The Right Start

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Annie Murphy Paul's informative cover article highlights the importance of caring for the emotional as well as the physical health of women during the perinatal period [Oct. 4]. To this end, we must integrate behavioral health into the training for and practice of obstetrics. We must also expand the access of mothers-to-be to quality behavioral-health experts who offer treatment options that complement obstetric care, from stress-reduction techniques to the identification of depression and anxiety disorders. As Paul's article underscores, the quality of care for pregnant women's bodies and minds has effects that may last for generations.
Drs. Frederic Kass and Mary E. D'Alton, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, NEW YORK CITY

This is a wonderful article, but the field is not new — just renamed. The field of pre- and perinatal psychology became prominent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, buoyed by the seminal 1981 book by Thomas Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child.
Jeane Rhodes, LAKEWOOD, COLO., U.S.

My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage after a terrible emotional shock. Years later, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl after a stress-free, joyful pregnancy. I was glad to read that science is finally exploring the impact of emotions on a fetus.
Valerie Ackermann, LITTLETON, COLO., U.S.

Your cover photo blew me away. I was warmed and moved by the purity in the mother-to-be's protectiveness of the infant she carries, the modest owning of her own femininity and the glory of her female form.

A Failing Grade
Being a French high school student, I can only agree on how archaic our education system is, though I don't see how Minister of Education Luc Chatel's reform, including cutting 16,000 teacher jobs, is possibly going to help [An F in Education, Oct. 4]. As for my philosophy essay? Fingers crossed!
Laurianne Espana, NIORT, FRANCE

Statements about the study of philosophy in France were made multiple times in "An F in Education," giving the impression that this discipline is a cause of the poor performance of the French education system. Since 2007, UNESCO has made efforts to introduce philosophy into education because it contributes to freedom of thought and democratic citizenship. With this provocative article, these efforts are crushed into the ground. When you reduce the education system of a country to its usefulness for the market system, philosophy will disappear in favor of more "useful" disciplines. But to discuss the usefulness of something, you need a good philosophical education.
Herman Lodewyckx, Vice President, Association Internationale des Professeurs de Philosophie, OSTENDE, BELGIUM

A similar article could have been written about the Italian education system. Italian students rely on regurgitating facts through rote learning and, like those in the French school system, live in fear of getting low marks. Students who fail are left to repeat a year with no real benefit in aiding their learning process. They often do not have a chance to voice their misgivings or ideas as there is no room for that in the classroom, where interaction lacks opportunities for experimentation, creativity and fun. Teachers fall into a rut of evaluation and spend more energy testing students than helping them with their difficulties. Italian schools need fixing, yet the only reforms the Education Minister has come up with are cutbacks, slashing resources and teacher jobs.

Sea Change
Oceanographer Sylvia Earle's call for more marine protected areas (MPAs) is an admirable start, but by itself it is but a salve [Code Blue, Oct. 4]. MPAs don't necessarily reduce fishing pressure; they just concentrate it in adjacent, unprotected waters. With nutritionists increasingly urging us to eat more seafood, one answer lies in open-ocean mariculture. We can — as the Hawaii water farm I help run currently does — grow great-tasting seafood in deeper waters farther offshore, where environmental conflicts with other ocean users are negligible. Increasingly we can do this with sustainable diets: soy proteins and oils, microalgal biofuels' by-products. We can grow more fish better and truly soften our impact on the seas.
Neil Anthony Sims, KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII, U.S.

More on Israel
The sample of highly defensive letters you received railing against Karl Vick's probe into Israeli attitudes toward peace talks should be seen as Exhibit A in support of Vick's premise [Inbox, Oct. 4]. The 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon, a Jew who lived in Tel Aviv for many years, said much the same thing in reports last year — that the two-state solution is all but dead given the political power of the settlers and the fact that many Israelis, faced with such an intractable problem, live in denial about the conflict.
M. Bruce Grosjean, SAN FRANCISCO