Food For Thought

Your Two Cents Counts

by Dr. John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus, George Mason University

John Bonfadini

Opinions — almost everyone has one.  

Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to share my opinions on a vast array of subjects in this magazine. I’ve written about education, politics, religion, family life, health, recreation, energy, personal matters and more. Many of you have also taken time to share your opinions in letters to the editor or in personal notes to me.

I even get an earful on the streets. Readers have agreed with my analysis of various topics, and I’ve been called brave, intellectual, visionary, and other terms that made my head swell. One person even said I should be president (I hope that person read my recent column on electing qualified individuals!). The editor has made it a practice to print opposing views in the Mailbag section of the magazine. Readers have passionately expressed that I was more than a little off target with some of my writings. I’ve also been called a few names, but in most instances the responses were different, but appropriate, and added more food for thought on the subject. I’ve learned from your comments and appreciate the time taken to respond.

I’ve been involved in education more than 50 years. I learned early in my teaching career that it is important to express your opinion on a subject, but it is more important for the students to express their views. Learning comes from constant stimulation of the human mind — thinking and reacting to various ideas. Society would have fewer conflicts if we all dressed in gray flannel. What if there were only one race, color, religion, language, sex, political party, school curriculum, automotive company, and, the list goes on and on. Certainly, life would be easier. But who said life was supposed to be easy? In fact, the challenges of a diverse world are what make life worthwhile.

Some readers have expressed concern that I’m permitted to write about topics on which I have little expertise. Aristotle said, “The best judges of a meal are the diners, not the cooks.”… I’m a cook in education but a diner in most other areas. I believe that most response letters come from the “diners” with a few “cooks” tossed in for flavor. Personally, I like the responses I receive from the diners. Cooks don’t seem to like me very much.

David Letterman has his top-10 list. I’ve decided to list my favorite articles and a brief reason for my selecting each.  

No. 1: “CANCER: Why Me?”

August 2004


My youngest son was diagnosed with a rare form of germ cell tumor. In this article I shared the emotional experience of finding out that a loved one has this dreaded disease. Opinions are important, but what really matters is the love and help we receive from one another in times of crisis. Your overwhelming letters and prayers certainly contributed to Michael’s present state of remission. I was overwhelmed by the kindness, love and support given by so many strangers. My family thanks you again.


No. 1A: “Living With Cystic Fibrosis”

May 2001

Last night I received a call from my daughter who informed us that Rachael, our eight-year-old granddaughter, will be in the hospital for two weeks receiving an antibiotic treatment to help fight off the infections created by her cystic fibrosis. If you ever need

inspiration on how to face the challenges of life, let me give you Rachael’s number. What a brave person, and she is so full of life and energy. Need to tell somebody off ... she’ll do it ... even the doctors who are constantly poking her with every kind of object. Our stimulus packages should include more funds for all childhood diseases. Children are more important than 401(k) totals.

No. 2 : “Is Our National Pastime Now Our National Religion?”

June 2004

I’ve written several articles on prayer and religion. This article received a significant amount of response and the magazine has had several reprint requests. Sports play such a major role in our lives and I believe we need to constantly re-examine their influence. A recent advertisement noted that only one in 16,000 kids will become a professional athlete, while 1 in 166 will have autism. This summarizes my view that too much emphasis is placed on sports. Maybe I’m wearing my Pittsburgh Steelers’ shirts too often.

No. 3: “For the Love of Grandmothers”

February 2004

Who could argue against the premise of this article, that grandmas are made in heaven? My grandkids certainly think Grandma is an angel. The idea for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, W.Va. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of the lonely elderly in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. President Jimmy Carter, in 1978, proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. When is Grandparents Day? In 2009, Grandparents Day falls on Sept. 13. I think we should celebrate it more often — make sure you call or visit grandma every week.

No. 4: “Guns and Tradition — the Broad Scope” November 2000;

“Declining American Traditions” December 2008

Firearms have remained a controversial topic and on several occasions I have discussed their role in a democratic society. The November 2000 article brought responses from hundreds of readers. The NRA took time to write me a special note and also provide an extensive amount of reading material. Some respondents openly wished me bodily harm. The Mailbag’s published responses to the December 2008 hunting and fishing article shows that the subject of firearms remains very controversial with many readers who have very strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

No. 5: “Bitten by the Spelling Bee”

May 1998

Initially, the Food for Thought column centered on educational topics. Many of these columns have had education as their main theme. The spelling bee article was one of my first. I’ve always had a difficult time with spelling, and this article highlighted some of my experiences. I still think it’s a highly overrated part of the educational experience. My next article will again discuss testing and its role in educational evaluation. I also think tests and their results are highly overrated, but we’ll save that discussion for the July issue.

Evolving opinions reflect society’s evolution. My opinions as a child were different from those I hold as a senior citizen. Senior citizens’ opinions will survive if they are carried forward by the next generation of children. But it’s the children’s opinions that really matter. Family and education will always play a significant role in formulating those young minds.

Finally, most of my articles are available on the Cooperative Living Web site at Select the current issue or search the archived publications by date and topic. My opinions and some others are under Food for Thought. Like a restaurant menu you’ll find many appetizers, entrees and desserts. Enjoy the meal.

And you can send a tip to an appropriate charity of your choice!

What’s Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to:, or send written responses to the editor. Mail will be forwarded to the author.




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