This doesn’t add up
It’s no surprise that Canadians lack numeracy (“Adding up the ways we’re falling behind,” National, Oct. 21). Most are victims of the discredited “constructivist” model of teaching, to which our educators cling. I once got an explanation of constructivism from a teacher of it at Queen’s University’s faculty of education. Finally, I asked, “But at the end of the day, don’t you need to graduate a literate, numerate student?” In a tone of voice that would have chilled an iceberg, the reply was, “Why?” Later, when asked to chair an education task force, I studied the Ontario math curricula. It became apparent that no student, taught entirely by this method, could become proficient in high school math, much less be prepared to enter a university science course. Canadians should get used to being increasingly below international averages in math; with the above attitude and constructivist teaching, it’s inevitable.
Frank Gue, Burlington, Ont.
Drones kill terrorists— and then create more
The idea that terrorists can be stopped with drones, as per the citation from Barack Obama’s speech, is specious and should attract wide attention from peace activists everywhere (“The world is becoming a safe place for all—except terrorists,” From the Editors, Oct. 21). One very significant one, the extraordinary Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for advocating girls’ schooling, informed Obama of her belief—widely held in Pakistan—that attacks “are fuelling terrorism” by killing innocents in many countries. These deaths are grossly underestimated by Maclean’s. The favourable comparison between drone “warfare” and the Second World War concerning civilian deaths posits the former as substitute for the latter, when it is anything but. Libya was bombarded mercilessly in spite of the drone alternative, and Syria was seriously contemplated as the next target of conventional warfare. The world is not now, has not been, and shows no promise of being “a safer place for all except terrorists.” Just ask ordinary Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Somalis, Pakistanis, etc.
Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.
I loved reading the article on what Chris Hadfield wishes to do in the future (Interview, Oct. 14). I would audit his lectures if I was close to the University of Waterloo just to hear him speak. I do not understand why people would want to see him in politics. He has spent his whole life in a specialized fishbowl and now people want to see him put in another one where every move is scrutinized. The rules and regulations of politics and government make it very difficult to get anything accomplished. Stay as far away from politics as you can, Chris. I am glad to hear you have goals still to be accomplished.
Carole Moore, Bedford, N.S.
Tension between Russia and North America is rising—not to Cold War levels, but growing mistrust and a potential powder keg in Syria could push us a little further down that path again. In your interview, Chris Hadfield spoke of his love of Russia, his understanding of its people and their culture, and his respect for the Russian language. Hadfield ruled out a second career as an “elected official,” but he would make an excellent Canadian ambassador to Russia.
Jay Whetter, Kenora, Ont.
Enough already with Chris Hadfield. Enough!
Lynn Kirk, Regina
Is it possible that Scott Feschuk’s wildly satirical column “Wouldn’t you buy this magazine?” (Feschuk, Oct. 21) has actually underestimated the potential power of face-painting on Maclean’s readers? In our home, our two-year-old finds a variety of purposes for the magazine, such as wiping up spills and making rockets. However, he looked intently at the cover of your Chris Hadfield issue (Oct. 14) and immediately asked, “Who is this guy? I want to read and talk about him.” We then proceeded to discuss astronauts, rocket ships and Canadians zooming to the moon. Thanks to you, our son can’t wait to go to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum or for the next issue of Maclean’s to see what superhero will be on the cover. We agree with Feschuk’s assertion that his “foolish bosses” should use face-painting on all future covers.
Shauna Martin and Bill Doyle, Kemptville, Ont.
All together now
I was very shocked to learn that, even as a feminist, Emma Teitel had enough chutzpah to claim that, in its current state, the English version of our national anthem doesn’t offend (“Why the song must remain the same,” Opinion, Oct. 21). I’m all too aware I’m not alone in feeling offended, especially due to the fact it was originally written with inclusive language affirming everyone, no matter their gender identity or sex. Honestly, I’m so offended by the English version that I’ve only sung our national anthem en français for a good 15 years and have no plans to stop until I’m able to sing in English without anyone looking at me askance for saying “in all of us command.” May that day come soon, since I’m actually a proud, bilingual Canadian.
Amy Soule, Hamilton
Too good to be true? Yep.
I would love to think that Canadians’ health is getting better and that we have nothing to worry about (“Ignore the fear-mongering. Life is good, and getting longer,” From the Editors, Oct. 14). Unfortunately, the evidence is clear: 30 years of welfare-state retrenchment in Canada has resulted in the smallest increase in life expectancy among OECD nations over this period. More striking is Canada’s rank in infant mortality, going from 10th of 30 OECD nations in 1980 to 27th of 36 nations by 2010. Additionally, UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre’s 2013 report card examined Canadian children’s well-being along five dimensions. Canada’s overall rank was 17th of 29 wealthy developed nations. It ranks 15th in material well-being, 27th in health and safety, 14th in education, 16th in behaviours and risks, and 11th in housing and environment.
Dennis Raphael, Graduate Program Director, Health Policy and Equity, York University, Toronto
Pipeline trumps rails
I am truly distressed by the thought of oil-sands oil moving to Prince Rupert by rail (“Why the flow of oil cannot, and should not, be stopped,” From the Editors, Oct. 7). The only more dangerous way to move that amount of oil would be by truck. If the people of British Columbia would just give their collective head a shake, they would realize that a newly built pipeline is the safest way to move oil to the West Coast. They need to think it through: Do they want oil to move via a railway that is well over 50 years old or through a pipeline built with the most advanced technology. Railways were built to run along rivers, so any derailment could potentially dump thousands of litres into the fast-flowing rivers of B.C., spreading the disaster hundreds of miles downriver before anyone has a chance to begin clean up. A new pipeline would have years of safe reliable service and benefit the economies of both B.C. and Alberta.
Bruce Erickson,Three Hills, Alta.
Wear your faith on your sleeve
In response to your story on “Quebec’s war on religion” (National, Sept. 30), Dasangi Chinth opines, “If my nurse or doctor was wearing a head covering or a prominent cross, I absolutely would not be comfortable seeking medical advice on abortion, birth control or same-sexual relations, especially knowing the stance various religions take on these topics” (“Valuable exchange,” Letters, Oct. 14). This is nonsensical. Wouldn’t that be an argument for insisting that visible religious symbols be mandatory, so that one can know the hidden values of the professional giving them advice? Having said that, does Chinth think that one discards their values with their jewellery?
Darin Latham, Vancouver
Blood on the ice
Colby Cosh argues that blocking shots is far more dangerous than fighting (“The real danger no one talks about,” Opinion, Oct. 21), mocking what he calls “obnoxious parents” who grapple with how to explain to their children why grown men are beating each other until they lay bloodied on the ice. To Cosh, an injury is an injury, regardless of the context, and those who want fighting taken out of the game are hypocrites for not demanding the same for shot blocking. As the parent of a toddler with whom I enjoy watching hockey, I see no problem explaining the difference between injuries incurred through shot blocking and injuries incurred through fisticuffs. The former is an injury that is a consequence of playing competitive, passionate hockey and the latter is a consequence of a barbaric, explicit display of violence found nowhere else in civilized society. If Cosh is having trouble getting his head around this concept, maybe my toddler can explain it to him.
Jesse Cullen, Oshawa
Equal playing field
Your note regarding the American victory in the recent America’s Cup yachting championship (“Sail on,” This Week, Oct. 14) made me think of other athletic competitions where equipment (and money) has much to do—perhaps everything—with who wins. The Winter Olympics are approaching and events such as bobsled and skiing are very equipment-dependent. It’s too late to change the rules for Sochi, but how about having all sledders, skiers and athletes in other sports, using Olympic-issued equipment, including the same waxes in skiing? That is the only way to determine who really is the best athlete.
Rani-Villem Palo, Camrose, Alta.
Break a leg, kid
Your premise of Christmas pageant dads as a far-fetched joke is misplaced (“Focus, Emma! Get your head in the song!!!!” Feschuk, Oct. 14). As an elementary teacher of many years, I can tell you that such parents are alive and well in the realm of school concerts. Just as there are hockey dads, there are concert parents whose own ego is right up there when their child performs. Why do you think so many teachers are so paranoid about putting on a Christmas concert?
Barbara Harlos, Kelowna, B.C.
We welcome readers to submit letters to either email@example.com or to Maclean’s, 11th floor, One Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ont. M4Y 2Y5. Please supply your name, address and daytime telephone number. Letters should be less than 300 words, and may be edited for space, style and clarity.