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Today’s topics: freedom from camp bullies, and other letters to the editor; chronic fiscal pain; documenting a G-G’s decisions; learning versus marks; kids and tethers … and more (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Today’s topics: freedom from camp bullies, and other letters to the editor; chronic fiscal pain; documenting a G-G’s decisions; learning versus marks; kids and tethers … and more (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

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July 2: Freedom from camp bullies, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Camp bullies

When I was 13, a bookish kid with no friends, my parents sent me to church camp in the hopes of some socialization. Wearing glasses, and with a stack of books, I was an easy target for bullying. Tormenting is a more accurate term – slugs, cut-up slugs and a live snake variously in my sleeping bag. The low point came when my hutmates put crabs on my bare stomach, carried me to the swimming tank and threw me in – but not far enough in to prevent my suffering mussel-shell cuts all down my side.

The wisdom of the ages came to me: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I dumped my books, and hurled myself into athletic conformity with the little brutes, at which point they lost all interest in me.

Congratulations to Joanne Kates for her anti-bullying program (Bully For Her – Life, June 29). She addressed the critical issues: making the issue of bullying front and centre for the whole camp, making the counsellors the front line in dealing with it.

My torment, I realized only many years later, took place entirely under the radar; at no point was I supported by a staff member. Only when every camp director (and, analogously, every school principal) takes similar steps will bullying be eradicated, and every kid feel – and be – safe at camp.

Donald Grayston, Vancouver

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Chronic fiscal pain

Jeffrey Simpson’s admittedly oversimplified description of the debate over cuts versus spending during a recession brings to mind the story of two physicians arguing over which painkiller to give a patient with a broken leg (The Debate Over The State Is Getting Stale – June 29).

Each doctor may have some merit in his argument. Each may be successful in treating the pain. But neither is treating the broken leg, and neither is looking at how the patient broke a leg in the first place. Until we look at the underlying failings of our free-market capitalist system, the debate will remain stale, the pain chronic.

Phil Soubliere, Ottawa

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A G-G’s decisions

Craig Keating (Prorogation Secrecy – letters, June 27) wants Parliament, in consultation with the Supreme Court, to provide clear guidelines for times such as the prorogation of Parliament in 2008. He also wants the governor-general “to produce written decisions reflecting these guidelines.”

Parliament does not have the wit to address all contingencies and possible sequences of events. The indeterminate “guidelines” would be of little value at best or no value at worst. Will there be stipulations about how various kinds of factors are to be weighed? If this is possible, a lot of our problems would rapidly disappear. So much for judgment!

To require the governor-general to justify the decision in question is to thrust him or her into the world of partisan advantage and disadvantage, exactly what must be avoided.

Peter Woolstencroft, professor emeritus, political science department, University of Waterloo

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Letter writers missed the point while discussing Michaëlle Jean’s “decision” to allow prorogation of Parliament. The real crisis of confidence is for an unelected journalist to be making crucial state decisions at all.

Modern constitutional monarchy relies on the monarchy acting largely as a figurehead, lending authority to Parliament but leaving effective power with the elected government. This was precisely the problem with the 2008 crisis; both the opposition’s coalition plan and the government’s prorogation request thrust her into a decision-making role.

As an unelected figurehead, her only proper course of action was to abstain from substantive decision-making – and her only means of doing so was consenting to a request from the leader of the elected parliament.

Malcolm Aboud, Burlington, Ont.

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Missed market, eh

Ah, les Français (Door Closes On World’s First Portal To Cybersex – June 29). Writing from Paris, it is not surprising that Angelique Chrisafis missed the fact that Canada’s own early 1980s videotext standard (Telidon/NAPLPS) eclipsed the French Antiope in terms of speed, graphics, and versatility. (Yes, one more example of brilliant Canadian technology that failed to capture a market.)

The Canadian standard (also adopted by the U.S.) ran well on a not-so-little box called the IBM PC, which was a tad cumbersome for the kitchen counter circa 1982. But the real difference is that while Canada funded pilot studies with everyone from farmers to schools to banks, the French freely distributed the Minitel to replace phone books. (Hooker spam helped, too.)

Rob Brunet, Toronto

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Learning vs. marks

Ask any high school teacher and you’ll quickly discover that parents rarely ask about report card comments or even about learning skills (Why Parents Give Report Cards An F – And How They Can Be Fixed – June 29). Almost invariably, students and parents are preoccupied by marks.

What has changed is the increased number of challenges parents make (they refer to this as advocating for their child) regarding the legitimacy of the criteria used in evaluations, and the competence of the teacher. Ironically, these challenges are coming as marks are becoming more and more inflated.

Unfortunately, the question of what actually has or has not been learned is never addressed because it is largely regarded as of secondary importance by all the participants: students, parents, administration and the ministry, with the possible exception of the teacher. Often, the students who learned the most are not those with the highest marks. The ones who learned the most may have started from a place of relative deficiency of knowledge or skills that made achievement more difficult, but what was achieved was more significant.

However, learning is regarded by our society as less important than the status acquired by receiving high marks.

James McCall, Toronto

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Just next door

I totally sympathize with the people of the Rocky Ridge Royal Oak neighbourhood regarding the prospect of an oil well in their backyard (The Oil Well Next Door? Even In Calgary, It’s Too Close – June 28). Perhaps some of them now understand how many British Columbians feel.

We don’t want more pipelines and oil tankers in our backyard, either. The potential for environmental devastation is too high a price to pay.

Paul Richardson, Port Alberni, B.C.

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Kids and tethers

I’m embarrassed to confess that I used to tether my son to the clothesline (The Kids Aren’t The Only Ones At The End Of Their Leash – Life, June 29). We lived by the river, and he was able to negotiate most locked gates. When we finally found a lock that defeated his two-year-old skill set, he happily burrowed under the fence. He is now 45 – and seems reasonably well balanced.

Clare McFarlane, Terrasse-Vaudreuil, Que.

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Full-bodied proposal

On the presumption that Globe wine columnist Beppi Crosariol regularly receives at least a dozen marriage proposals, I figure the queue is now pretty long. Could you please give us some estimate of how far it stretches and what the average wait time is?

Susan Kent Davidson, Oshawa, Ont.

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