Letters: Pre-school children

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The Independent Online

Pre-school children benefit from staying at home with their parents

Sir: Sarah Shilling discusses funding for pre-schools saying that the proposed change could spell disaster for the children involved (Letters, 17 July).

Providing for our children in financial or practical terms does not always ensure that they receive the best care, even though it appears to make some parents feel better about themselves. Just because nurseries are available does not mean they are appropriate or are what children need, however much is spent on resources.

As a mother of four I know that pre-school children require little social or intellectual stimulation apart from simply spending time with a loving parent. It can set them up for life, giving them a sound grounding in who they are as an individual and enabling them to get to know a parent before being thrust in to our schools and the many challenges our youngsters will undoubtedly have to face.



Sir: Sarah Shilling in her letter makes a completely convincing case for nurseries retaining the power to charge top-up fees and I fully support her case for parental choice free from government interference.

I was therefore surprised to read her ill-considered closing comment that children lose out enormously both intellectually and socially if they stay at home with their parents until they start school.

No studies support this thesis and empirically I and many others can refute it. I chose to stay at home with my children until they started school. They are secure and socially adjusted, work hard and achieve excellent results in school and show no signs of having missed out on anything by receiving one to one full-time attention from me.

A good nursery can provide similar experiences for a child and that is surely the point. Ms Shilling cannot argue for parental choice on one hand and deny it on the other.



It is wrong to call Israel a racist state

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is deluded ("Nothing but anti-Arab racism can fully explain the behaviour of the Israelis", 17 July). There is nothing in the present conflict between two terrorist organisations, Hamas and Hizbollah, and the state of Israel that would lead to the outlandish conclusion that Israel actions are hate-driven or racially motivated.

She only needs to ask herself what the Iranian actions would be if, for instance, Afghani guerrillas were to shower Iran with rockets from their territory. Would any nation on this planet twiddle its thumbs and wait as the list of casualties gets longer?

How does she know that the Israeli actions are excessive? She seems to assume the racist motive and then looks for more evidence to justify it.

Whether Israel has the right to conduct the war forced on it in the manner that it chooses, or not, is to be decided on the grounds of military strategy and humanitarian obligations. Presenting Israel as a racist state is unfair. Moreover, it is racist, actually, as it does not distinguish between different strata of Israelis but lumps them all together by their nationality and the meaningless label Zionist.

There is no logic to this whole piece. It does not explain why the response is disproportionate, what the proportionate response would be, etc, but instead pours praise over the left-wing Jews of Britain who accuse Israel of apartheid with the same arrogance and sense of self-righteousness that Ms Alibhai-Brown ascribes to the state of Israel.



Sir: Ms Alibhai-Brown is entitled to air her generalisms, and seems to take great pleasure in doing so. However, the fact that she seems to have many Jewish friends who agree with her point of view on the Israeli psyche does not legitimise it.

In spite of the many careful protestations that will soon, no doubt, emerge, if Jewish targets (eg cemeteries, synagogues) in this country are attacked, as they were during the Intifada, that criticism of Israel is not anti-semitism, comments such as those by Ms Alibhai-Brown link the two. It is not intellectually good enough to bolster one's anti-Zionist arguments by positing that one's best friends are Jewish and anti-Zionist.

Reporting on the Middle East in this country is, by and large, very slanted: having spent time in Israel less than a month ago, I came back shocked at what was not being reported here.

While Ms Alibhai-Brown may be naïve enough to believe what she reads in the papers, to present her arguments as facilely as she regrettably does has the potential to make the situation worse. I am now genuinely worried, not only about the situation in the Middle East, with its escalating rights and wrongs on both sides, but also about how such unguarded comments could compromise the security of Jewish communities in the UK.



Sir: Why does Yasmin Alibhai-Brown have such a massive problem with the concept of a Jewish state? She doesn't express similar concerns with the equivalent concept of Islamic states, many of which have long since disposed of their Jewish (and other) citizens by moving them on in one way or another.

Ms Alibhai-Brown effectively pigeon-holes Zionists as racist, but I can tell you that you can be a Zionist whilst loving your neighbour and that this describes the majority of Jews, Israeli or otherwise who want Israel to live peacefully with its neighbouring states. True, there is a small unpleasant faction which is undoubtedly racist in this way but, dare I say, it itself smacks of racism to equate those people with the majority.

As for that faction's apparent lack of empathy with dead Palestinians, Ms Alibhai-Brown makes much more of that than the total hatred of Jews, dead or alive, which she, herself, perceives in the Islamicists. In some ways, who can blame people for raising their empathic threshold in the face of such widely publicised hatred and a stated wish for their country's total destruction?



Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown talks of "ancient fears of annihilation". It is precisely these fears that compel Israel to behave as it does. That and the fact that every Arab nation wants Israel's destruction. It could not be any simpler or clearer. Please, let us not pretend otherwise



Sir: Yesterday Yasmin Alibhai-Brown cast me in the role of a racist. On the programme, This Week, it was perfectly clear to me, if not to her, that I was referring to those who send out children to blow themselves up as people to whom life is cheap. I was referring to extremists not Muslims in general. I realise to misinterpret my words fitted in extremely well with her premise of the Jew as racist and I hope your readers do too.



Sir: Many thanks to Yasmin Alibhai Brown for her comment "Nothing but anti-Arab racism can fully explain the behaviour of the Israelis". I totally agree. When you demonise a people whether they be Arabs, Muslims or Palestinians, you begin to see them as sub-human or "the other" and then their death and suffering become meaningless and justifiable. This is a logical explanation for the reasons that the West has for decades been unwilling to do anything about Israel's continuing aggression against the Palestinian people. It is because "the West" sees Israel as "like us" and the Palestinians as "the other".

Perhaps Israel's extreme actions will turn the tide, because "people like us" can no longer stomach what Israel is doing.



Shocking secrets of greyhound racing

Sir: At last, the shocking secrets of the greyhound racing industry are out ("Unwanted greyhounds put down at abattoir", 17 July). While up to 12,000 greyhounds go "missing" every year, the racing industry has always denied any wrongdoing, and insisted that it meets high welfare standards for racing hounds. Finally, their lies have been exposed.

Similarly, thousands of thoroughbred racehorses who don't make the grade or receive injuries are slaughtered every year for their meat.

We believe that it is only a matter of time before the horse racing industry is exposed in the same way that the greyhound industry has been.

Maybe then people can move away from such destructive and callous pleasures and move towards more ethical ways of spending their spare time and money.



Cameron's mistaken search for EU allies

Sir: You rightly chastise David Cameron for considering withdrawing the Conservatives from the European People's Party (leading article, 14 July). It is a strange thing that while in Washington DC the neo-liberal Heritage Foundation is happy to house the representative offices of German Christian Democrat organisations, a few utopian UK Conservatives have had Cameron scrabbling for new European allies in the undergrowth of the hard European right.

No serious mainland European party will join Cameron's "movement for reform". Not only would they be walking away from real influence in Brussels, but they would also be exiting from the ability to gain meaningful access to the heart of policy in Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain.

Cameron may be capturing many British hearts but he is still an opposition politician leading a financially strapped party with little to offer others on the world stage. Perhaps in three years' time this will have changed. Until then surely he has better things to do with his scarce time than pander to those whose political judgement landed the Conservative Party in the wilderness in the first place?



Keep hydrated with a cup of tea

Sir: As the heat wave continues I keep reading inaccurate information about how to maintain hydration (reports, 3 and 18 July). Drinking up to 2-3 cups of coffee or 5-8 cups of tea a day will not compromise hydration status.

The diuretic properties of caffeine only kick in with intakes greater than 300mg a day. Advising regular tea/coffee drinkers (who are used to this caffeine intake anyway) to stop having these drinks could lead to a lower fluid intake as they exclude their favourite drinks.



Dishwashers are more efficient

Sir: I read with incredulity the letter from Donnachadh McCarthy (17 July) with reference to his ability to hand wash his weekly collection of dirty dishes twice a week. Where does he store his cache of dirty dishes, pots and pans for three and a half days before washing? I am a recent convert to dishwashers after many years of scepticism and find that in my two person household a dishwasher is without doubt a more efficient method. I use a lot less water than hand washing dishes and we have a reduced risk of food poisoning.



Powerful radios

Sir: In The Information's list of "50 Best Ethical Buys" I see, at 26, the Freeplay Devo for which, "one minute's arm-pumping produces a mere three to five minutes of DAB" or one hour of FM. I have noticed similar wording on battery/mains radios.

DAB evidently uses about ten times as much electricity as analogue. Can anyone explain why we are being compelled to transfer to radio (and presumably TV) which uses vastly more power than our current equipment?



Pension contributions

Sir: You report (17 July) a CBI survey showing that two fifths of companies are limiting their investment because of the burden of pension contributions. A naïve outsider must puzzle how this is in the interest of their shareholders and wonder whether they are making their pension problems worse by ignoring profitable opportunities for investment. Nor is it likely that they cannot find the money they need for investment. After all the pension contributions have to be invested in something. Perhaps the CBI's Mr Cridland could explain.



T-shirt logos

Sir: It might get worse for your correspondent Susan Chesters (Letters, 17 July) as her grandchildren get older.

At the next table in a resort tea-shop, my wife and I observed the daughter, aged 13 at a guess, of a very respectable-looking family, wearing a T-shirt boldly sporting the legend "Porn star in training".

Could Ms Chesters guide me as to what social attitude these parents wanted to inculcate? I was dumbfounded at the time.



Navy ships

Sir: The swift Royal Navy response to the Lebanese crisis (report, 18 July), coinciding with a new Tsunami in Asia, shows that there will always be a need for a navy that has enough ships to ensure that it is always only a short sail from trouble spots, be they natural or man-made.

The Government needs to look urgently at the number of frigates and destroyers it has. Whilst the new ones on order are highly capable they are also very few in number.



Safety first

Sir: What a relief that John Bates has concluded that helmet-wearing cyclists who end up in A&E do so as a result of the over-confidence their helmets have produced (Letters, 17 July).

Can we now ban the wearing of crash helmets and leathers by motor-cyclists and end the compulsion to use selt belts and shatterproof glass in cars for the same reason? Also, these road markings and traffic lights giving drivers the impression that they know what's happening on the road. Phase them out. Lets see some real driving - enough namby-pandyism.