The right to end it
Re MP Seeks To Change Law On Assisted Suicide (March 28): I was at a fundraising lunch with MP Steven Fletcher recently. He was funny, charming and engaging. I saw him being helped to do almost everything, and thought how difficult that must be for him.
When someone in his situation says that people should have the right to die, the problem is that so many people already believe that his life is not worth living. What we believe about others in his situation, or those who are disabled in some other way, is strongly informed by the emotional response we have when we hear someone like Mr. Fletcher speak.
MPs should have some reservations about the topic of assisted suicide, as it is a discussion that can end in a terrible place.
We should not be in a such a hurry that we forget to think.
Peter Smith, Winnipeg
I see assisted suicide – which should fall under our Charter guarantees – as a three-step process: 1) Legislation is passed to permit medically assisted suicide; 2) two doctors review each case and approve those that meet the legal requirements; 3) the doctors' approval is then sent to a special medical unit staffed by registered nurses who are trained in "end of life" procedures.
The applicant can then meet with the medical-unit staff to arrange a time and date.
J.R. Kenny, Calgary
A 5-year-old's day
Your report on my preliminary research on the impact of full-day kindergarten did not put enough emphasis on the significant benefits of full-day kindergarten (Academic Benefits Fade By End Of Grade 1: Study – March 28).
I stressed that the findings of the study show the strong vocabulary and self-regulation benefits of full-day kindergarten. These are the cornerstones for life-long benefits of early childhood programs, including better education and mental health.
Other related benefits found in the study, such as reducing family stress, were not mentioned.
Cherry-picking to create a negative impression regarding positive research results is not helpful to the public discourse about something as important as early childhood education.
Janette Pelletier, professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
The study found that one group of children who attended full-day kindergarten was ahead in the three R's by the end of Grade 2; another group was not. An interesting finding that requires further study.
Full-day kindergarten boosted vocabulary scores through Grade 2 for all children in the study. This is significant, given the critical foundation of vocabulary throughout schooling and life.
All the full-day children were significantly ahead of their half-day counterparts in self-regulation, which includes impulse control and the ability to focus on tasks. Research is showing that self-regulation may be far more important than IQ in determining the grades children achieve in school, attendance, time spent on homework, how aggressive they are and even how vulnerable they are to risky behaviour as teens.
Researchers found reduced parent stress with full-day kindergarten. Chronic stress "drips down" on children, affecting not only their academics but social, emotional and physical development.
Researchers concluded that full-day kindergarten is such a new program, "it is still too early to determine long-range effects" in reading, writing and numeracy. "Nevertheless, given the results on vocabulary and the strong performance on self-regulation, it can be stated that children have benefited from their time in FDK."
Kerry McCuaig, fellow in early childhood policy, Atkinson Centre, University of Toronto
We hate to say, "We told you so," but we are not surprised by the findings of this study. Similar results were found in almost every jurisdiction this expensive experiment has been tried.
The best way to ensure that children are prepared to learn is to implement explicit, direct instruction of primary reading and mathematics in Grades 1 to 3, leading to mastery of fundamental skills. It works and is more cost effective in the long run.
Doretta Wilson, Society for Quality Education, Toronto
Taxpayers' sorry lot
What the taxpayers in this country have been subjected to, by all levels of government, is a truly sad and disgraceful affair.
From the perspective of an Ontario resident, the past year has brought us the stench from city hall in Toronto, the stench from the chamber of sober second thought in Ottawa, and the mind-blowing cost of about $1.1-billion for the cancellation of two gas plants, which action was taken, it is quite clear, to save seats held by the Liberal government leading up to a provincial election.
Now, there are allegations of a deliberate effort within the government to destroy evidence of this (Police Probe McGuinty Aide – March 28).
While the media have been doggedly relentless in smoking out the gory details of the Senate and city hall scandals, fuelling public outrage in connection with the transgressions surrounding these sordid affairs, it is a mystery to me why, comparatively, there's been so little media coverage of the provincial affair, which is of a profoundly more serious nature.
What is particularly disturbing in the gas-plants matter is that no one, and certainly no one at the top, is willing to accept responsibility. We must demand that this change.
John Morrison, Burlington, Ont.
History, G8 divide
Re Harper, Merkel Stand Together On Putin, Split On Russia's Future In G8 – March 28): John Baird may believe that former PM John Diefenbaker was on the right side of history when he fought back against Soviet communism. That is history; this is 2014. The problem is that Stephen Harper and Mr. Baird look to the past through right-wing, rose-coloured glasses.
It is crucial to continue a dialogue with Vladimir Putin and not to isolate him and the Russian people. Any relationship with Mr. Putin must be shaped by a modern insight about the Russian President's current policies and behaviour. Other leaders in the G7, such as Angela Merkel, seem to realize this, though Mr. Harper and Mr. Baird do not.
Barbara Michel, Toronto
Re We Are All Junkies (Life, March 28): Ground coffee laid out like lines of cocaine beside a razor blade and a rolled-up bill is, to anyone trying to quit a serious drug addiction, incredibly insensitive. To compare a caffeine addition with a cocaine addiction is like saying a house cat and and a lion will both scratch.
Donnalyn Mantini, Toronto
Re Conscious Uncoupling: Meet The Woman Behind The Phrase (Life, March 28): Good Gwyneth Paltrow, never one for messiness.
"Conscious uncoupling" for a neat freak is preferable to the more common "unconscious derailment."
Bob Elliott, Windsor, Ont.