LETTERS

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January 23, 2006

Letters to the Editor

Family Values

I write in response to Barney Keller’s article “Family Values Should Not Be Dirty Words” (1/17/06). First of all, I agree that we might question the values of the people involved in this story. How did David Ludwig come to possess a gun? What led him to so readily resort to violence as a means of conflict resolution? And yes, why did Kara Beth get into Ludwig’s car after he murdered her parents? But I lose Mr. Keller’s line of reasoning when he finds their “serious sexual relationship” to be the culprit. Who is to say that these two home-schooled Christian teenagers were sexually active? And even if they were, how does that have anything to do with David Ludwig murdering Kara Beth Borden’s parents?

Using this incident to make a point about violence in the media and entertainment industry might have made sense. These teenagers learned those behaviors from somewhere, and the author himself admitted no initial surprise at reading about a double murder. But instead of questioning those values, he criticizes two families who are home-schooling their children for not being actively involved in their children’s lives. The “psychologically damaging and physically risky behavior” in this story, as I see it, was an 18-year-old’s access to and use of a gun—not the fact that he had a girlfriend with whom he may or may not have been sexually active. Instead of asking for a way to regulate the sexual activity of high school students, why not ask for stricter gun control laws?

Lila McDowell

Third-year in the College

I am writing in response to Barney Keller’s opinion piece on a shooting that occurred in November in Lititz, Pennsylvania; David Ludwig, 18, shot and killed the parents of his girlfriend, Kara Borden, 17, in an argument over her curfew. Keller’s reaction to the shooting was, oddly, to focus on the emotional condition of Kara Borden. In assessing blame for the shooting, Keller asks that we question “what sort of society we live in where a girl barely out of middle school can become involved in a serious sexual relationship and about what anyone was doing to prevent it.” In reaction to two among the over 30,000 annual gun-related deaths in the United States (U.S. DOJ statistics), Keller blames the moral disintegration of our society in terms of youth sexual behavior. We are therefore left with the perplexing notion that it was the fault of the Borden parents’ own inattentiveness to their daughter’s sexual development that resulted in their own murders.

Keller’s opinion interests me because I am studying policy reactions to school shootings for my B.A. thesis, which will compare Columbine (1999) and Dunblane (1996), a school shooting in the U.K. that prompted a ban on handguns. A shooting in any context results from the combination of a number of complex factors, ranging from weapons access, security (in the case of schools), family dynamics, mental health, and the stress of adolescence, to broader observations about the culture of our society. It is therefore not at all new for Keller to blame our culture, particularly the culture of the family, for a gun-related tragedy.

Any complex problem will only be affected by a policy solution that mirrors this interrelation of factors. I was therefore disturbed that Keller waved entirely from his argument the highly volatile situation of youth access to guns. It is irrefutable that if Ludwig had not had access to a gun, the Borden parents would not have been killed in the argument. It is the lobby-driven state of our legislative process that has politicized gun control to the extent that most of our elected representatives are far too hesitant on a problem that so directly affects the fundamental right to life of its constituents. I would hope that during our time of academic exploration at the U of C, as we tackle complex social problems such as gun violence, that we obligate ourselves to search for truly effective and socially responsible solutions, rather than jumping on the partisan bandwagon.

Maren Christensen

Fourth-year in the College

Republican War on Science

I was disappointed to read Isaac Wolf’s review of Chris Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science (“Republican War on Science Raises Pertinent Issues but Ultimately Loses Our Vote,” 1/20/06). Wolf does not dispute the facts that Mooney presents—although he finds room to slander the presentation as biased. Wolf’s “evidence” for Mooney’s bias is that, as Wolf suggests, Mooney implies that Democrats have never “spun science for political gain.”

As Wolf continues: “Even if Democrats aren’t aligned with industry groups to the extent Republicans are, they still play up scientific results favorable to their causes.” There is a great distance from the contemporary practice of Republican politicans, who knowingly lie and distort science, to Wolf’s Democrats who cite scientific results when it pleases them. But Wolf doesn’t seem to notice that.

More worryingly, Wolf presents no evidence for his contention that Democrats distort science. In between describing Mooney as “hypocritical” and “unfairly scoring political points,” Wolf doesn’t seem able to come up with any actual examples. Perhaps Wolf believes that it must be true, that the corruption in our government is equal opportunity. Thankfully, it is not; hopefully the next time he writes for the Maroon, Wolf will take the time to challenge the “conventional wisdom” he relied upon this time around.

Simon DeDeo

Institute Fellow

Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics