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Jonah Goldberg’s June 25 column (“Children main casualties in war on best friends”), in which he claims that educators have declared a war on best friends and compares the situation to cults and North Korean prisons, is way off base.

First, best friends are still free to socialize in their free time. I don’t believe any educator is trying to permanently and completely prevent children from having best friends. Perhaps Goldberg has heard of recess?

Second, educators will tell you that “best friends” often must be separated, in the classroom or in the field, to maintain order and education. This is nothing new. Supervisors have also had to separate chummy adults to get work done in a timely manner.

Third, forcing children to socialize with a diverse group of people also forces them to develop tolerance and empathy for others. As a shy “nerd,” I benefited from this. Children who would never speak to me by choice were forced to do so by the teacher’s “social engineering,” and they discovered that I wasn’t the pariah they had convinced themselves I was, and were friendlier to me afterward. This practice provides both the shy and the outgoing with coping skills that will be invaluable in their adult workplace.

All people, young through old, benefit from leaving their circle of comfort — whether it is to meet new people, travel, take a class, or try a new work method. Experiencing new things makes us more knowledgeable and adaptable, which is something we should teach our children, and seek out in military and civilian life.

And, amazingly, we can do this and still keep our best friends.

Taunya Brandon

Hill Air Force Base, Utah

Designated driver mandatory

According to the Feb. 17 article “Yokosuka sees drop in drunk driving” (Pacific edition), that U.S. naval base in Japan has seen a drop in drunken driving. The Navy’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention program indicated in 2009 there was a 42 percent drop in alcohol-related incidents across the service since 2004, and alcohol-related driving offenses dropped 23 percent.

Excellent! People are becoming aware that drinking alcohol and driving do not mix. Sobriety checkpoints may prevent drunks from driving, but they also make people aware that driving while intoxicated is wrong.

I am 34 years old, and a drunken driver hit me head-on when I was 16. I was in a coma and had paralysis with multiple dislocated and broken bones for almost four months. After months of therapy and surgeries, I can walk and talk. I lost my driving ability, and my brain injury damaged my hearing capabilities. These disabilities have not prevented me from educating people on the importance of staying sober behind the wheel.

Our freedom comes with the responsibility to follow the laws. I firmly advise drinkers to designate a sober driver.

I hope that American soldiers based in other countries do not abuse the laws. If they commit crimes, that insults and hurts Americans. The U.S. military should be supporting and securing Americans, not embarrassing them.

Anyone unwilling to designate a driver should not drink alcohol at least two hours before driving. Do not guzzle down alcoholic drinks. Sip, eat much and laugh the holiday away. Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans!

Lori Martin

Tracy, Calif.


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