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One reader – a millennial – was 'appalled at how columnist André Picard seemed to pass the buck' in his column about the crowd that gathered at Trinity Bellwoods Park, seen here on May 23, 2020.

Justin Mob/Handout

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Space invaders

Re It Doesn’t Help To Virtue-shame Youth For Gathering In Parks (May 25): As columnist André Picard aptly points out, the shaming and punitive behaviour of our officials is, at best, ill-informed.

It seems they haven’t learned that shaming and punishing have never worked any longer than the moment it takes to crush someone’s spirit or make them angry.

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These methods of parenting or leadership can leave children and populations unhappy, unstable and resistant to guidance, sometimes with dangerous results.

If we learn nothing else, I hope decision makers see how misguided it can be to focus on building density in Toronto with little regard for people’s needs for restorative, health-giving expanses of green space and trees – groves, not tokens – in their own neighbourhoods.

Evelyn Sommers PhD, C.Psych.; Toronto

I live in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood and am fortunate to have a front porch and backyard. I invite anyone who has not noticed the high-rise towers in the surrounding areas to drop by.

Take a look: Where are these good people, who live in small spaces with little outdoor access, supposed to go when urged to get outside?

Rather than reprimanding people during a very stressful time, officials should open up more green spaces in our crowded city. Our lives may depend upon it.

Philippa King Toronto

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As a millennial who has spent more than my fair share of time in Trinity Bellwoods Park (although not this past weekend), I was appalled at how columnist André Picard seemed to pass the buck.

Millennials have become something of a punching bag, but I was surprised to see that our reputation has fallen so low that we’re not expected to understand the constant messaging of the past few months.

During a crisis, there’s no room to pretend that information hasn’t been accessible or that kids will be kids.

The only inconsistent messaging was directly from Toronto Mayor John Tory, who somehow felt his mask-free presence was appropriate.

In the long run, policies around outdoor spaces should be updated, but in the immediate aftermath, it’s important we understand what happened as a true moral failing, not a “perceived” one, and put blame squarely on those who committed it.

Aeriel Benjamin-Kent Toronto

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System test

Re Ontario’s New Testing Strategy Targets Asymptomatic People (May 25): Doug Ford has been exhorting Ontarians to get tested. I decided to follow his advice, but first I had to find out where to go.

I called my doctor’s office and was given a phone number, which led to a recorded message directing callers to local public-health authorities. But “due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” another recorded message said, they were short staffed and my call would be “answered by the next available agent,” but on no account should I visit my local hospital. I decided to try the internet, which gave the address for the local hospital. I finally got the correct address by calling a friend, who got it from another friend.

If Mr. Ford wants us all tested, there should be a central phone number or website where duffers like me can know where to get this done.

Norman Paterson Collingwood, Ont.

Circle back

Re We Have To Test And Trace More To End Lockdowns Safely (May 23): I am a former microbiology laboratory manager and infection control practitioner. I also have a decade of experience as a software analyst in a hospital setting. I worked through SARS in 2003. I, along with several colleagues, volunteered to do COVID-19 contact tracing via a federal government website. After weeks of no reply, we were all finally sent the same e-mail: Help was not required, but applications would be stored in the event we’re needed later.

Based on everything we’re reading from the epidemiology community, it seems to me that contact tracing is crucial right now, along with extensive testing, to mitigate the risk of a second wave as we reopen. Why are we being rejected as volunteers for this essential work? Lack of organization? Too much red tape? It’s very frustrating to see obvious opportunities wasted.

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Silvia Mac Con Richmond Hill, Ont.

Let’s get digital, Part 2

Re Let’s Admit It: Online Education Is A Pale Shadow Of The Real Thing (May 21): Many politicians and “educrats” have long sought to minimize the presence of teachers in the educational process, preferring to regard them as “facilitators” rather than instructors. Online education seems to offer a means to that end, as well as hypothetical cost savings. However, the educational experience necessitated by COVID-19 seems to have shown that online learning is better than nothing but not the magic elixir so many have insisted it is.

The Ontario government has of late shown considerable thoughtfulness in handling the pandemic. My fear is that it will, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, revert to previous form and crow triumphantly about the great success of its distance-ed venture.

I present these observations not as a disgruntled Luddite, but as a recently retired secondary school teacher who enjoyed 32 years in the real – not virtual – classroom.

Andrew Milner Peterborough, Ont.

From my perspective as a retired university professor, student critiques of online education ring hollow.

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Most professors are lucky to have half their class show up for morning lectures during winter semesters. Even then, attention is scant as students hide behind pinging computers and smartphones, blithely chatting on social media. They will come faithfully to class, but only if participation marks are offered as incentive. Even then, many equate mere attendance with participation – getting sullen students to raise a hand during discussions is like pulling teeth.

I question if modern students are as committed to the face-to-face classroom experience as they think they are.

Teresa Flanagan London, Ont.

Contributor Mark Kingwell references Marshall McLuhan – the medium is “always” the message – in his view that online instruction can never equal the excitement of face-to-face engagement. I am reminded of something else McLuhan said: “The environment that man creates becomes his medium for defining his role in it.” How will our educational environment change and how will it change who we are?

Heinz Senger Surrey, B.C.

Annals of anatomy

Re Hajdu Stops Top Doctor From Answering Question About Emergency Stockpile (May 23): I am a little concerned about use of the term “top doctor.” It seems to be more prevalent without any discussion of what it means. “Bottom doctors,” generally referred to as proctologists, are more clearly defined.

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John Cocker MD; Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont.

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