The Spectator

Feedback | 12 March 2005

Readers respond to recent articles published in <i>The Spectator</i>

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ADHD is an illness

I am the mother of a daughter who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). For the past 23 years I have protected her and defended myself against the sort of opinionated, didactic comments made on this disorder by people such as your writer Leo McKinstry (‘Not ill — just naughty’, 26 February) and I am sick of being told that this condition is nothing more than an excuse for bad behaviour brought about exclusively by bad parenting. While Mr McKinstry fully acknowledges that this is a medically accepted condition that can be quite clearly seen on an MRI brain scan, he condemns the professionals by decrying the symptoms as nothing more than typically uncontrolled loutish behaviour. Is depression nothing more than a state of unhappiness that he would undoubtedly cure with a jolly musical and orders for a stiff upper lip?

Next, Leo McKinstry attacks Ritalin, which has been tested far more vigorously than aspirin. While I agree that in the early days the dosage was too great, that was corrected decades ago. If I had known more about ADHD 12 years ago, I would certainly have given Ritalin to my daughter, as I was advised to do, and she would have had a much greater chance of continuing her education, instead of leaving school at 14. Instead, my ignorance made me follow the mistaken belief that still exists that Ritalin turns children into zombies. All parents would prefer another medical solution, but at the moment Ritalin and its type are all we have.

Elizabeth Astor

Patron, Attention Deficit Disorder Information Services,
London NW7

Leo McKinstry’s interesting article reminded me that in Australia, where the condition still tends to be referred to as ADD, sceptics — of which there are very many — routinely refer to it as ‘Absence of Dad’s Discipline’.

Simon Cooper


Japanese discipline

Rod Liddle says it is time that British teachers took back control of the classroom (‘Children can’t be trusted’, 5 March). When I was in Japan a few years ago, a local newspaper carried a report about a teacher who beat two of his teenage pupils to death. The tone of the article suggested that, while the boys certainly deserved a beating, perhaps the teacher had gone a little far on this occasion.

Young people in Japan are very well behaved.

Robert Walls

Camberley, Surrey

Nothing in the pipeline

Michael Meacher’s flaccid charge that the Afghanistan war was in part about the Unocal pipeline (‘One for oil and oil for one’, 5 March) is just silly, especially considering that the pipeline study had been pushed by the Clinton administration and was cancelled before Mr Bush came to office. It would have been much easier to do a deal with the ruling Taleban than to engage in a costly war to overthrow the regime, occupy the country, and rebuild it with democratic institutions. And yet where is this imaginary oil pipeline now?

Michael Cecire

Richmond, Virginia, USA

Gilligan hard to defend

Andrew Gilligan (‘Selling out to China’, 26 February) ascribes to me the view that Europe should end the arms embargo because it is humiliating for China. What I actually said on the BBC was that I did not believe that the Chinese thought they would be able to purchase many more weapons from Europe under a code of conduct rather than the embargo, but that they wanted it dropped because they felt humiliated by it.

After having expended so much dinner-party breath on Mr Gilligan’s behalf, it is a useful corrective to be reminded what a difficult chap he is to defend.

Patten of Barnes

London SW1

Signals of democracy

How will we know if democracy — putting power in the hands of the people — is really spreading throughout the Middle East? My answer would be that we shall only know for sure when we see the emergence of majority parties in government determined to give America and/or Israel a bloody nose. Any other result will fall scandalously short of allowing the voice of the people to prevail.

Peregrine Worsthorne

Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire


Mark Steyn seems obsessed with trying tirelessly to prove that he was right about the ‘big things’ concerning the Middle East (‘The right side of history’, 5 March), forgetting that he is not the story.

In ‘Steynworld’, every little positive change in the region is now a result of the US invasion of Iraq, and therefore can be used to justify his support of the war. He glosses over the fact that the Iraqi elections, for example, took place only because of the pressure from Ayatollah al-Sistani in defiance of the Americans.

It does not take a genius to realise that reform has to happen in the Arab world. The true challenge is how to manage this transition effectively. The United States, despite the heroics of eight million Iraqi voters, has failed to do this in Iraq. Its policy on the Middle East remains inconsistent, incoherent and devoid of a real strategy. Unlike Mr Steyn, I would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

Chris Doyle

Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding,
London EC4

A lesser terror

Mark Steyn’s otherwise astute article (‘Death of a Salesman’) in your 19 February issue missed the most obvious flaw in The Crucible. When I first heard the play — at a time when Radio Three was the Third Programme, and still broadcast drama — I assumed it was a satire directed at the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s. I was astonished to learn that Miller had intended it as an indictment of McCarthyism. It puzzled me then, and still does, that anyone as intelligent as Miller could have somehow blotted out from his mind the horrors of the Red Terror, while agonising over the much milder persecutions of McCarthy and his cohorts.

Rory Allen

London SE21

Cobbett was ready

I’m grateful to Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 26 February) for his neat demonstration of why I’m right in the grammar debate. The study of grammar was useful to Cobbett because he began it (a) when he was ready for it, and (b) because he wanted to.

Philip Pullman

Cumnor, Oxford