MAIL BAG

‘Let’s add tobogganing to the list of healthy outdoor activities we do not let our children do’

December 31 2007
MAIL BAG

‘Let’s add tobogganing to the list of healthy outdoor activities we do not let our children do’

December 31 2007

MAIL BAG

‘Let’s add tobogganing to the list of healthy outdoor activities we do not let our children do’

WAR CLOUDS

ON YOUR COVER you ask a question that has to be one of the most difficult for leaders in the free world to answer (“Is it time to bomb Iran?” World, Dec. to). If we are going to go to war, we have to do it before our enemies are able to weaken or devastate our ability to decisively respond. Too often our patience is seen by the enemy as weakness; may they quickly learn that is not true. Still, any future major war, I feel, could make the two World Wars look like skirmishes. We, and the enemy, need to realize that. Our leaders must know that when there is no hope whatsoever that our enemies will back down, we have to go at them with all we have in our arsenals. If the Iranians can’t rein in their warmongers, and the free world has to do it, the lesson learned will hopefully cause all others to turn their weapons into ploughshares.

Mel Lyoiis, Kiticarditie, Ont.

WHY DIDN’T YOU feature a similarly posed picture of George W. Bush on your cover and ask, “Is it time to assassinate Bush?” Arguably, Bush has made the world a much more dangerous place than has Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even Bush’s national intelligence services and the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran is not currently a nuclear threat. Of course it could be in the future, but then a number of other countries could be as well. The U.S.’s foray into Iraq was for oil security, pure and simple. In the process, the President has unleashed a hornet’s nest of religious Islamic extremists who will continue to plague the U.S. and the rest of the free world for years to come. If he does attack Iran, World War III will likely wipe out our civilization.

EgoTi S. Frank, Richmond, B.C.

IT USED TO TAKE acts of overt aggression to cause the might of the U.S. military to heave itself into action, but now all it takes is a whatif. Sadly, the U.S. is a slow learner. So what if Iran, or any other outfit, arms itself with nukes? It would have to be blatantly stupid to attempt to use them.

Brian Davidson, Dryden, Ont.

YOU WRITE THAT Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Norman Podhoretz “compares current diplomacy with Iran to the appeasement of Nazi Germany during the 1930s.” In

advocating the use of force against Iran, he asserts that Hitler could have been stopped in 1938 by a similar action. The question is by whom and with what? America, still isolationist, had no interest in a European war. Stalin was in the process of weakening his armed forces by killing off all of their topranking officers. France was cowering behind its Maginot line, which left Great Britain.

I was a member of the Royal Air Force ground crew in 1938. Our biplane bombers could have reached Germany from their British bases—if they carried no bombs—and they would have faced a Luftwaffe blooded

and tested in the Spanish Civil War.

No, the ones who could have stopped Hitler, with his massive, well-equipped and superbly trained armed forces, were the German people themselves.

S.W. Clay, Charlottetown

AFTER READING Michael Petrou’s article on Iran, which I found well-balanced and informative, I started mulling over the reasons why my favourite Canadian magazine is becoming so controversial and negative with its front page. I believe the simple answer is money—sell more magazines, make more money. This screaming headline is certainly an eye-catcher on any newsstand. But I think it’s time for you to review your policy on headline choices. This will not only serve your faithful patrons more honestly, but will reflect the true values of all Canadians.

Marie D. Pelletier, North Vancouver, B.C.

IN THE INTEREST of peace, it is better to look at why Israel attracts animosity.

Gordo7i Hawley, Ottawa

MAYBE NEXT WEEK the headline will be, “Is it time for Maclean’s to stop being a shill for the American right wing?”

Ron Elliott, Leamington, Ont.

SLED PATROL

IN REFERENCE to the article by John Intini about head injuries while tobogganing and Tim Hortons’ decision to illustrate its cups with children wearing helmets on the hill, I say congratulations to Tim Hortons for being so proactive and getting the message out to normalize the use of helmets (“Putting a lid on it,” National, Dec. 3). Regardless of whether you think it may be a political message or not, it is a wonderful social marketing campaign. Marg Milburn, Public Health Nurse, Fredericton

LET’S ADD tobogganing to the list of healthy, outdoor social activities we do not let our children do because it has, heaven forbid, an element of risk. It must be so much better for our children to stay inside and become obese, unsocial and unable to cope with the uncertainties and dangers in life that they will eventually have to face. The article quotes the number of injuries and the tragic deaths; however, I would be interested in the number of toboggan rides taken without incident. I myself had thousands and only one memorable nearmiss. It was an activity I enjoyed so much that each year my children endure a six-hour round trip to a patch of snow on a hill so they can have that experience (without helmets). Jo-An7ie Strader, Wagga Wagga, Australia

‘BALKAN GANGSTERS’

YOUR ARTICLE about independence in Kosovo (“Kosovo at the brink,” World, Dec. to) reminds us that the ethno-religious divisions in the Balkans, which go back to Roman times, cannot be easily resolved. I would urge your readers to get a hold of Rebecca West’s Black La77ib and Grey Falcon, surely the most poignant travelogue-cum-history book ever written about this troubled region. The cruelties meted out are appalling, the courage displayed astonishing, and the manipulation by the European powers disgraceful. We should not be surprised when

Balkan gangsters become generals and presidents. They are simply following an evil pattern laid down for them centuries ago. George Fraser, Victoria

CIVIL, BUT MURDEROUS

I ENJOYED READING Mark Steyn’s thesis that once people no longer display the most basic civic courtesies, such as giving up a bus seat for an old person, society is doomed to greater crime (“When it’s no country for old men,” Steyn, Dec 10). Despite all the statistics he provides, his thesis is hooey. Was there ever a more civilized society than Germany in the first half of the 20th century? The country had culture, intellectuals, religion and chivalry. You can bet those Prussian heelclickers would always tip their hats and give up their seats for a lady. Yet those were the people who became mass murderers and accomplices. A few anecdotes about jerks does not mean we are living in a Clockwork Orange society.

Norman Rosencwaig, Toronto

FOOTBALL FOLLY

I WAS VERY disappointed in your Grey Cup coverage. A paragraph was nice (“Green with envy,” Good News, Dec. 10), but as the Grey Cup is Canada’s only truly national sporting event, you would think your magazine would have a photo of the victorious Roughriders celebrating the victory in Toronto on the cover, and also a nod to fans for helping Toronto make this a successful event.

Judy Chiki, Saskatoon

THE HOMEWORK DEBATE

AS A GRADE 6 teacher I am constantly facing an internal battle about whether or not to assign homework (“Homework hysteria,” From the Editors, Dec. lo). Though I question its importance, I worry that my students

will have insufficient work habits when I send them off to middle school after enjoying a year-long homework vacation. As a compromise, I try to assign meaningful, thoughtprovoking assignments that they can manage. They may beg to differ.

Grant Minkhorst, Oakville, Ont.

I AM ONE OF those parents who resents the amount of homework elementary students receive. And I am also one of those parents who sends her children to tutors. However, I have done so not to supplement my children’s education, but to provide them with the basic math and language skills that they are not being taught in the public school. If teachers spent less time showing movies, carving pumpkins, and practising for the next concert, then perhaps they wouldn’t need to give homework.

Pamela Gifford, St. Catharines, Ont.

AS PARENTS of three children in Grades 2, 5 and 8, we are operating the one-room schoolhouse every evening. I am surprised by your statement, “For parents who bring their own work home, watching their children do homework must appear validating and reassuring.” I feel sorry for my kids and believe them when they say they don’t have any fun during the week. I would prefer school lasted another hour each day to have the teachers assist with homework, then we could have free time at night. When I question teachers, I am told that the curriculum moves quickly through required materials, and that a few students take up their time so they can’t accommodate everyone. Are too many assemblies and events at school impacting our evenings? I sometimes dread coming home from work to have to be the “heavy” pushing my kids to sit down and do homework. It’s exhausting.

Karen White, Toronto

‘It is difficult to understand your writer’s reasoning as he argues that the main reason for the failure of political documentaries to win an award at the Antalya Film F estival is the fear created by the Turkish establishment’

TALKING TURKEY

TWO ARTICLES written by Adnan R. Khan recently erroneously portray Turkey (“Genocide denial,” World, Oct. 29, and “The award goes to... no one,” World, Nov. 19). In the first, while it tries to give a balanced account of the Armenian allegations of the events of 1915, the title gives privilege to the Armenian national narrative and presents it as an undisputed fact. It is perfectly legitimate to show sympathy to those who have suffered atrocities in the past. But in doing so, one should not ignore millions of Turkish deaths and use the term genocide loosely. In the second, it is difficult to understand Khan’s reasoning as he argues that the main reason for the failure of the political documentaries to win an award from the jury at the Antalya Film Festival is the fear created by the Turkish establishment. These movies were directed, shot, funded and screened in Turkey. The article also fails to differentiate the PKK terrorism from the issues related to the Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin. For Khan, who apparently wrote the screenplay for one of the documentaries, to overrule the judgment of the jury is questionable from a journalistic ethics point of view and is an insult to the jury, which included some prominent liberal men and women of the arts in Turkey.

Gulcan Karagoz, Counsellor, Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, Ottawa

MATH FOR HUMANITY

UNICEF CANADA’S REPORT “What’s Rights for Some” is a balanced look at the areas of progress, stagnancy and regression in the well-being of the first generation of Canadian children to grow up with universal rights in place (“The UN fails math,” National, Dec. 10). Poverty is certainly one important influence on the health, education and safety of Canada’s children, and one of many trends examined in our report.

The report draws on credible sources among research and advocacy organizations and the government of Canada. On poverty, we recognize that Canada has no official definition, nor does UNICEF purport to establish one. That is the role that our Parliament should take in setting a level of income that Canadians agree is unacceptable for children and others to live below. In the meantime, there are a variety of legitimate measures that tell us useful things about what poverty is and what measures can work to reduce it. Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Offs—both pre-tax and after-tax—tell the same story: low income rates among families with children have been stubborn and persistent.

Change will only come with solid political leadership that puts children’s well-being higher on the agenda and uses the tools available to various levels of government to support families. Agreeing on a definition of

poverty and creating a timetabled, resourced plan to reduce it is a step in this direction. In the meantime, disputing the measures we have available while children continue to endure the deprivations of poverty has little utility.

Lisa Wolff, Director of Advocacy, UNICEF Canada, Toronto

WHILE IT IS important that we question statistics espoused by organizations and individuals who are trying to provoke action, we also need to question our motives behind doing so. If we question them to make ourselves feel better by demonstrating the problem isn’t really that bad, shame on us. Using after-tax LICOs is the more accurate way of assessing poverty because it takes into account financial supports for those who meet the appropriate criteria. Whether you are a child development expert or a statistician, the amount of money people have in their pocket after taxes is what they have to spend. Exaggerating the numbers is not acceptable.

If UNICEF says one million children live in poverty, is that more likely to incite spending and attention to the problem? Is it really any better if the figure is only 778,000? Whether or not child poverty has increased, the real issue is whether we find it acceptable, at any level.

Sarah Chown, Ottawa