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Belly full of Big Brother

Emma Teitel is correct when she concedes that government policing of our dietary habits can be “annoying” (“Why it’s time to stick a fork in fast food,” Opinion, Nov. 12). It isn’t just annoying: it is downright immoral. It is our body—not the government’s—and it is our right to choose what is best for ourselves. The actions and property of peaceful individuals shall not be infringed upon. That means no punitive taxes, no warning labels or bans on any goods and services. This is not some fringe, radical idea. This concept is the foundation of any free society. As for the assertion that unhealthy diets will lead to soaring health care costs, and therefore burden taxpayers, we need to open up our health care market. If the only outcomes under our current system are higher taxes or fewer freedoms, then our system is clearly broken. The status quo will only burden us further. We have nothing to lose by exploring alternatives.

Corey MacDonald, St. Catharines, Ont.

A tax on junk food will most certainly be a tax on the poor, because whether they can afford the quinoa option or not, they don’t seem to be buying it. One reason might be that fast food is—fast! People, especially poor people, are increasingly “time poor” (busy) and sometimes the convenient option is the only option. I suggest targeted incentives for healthy eating, rather than disincentives for poor diets. The U.K., the U.S. and Germany are all implementing novel health incentive programs to curb the rising cost of chronic disease. While not the only solution, these may have a role to play in containing runaway health care costs.

Marc Mitchell, Toronto

Counting your eggs

The article “Thirty-seven and counting” (Society, Nov. 5) paints a bleak picture for women trying to conceive later in life. Age is just one factor influencing a woman’s ability to get pregnant: others include the man’s fertility, whether a woman has polycystic ovary syndrome and even a woman’s diet, such as too much caffeine. I got married just days shy of my 35th birthday and had two kids by the time I was 40. As with many of my relatives, I was able to conceive over the age of 35 without any difficulty within six months of trying. If you are in your 30s and hope to be pregnant some day, you may have nothing to worry about.

Sadaf Mohamud, Toronto

When I was in my early 40s, we were told by a fertility clinic we had a less than five per cent chance of conceiving. I was uncomfortable with the science involved and also with the thought of depleting our savings for such an uncertain result. Nature took its course and I conceived naturally and gave birth to two daughters: one at 42 and the other at 46. I question freezing the eggs of such a vulnerable group of people. The emotional, physical and financial toll it would take on many of these older women and their partners would seem to be tremendous. And as with all of life, there are no guarantees.

Jacqueline Sephton, Surrey, B.C.

Education is inherently political

Perhaps integrating social justice in the classroom involves teachers getting too political in elementary school (“Why are schools brainwashing our children? National, Nov. 5), but school curriculum is inherently political. We seldom react to social studies favouring state-centred theories of citizenship; math problems that underscore the functionality of the free market; history curriculum structured around wars fought to mark societal development; visual and language arts centring exclusively on European and Western contributions. Rarely do these prevailing ideologies spark the kind of outrage that do progressive, alternative and radical ideals. The irony, of course, is that if schools are brainwashing our children, it is precisely because teachers are not critically engaging in the fundamental assumptions of the formal curriculum.

Gary W.J. Pluim, Instructor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Barrie, Ont.

If educators can’t teach fundamentals such as reading and writing, how are they going to teach something as nebulous and squishy as “social justice,” whatever that is?

Gerold Becker, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Aren’t social-justice curriculums simply a way to encourage youth involvement and move away from an ignorant generation, bred by the narcissistic social media culture, the same generation we’re always complaining about? Don’t we want an inspired group of people who will engage with media texts and political issues as opposed to ignoring them?

Kyla Garvey, London, Ont.

As a Grade 11 student, I was deeply offended by your suggestion that all students are incapable of anything but conformity to their teachers’ demands. While Grade 3 students may be ignorant of the politics surrounding the pipeline, thousands of high school students all across Canada are capable of questioning political and social mores and will clearly voice our own opinions. Which is something you might want to consider before writing another article on “our children” without including a single quote from the students themselves.

Rachel Aldridge, Vancouver

I think it is important for parents to work with schools to encourage our children to be the kind, empathic people they want to be. I was surprised, though, when our Grade 1 kiddo came home this September with disappointing news that the school’s open house was cancelled. When asked why, her response was, “Madame told us the government was bullying teachers.” That is an inappropriate political discussion to occur at school for children of her age, especially when paired with the concept of bullying, which they are (and should be) starting to learn about at school.

Jessie Baynham, Guelph, Ont.

Elementary school staffrooms are not exactly hotbeds of Marxist political radicalism. The only valid generalizations you can make about teachers in this country are that they are extremely well educated and heavily invested in the Canadian economy. To even suggest, as your cover does, that teachers as a group are opposed to capitalism reveals an appalling ignorance. Teachers are not a homogeneous group and their politics are diverse. Some even subscribe to Maclean’s.

Derek Cockram, Delta, B.C.

Masking political activism and personal beliefs under the false premise that they are teaching our children to “become critical analysts of contemporary issues” does a disservice to my ability to parent. It is my job to make sure my children become functioning and empathetic members of society. If my child came home from school espousing the evils of oil pipelines, I would question whether or not the teacher had made mention of society’s reliance on fossil fuels and how any pipeline is serving a need to which we all subscribe. And then I would point out that my child’s toys and food come from an oil company payroll.

Brooke Nowicki, Calgary

I entered this profession when I was much older than my peers and the first thing I discovered was the suspicion many people held about “educators,” the ulterior motives we have and how we were brainwashing their children. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

C.M. McAloon, High Prairie, Alta.

Today’s students will not be growing up on the same planet their parents did. Gone is the overabundance of natural resources. Our children will inherit an interconnected and depleted planet, battered by feverish weather events and beset with perilous competition for ever scarcer resources. In such a world, virtues such as tolerance, empathy and non-violence will be as important as the three Rs and survival itself will dictate that social justice and environmental stewardship triumph over mindless exploitation.

Mike Ward, Duncan, B.C.

Besides the fact that teachers regularly use Maclean’s in the classroom to encourage students to recognize Canadian issues, educators teach hungry children and abused youngsters to navigate a maze of cultural truths, searing poverty issues and modern stresses. Some students appear to be brainwashed by the cosmetic industry and a Hollywood mentality. We encourage them to become interested in Canadian culture, environmental awareness, to build self-esteem and to understand their own relevance in the global village. Does that translate to “hijacking” and “brainwashing”?

Sylvia Regnier, Saskatoon

Extracting the truth

While talking about our society supposedly being “Awash in oil” (International, Oct. 29), Colby Cosh ignores the one fundamental fact which trumps everything: when it costs more than one barrel of oil to get another barrel of oil out of the ground, everything stops, no matter how much oil is left. How’s that for economics?

Doug Barr, Perth, Ont.

Frat fundamentals

I was disappointed when I read Emma Teitel’s article about the state of fraternity life in Canada (“The secret’s out,” University Life, 2013 Rankings). As an incredibly proud sorority member, this article does not describe my experience in any way. More than 1,000 students have “gone Greek” in Ottawa, and I have not met one who is embarrassed to be affiliated with their organization. On average, Greeks graduate with much higher GPAs, due to an incredible academic and moral support system. They volunteer hours of their time to charitable organizations. Learning how to run an organization of 60 to 100 people while in your early 20s while going to school full-time and working a part-time job is an invaluable experience. To suggest that fraternity and sorority members won’t get hired because of their involvement is incorrect; many of my organization’s alumni have gone on to illustrious careers within both the government and the private sector. Going Greek is the best decision I have made in my university career.

Danica McLellan, Xi Delta Theta Sorority, Ottawa

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  1. In response to the article named ‘Why are schools brainwashing our children?’

    Did Cynthia Reynolds mean brainwashing in the same way that schools have been brainwashing children since the 1920’s toward capitalist goals? Or, is Cynthia simply afraid of the new movement in teaching children to question capitalism and fight against political and economic tyranny? I find the article spurious and full of knee-jerk baseless accusations that our teachers are ‘using’ our children for political purposes, other than allowing the state to control young minds through their own brand of brainwashing.

    It’s time to put the old-fashioned cronies out of the political and media business and move forward to responsible government through the next generation of our young, hopeful minds. Anything other than this is a huge leap backwards and anyone purporting to act in the best interests of the ‘impressionable minds’ is a liar and hiding behind the same old facade of ‘educate to be mediocre’. The tripe that is referred to as curriculum in today’s classrooms is laughable and inadequate at best. Without a cause, these young people will be sentenced to the same fate as their parents; Wage Slavery to support a dying outdated dinosaur of a system long since exposed as corrupt and a detriment to humankind, animals and the Earth as a whole.

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