Spring 2011
Letters

Readers weigh in on the “The Next Big Idea” and aviation’s early days in Canada


Bring Back the Commandments
The politically correct have been working hard and successfully over the last 30 years to eradicate the Ten Commandments from our schools and other public venues. So I was interested to read about Prof. Nina Mazar’s discovery that “cheating disappeared” when people wrote down as many of the Ten Commandments as they could remember before completing a task on which they might cheat (“The Next Big Idea,” Winter 2011). This suggests to me that removing the Ten Commandments from public view has been a huge mistake. In economic terms alone, the impact of not having the Ten Commandments where we can see them must be enormous.

Ken Stouffer
BA 1978 UTSC
Alliston, Ontario

Dig Deeper
As a certified ESL instructor with hundreds of hours in Ontario adult and high school classrooms, I offer my comments on the theories put forward by Prof. Ruben Gaztambide-Fernandez regarding dropout rates for Latin American and Spanish-speaking students in “The Next Big Idea.”

The professor argues that these students are aware that getting a good education and mastering the English language are crucial for their future, as if that knowledge should be sufficient to keep them in school. Since when did knowledge alone lead humankind to consistently make the right decisions?

The professor further argues that “the situation that leads them to leave school really has nothing to do with how committed they are to school,” and that three external factors play a role. He should be aware that it is not only Latin American and Spanish-speaking students who get placed in ESL classes inappropriate to their skills, who believe the curriculum “ignores” their culture and history, and who work in the evenings to support their family. Experience has shown me that the vast majority of newcomers face identical difficulties. I believe Prof. Gaztambide- Fernandez will have to dig deeper to uncover the real reasons for these elevated dropout rates.

Peter A. Lewis-Watts
BScF 1975
Barrie, Ontario


Culture Clash

Kurt Kleiner’s article about redressing historical wrongs was interesting, though I disagree with Prof. Douglas Sanderson’s argument for how to make up for injustices committed by European settlers against the indigenous peoples of North America. By force-feeding indigenous peoples with European institutions, particularly religion, the settlers destroyed the self-esteem of indigenous peoples, discarding their institutions as worthless and pagan. As a descendant of those European settlers, I regret those injustices, but I was not personally responsible for them and I cannot reverse them.

What I have never understood is why North American indigenous peoples would want to hide away in self-imposed isolation. That is the implication of Prof. Sanderson’s proposal. Yet as a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and a law professor at U of T, he is an example of one who has done precisely the opposite of what he has proposed – he has benefited from settlers’ institutions to educate himself and thereby gain a better life for himself and his family. In his actions, there is more wisdom than in his words. What we can do is invite the indigenous peoples to join us in the great adventure that is the 21st century. The evolution of the human race surely is the story of how different cultures and ideas have come together, frequently through conflict, to create something greater from the integration of each.

Let us learn from each other and move forward, together. Let that be our guiding principle.

John G. Patte
BASc 1967
Oshawa, Ontario


Sombre Occasion

Alec Scott’s excellent article reminded me that in 2009, Canadian aviation enthusiasts celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in Canada. However, February of that year also marked a more negative occasion in Canadian aviation history. Fifty years ago that month, the Canadian government cancelled the Avro Arrow CF-105 program, Canada’s leading-edge entry into the supersonic jet age. The Avro Arrow was first presented at Toronto’s Malton Airport (now Pearson Airport) in October 1957. One of the notable attendees at this historic event was Douglas McCurdy, who listened as the Honourable G.R. Pearkes, Canada’s Minister of Defence, described the Avro Arrow as “a symbol of a new era for Canada in the air.”

Pearkes was the minister who, less than two years later, convinced the Diefenbaker government to cancel the Avro program. There is no record of McCurdy’s reaction to this subsequent “historic announcement.”

Rod Tennyson
Professor Emeritus, Institute for Aerospace Studies
University of Toronto

My Dinner with Douglas
During the summers of 1960 and 1961, I worked as a travel guide. My itinerary included 16-day escorted bus trips to the Maritimes and New England. We always spent two nights at Telegraph House in Baddeck, Nova Scotia – the gateway to the Cabot Trail. On the second trip, the Dunlops, who managed the inn, invited me and the bus driver to join an elderly couple in the dining room. What a treat that turned out to be! Douglas McCurdy and his wife were fascinating hosts. McCurdy regaled us with tales of Alexander Graham Bell, the Silver Dart and the difficulties he had in getting Canada to establish a national air force. My favourite story, however, was about the building of the Canso Causeway that links Cape Breton Island to the mainland. The government contractor who built the causeway assumed that the land adjacent to the construction site was government property.

Big mistake! When the causeway was completed, without proper authorization from McCurdy, he submitted an invoice to the government for removing millions of tons of granite from his land. Having been lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, McCurdy knew which buttons to push and received payment in full. There was a twinkle in his eyes as he disclosed the amount. Many thanks to Alec Scott for his article. I learned a lot about a true Canadian pioneer.

Charles W.N. Carr
BA 1965, MEd 1972 OISE
Toronto


An Amazing Mentor

I was pleased to see the article “Defying Gravity” about Wilbur R. Franks and the Franks Flying Suit in the Winter 2011 issue. I had the honour and pleasure of working with Prof. Franks at the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research for many years. However, I was disappointed that his other great invention, the human centrifuge, was not mentioned.

I was also fortunate during my academic career to have associated with George F. Wright of the chemistry department. Prof. Wright made significant contributions to the development of explosives during the Second World War. Both men were honoured by the Canadian, American and British governments for their work. In the 65 years I have been involved with chemistry, I have never met a scientist who could match the honesty and capability of my two mentors.

Alan Rodgman
BA 1949 Victoria
Winston-Salem, North Carolina


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Scott Anderson on May 10th, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

It’s tiresome to keep reading religious arguments for morality. I’m referring to Mr. Stouffer’s letter, above. Personally, I’m offended by the suggestion that it’s only the Ten Commandments that keep behaviour moral. What about all those people living before 986 BCE who had no knowledge of Moses and his tablets? What about all the non-Christians out here? What keeps us from raping, looting, blowing people up or cheating on tests? If Mr. Stouffer is arguing that it’s the Ten Commandments, it would seem that only people who consider the Old Testament to be literally true are bound by them.

There are other ways to accomplish what Prof. Mazar discovered. How about an instruction I received as an undergraduate? Everyone was required to write and sign the statement, “I have neither given nor received aid during this exam” on our test papers and booklets. Students took it seriously. This drove moral behaviour irrespective of religious convictions.

David Sigetich
MEd 1976

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