Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1998
Johns Hopkins 
     Magazine Home

APRIL 1998

O U R    R E A D E R S    W R I T E


Send your letters via email to

Pint-sized critic
Cult of the fetus decried
A complex subject trivialized?
Championing the affluent
Author's query

Pint-sized critic

I don't know whether listening to music early in life makes kids brighter ["Arithmetic of the Soul" February], but I do know they can be awfully persnickety, awfully early, about what they are willing to listen to.

Many years ago, my 2-year-old son was playing in the living room as I was practicing the piano. When I shifted to something of Chopin after some warm-up scales, he suddenly began to cry. As a joke, I asked him why. Didn't he like what I was playing? He said no. Just for fun, I launched into another piece of Chopin. Same result.

By this time I was mightily intrigued, so without comment, I played through the Little Bach Invention in F major. He stopped crying. Well, I thought, if he likes Bach in F major, I'll give him a dose, and played straight through the first movement of the Bach Italian Concerto. He not only stopped crying, he stopped playing with his toys and listened. When I finished, he wagged his finger at me and said firmly, "I NIKE dat song!"

Yes, today he is a scientist and mathematician, and yes, he played violin for quite a while until a bad back stopped him. And yes, he still likes Bach (I don't know about the key).
Dorothy van den Honert
Pittsfield, MA

"Cult of the fetus" decried

I am really surprised that you chose to publish the letter from Sara O'Grady [Letters, February]. She quotes a remembered statement from 50 years ago from a student instructor/resident in her nursing school class. Not from a full professor of Ob/Gyn or from a well-known authority in the field of fetal/maternal health. So who was it who made that unsupportable statement about therapeutic abortions?

Has Ms. O'Grady never heard of women being injured in car accidents while pregnant? Or of women diagnosed with cancer while pregnant? How about women with certain incurable chronic diseases who use contraceptives faithfully, but become pregnant anyway? Should they die for the chance that a fetus may be delivered alive (albeit perhaps not viable)? What about women whose religion teaches that their life comes before that of a fetus? Should they commit suicide in essence to placate others?

As for the assertion of Michael DeAscanis that a one-celled conceptus has a soul, he obviously is unfamiliar with the teachings of Judaism, which state that the soul is assigned to the body at birth, not before.

I really thought this magazine would not stoop to the rank of the cult of the fetus--it is offensive to many people who do not believe as Ms. O'Grady and Mr. DeAscanis do.
Beverly E. Barton '76, ScM'79 , PhD
West Orange, NJ

A complex subject trivialized?

In February's article "Think globally", Melissa Hendricks writes (whether quoting Gerald V. Poje or not, I have no way of knowing): "If we could shrink Earth's population to 100 people, there would be 70 non-whites and 30 whites, or 70 non-Christians and 30 Christians."

My question is: How did whoever came to this conclusion determine who is a Christian and who is not? The inference seems to be made that all non-whites are not Christians and all whites are Christians. But we know of non-whites who are Christians and whites who are not. Furthermore, there is really no way to determine how many Christians there are on this planet.

I also would like to know who Mr. Poje included in each of the categories. There seems to be no way of determining what category people, for instance, in Middle Eastern countries (Iraq, Iran, etc.) are classified under, or those people who are atheists, agnostics, "New-Agers" or who belong to various cults. And how did Mr. Poje classify people who are children of mixed parentage?

It seems to me that Mr. Poje tried to make a potentially complex analysis far too trivial than the subject deserves. Or, perhaps, he should have avoided the attempt altogether?
David Benda

Championing the affluent

For generations of health professionals all over the world, Johns Hopkins used to be the ultimate reference of "health for all"-- perhaps a naive, but yet an inspiring, concept.

Judging from your article "Destination: Hopkins" (February 1998), Johns Hopkins is now striving to become the champion of "health for the most affluent among the most affluent ones" in the poorest of the poorest countries.

Quite a programme indeed.
Michel F. Lechat (DrPH '66)

Author's query

For a biography of Hopkins alumnus Alger Hiss '26, I would appreciate hearing from anyone who remembers anything about him-- important or unimportant. Or, if you know of someone with knowledge of Hiss, drop me his/her name and address by phone (518/398-5371), fax (5372),or letter: Susan Butler, RD 2, Box 89A, Pine Plains, NY, 12567.
Susan Butler
Pine Plains, NY