Lighting candles

As chair of the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), I was delighted with President Kazdin's column (July/August issue). His list of several ways in which significant issues - child abuse, access for ethnic minorities to training in psychology, HIV/AIDS, public education about sexual orientation and youth, postpartum depression, and aging services - was just a sampling of the ways in which the Public Interest Directorate is applying psychology to important public concerns.

It was very gratifying to see the credit being given to the dozens of APA members who volunteer their time and expertise using the best of psychology to cope with major social issues. APA staff in the Public Interest Directorate was also lauded for lighting "one candle after another where there is darkness." His column nicely demonstrates that public interest is at the heart of APA: The interaction of science, education and practice inform and motivate public interest applications of psychology.

Clearly, as APA thinks about its mission, public interest is at the core.

Douglas Kimmel, PhD
Hancock, Maine

Animal suffering

Regarding Dr. Breckler's column, "Educating the activists," while many psychologists, myself included, can support his position regarding attacks on researchers and laboratories, some of us would part ways with him when it comes to his strong endorsement of research involving nonhuman animals, even research that would be considered, according to professional standards, to be ethical and humane.

There is no doubt that nonhuman animal research has led to many scientific breakthroughs. However, as Dr. Breckler points out, it's time that psychologists stop "hiding our heads in the sand," and when we do, I think we should take a serious look at the cost in terms of pain and suffering to animals.

After reading his article, I Googled the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which led me to a number of cases involving laboratory animals. They were so nauseating that I had to stop reading. In one study of sensory deprivation, 24 infant monkeys were taken from their mothers at birth, their eyes were sewn shut for three years, and a device was implanted in their brains. In another, in order to induce a stroke, a primate's eye was removed in order to gain access to specific blood vessels. The primate died of the stroke after 24 hours of being unable to eat, drink or move.

These may be extreme examples or merely the tip of the iceberg. They are admittedly far removed from teaching rats to run through mazes. Nonetheless, one wonders whose agenda is being served by Dr. Breckler's uncritical, unexamined and knee-jerk endorsement of research involving nonhuman animals. I am with Dr. Breckler, though, on the need for education in this area. If APA is committed to supporting scientists whose research involves nonhuman animals then psychologists have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the entire range of activities and procedures that go on in these laboratories.

Margaret S. Schneider, PhD

Other explanations for 'Lost boys'

I read with interest the June article "Lost boys," but have to disagree with Kleinfeld's proposed explanations for boys' underachieving. I taught elementary school in the late 1950s to the mid-1960s and have a master's degree in educational administration and a PhD in educational psychology. For the last 100 years, elementary school teachers have been predominantly female. Kleinfeld's explanations are the same accusations that have been leveled at schools for more than 50 years: Females favor girls, girls comply with rules more then boys do, girls do better in reading and writing than boys, female teachers assign stories that don't interest boys, boys' needs for activity were not being met, etc. Yet, until the 1980s, when the feminists pushed for equal opportunities for girls in all levels of education, including college admissions, males received more degrees than females, and females were seen as "incapable" of achieving, creating or performing at advanced levels, etc. Now that females are outperforming males, it's somehow the fault of female teachers.

Popular culture, which Kleinfeld cites as a contributor, is dominated by male writers, so if Homer Simpson is portrayed as lazy and dumb, who is responsible for that? The fact that The Boys' Project has to recruit male volunteer mentors to meet with boys having various troubles so the boys have "bonding experiences" indicates to me that a greater cause is that many men are or have been neglecting or abandoning their children and the sons, now more than ever being raised by single mothers, are suffering more than the daughters because the female role model of a responsible parent is present.

Other possible explanations for Kleinfeld's data are: Boys just can't compete with girls when girls are given equal opportunities; the fact that boys' needs differ from girls' needs is justification for the gender-segregated classrooms that some educators have been proposing, since it is not possible for one teacher in a co-ed classroom to simultaneously provide for those differing needs; modern men are poor role models for their sons, neglecting or abandoning them; and single mothers cannot provide for the emotional and psychological needs of the sons the fathers are neglecting.

Jean M. Alberti, PhD
Glen Ellyn, Ill.