Letters to the editor of the Boston Globe Magazine

Readers weigh in on a new school plan that flopped, students in Maine fighting racism, diet fads, and more.

Basma Zabn, an English Language Learner from Syria, heads to class at Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine.
Basma Zabn, an English Language Learner from Syria, heads to class at Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine.

School Dismissed

As a retired teacher, I know how strong the bond is between a superintendent and the teachers union (“Somerville Won $10 Million to Open a New High School And It All Went Downhill From There,” August 11). Real change is needed in education, particularly on the high school level, to compete in this century and solve real-world problems, but no one wants to buck the system. This project would have succeeded if it didn’t have to take money away from the Somerville schools in its first few years. Once operational, the superintendent might have the courage to start cutting a little fat from her budget, like not hiring department heads, to free up funding for the Powderhouse Studios school. The students are the biggest losers in all this innovation gone down the drain — such a shame!

Jeanne Pucci

West Newbury

Hard to say from just reading this article, but it sure seems like a preference for mediocrity for all — current status quo — versus a bold and interesting (and partially funded) experiment that might lead to improved results for some . . . and a path toward a future. Perhaps some city that is willing to be progressive and bold may do this instead.


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Why not try to create the same thing as a “program” located physically inside the existing high school building? That would slash costs, allow for beta testing and build constituency. If it works, then in a few years it could be spun off — or, simply expanded within existing infrastructure.


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The MIT grads were led down the garden path for too long . . . then quietly devoured.


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Be Kind to Animals

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In “Fair Play” (August 18), a child is pictured participating in a “pig scramble.” Wendy Gallagher, of the Cumberland County 4-H Swiners Club, says the goal of the club is “first and foremost [for children who will raise the pigs to] learn some responsibility on how to care for an animal.” I was stunned by the disconnect of the picture and that statement. All animals are sentient beings and even those raised for slaughter are entitled to be treated humanely. This practice sends the message that animals are put on this earth for our entertainment and use. We owe it to our children to teach them to treat all living things with kindness and humanity.

Eileen Lubas


Target Audience

“How Drug Ads Drive Up Health Care Costs” (Perspective, August 18) is spot on. I’ve noticed, especially at night when Jeopardy is on, every ad is for a drug. Marketers want older people who go to doctors more often to just tell their doctors they need this new medicine. I totally agree with author Jeffrey M. Drazen’s approach.

Kathy DiTrapano


Maine Students Stand Up to Racism

It was very sad to read about the hazing and bullying that the immigrant youngsters in a Maine school had to endure (“Hard Lessons,” August 18). Though this sort of harassment has always been present on some level in our schools, the current culture and negative attitudes toward immigrants is being ramped up by President Trump and his followers. Parents who slander others will have children who do the same. These unjust actions will lessen only if attitudes toward immigrants change. Immigrants take education seriously and will become future doctors, scientists, teachers, and other important citizens who will make our country much better than it is now .

Donna Blackburn


Thank you to Mike Elsen-Rooney and Ashley Okwuosa for this important snapshot into Auburn and Lewiston, Maine. What these towns are experiencing is, in some ways, a microcosm for much of our country at the moment. An important response to this is much more education to help our students — and our adults — find ways to get to know each other. Conflict resolution is one piece, but another is creating strategies for us to learn about each other as humans sharing this planet, to appreciate our cultural differences and to recognize the many ways we are similar. Instead of suspensions, we should use these as learning moments to build more positive relationships.

Lynn Baum



I am a native New Englander who has spent more than 25 years living and working in sub-Saharan Africa, where I have made numerous and lasting friendships and was invariably treated with kindness and respect by neighbors, co-workers, and total strangers. Reading this article filled me with sadness and disgust. I salute the different officials and organizations that have invested in trying to build better understanding and to combat hate in the school and communities. I don’t have adequate words to console and encourage the immigrant families who have to make a life and prevail in spite of the hostility and injustices they encounter regularly. They deserve better from us.

Stephen Reid

Concord, New Hampshire

I am very disappointed in the report that students in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism produced. Somali immigrants have been arriving in Lewiston for the better part of the last two decades, so that can hardly be characterized as news. The only thing I learned from this article was that mill owners tended to live in Auburn. It seems to me the reporters needed to search high and low for anecdotal evidence to prove their thesis: that racism is on the rise. I can counter from my own experience as a blue-eyed blonde whose father’s career as a naval officer meant that I changed schools repeatedly that 1) locals are suspicious of outlanders, 2) children can be cruel, and 3) it is better when responsible adults, including reporters, focus on the positive.

Anne Emerson Hall


Guilt-Free Eating

Neil Swidey is absolutely right (“What We Really Know About Which Diets Work Best,” August 25) that there are three things we can all agree on when it comes to what to eat: food should be flexible, sustainable, and pleasurable. There should also be large doses of self-compassion, gratitude, love, and acceptance for our bodies and our food no matter what kind of body we inhabit. When we start from a place of gratitude and foster a sense of joy and celebration with food, the body is primed and ready for optimal health.

Elizabeth Hall

Farmington, Connecticut

I kept looking for Swidey to raise the issue of personalized nutrition . Why do people still believe that there is only one answer that should work for everybody? Some people seriously need to cut processed carbohydrates and manage their insulin levels. Others will not have the same benefits if they eat the same diet. One additional point that is hugely important is fermentable fibers, and in particular resistant starch (starch that resists digestion and reaches the large intestine where it is fermented by the intestinal microbiome). The next generation of dietary advice has to focus on the benefits of feeding our intestinal microbiome.

Rhonda Witwer

executive director,

I have been vegan for many years and enjoy the food and the health benefits of the starch diet. (I even eat white potatoes.) I wondered why Swidey did not mention works such as The China Study and Forks Over Knives, or physicians such as John McDougall (The Starch Solution) and Michael Greger (How Not to Die). Testimonials from their patients support the health benefits of a vegan diet. The Globe printed a story about 2019 being called “the year of the vegan.” I hope restaurants will get the message and offer more options.

Rose Harvey



What really caught my eye (and brought back a flood of memories) was Swidey’s reference to mujadara! Growing up in an Armenian household I never cared for it when I was younger. I was, however, fascinated by the word itself and the way it sounded. Over time I adopted the word as my own to express my general discontent with a situation. So instead of saying “darn,” I would blurt out “mujadara.” Of course today I love the dish, particularly with browned onions as a garnish. Thanks for taking me back in time, and bringing a chuckle to my day.

Sonya Hagopian


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