Letters

Trade for a better future

Thank you! You have no idea how great it felt picking up your Jan. 21 issue (“The new underclass,” Society, Jan. 21). Being part of the Generation Y cohort, I seriously almost cried. It finally felt like I had a voice. It really hurts to be labelled as a bratty, entitled generation when we did everything asked of us. Is wanting the same middle-class lifestyle enjoyed by our parents and grandparents really too much to ask for?

Rishu Khan, Mississauga, Ont.

Thank you for shedding some light on the way our education system has failed Canadian students. When I retired from the skilled trades a few years ago, the average age of tradesmen in Ontario was approaching 58 years of age. Yet still the education system was promoting a university degree as the best path forward. Skilled trades in Canada have been stigmatized by our education system, and it really came to a peak when special-needs students came into the public education system and they were channelled into the “technical stream” and taught something called “life skills.” That ended any interest normal students might have developed in following the technical stream as a path to the skilled trades.

Dave Bradley, Cargill, Ont.

The opening sentence of this article claims, “Melanie Cullins is no pipe dreamer.” Oh really? This 28-year-old you profile has no job, a husband doing contract work, no benefits or pension, two babies, and she still expects to own a home in one of Canada’s most expensive cities and get a job making the amount she would like to make in a job she would like to have. If this is not a pipe dream, I don’t know what is. If the expectation of the boomers’ children is to live like this in their twenties, Canada is in real trouble.

Jeff Brisbois, Port Williams, N.S.

My son went to community college for one year and then became a heavy-duty mechanic apprentice. Now going into his third year of apprenticeship, he earns $65,000 a year before any overtime and regularly receives unsolicited job offers. I am confident that he will not be a member of your new underclass.

Paul Schroeder, Winnipeg

During my 20-year career as a college professor, I observed the steady obsession by community colleges to become second-rate universities in staffing requirements, course content and political posturing. As an invited participant in committee processes at a university, I was told what the students did with their education upon graduation was not a concern of the university, and that my recommendation of a “needs assessment” for a proposed new degree was not relevant or required. So now today’s students are processed by factory-like institutions that focus mainly on their own marketing-driven management mandarins. A structural and philosophical paradigm shift of the utmost magnitude is in order.

Neil O. Foster, Algonquin Highlands, Ont.

I am a third-year agricultural business major, and ever since my first year, I have been working in my field. I’ve had five job offers for this summer in my field. Our college graduates 300 agricultural students a year to fill 900 jobs available; employment within a year of graduating is 100 per cent in our field. Most students who grew up within city limits do not see agriculture as a viable option, because they think of a farmer breaking his back plowing and wrangling cows. The agricultural industry is very big business throughout the world and one that provides growth for innovative, educated and passionate young people in its field.

Marin MacNamara, Grand Valley, Ont.

You quote a professor of labour studies from McMaster University, who himself was in university for over 10 years, as saying “the risk of trade jobs is that technical change comes along and wipes out your trade.” All the technology in the world is never going to replace someone who can tape drywall, fix your furnace or climb hydro poles.

Evan Bates, Parry Sound, Ont.

Separate, definitely not equal

Much of the bad news for today’s youth has been apparent for some time (“The million-dollar promise,” Society, Jan. 14). What really shocked me, though, was the continuing disparity in earnings between men and women in the same profession. What year is this again? In order to become a civil engineer, a nurse, a lawyer or a pharmacist, women and men follow the same curriculum, write the same exams, and pay the same tuition. It seems to me that tuition for women should be lowered to reflect the wage gap they will face upon entry into the workforce.

Mary Mackay, Ottawa

Don’t wait for a warden to die

In the “99 stupid things the government did with your money” (National, Jan. 14), you said, “The Ontario government spent $225,000 on bulletproof vests for provincial park wardens carrying out ‘enforcement duties,’ despite the fact no warden has ever been shot.” Angry family campers complain about campsites of a dozen or more loud, profane and intoxicated individuals. Park wardens, often alone, are expected to enforce quiet times, park and liquor regulations. Sudden rage in remote areas devoid of ready police assistance is the operational reality. Security guards in malls, bylaw enforcement officers and even some parking lot attendants wear the vests to stay safer, and these are in situations where the police are only minutes away. The provincial employer has a duty to protect their employees from real and anticipated security events.

Henry Vanwyk, Ottawa

What really counts

Emma Teitel’s story about her poor numeracy points to deficiencies in her education (“The tyranny of the mad minute,” Opinion, Jan. 21). How is it that someone can make it to Grade 10 without being able to count change—not make change, but just to count it and know if it is correct? I fear that numeracy is going the way of penmanship: largely made irrelevant by advances in technology. We may be not far from the time when you can amaze your friends by successfully adding two and two together without a calculator.

Jim Humphrey, Rodney, Ont.

Kudos to Emma Teitel on facing her fears with mathematics. I was raised in India and we believe in traditional math drills. For the longest time, I was afraid of the subject. I overcame my fears when I had to write the exam [to get into grad school in the States], during which the time is ticking, one is alone in a cubicle in a tense environment and—worst of all—there are no calculators. I trained myself by going back to basic math, starting with the Grade 6 level. Working under pressure with a deadline helped me a lot.

Madhumita Saikumar, Pickering, Ont.

Open and shut

While I generally wouldn’t count myself among Dalton McGuinty’s supporters, his “locked-door policy” for elementary schools is spot on (“Locked down and loaded policy doesn’t add up,” From the Editors, Jan. 14). My daughter has now attended three elementary schools in our city, and not one of them has a direct line of sight between the office and the front door. I can’t think of any office building I’ve entered where I wasn’t immediately met with either a receptionist or a security guard, while we leave school doors unlocked and unwatched, inviting anyone—armed assailants, non-custodial parents, and pedophiles alike—to stroll on in. We owe it to our kids to be responsible. Locking school doors is just that.

Jennifer Asselstine, Oshawa, Ont.

Thanks for standing against the growing trend toward assuming concerns in the U.S. should be extended to Canada. Our lifestyle is being seriously eroded by the introduction of ever-more stringent security measures against overrated security risks.

Marvin Bildfell, Sarnia, Ont.

The Halifax Regional School Board has a policy where visitors to the schools have to be buzzed in and wear identification badges to indicate they are indeed authorized visitors. This isn’t in response to any shootings, but to the increased danger that strangers pose to students and staff. Having estranged parents enter the school to interact with children they have been forbidden from contacting is just one example. At recess and lunchtime, there are responsible adults on duty to ensure the safety of students. Parents are encouraged to volunteer as reading partners, classroom helpers, class-trip supervisors and participants in their children’s learning. Being required to check in with the office does not make the school less welcoming, but does make it more secure. Being proactive about children’s safety is not a knee-jerk overreaction.

John Chisholm, Dartmouth, N.S.

I hate having to be a stickler for the truth, but the AR-15, the gun used by the shooter in Newtown, Conn., is not an assault rifle: it is a semi-automatic rifle. An assault rifle has to have the ability to switch from semi-automatic, automatic and/or burst mode of firing. I find it hard to believe the editor chose the words “assault rifle” for no other reason than political bias.

Rick Dow, Cambridge, Ont.

Pushing buttons

Shortly after Jack Layton’s death, Ezra Levant (“Going on the offensive,” National, Jan. 21) appeared on his Sun TV show wearing a bandolier of machine-gun bullets, pondering whether or not Layton deserved a state funeral, being a socialist and all. Levant is promoted on Sun TV as a freedom fighter, tackling stories the mainstream press are afraid to touch. Another description might be of that motor-mouth kid we remember from high school, the one who just didn’t get it, who kept yammering from the locker into which he had been stuffed by the quarterback. The difficulty is that, with the Ezra Levants of the world, were I to say he and his gadfly shtick are an embarrassment to the noble profession of journalism, they’d pretend to enjoy the insult. They can’t help themselves.

Fraser Petrick, Kingston, Ont.

At the altar

Canadian filmmaker Jen Soska, 29, claims that she and her twin sister Sylvia were Western Canada’s first female altar servers in a Roman Catholic church (“Twin nightmares,” Film, Jan. 21). I am a 35-year-old female, and my sister and I were both altar servers back when the Soska twins were in diapers, at the Roman Catholic church of St. Rose of Lima in Onoway, Alta.—but we wouldn’t claim to be first, either.

Guinevere Bradshaw, Edmonton




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