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Temple Grandin and the Power of Visual Thinking

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  • Kevin McCarthy’s Vindictive Move
  • Climate Scientists, Speak Up! Politicians, Act!
  • Finding the Supreme Court Leaker

Credit…Alanah Sarginson

To the Editor:

Re “Society Is Failing Visual Thinkers, and That Hurts Us All,” by Temple Grandin (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 12):

As a retired associate professor of the visual arts, I applaud this essay. Because the visual arts are generally considered as lesser than courses in math, science and writing, visual literacy is overlooked by society and in education curriculums nationwide.

A sighted person obtains and processes visual information more directly and immediately than any other form of sensory input. Babies’ first thoughts come from learning to make sense of the visual world as their brains begin to organize and make sense of what they see. Drawing comes before words. Words then serve as abstract symbols and generalizations. As our vocabulary grows, verbal thinking begins to dominate.

Visual thinking is a language. Most of our education leaders do not understand visual thinking because they’re verbal thinkers. This is why visual literacy is undervalued.

Every great building in the world began as a sketch.

Ken Conley
Alexandria, Va.

To the Editor:

Bravo, Temple Grandin, for explaining why visual thinkers are needed to solve some of society’s most pressing problems!

When my language-delayed son was 6 years old, he wanted to walk across the Manhattan Bridge. The route from the subway exit to the bridge was not obvious. I had to consult a map several times.

My son told me to put the map away as he walked the exact route without error. How did he know it? “The subway map,” he said. “But that map doesn’t show streets,” I said. “Yeah, but I see the way,” he responded.

My son has always been fascinated by maps and routes. He quickly encodes them entirely. I no longer need Waze to go anywhere he has been. His school recognized him as the student “Most Likely to Get You Home From Anywhere.”

He is fortunate to attend a school that addresses his language delays. But there is no curriculum to develop his visual gift. If schools were half as devoted to developing the right side of the brain as the left, the visual genius of children like my son would be fully realized. Perhaps they would map super-complex spaces like the ocean bed, the Amazon rainforest or the brain’s intricate circuitries.

Paul Siegel
New York

To the Editor:

I am a retired art teacher who has taught all grades, and I strongly agree with Temple Grandin’s comments on the lack of visual education in our schools.

In New York City art was always the first subject to be eliminated when there was a financial crunch. I don’t think the powers that be realize how important art education is.

First of all, it is a universal language that everyone can understand, whether literate or not. Second, it provides a means for creative thinking and problem solving, which translates to other disciplines.

People think and learn differently, and we need to reduce our dependence on academic testing alone. We need more creative thinkers and problem solvers in this world!

I have seen tremendous transformations in students who when successful in art class gain confidence in themselves and then succeed in school and in life.

Cynthia Shechter
Hartsdale, N.Y.

Kevin McCarthy’s Vindictive Move

Speaker Kevin McCarthy sought to punish Representatives Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell, two favorite foils of Republicans who had played key roles in the impeachments of former President Donald J. Trump.Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “McCarthy Ousts Schiff and Swalwell From Intelligence Committee” (news article, Jan. 25):

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has certainly wasted no time in showing us what a weak leader and vindictive person he is. He denies that his decision was retaliatory, but of course it was.

He argues that both men have displayed behavior that is unbecoming of the committee, but he has no problems with the behavior of Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, who have advocated violence against their political enemies, or Representative George Santos, who gained his seat fraudulently and now serves on committees.

In playing this juvenile but dangerous game of tit-for-tat, Mr. McCarthy has displayed behavior unbecoming of the speaker of the House, putting his debt to the extremes of his caucus above any consideration of national interest.

John T. Dillon
West Caldwell, N.J.

Climate Scientists, Speak Up! Politicians, Act!

Hemlock trees are dying because of a pest that now survives the warming winters.Credit…Desmond Picotte for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “I’m an Earth Scientist Who Spoke Up About Climate Change. Then I Got Fired,” by Rose Abramoff (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 13):

Dr. Abramoff’s voice, actions and message may rankle the stoic scientists and employers, but there is no message of greater import. Do or die!

The science is clear that climate change is real and will be the undoing of humankind if we do not act with speed, resolve and unity. While the physical planet will survive and life of various kinds will adapt and eventually thrive, the climate will become inhospitable for humans, perhaps even for our grandchildren who are alive today.

So what’s to be done? Since the science has shone the light, it is now in the hands of the public and the politicians to take the needed actions. Although more research is always welcome, that is not what we need most. We need action by those who have the power to effect meaningful change.

So we need more voices, actions and messages like that of Dr. Rose Abramoff.

Michael L. Schultz
Indian River, Mich.

To the Editor:

Thank you for featuring Rose Abramoff’s account of the workplace repercussions experienced by a climate scientist who has dared to follow through on the ramifications of her knowledge by taking political action.

We laypeople with enough scientific understanding to get what’s happening to our planet have been pulling our hair out wondering why climate scientists don’t speak out en masse instead of maintaining traditional scientific composure in response to important data they alone are equipped to interpret for the rest of us.

Whose behavior is inappropriate here? Not Dr. Abramoff’s. An emergency requires all hands on deck. It’s time for all scientists to come out of their labs and into the streets.

Cynthia Stancioff
Chesterville, Maine

Finding the Supreme Court Leaker

Some at the court said they were worried that the justices had been questioned with less rigor than their employees.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Fruitless Leak Inquiry Heightens Air of Distrust in Supreme Court” (front page, Jan. 22):

Your coverage indicates that inquiries were made of the justices, but most likely not of the spouses.

After all, they surely have access to home computers, the ability to reach media and, arguably, among them, the motive to publicize the draft before the justices could weaken the final disastrous opinion. Those are the tests: access, ability, motive.

Failure to question the spouses has resulted in an incomplete and flawed investigation of the circumstances surrounding one of the court’s most ill-informed and misguided acts in contemporary America.

Emily Jane Goodman
New York
The writer is a retired justice on the New York State Supreme Court.

To the Editor:

A court worker implies that the justices were treated with kid gloves when questioned about the leak.

How many times have we heard that no one is above the law?

It seems, in this case, the adjudicators of the law are the least likely to suffer the consequences of the law.

D.H. Sloan
Los Angeles

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