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Amanda Todd

YouTube video

Malala's example

It would take a small fraction of the courage of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, (Teen's Shooting Shows Enormity Of Challenges Facing Pakistan – Oct. 13) for students in our schools to befriend, support, and stand up for their fellow students who are being bullied, some to the point of committing suicide (Mounties Launch Probe Into Amanda Todd's Death – Oct. 13).

Stanley Greenspoon, Vancouver

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Two cultures

The article Why Big Business Needs You To Read Jane Austen (Focus, Oct. 13), outlining the case for a core curriculum as way to reinvent higher education, was a clarion call for liberal arts education. The article however, seemingly overlooks an important social issue.

That issue was identified and raised by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow in his now classic, The Two Cultures (1959), where he argued that there was a dangerous schism between the humanities and sciences in modern education to the detriment of informed public discussion and the quality of our civic life.

This situation is now undoubtedly magnified and re-enforced by the sheer volume of scholarly information generated and its technical complexity. Increasingly, students in the various disciplines have little knowledge of, and, regrettably, little interest in matters outside their narrow area of specialization. The humanities and sciences, literally, speak different languages.

Unfortunately, none of the various proposals mentioned to reinvent higher education helps to bridge the gap between the two cultures. As quaint as it may seem, a mandatory and updated Great Books course approach, has much to recommend in terms of promoting a broad-based culture and a common language.

Richard Deaton, Ottawa

........

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In response to Prof. Davidson's assertions that academics have not figured out the changes that need to take place in the university (Why Big Business Needs You To Read Jane Austen – Focus, Oct. 13), I can assure readers that, indeed, most of us have. Prof. Galaty identifies the real problem: lack of funding.

My two teaching assistants and I spent eleven hours on Saturday grading our first-year students' literature essays. There is no way to complete the hands-on work we undertook more "efficiently," other than to provide students with less feedback, and there are no technologies that can replace our close engagement with student reading and writing.

This kind of instruction is expensive. Until Canadians vote for governments that are willing to reinvest in the university and the infrastructure required for a liberal arts education, they will see less, not more, of the kind of teaching and curriculums they long for.

Prof. Alison Conway, Dept. of English, Western University

We're watching you

Is The Globe an advocate of workplace spying? Your article How To Install Surveillance In The Office Without Alienating Staff (online, Oct. 12) seems to suggest that businesses should be considering surveillance because of falling prices of surveillance equipment and market growth for surveillance among small and medium-sized enterprises.

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But since when did market statistics replace ethics? Surely the first question any manager should ask is: Do I need surveillance? In most non-retail situations, the answer is most likely no – and in one stroke the business has avoided any question of alienating staff or invading their privacy. The availability and price of surveillance equipment should have nothing to do with it.

David Murakami Wood, Canada Research Chair, Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen's University

Early learning

Re Reverse The Adverse (editorial, Oct. 12): It doesn't take research by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to tell us that, by "providing early learning enrichment, it is possible to reverse the impact of adverse circumstances on a child's brain." Most informed educators (and parents) already know this. And it has nothing to do with policy implications, but rather political will.

Across Canada, we have countless schools without libraries (and librarians), outdated resources, overcrowded classrooms, march-step curriculums that serve administrative dictates and aging unhealthy school buildings.

Many schools also lack a robust technological infrastructure that can enable resource-starved educators and young minds to access learning resources.

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As for the "orchids" (those children who need more nurturing) and the "dandelions" (those who thrive in any circumstance), I dare say there are many teachers who fit these categories and many who are stuck between a piece of chalk and a blackboard. If they can't reach their potential, how do we expect children to?

Leo J. Deveau, Regina

Killing seals

Your article EU's Plan To Cull Seal Population Raises Eyebrows (Oct. 9) suggests it may be hypocritical for the European Union to kill seals on its own territory while imposing a ban on seal products from Canada on animal cruelty grounds. In fact, there's no double standard.

The EU's law allows for an exception to the ban on imports where hunting is conducted for purposes of sustainable resource management, as long as any resulting products are sold on a non-profit basis.

Like most laws in a liberal democracy, the EU measure balances different values – eliminating commercialized animal cruelty on one hand and responsibly managing the marine environment on the other.

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There's no discrimination against Canada because culling, while permitted under strict conditions, can't be used as an excuse for commercial sealing, regardless of whether we're dealing with EU or Canadian seal products.

Nevertheless, the EU must ensure that no unnecessary culling occurs and that humane methods are used. At least where the sealing occurs on its own territory (as opposed to in Canada), the EU has the ability to enforce humane practices. That's something Canada has never managed to do.

Robert Howse, co-director, Institute of International Law and Justice, New York University School of Law

Name game

Re Civilization Museum To Get New Focus (Oct. 13): The Harper government will be renaming the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The government's intent is to shift the museum's focus to "one that looks more seriously at Canadian social and political history." An appropriate name for the museum might be the Conservative Museum of Historical Revisionism.

James Riordan, Breckenridge, Que.

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