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Sept. 4: The value of a degree, and other letters to the editor (Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail)

Sept. 4: The value of a degree, and other letters to the editor

(Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail)

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Sept. 4: The value of a degree, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Degree of degrees

Paul Davidson writes that although “tuition has increased in recent years, so too has the value of a degree” (University Is Still The Surest Path To Prosperity – Sept. 3). Mr. Davidson tells us that in 1980, just 10 per cent of young Canadians attended university, whereas 25 per cent attend now.

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Since the value of any economically traded good or service is directly proportional to its scarcity, this can only mean that the value of a university degree has diminished since 1980, because there are more people with degrees competing for jobs, driving down salaries. Today’s university graduates are getting a far worse deal than graduates in 1980. Paul Davidson is president and CEO of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, so you really have to admire his candour in telling us this.

Ian Coleman, Edmonton

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Hot for teachers

Re For Teachers And Politicians, The End Of The Affair (Sept. 3): Are years of postsecondary education, professional knowledge, ongoing professional learning and experience not worth decent compensation for teachers?

Teachers spend many extra hours of personal time coaching, going on overnight trips, planning, marking, writing report cards, tutoring and mentoring. All of this happens before and after school and on weekends. We don’t receive bonuses or overtime pay for that, but we do receive decent compensation for our dedication to our profession.

We contribute large portions of our salaries to our pensions. We are worth our salaries and pay increases. The Premier and the Education Minister will still receive their salaries, increases, sick days and holidays this year even though Ontario has a massive deficit. If it’s fair for some, it should be fair for all. Or maybe it’s just not fair, and that’s why teachers are so frustrated by the public’s view of our profession right now.

Christine Rowe Quinn, Toronto

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The art of parenting and teaching isn’t to give children the experience of failure (Crash, Burn, Achieve? Why Kids Need To Fail – Focus, Sept. 1); it’s to do exactly what Prof. Edgar Burger does (Star Math Teacher Applies The Power Of Failure, Squared – Focus, Sept. 1), which is to give them the support they need to become resilient and succeed in the face of failure.

The problem with teachers giving zeros for missed assignments is that many assume that the zero is in itself sufficient to change behaviour, and neglect to teach the student the skills of work completion. It is also true that failing to complete work in school is often due to the nature of the assignments set. Teachers providing assignments about which students can become passionate have much higher success rates than those who don’t.

Geoff Williams, director of education (retired), Stratford, Ont.

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Ice images

Images showing changes in Arctic ice between July and August (Arctic Pack Ice Hits All-Time Low – Sept. 1) are hardly news. Arctic ice expands and contracts every year, reflecting seasonal temperature changes from summer to winter. The big issue is that over recent decades, both the thick multiyear ice and the seasonal (winter-only) ice have contracted significantly. In both summer and winter, vast areas of the Arctic ocean are now ice-free.

As for the suggestion that these changes could affect Arctic communities? For more than 20 years, Inuit and other peoples across the circumpolar North have been dealing with changes in their traditional transportation routes, their ability to access food and other resources, the viability of infrastructure in light of erosion and permafrost degradation, loss of lives and equipment, undermining of traditional knowledge and respect of elders, increased shipping activity and a host of other impacts of a warming Arctic.

Barry Smit, geography professor, University of Guelph

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About five inches east and two inches north of the bottom left-hand corner I think I can see the remains of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. Good work. Once it warms up a bit more I’m sure those Google folk with their mapping street-view cameras will drive or float by and we can confirm it.

In the meantime, the people who like searching in the Arctic (Search For Franklin’s Lost Ships Well Worth The Investment – Aug. 24) can perhaps use our limited resources to search for jobs, ways to reduce HIV, etc.

Bryan Caddy, Red Deer, Alta.

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Leisure class

I find it curious that the question Where’s Our Life Of Leisure? (Sept. 1) was put forth to an audience of university professors. Could it be because this cloistered and cosseted class have an more intimate acquaintance with leisure than the vast majority of Canadians?

It is easy to cogitate the bounty of two-hour lunches and three-day weekends when you can never get fired. For the rest of us so crass as to punch a time card, we may sparingly use our elusive moments of leisure to pick up a newspaper and wonder, “Who are the people who are paid to mull over the nuances of free time?” when we ourselves are distracted by such mundane pursuits as how to make our mortgage payments and pay for our children’s schooling.

Perhaps the conundrums of leisure is a problem best left to the tenured and the unemployed.

Joanne Sanford, Saskatoon

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Explaining Quebec

As a non-resident Quebec voter, I had given up on finding non-patronizing commentary in the English-Canadian media about Quebec’s sophisticated voters and their three-way electoral quandary.

Jeffrey Simpson has pointed out some basics in Defending Quebec, Or At Least Explaining It (Focus – Sept. 1), including Quebec’s better fiscal and unemployment situation compared to Ontario. And he stressed its voters’ repeated rejection of the blandishments of charismatic leaders.

A government grows tired, and voters want more choices. If this means a new, even minority government, that makes sense to me.

David Winch, Ferney-Voltaire, France

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Jeffrey Simpson cites the fact that there are few avowed federalist politicians in Quebec as proof that To Quebec, Canada Barely Exists (Aug. 31), and John Ibbitson wonders whether the rest of Canada would even care if Quebec separated (Wearily, Quebec And Canada Could Soon Drag Themselves Into The Ring. But Do We Care? – Sept. 1).

With support for sovereignty at its lowest in decades, it’s easy to see why Canadians and Quebeckers are shrugging their shoulders. A rope’s strength is only really known when it is tested, and Canadians’ commitment to the idea of this country will be amply demonstrated when Quebec sovereignty is a near-term possibility.

Bill Dempster, Val-des-Lacs, Que.

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