Hazing editorial on target Your editorial "Lessons to be learned from hazing" (June 2003) is, without a doubt, the most concise representation of this travesty in parenting, education and, possibly even more frightening, the changing values and excess of violence in America.

We are exposed every day to young and old, male and female, professional and unprofessional, large companies and individual organizations that refuse to be held accountable for their own actions which are a byproduct of this same environment. As the father of a 10-year-old and three children from a previous marriage, I am exposed to children of all ages and I am sickened by the lack of accountability and concern.

Chicago Parent plays a vital role in communicating not only these issues but also resolutions and editorially commenting on this "new learning environment." ROBIN PENDERGRAST, McHenry

Editorial wasn't tough enough We read with interest your editorial (July 2003) regarding Learning Curve's recall of two baby toys, but question your assessment that "Learning Curve did the right thing." In our opinion, Learning Curve did not do nearly enough.

While Learning Curve recalled the 3,800 lead-containing toys, the company never should have used lead paint in the manufacture of baby toys, much less sold them. We have known for decades that lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and, at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death. Learning Curve is no doubt aware of the often permanent effects of lead on a child's developing brain and nervous system. Yet the company distributed these toys to an unwitting public.

Your editorial correctly implores parents to be cautious about the children's products they purchase. In addition, Learning Curve and all other companies that manufacture children's products should be reminded that they have an obligation not only to address problems as they arise, but also to take any necessary precautions to guarantee that potentially dangerous products never reach the market.

In May, our office contacted Learning Curve, offering to meet with company representatives to develop remedial and preventive measures to make certain Learning Curve does not manufacture and distribute toys containing lead paint in the future. Learning Curve never responded to our letter.

It is imperative that Learning Curve learn from, rather than merely react to, this problem. Learning Curve should reassess its product-testing mechanisms and take affirmative steps to ensure their recalls are well advertised on Web sites and in stores that sell their products. Anything less threatens to put children at serious risk, and belies the company's commitment to help children advance physically and cognitively. AMY ZIMMERMAN, Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Brotherly defense of Erica I am writing in response to William Quinn's letter in which he disparages my sister, Erica Salem, for her (May, 2003) article on single parenthood. Mr. Quinn calls Erica selfish, irresponsible and lazy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Anyone who has ever cared for young children knows these words could never describe the single mother—or any parent—of young twins.

Erica's decision says nothing about her view of fathers except that she was smart enough to understand that it would be foolish to, as Mr. Quinn writes, "find the right man to make [a baby] with." I can only imagine what would have happened had she set her sights on finding a man to father her children, only to discover later that a common desire to have children is not a sufficient foundation for a relationship or marriage.

Why is it so terrible for Sophie and Charlie to be surrounded by loving family, supportive friends and a mother with the love, means and desire to support her children?

Unquestionably, my views about my sister are colored by the fact that I love her, am proud of her and have fully supported her decision from the outset. But I also have worked extensively with separating and divorcing parents for 15 years and can assure you that having a father and a mother does not guarantee success.

My empathy goes out to Mr. Quinn who refers to the responsibilities of raising children as something to be endured. He states, "I understand the rigors of ... single parenthood and I would not wish them on anyone." Clearly his experience does not mirror my sister's. Erica will tell you (in fact, she has) that raising Charlie and Sophie is a joy and will always be the highlight of her life. PETER SALEM, Madison, Wis.

Racism story appreciated Your article on helping children appreciate diversity (Are you racing a racist? July, 2003) was appreciated. Please allow me to highlight and expand on the point urging parents to teach values by example.

Our children learn values first and foremost by watching our example. If we are honest with them and others when in their company, they learn honesty. If we are kind, they learn generosity. If they see us "playing with" people of other races, when we entertain at home or go out to a movie, they will imitate us. If we only "play" with people of like-race, when we are in our children's presence, then they will imitate such discriminating behavior. The color of the people who your child sees you interact with matters.

As a bonus, if we have different-race friends, our kids will play with our friends' kids in the course of picnics and trips to the playground. Our children will derive the benefit of a diverse group of friends in the natural course of just being our kids. And we'll derive the benefit of a more interesting group of friends. JUDY STIGGER, Oak Park

Warning on car seat ratings Kids In Danger commends the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its recent release of "ease of use" ratings for child safety seats. These ratings grade each seat in five categories, including assembly, clarity of instructions and ease of securing the child. These ratings are then combined into an overall grade. The new ratings do not reflect the safety or effectiveness of the car seat, but solely the ease of installation.

While such a ranking system is helpful to parents purchasing new car seats, we question why NHTSA did not give any models an overall grade of less than "B."

Surveys show that 80-90 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly. Considering this statistic, one would not expect to see such high ratings given to every manufacturer. If all car seats are above average for ease of use, why can't consumers install them? If the problems lie with the cars and not the seats, then NHTSA should rate the compatibility of cars with car seats as well.

By looking at "C" ratings in the five categories, it should be noted that some manufacturers stand out. While Evenflo, Cosco, Graco and Britax all make more than 10 car seat models, Britax and Graco had fewer than 5 percent "C" ratings, while Cosco had 20 percent "C" ratings and Evenflo had 13 percent. Other manufacturers, such as Safeline and Racaro, which make fewer seats, had 40 percent "C" grades. Parents should read the ratings carefully before choosing a child car seat.

Parents should also remember that, although the federal government requires safety testing of car seats, many other children's products do not need to meet such standards. Most children's products become available to consumers without ever undergoing a rigorous safety review.

As a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children by improving children's product safety, Kids In Danger encourages parents to be informed about children's product safety through he NHTSA Web site, www.nhtsa.gov, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, www.cpsc.gov, and www.KidsInDanger.org. NANCY COWLES, Executive Director, Kids In Danger, Chicago

Men make great caregivers I just read your article on male au pairs in the July 2003 issue. We used au pairs since the program became legal. We had young women from France, Spain, England and Germany. Some worked out beautifully with our son and daughter who were born in 1983 and 1985. Some did not.

The last au pair we used came to us in a pinch. A young woman had to return to Europe unexpectedly, the ombudsman in the Chicago area for Au Pair in America said there was a young man who had been living in our neighborhood for 6 or 8 weeks. He needed a new spot because the mom in the household decided she preferred a female au pair even though she had two boys. My husband did not like the idea but I convinced him to have the young man for dinner.

Thomas came and he won EVERYBODY over within 5 minutes. My husband admitted that Thomas was a welcome addition to the family. That was more than 12 years ago. Since then, my son has visited Thomas in Germany twice. The kids and I flew over to see him married. A year later, my daughter, husband and I had the pleasure of seeing him with his baby boy.

Thomas has come back to Chicago on his own and with his wife-to-be and his mother. He calls on birthdays, Mother's Day and New Year's. We keep in touch with several au pairs but no one has the same "family member status." He was kind and thoughtful, fun and athletic. He kindled my son's interest in becoming fluent in German and opened up a world of music.

Although he is slightly less close with my daughter, they always had a wonderful relationship and I suspect that either or both of my kids may end up being au pairs for Thomas and Jeong-Mi in Dusseldorf sometime after their second child arrives this fall. I was disappointed to read that Au Pair in America no longer places male au pairs. I know my son, who is home from college for the summer and works half days at a pre-school, has some trouble getting baby sitting clients, although my daughter is in much demand.

I hope your story makes your readers understand that males can bring something special to their children. Thank you. JANET ELSON, Chicago

About Letters... Chicago Parent welcomes letters from its readers. In order to publish a letter, we must have the name and phone munber of the writer, and the name of the town in which he or she resides. Names can be withheld upon request.

Please send letters to: • Susy Schultz, editor, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302.

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