Letters: On sex ed, sleep deprivation and the push for pot

Maclean's readers weigh in


Owen Franken/Corbis

No rest for the overworked

So many of us are feeling the ill effects of sleep deprivation on our lives (“The sleep crisis,” Society, June 24). You mention that the amount of sleep we get has declined in the last 40 years but neglect to say what has caused it. Looking back 40 years, no one owned a BlackBerry or had the Internet. You’re never really away from the office with those two things. Until our work takes a back seat to the importance of our health and well-being, we may as well get used to a permanent state of sleep deprivation.

Debbie Glenn, Stouffville, Ont.

Let’s talk about sex ed

Congratulations to Emma Teitel for her insightful treatise on the sorry state of sex ed in this country (“We need to get into bed with sex ed,” Opinion, June 24). As a high school teacher and parent of teens, I am well aware of the fact that the Ontario curriculum makes it easy for teachers to avoid topics like sexual orientation and anal sex. Without drastic curriculum changes, we lose opportunities for helping our kids make truly informed decisions about their own bodies.

Mary McGeachy, Elmwood, Ont.

I’m not sure what Emma Teitel expects teachers would say in their hypothetical “thoughtful and measured responses” to students’ questions about sex. Could they, for example, suggest that some sexual practices are wrong or immoral? Would they be allowed to advise students that the sex act is not just about personal gratification? I doubt it, because that would be imposing their own opinions and values on their students. I suspect that teachers’ “thoughtful and measured responses” would be limited to reassuring students that all the sex that they watch, or hear about, or do (including “being ravished by farm animals”?) is okay, as long as it’s done safely.

Harry Kort, Beamsville, Ont.

It is so easy to fault the school curriculum for the shortcomings when, in fact, it is often parenting we should be questioning. The responsibility for teaching many of the “life skills”—of which parents should be a positive example—is being pushed onto the already overloaded school system. This ultimately relieves parents of responsibility and gives them someone to blame when things go wrong. As a parent, I see it as my responsibility to prepare my children for life and, yes, that includes dinner-table discussions on porn, pubic hair and anal sex!

Sandra Ruiz, Winnipeg

Am I to understand that Internet porn is now setting the standard for modern sex ed? Are teachers supposed to give explanations for all the sick things children are watching on the Internet while their parents aren’t home? The modernization of sex ed will eventually happen. I can only be thankful that we are not legally required to send our children to the public school system—although we are still required to pay for it.

Gerhard Taves, Wheatley, Ont.

Worth his weight in checked bags

How ironic that your cover story (“The gates of hell,” Business, June 17) describes the poor services provided by most airlines and their financial difficulties, including Air Canada—then, a few pages later (“Econowatch,” Business), you mention that Air Canada’s CEO, Calin Rovinescu, received $9.5 million in compensation in 2012, double what he received in 2011! Can someone please explain how he deserves such compensation, considering the poor services outlined in your first article? Does he receive a percentage of the amount charged on checked bags?

Bernard Derible, Halifax

Gone to pot

Thank you, Ken MacQueen, for writing such an excellent report on the public health benefits of marijuana legalization (“Why we need to legalize marijuana now,” National, June 17). Health Canada will no longer provide patients suffering from chronic pain or chemotherapy-induced vomiting with an exemption allowing medical marijuana use. They want family doctors to prescribe marijuana instead. However, there is no source of standardized medical pot, as Ottawa refuses to grow it and will no longer allow patients to grow their own supply. Writing a prescription for a medicine with no known dosage and no standardized production is not something that a family doctor can do responsibly. So we don’t. And patients who continue to use marijuana to treat pain and nausea are made into criminals all over again. Jail time and criminal records don’t foster public health. We need to learn from our successes in reducing tobacco use. Legalize marijuana. Educate the public about it. Regulate the sales and collect the tax money. Canadians are ready for this, and our patients deserve better.

Emily Kelly, M.D., St. Mary’s, Ont.

Completely missing from Ken MacQueen’s article is any discussion of scientific evidence of both temporary and permanent harmful effects on the functioning of the brain. In the June 2013 issue of Scientific American, Roxanne Khamsi looks at how the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, THC, mimics the structure of molecules produced naturally by the body. In addition to producing a high, it temporarily impairs a number of mental abilities, including working memory, concentration and physical coordination. Clinical psychologist Madeline Meier of Duke University worked with data from more than 1,000 New Zealanders, which showed a very marked decline in intelligence over many years for frequent users of marijuana. Those research findings cast a dark shadow, unlike the rosy picture painted by the Maclean’s article. Is Maclean’s going to pot?

Art Guppy, Duncan, B.C.

I find it ludicrous that the Harper government is refusing to legalize marijuana use for “safety reasons.” Do you know anyone who has died as a result of marijuana use? Now, do you know anyone who has died from use of tobacco or alcohol? Of course you do. End of argument!

Liz Szalma, Hampton, N.B.

An episode of David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things expressed concern over increased cases of severe mental illness—most notably, severe schizophrenia—due to significantly genetically enhanced THC concentration in marijuana. As a former frequent recreational pot consumer in the mid-1980s, the THC-concentration levels to which I was exposed were, relatively speaking, a joke. I’ve personally experienced the so-called benign effects that cannabis can insidiously leave behind in a consumer’s body. ?In my case, I noticed the formidable damage about a few months after I quit. Suzuki cannot be easily dismissed as an ideologue, or worse, an opportunistic politician—even on such seemingly sacred-cow stances as legalizing marijuana.

Frank G. Sterle, Jr., White Rock, B.C.

Civic duties

I deeply resent the width of the brush you used to paint all municipal leaders as incompetent (“Why municipal governments are winning the race to the bottom,” From the Editors, June 17). Every day, I work with elected municipal officials, all of whom are committed to making a positive difference. Every day, we take the brunt of decisions made federally or provincially and find efficient ways to do more with less, as direct and hidden downloads continue at record pace. Your sweeping statements may apply to some of the big cities, but they do not apply to municipalities where councils agonize over adding even a thousand dollars to our budgets.

Alicia Savage, Deputy Mayor, Township of Clearview, County of Simcoe, Stayner, Ont.

It’s true that Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), recently recommended that the provincial and municipal governments fund the next wave of transit projects under the “Big Move,” our transportation plan for the GTHA, via a one per cent increase in the HST. However, we have recommended that revenues raised in the GTHA area fund projects and programs in the GTHA. We do not believe, nor have we recommended, that areas outside of the GTHA should fund the next wave of transit projects in the GTHA.

Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO, Metrolinx, Toronto

The upside of sick days

You report that Tony Clement feels the current rate of sick days for government employees is “archaic and unsustainable” (“The Ferris Bueller Act,” This Week, June 24). He is apparently unaware that, in Sweden in 2000, employees took 22 sick days in addition to their five weeks of paid holiday. What is more, if they get sick on holiday, they can claim sick days in addition. It is absolutely amazing that companies such as Ericsson, Electrolux, Frigidaire, Volvo, Husqvarna, Jonsered and Ikea can stay in business, manufacturing superior products at prices competitive with Canadian-made products. Maybe we could learn something from them.

Bill Rolls, Emerson, Man.

If Tony Clement wants a civil service that is “modern, high-performing and effective,” he should start by fixing the cause, not the effect. Federal public servants do not call in sick 18.2 days per year on average. That number includes workers’ compensation and unpaid leave. This is nothing but a sideshow to divert attention from the Conservative party’s mad dash to the bottom.

Lisa Gallant, Kemptville, Ont.

No guilty pleasure for prog fans

Perhaps the new-found appreciation for progressive rock (“Prog is not a four-letter word,” Music, June 24) is simply the sound of a generation discovering a musical genre with virtuosity and detail, unique in a time when the cutting edge of pop is celebrated for its audacity to be muddy, monotonous and badly sung. The pretentious lyrics of prog rock are beside the point. Some music is all about how well the players can play and the textures they can create. However unfashionable, there will always be a taste for genres that demand and reward close listening.

Adair Meehan, London, Ont.

I don’t keep my love of prog rock under wraps of any kind. Am I worried about people with really poor music-discrimination abilities snickering at what they don’t understand? No. In the late ’70s, I saw a punk band wearing collanders on their heads and making terrible noises. Artistic? Yes. Musical? No. Some bands put sounds together better than others because they are better singers and musicians. Ultimately, you have to have the balls to listen to people who know more about music than you do, and try to hone your perception of sounds.

Carol Nefedow, Coquitlam, B.C.