MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

September 25 2006
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

September 25 2006

‘I don’t send piles of work home just for the sake of it, believe me’

MAIL BAG

SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT

I AM WRITING about your back-to-school special (“Homework is killing kids,” Cover, Sept. 11). I would like to speak to the issue of overloading children with homework. I am an educator who has had students who do not, despite the ample time given to them, complete homework in the classroom. When busing is the norm, keeping students after school, or having them come to class early, is not an option. I don’t keep students in during recess either because physical activity is so important. Often times, my only recourse is to send work home to be completed. This is not “busy-work,” as your Interview subject, author Alfie Kohn, says, but rather a consequence of students not completing work at school. Also, the teachers I know don’t send piles of work home just for the sake of it. That work needs to be marked, and believe me, I spend enough time marking and evaluating work done in the classroom as it is. After all, “busy-work” makes teachers busy too. Leigh Blakely, Niagara Falls, Ont.

FRONTIER COLLEGE has been organizing after-school reading circles and homework clubs across Canada for disadvantaged children since 1984. Our volunteers, mostly university students, meet with the children at a variety of sites including community centres, churches and inner city schools, and spend two to three hours with them reading and writing, playing chess, and discovering that it’s cool to be smart. Our results show that these programs lead to significant improvements in academic and social skills for the children. As Kohn suggests, perhaps the key to success is in what we mean by “homework.” A child can learn a lot about geography through discussions about the World Cup, for example. Rather than condemning all homework all the time, let’s work at meaningful enriching activities.

John D. O’Leary, President,

Frontier College, Toronto

I HAVE LONG SUSPECTED that forcing young children to do homework is useless. I just finished my first—and last—year of a bachelor of education program. Few people in my university classes or in the public schools shared my view of homework. During my inclass experience, I witnessed a kindergarten teacher chastising a five-year-old for not com-

pleting her homework assignment. Schools train students to perpetuate the status quo, not to question it. Until we have more teachers who are questioners themselves, this state of affairs will not change. It is my fervent wish that before my children reach elementary school, educators will become more aware of the empirical data regarding the efficacy of homework in increasing learning. Kinda Kealy, Regina

MAKING THE GRADE

THE PRESIDENTS’ LETTER to Maclean’s justifies their institutions’ withdrawal from your 2006 survey on the basis of inappropriate aggregation of data from a wide range of variables and averaging of rankings, the drawing of comparisons across incomparable surveys, and other issues (“Information, please,” From the editors, Sept. ll). “In short,” they say, “the ranking methodology used by Maclean’s is oversimplified and arbitrary.” I find this richly ironic, considering that our grading of students involves procedures that treat data collected on a variety of behaviours (from choice of course to attendance to essay writing), on a variety of nominal (Religious Studies, Physics, etc.), interval (A, B, C) and ratio (usually O-lOO) scales, converting it back and forth in varied and arbitrary ways (“It’s a B+ paper; I’ll give it 78 per cent”), and then spitting out a flawed global statistic—the grade point average. Were we to use that “methodology” in our research, we would be laughed out of the academy. It is some consolation that academics learn to read such

Tn northern Ontario, nuisance bears are being shot and dragged to landfill sites. This is not the way to manage a valuable natural resourceeither for residents or for the bears.’

imperfect constructs intelligently—as surely do students who use Maclean’s to assist in their choice of university.

Nicholas David, Faculty Professor of Archaeology, University of Calgary, Calgary

FIRST THINGS FIRST

IN HIS SO-CALLED manifesto, Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff writes, “The country does not want to be administered. It wants to be led” (“What I would do if I were the prime minister,” National, Sept. 4). Ah,

no, thank you, Mike. First show you can administer, then lead. As an absolute minimum, government—whatever that government’s vision—prudently allocates resources supplied to it by taxpayers. After the billions of dollars wasted and stolen by the federal Liberals over the past decade, they need to prove some administrative capability before charging ahead with a half-cocked collection of platitudes and vagaries, such as, “Quebec in particular has a unique history.” (Thanks for the insight.) To paraphrase Monty Python, “Next week on our show we will split the atom and solve the problem of world peace.” Voters are tired of being treated like morons.

Dale G. Dye, Bragg Creek, Alta.

I AM GLAD that your magazine allowed Ignatieff to outline his vision in his own words. Had his views been steered by an interviewer,

I might not have learned how truly stultifying and overstuffed with aging Liberal bromides they are. Thank goodness the guy actually running our country has a sense of priorities.

Paul Connor, Toronto

LET’S SEE. The last time the media selected a prime minister for us we got Paul Martin. Maybe this time Maclean’s should just stay out of it.

J. E. Green, Charlottetown

JOHN GEDDES’S STORY (“Is this the new rainmaker?” National, Sept. 4) about Ian Davey’s quest to make Michael Ignatieff the next Liberal prime minister, as his father did for Pierre Trudeau, brings to mind a quote from one of Trudeau’s heroes, Karl Marx—“The past lies like a nightmare upon the present.” The Liberal resurrection of the dream-like Trudeau legacy is nothing more than revisionism. Ian Davey should advise his brainy candidate to step out from under the dark Trudeau shadow because Canadians know his legacy is nothing more than a Liberal myth covering up a questionable youth and years of failed policy. As prime minister, Trudeau embarrassed our nation by giving sympathy to then-Communist Poland as its Soviet dictator invoked martial law and banned Solidarity. He cavorted with Communists at the height of the Cold

War and befriended the despotic Fidel Castro. Canada has Trudeau to thank for the National Energy Program, which still raises the ire of Western Canada. But Trudeau’s greatest failure was years of uncontrolled spending that saddled future generations with crippling debt. Liberal revisionists like Ian Davey should be cautious in casting Count Iggy as the new Trudeau, thereby reminding Canadians of the Liberal legacy of waste, debt and entitlement.

Senator Terry Stratton, Government Whip in the Senate, Ottawa

LEGAL EAGLE

JONATHON GATEHOUSE’S exposé of the legal greed surrounding victims of Indian residential school abuse makes the actions of their lawyer Tony Merchant seem deplorable (“White man’s windfall,” National, Sept. ll). Little wonder the legal profession is held in such contempt.

Dave Anderson, Victoria

CONGRATULATIONS, Mr. Merchant, you seem to be the largest potential winner in the residential school sweepstakes, courtesy of the Canadian judicial system. I hate to sound cynical. There is no other way to feel as a native person. He who knows the rules surely benefits from them.

Gary Mishibinijima, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Little Current, Ont.

BEARS IN MIND

IT’S DISAPPOINTING that Maclean’s stooped to sensationalism to report on an issue that deserves rational consideration (“Barbearians at the gate,” Nature, Sept. 4). Barbara Righton’s claim that “pound for pound, black bears are among the most dangerous animals on earth” is absurd. More people are injured or killed by bees and wasps and domestic dogs than by bears. If bears are to survive the perfect storm of climate change, growing human populations, and our voracious appetite for natural resources, it will require more informed reporting than this. JeffGailus, Canmore, Alta.

THE CANADIAN Outdoor Heritage Alliance was formed when Ontario cancelled its spring black bear hunt in 1999, and COHA has been demanding the return of the hunt since then. This cancellation was based on human emo-

tion fuelled by the animal rights movement and not on science or biology. In spite of the fact that more than 130 municipalities have asked in writing for the hunt to be returned, and a Manitoba study has proved that hunts are sustainable and good population management techniques, the Ontario government refuses to accept the fact that the bear population has increased or that black bears in greater numbers are a risk to northern Ontario residents. Not only can a black bear smell food from three miles away, run faster than a horse and crunch bones with its powerful jaws, but nuisance black bears are being shot and dragged to landfill sites. This is not the way to manage a valuable natural resource, for residents or for the bears.

Jim Lawrence, Canadian Outdoor Heritage Alliance, Etobicoke, Ont.

SEX AND THE PULPIT

WHY IS IT that Christians are considered to be sub-normal humans especially when the topic concerns sex (“Yes! Oh God! Yes!,” Faith, Sept. 11)? As a practising Christian, I feel compelled to point out that having sex and being Christian are far from mutually exclusive. God created man, woman and sex. Michael Cross, Niagara Falls, Ont.

SO RECREATIONAL SEX for the purpose of enjoyment and the affirmation of a relationship is allowed for some Christian faiths? Does it follow that homosexuality and lesbianism are now sanctioned by Christians? After all, one of the major objections to samesex marriages is that the partners are incapable of siring offspring. This is a great day for the gay community.

Richard Weatherill, Victoria

STUDIES REVEAL that the people who have the highest frequency and quality of sex are religious women? That clinches it. I am going back to church this Sunday. I’m over 80 but always optimistic.

Esther Harris, Calgary

COWBOYS IN THE NORTH

COLIN CAMPBELL has drawn a very clear picture of the unorthodox lifestyle of the Arctic Rangers (“Canada’s ragtag Arctic forces,” National, Aug. 28). It’s fascinating that such cowboys still exist, and I can understand why landing such an assignment would be a plum position for local Inuit men and women. After all, where else can they hunt seals with .303s and attend an organized shooting gallery with a C-7 automatic weapon at the army’s expense? Step aside, Dudley Do-Right, here come the Rangers Just tell them to save some seal for me!

Elayne Burt, Toronto