Letters

William James's legacy

IN RESPONSE TO THE SEPTEMBER article "What will become of William James' grand old home?" I recently re-read the chapter in James's "Psychology: Briefer Course" on "The Self" and was continually struck by how his work could be interpreted in light of current research. To name just a few areas where James was seemingly prophetic, his writings from more than 100 years ago pointed the way for modern research on self-esteem, possible selves, person perception, self-serving attributional biases and evolutionary approaches to psychology. I hope that the Monitor article will spur others to assist in the efforts to preserve this historic home.

With respect to such preservation, James himself probably said it best in his writings on the self. All of the following quotes come from James's "Psychology: Briefer Course." If the "material me" (p. 190) includes one's body, property, as well as all things "which are saturated with our labor" (p. 191), then the way we treat James' material legacy reflects a great disrespect toward a founding father of our field. "There are few men who would not feel personally annihilated if a life-long construction of their hands or brains...were suddenly swept away" (p. 191). When we ignore or destroy the work of other people, it is a forceful commentary on the esteem with which we hold them. James deserves far better treatment from us, his academic descendants.

A final quote from William James may be worth remembering. James makes a specific point to include a person's home within the material me. "Its scenes are part of our life; its aspects awaken the tenderest feelings of affection; and we do not easily forgive the stranger who, in visiting it, finds fault with its arrangement or treats it with contempt" (p. 191).

STEPHEN O'ROURKE

The College of New Rochelle

Children and advertising

I THOUGHT REBECCA CLAY'S article in the September Monitor on the ethics of advertising to children was absolutely first-rate. However, there are implications of her work for adults and American society as well that psychologists who are concerned about our national well-being ought to consider.

More than any other society in the world, the United States personifies an advertising, marketing culture. But this culture is inherently dishonest and manipulative. It depends not only on making people feel dissatisfied with themselves and their lot in life but artificially creates wants and then defines them as needs. It is dishonest because it constantly deceives consumers into thinking they are getting more than they really are; it promises more than it can deliver. Once people begin to realize this at a tacit level, it breeds a profound cynicism in which no one ever believes anyone (certainly no institution) about anything.

Now that we have begun marketing our politicians, we may finally realize the full destructive impact of the advertising and marketing culture.

E. THOMAS DOWD, PHD

Kent State University

A better solution to school violence

TORI DEANGELIS'S SEPTEMBER article on the Columbine massacre recognizes the daunting task school psychologists face in trying to predict which teens might commit such a devastating act in the future. I agree that such a task is daunting. But I believe there is a better solution. Instead of trying to identify and perhaps isolate kids who are "different" (and, therefore, already isolated by their peers), a more effective intervention might be to try to change the social atmosphere in the classroom.

It is my belief that the Columbine killers were almost reacting in an extremely pathological manner to a general school atmosphere that breeds an environment of exclusion, mockery and taunting--making life difficult for a sizeable number of students. Most high schools are cliquish places where students are shunned if they are the "wrong" race or the "wrong" ethnic group, if they come from the wrong side of the tracks, wear the wrong clothes, are too short, too fat, too tall or too thin.

Almost 30 years ago, my students and I developed and tested a highly successful learning structure called "the jigsaw classroom" that requires students to cooperate with one another and to share their knowledge with one another. In the process, students develop empathy and compassion for one another--drastically reducing exclusion, bullying and taunting.

We have recently established a Web site where teachers and school psychologists are free to download all the materials necessary to establish this kind of atmosphere in their classroom: www.jigsaw.org.

ELLIOT ARONSON, PHD

University of California at Santa Cruz

CE for psychologists

REGARDING DR. DELEON'S June column on psychologists' continuing education (CE), please keep the line open for more dialogue. I take strong issue against the narrow interpretation of what a professional psychologist can or can't count as CE. Our CPA/BOP parochial view is far out of step with our needs. Hospital CE programs--approved for physician credit--often have AMA-approved programs, which could be vital to us, such as the psychological consequences of, for example, a bio-terrorist anthrax attack (easy to accomplish). Highly probable would be violent attacks on hospital ERs, population panic, rationing of care, triage and massive casualty/death. Who is equipped to advise, work and handle such a problem? Psychiatrists? Unfortunately, much of the minimum state CE fulfillment thresholds are set by academics, not practitioners. I attended the 1999 Bio-Terrorism Conference on my own at Northridge Hospital (the 1994 quake epicenter!) with 200 other doctors. There should have been more of us there.

WILLIAM A. SPINDELL, PHD

West Hills, Calif.

SCOTT O. LILIENFELD'S LETTER in the September Monitor struck a deep chord in me. Dr. Lilienfeld, like others in our field, appears to believe that he has a lens (i.e., science) through which truth is revealed to him, and that he then has the right to dictate the boundaries of our profession by these truths. I am not at all antiscience and appreciate and utilize the knowledge produced by scientific research in our field and in related fields of study. I also, though, understand that science has limitations, both in terms of how subject matter is approached and studied and the breadth of subject matter applicable to its dictates, and understand that there are other ways of knowing and of defining what is real. I also know that the wheels of scientific research grind much, much more slowly than the flow of human experience and the human mind, so that much of what is considered cutting-edge in our culture does not wind up being adequately scrutinized via research until years later. One thing that I find most meaningful about the field and profession of psychology is the balancing act that has always taken place among science, philosophy, experience and practice. I believe that it is the very tension between these facets that makes the field as relevant and meaningful as it is. I respect Dr. Lilienfeld's right to express views regarding the need for the results of scientific research to define the field, but I also find these views to be short-sighted with a totalitarian edge. In this regard, I applaud APA President Pat DeLeon's more liberal position regarding APA's legislation of CE courses.

MICHAEL N. SCHNEIDER, PSYD

Pittsburgh

Certification in substance abuse

I UNDERSTAND THE importance of the APA certification in substance abuse for the practitioner as well as the public. In fact, I plan on taking the exam in the not-too-distant future. However, if the intent of this article was to increase the knowledge about the certificate and the desire to obtain the certificate I think you failed, and it wasn't necessary. A very positive article could have been written without having to take "swipes" at general practitioners of psychology. One of the things I have appreciated about APA is that while we have many divisions and perspectives, the organization has not been elitist against its own members. With this article the tide has shifted. When an organization begins to turn against its own and this pattern becomes pervasive, the organization is doomed to failure. I hope this is the first and last time I will see APA's Monitor or any APA journal take an elitist stance against its own members.

PEG HANSON

Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Further Reading

All letters to the editor must be 250 words or fewer. Mail them to APA Monitor on Psychology, 750 First St., N.E., Washington, DC 20002-4242, or e-mail them by e-mail.

We regret we cannot run all the letters we receive.