As someone whose own brain function is a frequent source of mystery, I thoroughly enjoyed “How we think” (Cover, May 1). Few of us always know why we do what we do and that’s why I’m glad this story earned centre place in a magazine that otherwise devotes itself to reporting the wackier aspects of hu-
man behaviour. I don’t feel smarter after reading your piece. But I will approach the VCR that always winks 12 o’clock with renewed vigour, enlisting both hemispheres for the challenge.
Patrick Conlon, Toronto
Your paean to psychologist Steven Pinker uses “brain” and “mind” with no apparent inkling that these two terms might designate different things. A similar carelessness pervades Pinkers book How the Mind Works, which is philosophically naive and chock-full of logi-
cal equivocations. Resolving Western philosophy’s traditional mind-matter dualism would, of course, be an exceptionally neat trick—so neat that we would be unlikely to witness it first in a scientific popularization.
Mark Kennedy, Toronto
One can point out that certain physical lines on a person’s face signify certain personality traits, but that doesn’t tell us why we are who we are. It simply labels. We can keep building machines that see smaller and farther, and we’ll find that we can label till our heart’s content. But labelling is missing the point. Scientists have to look behind the physical world to the incredible energy/consciousness that forms the physical.
Tracey Gendron, Victoria
Freedom or family
The Elián González case is not
about the importance of a parent or about parental rights—these are not in dispute (“Eye of the storm,” World, May 1). It is about the importance of freedom over slavery. While it is good for a child’s well-being to grow up with parents in a loving home, what is more important is freedom. A child living under a Communist regime cannot be better off than a child living in a free country where he can flourish.
Dalia Tubis, Toronto
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We sure are full of ourselves, thinking that democracy guarantees a happy home. How long will it be before we have to explain to Elián González that we have children who wander the streets hiding from every kind of abuse and exploitation? I guess the red flag of communism has made us forget our own bondage and neglect.
Teresa Klassen, Kelowna, B.C.
Raves and alcohol
I don’t want to minimize the concern that I have about young people putting unknown and potentially harmful mind-altering drugs into their systems, but as a physician in a small town, I am more concerned about the universal acceptance of alcohol abuse (“Rave fever,” Cover, April 24). A weekend doesn’t pass without someone presenting at emergency with some alcoholrelated physical or emotional injury. Considering the numbers of young people attending raves, the mortality is very low. Any idea how many deaths would have occurred if they had been drinking?
Dr. Dale Dewar, Wynyard, Sask.
Fun with the Bard
We read “The play’s (kinda) the thing” about the high-school students learning about Shakespeare (Overture, May 1) and we would like you to know that we are in Grade 2 and 3 and we have been studying Shakespeare all year. We did a timeline about William Shakespeare’s life, and we have read lots of Shakespeare’s plays. The Grade 3 kids got to shout Shakespeare insults at each other in the gym, and we learned how to duel with swords. We went to see Hamlet and met the actors. We have made a Shakespeare Web site at www. cps. ednet. ns. ca/pageone. htm and we are going to put on the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We wrote you because we were worried that you think only high-school students should learn Shakespeare because it is so complicated, but it is not really complicated once you get into it.
Grade 2-3 class, Crichton Park School (dictated to teacher Shelayne Hanson), Dartmouth, N.S.
The reaction Barbara Amiel’s column “Why we need private medicine” (April 17) provoked (The Mail, May 1 and May 8) proves one of her points: doctors and nurses are becoming increasingly indifferent to the patient. Amiel gave less than one-third of her column to trouncing doctors and nurses and the rest to chronicling the deplorable conditions patients are subjected to. Was it these conditions that raised the blood pressure of these professionals? No. It was only the comments that concerned their own self-interest.
Craig Verroche, St. Catharines, Ont.
The challenge facing Barbara Amiel is to convince readers like me that her anecdotal evidence adds up to proof that Canadas medicare scheme should be changed to allow more privatepublic medicine. I polled a dozen of my friends, neighbours and colleagues, and to a person they report great satisfaction with medicare as they’ve encountered it, everything from hip and knee replacements to pacemakers, having babies, getting flu shots and access to specialists. The only conclusion I can safely make is that neither Amiel’s evidence nor mine adds up to proof of anything. Jack Gale, Bedford, N.S.
1 am a registered nurse who has lived and worked in the United States for 20 years. I moved to California because I was cold—too many winters in Montreal. Unlike Barbara Amiel, some of us don’t choose careers for the purpose of becoming rich or to stroke our egos. Her insulting remarks only accentuate her own ignorance.
Susan Bexton, Portland, Ore.
Immersed in French
Thanks to popular French-immersion programs, many Canadian anglophones manage to communicate with francophones (“Translating success,” Education, May 1). But what parents don’t realize, as they don’t speak French, is that the linguistic results of French immersion are poor. Immersion graduates speak rapidly, but they make frequent errors of the most basic kind. French immersion applies the strange idea that children should guess their way to knowledge by “discovery.” This idea has yielded poor results in literacy,
math and other subjects. Much better results would be obtained with a single stream offering the option of semiintensive French beginning at about age 10. At that age, they can still develop perfect pronunciation, and they are more focused and more responsive than younger children.
Hector Hammerly, Retired professor of Applied Linguistics, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.
French-immersion graduates present a particular problem when they enrol in French courses at university. Compared with students who took French as a second language in high school, their oral skills are unquestionably superior. However, in many cases, fluency was achieved at the expense of accuracy. Graduates of the immersion program, convinced they are functionally bilingual, are shocked when told by their professors their French is unacceptable. Sadly, fossilized errors often prove impossible to eliminate at that late stage.
Yvonne Hsieh, Chairwoman, Department of French Language and Literature, University of Victoria, Victoria
Beer and nationalism
I read Charles Gordon’s comments on Canadian nationalism and beer (“Fet’s hear it for Canada,” May 1) with growing dismay: German nationalism and beer halls resulted in the darkest patriotism. Hopefully, we love our country more than we love our beer.
Martin C. Kuhn, Barrie, Ont.
Every week, I look forward to the arrival of my Macleans. You see, I was born and raised in Canada, but two years ago found myself part of the brain drain. Not only does Macleans keep me well informed of Canada’s events, people and issues, it preserves my passion and patriotism. Sometimes when I am done reading, I yearn to shout from the top of the Sears Tower: my name is Stephanie, and I am Canadian! Stephanie Brownell, Chicago
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