Man, I just went through my backpack from this school year to throw stuff out, and it made me literally sick to my stomach. I don\’t even think I can begin to articulate how much I hated that place. If you read all my journal entries from this year, it might begin to scratch the surface of how utterly miserable and furious I was all the time, and that\’s as close as anyone can get to understanding. I\’m an even-tempered person. I have pretty thick skin. The fact that I felt so emotionally ravaged for nine months or so is almost kind of scary.

People say kids have to go to school because it\’s where they learn social skills, but I think this is a grave misconception. Basically, school teaches kids to sacrifice every grain of individuality they’ve ever had in order to conform with everyone else. And if they refuse? You can\’t even imagine how brutal it is.

School teaches kids that if someone has more power and authority over them, the person is automatically right. School teaches kids to submit to anyone who demands it. School teaches kids that they\’re bad people if they think for themselves. School enforces a disturbing social hierarchy, and of course the administration at the schools will be the last people to admit that they\’re responsible for Little Jimmy flunking out or doing drugs or committing mass homicide.

As both a recent graduate of middle school and a self-proclaimed intelligent, easy-going person, I have to say I was traumatized. I felt regularly cheated, abused, disregarded, and disrespected, and I can’t honestly say I learned anything this year beyond how to cope with and repress anger.

I should mention that I can’t speak on behalf of private schools due to lack of experience, but this is what I went through in the public education system, and I thought something should be said.

Sara Brody

Camarillo

Concerned about dog welfare

I was concerned for every four-legged companion that walked by me at Ventura Fourth of July Street fair. The little dogs that would easily be stepped upon by the crowds not watching for something under their feet, the bigger dogs panting so hard to try to regulate their temperatures walking atop black asphalt, people standing around with their black dogs in the full sun while waiting for people in their group to catch up, hearing at least two dog fights break out, parents with children in strollers avoiding the path of some of the more intimidating and hard-for-the-owner-to-handle dogs, does any of this make sense?

Perhaps there were as many people who thought of bringing their furry friends downtown to celebrate with the rest of Ventura but realized the day would be too hot, too crowded and too over-stimulating for even the most well-adjusted dogs and humanely left their dogs at home as there were pet guardians who didn\’t think beyond their own comfort.

Will it get to a point that dogs just aren\’t allowed for their own safety before people are finally forced to do the right thing?

They will always prefer to be with us but that doesn\’t mean they should be able to when it jeopardizes their safety. Let\’s keep our companion animals out of cars and backs of trucks, off the asphalt and away from days at the beach when it\’s the height of summer-time hot.

Carrie McAuliffe Liberatore

Ventura

Help Stop the hate

The Matthew Shepard Act is before Congress, and we all must do what we can to make sure it passes and President Bush signs it.

This act helps federal agents have more resources at their fingertips when fighting and prosecuting hate crimes. Currently, sexual orientation is not covered under the federal hate crimes law. One in six hate crimes are against people based on their sexual orientation or perceived orientation. This must end. David Ritchesen was heinously attacked by neo-Nazi skinheads, and his attackers were caught. Sadly he took his own life, not able to deal with being known as \”that guy\” who was mercilessly attacked in a most heinous way. He was only 18 at the time of his death.

This highlights the urgent need for more protection on the federal level for all GLBT Americans. Contact your congressional representative and your senators as well as the president, who vows to veto this measure. That is sad when the administration must know how much violence is targeted at Americans based on their orientations.

Sincerely,

Jacob Clark

Simi Valley

Explorers introduce careers

I thought your lead story in the July 12th issue (“Tiptoeing on the range,” feature, 7/12/07) was informative, unbiased and very well done. Classifying a gun as a tool, albeit a dangerous one, is a point well taken. Theoretically a gun is no different than a knife or a firecracker or a car since all of them, if not used properly, can cause serious harm or death, and the readership should know about that.

Mr. Marcus\’ article about Military Explorers (“Too young to decide,” Power to Speak, 7/12/07), however, was not as unbiased in its tone and a bit insulting to the hundreds of thousands of American patriots past and present who choose the profession of arms as a career and the protection of our freedom as a commitment.

I was a little boy when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and an adolescent when the stories of the heroes of Wake Island, \”D\” Day, the Battle of the bulge and Iwo Jima made the news. We had a family doctor, lawyer, insurance agent, milkman and other potential role models back then, and they were all honorable men providing an important service. But when I put on my first Boy Scouts uniform, I remember feeling proud of my accomplishments and my thoughts went quickly toward a career in the military. I day-dreamed of being a commander of a destroyer or a tough Marine storming enemy beaches, and from that point forward, there was never any doubt that I would spend my life serving my country in the military.

The Career Explorer programs today are a much more effective method of introducing our young men and women to various career fields, and each of them serves an important and honorable purpose. In later years as a senior military officer stationed at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory in Port Hueneme, I participated on occasion with the young engineer explorers who visited the laboratory, and some of them were surprised to learn that there was such a thing as a military engineer. It never occurred to me to try to recruit one of those youngsters then, but I was happy that they now knew that being a military engineer was one of their choices.

Mr. Marcus should think before writing such columns which make it sound like we are out to brainwash his children and that a military career is less than honorable. In our troubled world today, the chances of one of his children serving under the leadership of one of our military academy graduates is quite high, and, if it happens, I hope he\’s a good one.

Joseph R. Phaneuf

Lieutenant Colonel

U. S. Marine Corps (Retired)

Chaplin, Conn.