War in Syria
Re Syria Accepts Russian Proposal To Hand Over Chemical Weapons (online, Sept. 10): Can it be possible? A future Nobel Peace Prize for Vladimir Putin?
Marion Dorosh, Toronto
Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock compiled a lengthy list of "those who have let down the Syrian people" (Syrians Suffer 'Our' Failure – Sept. 10). I was shocked that they did not include Arab counties like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been funding and supplying the jihadists who are making war in Syria.
The "Syrian civil war" is nothing of the sort: It is a proxy war, fought by several countries and international forces. The Syrian people, who launched the campaign to win democratic rights in their own country, have long since become mere pawns – and victims – in this campaign waged by a host of noxious outsiders.
Larry Hannant, Victoria
What we value
Re Quebec Tees Up Legal Defence (Sept. 10): Not being particularly pious, I don't wear a skullcap (kippa, yarmulke) except during infrequent visits to a synagogue, or a shiva (sympathy) visit, where it's pretty much de rigueur. But I understand the motivation of those who do wear it constantly – it's a sign of deference to the Lord.
Most reasonable people are aware of this custom, and don't consider the skullcap a "costume," a term used by a letter writer. Of greater relevance, those same reasonable people are still trying to figure out what problem the Parti Québécois is trying to solve with this legislation.
Alan Rosenberg, Toronto
I go to a Christian school that thinks it is important for us to learn about other religions. The best class I've ever taken was World Religions in Grade 10. We learned about Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
This class gave me a better understanding of other religions, but most importantly, it took any fear I had of other religions and put it to rest.
If everyone could take a class like this, I believe we would not have hatred, either between religions or of religion, and we would certainly not have the misguided Quebec charter of values.
Declan Moulden, Grade 12, Winnipeg
What if people kept their religious views as private as their salaries? I was going to suggest as private as their sex lives, but that concept seems to be finished.
Barbara Klunder, Toronto
Haiti's NGO plethora
Re Plethora of NGOs, A Bypassed State (editorial, Sept. 9): There may well have been too many NGOs in Haiti after the quake, but it's wrong to single out Oxfam and the Mennonite Central Committee as examples of the problem. They and a half-dozen other large humanitarian organizations are almost always the first responders in crises where governments collapse and donors dither.
The choice in Haiti is not between NGOs and government: It's about striking the right balance.
If the UN had been allowed by donor governments to co-ordinate, and if those same governments, including ours, had not funded so many tiny, inexperienced NGOs, the Haitian government and people might be a lot further ahead than they are today.
Ian Smillie, Ottawa
Sam the Record Man and the Bard
Re Shakespeare's Editors (editorial, Sept. 9): Of course the University of London is doing the right thing in not auctioning its First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. If a condition of the bequest that brought the works to the university were to be violated, well, so much for the agreement when the bequest was made.
The fact Shakespeare's involved ought not to muddy the waters. Closer to home, there's the question of Ryerson University's obligation to honour its commitment to the iconic sign that once adorned the Sam the Record Man location on Yonge Street in Toronto. While this artifact might not have the cultural cachet of Shakespeare, when is a deal a deal no longer?
Anyone who wishes to gift an institution of higher learning should give pause and hire a good lawyer. Portia might do in a pinch.
Dale Churchward, Toronto
Re After Correctly Predicting Leaks, Activist Continues Crusade Against Pipeline (Sept. 2): The Trans Mountain pipeline has been responsibly transporting petroleum products to and through B.C. since 1953; for six decades, we've been part of many communities along the 1,150-kilometre pipeline's right of way.
Our safety record is a result of the continuous efforts of our employees, who regard the safety of people and protection of the environment as our top priorities in the operation of our systems. We utilize the latest technologies, in addition to manual inspections and around-the-clock monitoring of the pipeline.
Although the Trans Mountain pipeline was built in the 1950s, because of our efforts to implement technology advancements, our ongoing maintenance and adherence to regulatory and industry standards, we are confident of the pipeline's ability to continue safely and efficiently delivering product for many years to come.
Hugh Harden, vice-president operations and engineering, Kinder Morgan Canada
2 X 4 = 8 and more
Re Who's Failing Math? The System (Sept. 5): Just as we teach children to stand up for themselves against bullies, it's about time teachers stood up for themselves against those who continually point the finger at us for what is to blame when Canadian education is "failing."
To become a teacher here, you must hold a university degree, plus a degree in education. You must have passed – and may even have excelled at – high school math to undertake the first degree; we are not as "clueless" as Margaret Wente may think.
It is important to understand the new ideology on teaching math, versus the old "rote" method. Students are not expected to "come up with their own solutions to the mysteries of arithmetic." The purpose is to have them actually understand what it means to multiply two of something four times rather than just memorize that 2 X 4 = 8. Simple memorization does not give them the right foundation to continue their learning into more complex areas of math, such as algebra.
Society trusts us with children all day, and we love and care for them – and even occasionally teach them math.
Meredith Bly, elementary teacher, Calgary
A sine to cheer
Re A Chant, Its Context (letters, Sept.10): A letter writer asks: Do you honestly think at other universities they're chanting algebra slogans instead?" Not necessarily.
At Math Orientation at the University of Waterloo, they chant trigonometry slogans, and the Pink Tie Pledge:
"Sine sine cosine sine, three point one four one five nine."
Dan Brown, associate professor, Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo