Teaching Practical Skills Like Home Ec and Shop in School

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  • When Trump’s Words Incite Violence
  • Mental Health and TikTok
  • Supporting Israel and Ukraine

Credit…Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “To Prepare Kids for the Future, Bring Back Shop,” by Pamela Paul (column, Oct. 13):

Ms. Paul hit the woodworking nail on the head. Children need to do more physical and practical work at school, and schools need to integrate more movement into students’ routines.

As a teacher at a school where classes are held almost entirely outside, I’ve seen that when we give children the opportunity to do meaningful and purposeful physical work, they are more grounded, collaborative and creative.

Attending Back to School Night at my son’s middle school, I was saddened to see that instruction is done mostly via large screens and that the students have no recess.

There is a lot of justified concern about the well-being of adolescents, but how can we expect to have a society of physically and mentally healthy young people if we don’t give them a chance, as Ms. Paul says, to move their bodies and let their minds wander?

Rajni Joshi
Takoma Park, Md.
The writer is a kindergarten teacher at a Waldorf school.

To the Editor:

Reading Pamela Paul’s column immediately transported me back to my eighth-grade home economics class. I was a good student academically, but I couldn’t wait for that weekly lesson on either sewing or cooking.

Our first sewing assignment was to make an apron. That Christmas I was so proud to present my mother as well as my two grandmothers with my colorful apron creations.

Because my family had limited resources, I also learned to make most of my own clothes throughout high school, especially A-line skirts, working hard to perfect the difficult insertion of the zipper.

Cooking was equally thrilling. How fun and satisfying to learn to bake brownies for my family! That eighth-grade class developed a lifelong love of cooking and baking.

My grandchildren would love the opportunity to experience the life skills that I was lucky enough to enjoy. Put down the ubiquitous laptops and enjoy the rewarding hands-on experience of home ec!

Cindy Jenkins
Plymouth, Mass.

To the Editor:

After graduating from college in 1974 with a degree in English, I had to try to figure out what I would do with myself. The most I had done with my hands until that point was to type term papers. Through a job that I had after college, I learned that I had mechanical skills — a good brain-to-hand connection. I have been involved in home restoration and renovation on and off since 1978.

As I head into my mid-70s, I still find myself helping others with their home repairs and other projects. It has become increasingly obvious that there are fewer and fewer people with any skill set to accomplish what I can do on a daily basis.

We need to try to find ways to expose children to skills that involve using their hands. We do not want this to become a lost art.

Roger Ramsey
Buxton, Maine

To the Editor:

My mom, who graduated from U.C.L.A. with a degree in chemistry in 1930 (!), started her career as a home economics teacher. She taught in the inner city of Los Angeles and loved her kids and her work. Her classes were what I have always called “Life 101.”

She taught her students how to write checks and keep a balanced check register. She took them grocery shopping, where she taught both math skills and nutrition. And of course she taught sewing and cooking. She amazed me when she satisfied my own curiosity about how batter turns “magically” into an edible cake by explaining chemical principles.

Her students were so fortunate! Today’s students could surely benefit by learning practical life skills like home ec and shop.

Robin Weintraub
Rochester, N.Y.

When Trump’s Words Incite Violence

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Is Going to Get Someone Killed,” by Jeffrey Toobin (Opinion guest essay, Oct. 23):

Headline correction. “Trump Is Going to Get Someone Killed, Again.”

Ashli Babbitt would be alive today if Donald Trump on Jan. 6 did not tell an angry mob “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer, died after battling rioters at the Capitol. Others died during and after the riot at the Capitol of “natural causes.”

A president’s words have great power to motivate the American people. Donald Trump chooses to motivate the worst of our collective instincts, yet he has widespread support.

His words and deeds have been laid bare before the American people. We have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us.

This fever must break, or the deaths that Donald Trump is ultimately responsible for may be far too many to count. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Jay Ahlbeck
Plainfield, N.J.

Mental Health and TikTok

Kate Speer, a mental health advocate and TikTok creator, with her service dog, Waffle, works with Harvard University social scientists to inject evidence-based content into TikTok feeds.Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Harvard Scours TikTok for Mental Health Allies” (Science Times, Oct. 17):

While I see the value in partnering with the influencers who have the attention of our youth, I am gravely concerned that we need to do this in the first place. While the potential benefits of such partnerships are interesting, the potential consequences are troubling.

There’s no denying that social media influencers are important gatekeepers, but the risk of misinformation is high when we rely on people without adequate training in mental health to share these messages. Instead, we should be helping scientists be more translatable, relatable and savvy on social media.

This also speaks to the need for a major overhaul in how we deliver behavioral health care. We require innovative solutions to increase the availability of licensed, qualified clinicians, quality assurance and better compensation for trained behavioral health professionals.

Access to quality care and the translatable dissemination of solid scientific information will increase if you attract the most talented people to the field. This is how our youth in need of mental health services can connect quickly and affordably with qualified professionals — not through TikTok algorithms.

Joseph Trunzo
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of psychology at Bryant University and a clinical psychologist.

Supporting Israel and Ukraine

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

To the Editor:

“The Israel-Gaza War Means Hard Choices for Ukraine,” by Ross Douthat (column, Oct. 15), identifies the challenges of assisting Israel’s defenses while simultaneously supporting Ukraine’s defenses. By raising these issues, Mr. Douthat inadvertently answers the important question: Who has the most to gain from the war between Israel and Hamas?

The obvious answer is Vladimir Putin! American support for Ukraine was already showing signs of wavering when Hamas attacked. Unsurprisingly, right-wing media immediately began to suggest there was a need to choose support of Israel over Ukraine.

We have moral and political obligations to support Israel. However, to choose Israel over Ukraine is not just a “false” choice but a foolish one as well. Mr. Putin is as much a terrorist as Hamas. We can no more allow Mr. Putin to succeed as Israel can allow Hamas to survive.

Carol Oatis

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