dogs have lived up to their end of the bargain admirably. In addition to the many incredible trained rescue dogs and companion dogs for the blind and disabled, house pets have altruistically risked their own lives to rescue humans from drowning, animal attacks, fires, burglars and other threats.

The Fire Department explained it needed to rescue the dog to prevent another, less-qualified human from attempting it.

I say no explanation is needed. We owe the animals.

Teresa Hartley

I can’t believe that you blew the chance to write a headline that would live forever:


Arnold Simon
Los Angeles

Boys need to be boys

Re “Colleges’ gender gap,” Editorial, Jan. 25

Allow me to save the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights a great deal of time and money. It is no mystery why young women are excelling beyond young men. Just turn on the television: Men are depicted as foolish, overwhelmed and generally not capable. Women rescue men at home and on the job. Women are portrayed as the family decision-maker and as the hardworking, achieving employee.

Our young men are taught overwhelmingly by women in our school system. Male role models are difficult to find. I have observed many “Take Our Daughters to Work” days, but I have never been aware of the same for our sons.

After 25 years of such indoctrination, possibly our young men believe and accept that women will and should take charge. Once again our nation, attempting to right a wrong, has swung the pendulum too far.

As the mother of two sons and two daughters, who wants the very best for all of her children, I resent society’s deference to young women. Men and women should be encouraged equally.

Rosemary Ramirez
Yorba Linda

Your editorial about colleges’ gender gap underscores a serious problem. Our son struggled under traditional teaching methods. At his preschool, he was uninterested in felt boards, coloring and nursery rhyme sing-alongs. By third grade, he hated school and its tedious work sheets. Conversely, our daughter sailed through, getting A’s for completing homework and producing neat reports -- not for mastery of the material.

Fortunately, we found a private school with a more hands-on approach, and our son thrived. Now he is a successful UC computer science major. Most boys are not so lucky. Our educational system must change to engage the boys, or we will continue to see a gender gap at our universities with serious consequences to our economy and social structure.

Cindy Jacobson
Yorba Linda

A solution to math jitters?

Re “Female teachers may pass on math anxiety to girls, study finds,” Jan. 26

The University of Chicago study has changed some of my thinking about the “leaky pipeline” for women in science and math fields. As a woman scientist in male-dominated Silicon Valley, I’ve seen the pipeline up close.

According to the National Science Foundation, women accounted for 43.7% of all bachelor’s degrees in mathematics in 2007. That’s a pretty good start, and it far surpasses my own field of computer science. The higher the degree, however, and the more prestigious the job, the fewer women mathematicians there are.

It seems we might have an opportunity to patch up this pipeline earlier than I thought. The article notes that the study’s authors don’t know exactly how math anxiety is transferred from teacher to student or what the solution might be. I don’t know either, but this study is a great start.

Elena Strange
San Francisco

Bias at a Berkeley school

Re “A science fairness experiment in Berkeley,” Jan. 24

I am a white graduate of Berkeley High School who never took an Advanced Placement science class. Many of my friends did, however, and went on to graduate from top colleges. It is extremely disturbing that classes with such great track records would even be considered for elimination simply because of the ethnic make-up of the students.

The school was obsessed with race when I attended in the early 1990s. It is disheartening that the focus on group outcomes still trumps what the core mission of any educational institution should be: to provide the resources for individuals to realize their potential.

This proposal not only enforces low expectations for minorities, it sends the best students the message that they should be ashamed of their accomplishments.

Andy Sywak
Los Angeles

Berkeley High School may cut accelerated science lab classes to fund “equity” programs for students who require “less rigorous” science classes. Race is a major consideration.

It seems that neither side of the issue is considering a basic principle of brain development: neuroplasticity. Briefly, the principle expresses the fact that if the brain is not challenged at the level it is growing, it will lose ability and function. It is unacceptable to knowingly create conditions in which any student loses intellectual growth.

Once again, schools are focusing on color and ethnicity rather than educational needs and abilities.

Barbara Clark
Woodland Hills
The writer is a professor emeritus of education at Cal State Los Angeles.

You can look it up

Re “Dictionaries taken off school’s shelves,” Jan. 26

It’s beyond belief that the Menifee Union School District in Riverside County considered banning a dictionary because one parent complained that some entries might be too sexually explicit.

Any student old enough to look up a word in the dictionary (which happens much too infrequently these days) knows it’s quicker to do on the Internet -- and what he’ll find will be more explicit too. Will they be removing the computers as well?

I find the fact that a panel of teachers and administrators will now “comb the dictionary for potentially graphic words or definitions” to be egregiously noisome. (Got a dictionary?)

Jill Rubenstein
Bell Canyon

It’s amazing to me that people can actually be offended by, of all things, a dictionary.

If a parent is going to become offended by information in a dictionary, why not be offended by words such as “murder,” “torture,” “vivisection,” “kill” or “terrorize”? I would think those concepts are more dangerous and offensive than “oral sex.”

Tim Cortina
Lake Elsinore

In favor of limits on salt

Re “It needs more seasoning,” Editorial, Jan. 23

Though The Times acknowledges that salt in foods is causing tens of thousands of deaths annually, it opposes New York City’s program pressuring companies to cut salt. Why? If companies gradually lowered sodium levels, consumers would be free to add exactly as much or as little salt as they wish. After all, 80% of the salt in our diets comes from packaged and restaurant foods.

What’s wrong with giving consumers more control over their intake?

Fortunately, health departments of Los Angeles County, the state of California and others, along with the American Medical Assn., the American Public Health Assn. and other health organizations, are supporting New York City. And if those groups’ urgings are ineffective, it would -- and should -- set the stage for regulatory action.

Michael F. Jacobson
The writer is executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.