School of hard knocks
Re The Kindergarten Diaries (front page, Sept. 7): Daycare. Three-year-old kindergarten. Pre-kindergarten. Full-day kindergarten. The end of childhood.
Douglas Cornish, Ottawa
Full-day kindergarten is about babysitting, not about education. It's an issue of the parents' economics and career aspirations, not the child's education. Why don't the parents turn their kids over to the state right after birth, then come pick them up on graduation day? Sorry, Mom and Dad, for getting in the way of your career!
Shawn Sutherland, Castlegar, B.C.
The front-page photos of the families in your kindergarten series showed every single member of every family shoeless. Is this a requirement of The Globe, or is this the way things are now in Ontario?
Ron Beall, Vancouver
Grade the parents
Margaret Wente says We Should Be Grading Our Teachers (Sept. 7). I say we should be grading the parents. That way, when the teacher tells little Johnny's mom and dad that he's having trouble reading or that - horror of horrors - he needs to repeat a grade, parents who protest "No, no, not my little Johnny" could be overruled.
Parents have to accept that there's a difference between raising a child and educating a child, and that while they may know best in the case of the former, they generally lack the training and experience in the latter. Of course, if parents were told how much or how little they were acting in their child's best interest, their kids - and all of us - might start demanding better. And that could be dangerous.
Adam Green, Ottawa
I read with consternation Lawrence Martin's column Is Stephen Harper Set To Move Against The CRTC? (Aug. 19) calling into question the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's independence as a regulatory body. The column stems from Quebecor Media's application to launch a TV news service called Sun TV News.
I would like to categorically state that no one at any level of government has approached me about the Sun TV application, the appointment of the CRTC's vice-chair of broadcasting, or my own mandate.
Quebecor's application is being treated according to the CRTC's well-established processes. The application was published on Sept. 1 for comment, and a public hearing will be held in Gatineau, Que., starting on Nov. 19. The CRTC will then make a decision on the basis of the evidence on the public record.
Konrad von Finckenstein, chair, CRTC, Gatineau, Que.
Speaking of Sun TV News
John Doyle argues that the Sun TV News channel should stand or fall on its merits (So It Will Only Work If Shoved Down Our Throats - Review, Sept. 7). "Let it be tested by the marketplace," he says, "not shoved down our throats."
He is, of course, entirely correct. The state should not force media companies to carry content and subscribers to pay for it, whether or not they want it.
I'm now eager to read Mr. Doyle's follow-up column in which he explains that the state has no business forcing taxpayers to fund the CBC, even if they don't watch it. If consumer choice is the only arbiter of success, it's only right the same principle apply to all.
Adam Allouba, Montreal
It would be the height of both irony and hypocrisy if the Harper government were to be involved in the attempt to make Sun TV News a mandatory cable channel that all viewers would be compelled to pay for. Didn't cabinet ministers tell us during the long-form census controversy that compulsion is bad?
Although I regard reading the Toronto Sun as a waste of time, I have no quarrel with those who choose to buy it. But I would object strongly if I were forced to help pay for its costs of production and distribution. I feel the same way about subsidizing yet another for-profit news channel.
Michiel Horn, Toronto
Re Salary Caps Would Cripple Our Charities (Sept. 6): "A person's occasional sacrificial donation to charity," says Dan Pallotta, "does not entitle them to mandate a lifetime of economic sacrifice on the part of others." Is his point that donors don't deserve a say in how their money is spent? It's a view shared by many Canadian charity executives who see themselves as business leaders paid to gain market share. Their market is the goodwill and generosity of Canadians.
Their soaring salaries contribute to fundraising and administrative burn rates of close to 40 per cent at many major charities. Donations shrink in transit, but the taxpayer still provides a generous tax credit on 100 per cent of donations. The specifics of top salaries are still hidden from donors.
Alas, Mr. Pallotta can rest easy about the fortunes of charity leaders in Canada. My bill would not impose any salary cap or "economic apartheid," as he puts it. It would simply require better disclosure and allow the government to act if a charity can't justify paying salaries in excess of $250,000. Pretty charitable, I think.
Albina Guarnieri, MP (Mississauga East - Cooksville)
As an executive in the non-profit sector, I can suggest an effective way to signal your displeasure of excessive paycheques at charities: with your chequebook. Simply don't give to those charities.
Melodie Campbell, Oakville, Ont.
The baggage of 1863
Whatever atrocities were committed by Union forces in Missouri in August of 1863, these events were scarcely seminal to the argument of "states' rights" in America (1863 And All That: The Issue Of Where Federal Authority Ends - Sept. 6).
Rather, states' rights had been used for decades to give the odious practice of slave-owning the patina of constitutional propriety. The issue was not, and never had been, the overreach of federal force or authority - but whether a narrow elite would be permitted to own other humans as their private property.
While the Civil War settled the issue of slavery, the career of states' rights was given new life by those who opposed the equality of freed slaves with white Americans. It was the "logic" behind decades of segregation and gave legalistic cover to those who opposed civil rights and desegregation. One can still discern its essentially racist character in the attacks against Barack Obama's blackness by Tea Partiers ostensibly rallying against health-care reform.
Craig Keating, Department of History, Langara College, Vancouver
Where there's smoke …
Kudos to Patricia Dawn Robertson for her excellent article Hazards Of The Mighty Pesticide Wand (Sept. 7). One point: Not just Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick but fully half the provinces - including Nova Scotia and PEI - have laws restricting lawn pesticides.
What keeps the other half from following suit? Perhaps pressure from pesticide makers that, like the tobacco industry before them, spend millions denying the science linking their product to cancer.
When Ms. Robertson says "pesticide spraying is the smoking habit of our era," she's exactly right.
Gideon Forman, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Toronto
As the world turns
Great story on those level-headed, world-loving Christian university students (Christian Students Surprise Non-Religious By Joining The Green Movement - online, Sept. 6). A sadly necessary counterbalance to the insane, world-hating Christian Koran-burning preacher (U.S. Preacher's Plan To Burn Koran Inflames Muslims - Sept. 7).
Rev. John Van Sloten, New Hope Christian Reformed Church, Calgary
The flat Earth story
Letter writer Peter Dennis (You Are How You Write - Sept. 6) asks: "What's so great about science? Isn't that the authority that once proclaimed the Earth to be flat?" Well, no, it isn't.
The oft-told story about people up to the time of Columbus believing in a flat Earth is just mythology, thanks to a fictional account constructed by Washington Irving in a fanciful biography of Columbus. Unfortunately, it's become "common knowledge" and is even taught in the schools.
The ancient Greeks, for instance, knew of the Earth's spherical shape and - thanks to a clever experiment by Eratosthenes in about 250 BC - were able to determine its size surprisingly precisely. In Europe, Martin Behaim constructed terrestrial globes beginning in 1491, predating Columbus's expeditions, which demonstrated the accepted understanding of the time: a spherical Earth (but, of course, with no awareness of the presence of the Americas, Australia and Antarctica).
Incidentally, even if science had made this claim, what makes it "great" is that there exist corrective mechanisms, tests and experiments that lead to the refinement of our understanding and the development of a closer approximation to the true state of affairs. No scientific claim is immune to this kind of scrutiny.
Dave Hanes, Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, Queen's University