‘What Do I Want to Do With My Life?’

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  • Lindsey Graham’s Prediction
  • Systemic Racism in American Cities
  • Keep Babies Safe: Embrace Minimalism

Credit…Choi Haeryung

To the Editor:

Re “The Art of Choosing What to Do With Your Life,” by Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 19):

As a college professor for the past 20 years who is also a clinical psychologist, I have repeatedly witnessed how colleges fail to serve their students by not equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to choose their path in life.

We ask students to apply their developing critical thinking skills to academic questions of all kinds, and yet not to the question that will largely determine their happiness and impact after college: What do I want to do with my life?

Too many former students return to my office years later unhappy with the path they have taken, usually because their choice was in some way misguided — based on cultural values that ultimately proved unfulfilling, or on a fantasy of an envisioned identity that did not comport with significant realities, or because they chose their path when they were too young to know what their adult self would want. ​

The authors’ approach to equipping students to choose their post-college path is philosophical and rational, and thus limited. Students need to experiment with real-life experiences outside the classroom (e.g., internships, summer jobs) that allow them to develop as persons. It is the only way to experience what potential post-college endeavors are like.

Paul Siegel
New York
The writer is a professor of psychology at Purchase College, SUNY.

To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing this important essay. I am a retired government attorney, and for years before I retired, I regularly counseled college students, legal interns and law students in my office on this very point.

I would emphasize to them that, while the United States has a wealth of higher education institutions to teach almost every subject under the sun, one subject was regularly ignored — what is worth doing? In addition to pointing to the “values” issue inherent in that question that the authors discuss, I would also emphasize to them the practical component.

As a practical matter, what does one enjoy doing during the day? Researching and writing? Meeting people? Making presentations to others? I would explain to them the importance of finding a “calling” that would let them do on a daily basis what they enjoyed doing. I also emphasized to them that there was no “right” answer to the question and that the “best” answer was one that was right for each individual — although it might be wrong for someone else.

If this question comes up with my discussions with young students in the future, I plan to point them to this essay as a place to begin in answering it for themselves.

John Schnitker

To the Editor:

In the fall of 1995, I was a Fulbright lecturer in law at Xiamen University in China. My undergraduate students were eager to talk with my daughter, who was just a few years younger than they were. They wanted to know what it was like to be an American.

They explained that each of them had been confronted with very limited life choices, largely determined by their test scores. How many options did my daughter have, and how would she choose? For my daughter, the question was a strange one, as her options were almost unlimited, and any thought of making a choice would have been highly premature.

The Storeys’ wonderful essay leads me to ask: Who was better off — my daughter, or the Chinese students? And why?

Joel S. Newman
Winston-Salem, N.C.
The writer is emeritus professor at Wake Forest Law School.

To the Editor:

In an otherwise excellent and thought-provoking article, it might have been nice to give a nod to irrational forces in human decision-making. As a psychiatrist who has seen hundreds of adolescents, I can assure them that among the forces at work are unconscious desires, conflicts, ambiguities, etc.

While “helping young people to give reasons for the choices that shape their lives” is an important endeavor, it is sometimes the “heart” that makes the decision, leaving the head to come up with rationalizations and a cover story. And it’s not just adolescents.

Stephen Bittner
New Milford, Conn.

Lindsey Graham’s Prediction

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has moved from a fierce critic of former President Donald J. Trump to a loyal companion.Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Graham Predicts ‘Riots in the Streets’ If Trump Is Prosecuted” (, Aug. 29):

Senator Lindsey Graham’s prediction is a not so thinly veiled threat. It alerts the type of Trump supporters we saw on Jan. 6, 2021, that their skills may be needed again, this time to derail a Trump prosecution, and warns prosecutors of trouble if they do their jobs.

Does he really believe this is how our justice system works?

Jamie Baldwin
Redding, Conn.

Systemic Racism in American Cities

Nathan Connolly and Shani Mott are suing an appraiser and a mortgage lender after their Baltimore home was estimated to be worth $472,000. After the couple removed any indications that Black people lived there, a second appraiser valued the home at $750,000.Credit…Shan Wallace for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Educators’ Housing Discrimination Suit Is Personal” (Real Estate, Aug. 21):

I was disheartened but not surprised to read about the Baltimore family that was denied a home refinance loan because of a racially biased, lowball appraisal. Unfortunately, discriminatory practices continue to disadvantage Black people in the U.S. For example, home buyers in predominantly Black communities pay higher mortgage interest rates than those in predominantly white communities, and people living in predominantly Black neighborhoods also pay significantly higher risk-adjusted auto insurance premiums.

Sadly, Baltimore, like many other cities, has a history dating back to the Great Depression of using “redlining” practices to identify typically Black urban neighborhoods in which lenders refused to provide mortgage financing. “Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City,” a well-researched book by Antero Pietila, clearly documents how bigotry shaped Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

For those who would like to claim that systemic racism is no longer a problem in our country, reading your article provides a well-needed reality check.

Beryl Rosenstein
Baltimore, Md.

Keep Babies Safe: Embrace Minimalism

WubbaNub pacifiers and a Wubbie blanket.Credit…Thomas McDonald

To the Editor:

Re “I Was Skeptical of Baby Gear. Then I Became a Dad,” by Kevin Roose (“The Shift,” Business, Aug. 15):

It’s ironic but not surprising that this love letter to baby paraphernalia was published the same day the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and 4moms recalled more than two million baby swings and rockers because of the risk of death to infants.

Unsurprising because, had the story been published at another time, it might have coincided with the recalls of the hugely popular Fisher Price Rock-n-Play Sleepers or the ubiquitous Boppy Newborn Lounger — both products that were taken off the market after babies died. Had it been published in May, it could have run when President Biden signed a law banning padded crib bumpers that have asphyxiated babies for decades. Ditto July, when the American Academy of Pediatrics advised a stripped-down environment for babies.

The New York Times has covered these issues in the past, but Mr. Roose’s crooning over baby gear didn’t mention the word “safety” once. The baby product industry must be delighted with the free advertising, but it makes it much harder for the regulators, physicians and public health advocates who are trying to teach parents that minimalism really is best when it comes to baby stuff.

Unfortunately the message from Mr. Roose is to embrace the baby product bonanza, when the reality is that a happy baby needs a safe space more than any gadget.

Sarah Klein
Chevy Chase, Md.
The writer is former chief of staff at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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