Autumn 2011
Letters to the Editor

How much of our lives is really determined in the first four years?

The Cult of Motherhood
While I agree that the years until age 4 are incredibly important in a child’s development, I find studies that try to find the so-called ideal conditions for rearing children highly essentialist (biologically women must do X to be “good” mothers) and biased. The section of your cover feature “Unlocking Our Potential” (Summer 2011) that discusses stress during pregnancy and the amount of time that a child should be breastfed is, frankly, insulting. Is Prof. Stephen Matthews arguing that mothers who experienced extreme stress during pregnancy – and who subsequently could not or did not breastfeed – have doomed their child? What I find most disturbing is the subtext of all of these studies – the drive to scientifically categorize what it means to be a “good” mother and, therefore, a “bad” mother. Should we call it the “cult of motherhood”? I didn’t think we were living in the Middle Ages.

Tamara Massey
BEd 2000 OISE

An Exciting Initiative

“Unlocking Our Potential” covered several difficult and important subjects. In spite of its complexity, I found the article very well written and informative. I wish the best for the proposed Institute for Human Development. It strikes me as a very exciting initiative.

Mahir Aydin

Too Perfect?
Your article “Unlocking Our Potential” created for me the eerie image of somnambulant, conflict-free, self-regulating young students streaming into the future school system. And then the questions: Where are their minds? What are they actually learning? Where is the notion of “interest”? And what happens when someone is in error? Or is “error” itself to be eradicated?

Mike Scapillato
BA 1972 UTSC

Me and McLuhan
The photo and accompanying article, “Sage of Aquarius,” on the back page of the Summer 2011 issue, brought back fond memories. That’s me sitting to the immediate right of Prof. Marshall McLuhan! I was a third-year English student at St. Mike’s, taking McLuhan’s modern poetry class and listening to stories about Ezra Pound. For some of us, it was a scary class – we were in awe of this great man.

I remember the day McLuhan was discussing his theory of extensions (when an individual or society creates something that extends the capacity of the human body and mind: for example, a chair extends our ability to sit). One of the young men, who clearly got into the idea, put up his hand and asked, “What about a basketball?” McLuhan shot back, “That’s an extension of our ability to dribble!”

Taking that class was a wonderful opportunity. McLuhan was generous with his students, and graciously welcomed us into his home for an evening party before the fall term ended. By the way, another photo from the same gathering was published in U of T Magazine several years ago. I spotted it and kept it, and now, thanks to you, I have two pictures of me and McLuhan.

Maura Blain Brown
BA 1974 St. Michael’s, MA 1975
Nepean, Ontario

Undue Caution
I was surprised to see a language warning accompanying Brittan Coghlin’s award-winning story “Delivered” (Summer 2011). Do the editors truly believe that the U of T community is so sensitive that the presence of two expletives expressing frustration in a painful situation requires a cautionary note? Some people don’t like profanity, but I shudder to think that anyone might have skipped over such a wonderful story for fear of being offended.

Jacob Schiff
BA 2002 UC

U of T Magazine reported in the summer issue that the Alzheimer Society of Ontario had earmarked $10 million for a new campaign for the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases. In fact, the ASO has provided $11 million since the centre was founded.

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