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History’s labours lost?

As Canadians enjoy the Labour Day long weekend, I wonder how many of us labour under the illusion that a heritage designation assures preservation?

Last week, for example, Canada designated Enragée Point on Cape Breton Island as the country’s 100th Heritage Lighthouse, a designation that left me feeling proud – and skeptical. We have laws to protect historic places, but few of us realize that a heritage designation does not guarantee preservation.

Consider the train station at Biggar, Sask. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1976, it was celebrated as a shining example of the “artistic bungalow” architectural movement. It was touted as representative of railway stations in the West and, in 1996, was also designated a Heritage Railway Station.

Yet the 109-year-old station was unceremoniously razed last summer. After years of neglect, it had structural problems neither government nor its owner were willing to fix. So – after a brief hearing – the federal government authorized its “dismantling.”

As we celebrate Enragée Point, we must question how heritage designations actually function in this country. How much can we lose before we jeopardize our identity as Canadians?

Kyle R. Franz, Medicine Hat, Alta.

The math on math

Re As Latest Math Test Scores Slide, Ontario Vows To Revamp Curriculum By Next Fall (Aug. 29): If you have the time to probe beneath the recent bad news about the Education Quality and Accountability Office’s math test scores of eight-year-olds in Ontario, seek out the Ministry of Education website.

There you will find, in stunning detail, what youngsters from ages 4 to 18 must master. The classifications and categories for math and all subjects are awesome in their precision and, if published, the complete book would assume biblical proportions.

You will not find there confident categories or classifications about how the human brain works, or how we learn in social settings. To be fair, there is one brief reference in the kindergarten curriculum to Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who died in 1934. As for improving math scores, let’s look elsewhere for solutions, like the educators who probed, classified and categorized that unfortunate elephant.

Mary Curran, Whitby, Ont.

Re Teacher Math Tests Don’t Boost Student Scores, Agency Finds (Aug. 30): Successful teaching is persuading people to be interested in things, because we are eager to learn about what we’re interested in, and we retain what we have learned. A more constructive approach than teacher testing would be to adjust teacher training, so that it produces educators who enjoy subjects such as math and can’t wait to share their enthusiasm with their students.

John Baird, Toronto

A deal they can’t refuse?

Re ‘Nobody Can Afford This’ (Aug. 29): If Recordati Rare Diseases really believes its formula for cystinosis eye drops is worth $103,272 for a year’s worth of drops, why not agree to a free-market solution? Give patients the choice between paying a few thousand dollars per year for the old legacy drug, or six figures for their new product’s bells and whistles.

Jacob Trenholm, Toronto

Cyclists and the road

Re A Tale Of ‘Bikelash’ In Three Cities (Drive, Aug. 23): Why do cyclists seem to have immunity to all traffic rules?

I have seen numerous traffic violations such as running red lights, disobeying stop signs, riding with no helmets (even carrying a child behind who also had no helmet), cycling at night with no lights, riding the wrong way on one-way streets, turning without signalling, cutting in and out of traffic, and hogging roads that are clearly marked as not for cyclists.

I have witnessed abusive behaviour such as smacking cars when drivers are actually within their rights, using foul language and flipping the middle finger.

I have no animosity for cyclists – if they obey the rules of the road and pay the same fines we motorists do for infractions.

Esther Farlinger, Toronto

Architecture critic Alex Bozikovic (It’s Time To Redesign Our City’s Deadly Streets, Aug. 24) returns to the subject of Toronto’s dangerous streets and offers the usual solution: redesigning them. But one need only spend a half-day downtown to see why so many people are killed and injured on them.

The reasons are three: drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Drivers drive too fast, run yellow lights and make turns inches in front of pedestrians. Cyclists behave as though the rules of the road do not apply to them, cutting across lanes and ignoring stop signs. Pedestrians blindly charge across intersections just before a speeding driver’s yellow light changes to red, and jaywalk with abandon.

Perhaps redesigning our streets will make a difference, but changing the habits of people is a sine qua non as well.

Bruce Whiteman, Toronto

Re Tolls Debate Gears Up (letters, Aug. 30): The discussion about who pays for roads has missed one critical consideration: What do cyclists pay?

The answer is nothing directly and very little indirectly. Yet municipalities are devoting ever more tax dollars to building cycle-friendly infrastructure. In some instances, road systems are being greatly transformed.

This is good for one’s health and the environment. Cyclists have virtue on their side and I regret that, over 30 years of cycling, my own physical limitations have won out.

Still, few people will be regular cyclists. Those who do cycle benefit from road-building that serves them, but non-cycling folk carry the bulk of the tax freight.

Peter Woolstencroft, Waterloo, Ont.

We are what we burn

As we watch with growing alarm the fires devastating the Amazon jungle, we need to remind ourselves that one of the root causes of this destruction is the world’s insatiable appetite for meat; the clear-cutting of these forests is linked to expanding pastureland for beef cattle.

It is abundantly clear that reducing meat consumption and emphasizing plant-based diets is vastly kinder to our planet. Meat eaters do bear some measure of personal responsibility for the current crisis.

Paul Thiessen, Vancouver

The door is that way

Re We Thought We Elected Leaders. We Got Man-Children Instead (Aug. 29): Mark Kingwell’s column would be hilarious, if it were not so tragically true. No, we do not need another strong man – what we need are strong women, and more women in politics. Does Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen have any friends she can refer? The United States in particular has a dire need.

Here, we have Chrystia Freeland, among many others. Guys, make way. It’s the only way ahead.

Marian Fedák-Kingsmill, Dundas, Ont.

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