Summer 2009
Letters to the Editor

Comments from readers about U of T’s Institute of Child Study, the war in Afghanistan, academic integrity and VE-Day on campus


A Jewel in the Crown
Your article on the U of T’s Institute of Child Study highlights the jewel in the crown of the university’s Faculty of Education: the only research-based lab school of its kind in Canada and one of the few in the world. May I suggest that you do a follow-up piece on OISE’s two-year Master of Arts program in Child Study based at ICS? It is arguably the best elementary teacher education program in Canada.

Malcolm Levin
Past program director, ICS (2001-2003)
Toronto

Encouraging Kids to Think
“Head of the Class” (Spring 2009) should be required reading for the too-large-percentage of current teachers who have missed the message of enquiry-based education.

Research has shown that teachers ask yes-or-no or basic knowledge questions 80 to 90 per cent of the time. By encouraging their students to think at only this lowest possible level, they deny them the opportunity to develop an intellectual approach in which comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information becomes a personal standard for lifelong learning.

As well students who ask and answer questions at these higher levels of thinking have a lot of fun!

John Harrison
BEd 1966, Med 1970
Toronto

Thought-Provoking Issue
I was very impressed with the Spring 2009 issue of U of T Magazine. There were so many informative and thought-provoking articles, especially the features on the Institute of Child Study and the science of sleep. I’d like to hear more about Captain Bruce Rolston’s reflections on Afghanistan, and I loved the heart-warming story of marathon runner Danny Kassap. Please keep us posted on his recovery. Great cover, too!

Margot Meijer
BEd 2006, MEd 2009
Toronto

My Father, the Frosh
I was idly skimming the latest edition of U of T Magazine, when I reached the Time Capsule photo of VE-Day on campus (Spring 2009).

“That’s Dad!”

I peered at it a little closer, just to be sure. Yup, it was Duncan Smith, all right: tall, even gangly; crisply profiled; a touch jug-eared; elegantly caught mid-dance stride, he and his partner (not my mother) perfectly framed before the carved stone portal of University College.

How wonderful to see him again, 27 years after his death. Even more wonderful to see him when he was just 19 years old, fresh in the first flush of froshdom, as it were, exuberant about the war’s end.

I showed the picture to the electrical contractor working on my house.

“That’s your dad? Why that picture is famous – I have a framed copy of it up at my cottage!”
Who knew? Certainly we didn’t, and I don’t think Dad did either. But we know about it now, and my family is very grateful for the chance you’ve given us to reconnect with him.

Leslie C. Smith
BA 1978 Victoria
Toronto

“Volkswagen” was a Plymouth
The photo from VE-Day shows the “sound truck” my friend Bob Duncan (BASc 1947), now deceased, and I used to advertise upcoming campus events. It was his mother’s Plymouth, not a VW, dating from about 1936. Bob passed away some months ago.

We graduated from the School of Practical Science (now the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering) in 1947, and received a note from the University of Toronto Caput – that all powerful collection of honoured and aged U of T functionaries that ruled supreme – about being a “big noise.” Happy days. Thanks for jogging my memories.

Gordon B. Thompson
BASc 1947
Stittsville, Ontario

Celebration Brought Tears
Thanks to Stacey Gibson for the nostalgic picture and accompanying text of “The Bond of Victory.” We who celebrated on May 8, 1945 were full of joy, optimism and high expectations. Among us were parents and siblings of those who would not be returning from the killing fields. A 13-year-old, I had a difficult time holding back tears as I witnessed sobbing mothers whose sons had given their lives that we might celebrate victory, peace and freedom.

Frank Turner
MEd 1968
Ottawa

A Larger Struggle
Though one surmises that he may still be in the grip of culture shock, Capt. Bruce Rolston is correct in his assessment of the current struggle in Afghanistan as being generational (“This Is a Generational Struggle,” Spring 2009). It is refreshing to get an honest report on an enormously complicated situation. Canada has spent more blood and wealth in the struggle than any country other than the U.S. Our military resources are stretched to the limit, and under present conditions of engagement we can expect nothing but a continuing gradual attrition of our forces. It is time to review our strategies.

In my view, Afghanistan is only a part of a much larger struggle in which the foundations of Western culture are at stake. If it is not critical to the success of the larger struggle, Afghanistan should be abandoned to its fate, cruel as that may be. If it is critical, then we must win in Afghanistan at all costs. It is clear that we are not winning with our current deployment. It seems doubtful that we will win with “more of the same.” It is indeed time for the West to review its strategies.

F. H. Kim Krenz,
MSc 1942
Lakefield, Ontario

A Frank Assessment
Thank you for printing Captain Bruce Rolston’s letter from Afghanistan. His personal observations and analysis of the situation there are incredibly frank, dark, and disturbing. And his conclusion is universal. Compelling reading.

Greg Terakita
BA 1985, MEd 1989

In Praise of Intelligent Military Men
I am writing to let you know how much I appreciate the new U of T Magazine. I read it with pleasure and a sense of worthy work done by graduates.

In particular, the piece by Captain Bruce Rolston motivated me to write. In so brief a passage his heart is laid bare before us; no fudging the melancholy state of affairs. So gratifying it is to hear someone who knows from experience and tells it as he sees it. Ignorance is, I agree, the root both there and here.

I have just finished the book, Three Cups of Tea, about the mountaineer who strove to get schools built in the hill villages of Northern Pakistan. I think the author of that book, Greg Mortenson, and Bruce Rolston would have a good conversation if they were to meet.

Thanks for the magazine. Thanks for intelligent military men.

Beverley de Villiers (nee Simmers)
BA 1952 UC
Surrey, B.C.

Hope for Sleep Apnea Sufferers
Marcia Kaye’s article on the science of sleep was most interesting. I spent a number of years with apnea – the CPAP mask and all that went with that.

After finding out that my body mass index categorized me as obese, I signed up for a weight loss and nutritional supplement program. I knew that being overweight at age 75 was an open invitation to a lot of other serious health problems.

The program worked very well, and I lost 46 pounds over two years. I arrived back at 146 pounds, which was my discharge weight when I left the Canadian Army in 1945. I was delighted.

One of the things I learned about nutritional supplements was that if you nourish your body properly, it becomes capable of healing itself. I overcame the apnea problem.

I am now 84, feeling well and enjoying my life in a retirement home.

Douglas G. Hoskin
MASc 1949
London, Ontario

Preserving Academic Integrity
As an alumna and manager of the Office of Student Academic Integrity at the Faculty of Arts and Science, I was pleased to see the issue of Internet plagiarism — a critical one faced by the academic community today — featured in “Stolen Words” (Winter 2009). Our office is responsible for resolving allegations of academic misconduct at the Faculty of Arts and Science, and advising departments and programs on the resolution of offences. I would like to clarify that the article’s first example, a departmentally resolved case where the purchase of a paper was strongly suspected but unproven, resulting in a “high mark” for the student, is not typical.

Allegations of purchased papers, or papers where the plagiarism is not “cut and dried,” are admittedly challenging to resolve, but the prognosis for these cases is far from hopeless. Even though an instructor may initially be unable to prove that an offence has occurred, help with the investigation is available at the divisional level. The Office of Student Academic Integrity successfully resolves offences involving purchased papers every year, sanctioning students with a failure in the course and usually a suspension from the university for up to one year.

The efforts of faculty and staff to promote academic integrity and report offences when they occur are integral to encouraging proper academic behaviour among students and to maintaining the university’s strong ethical reputation.

Kristi Gourlay
BA 1993, PhD 2002
Toronto

Plagiarism and the Arts
Ifty Nizami (Letters, Spring 2009) and his fellow scientists might benefit from knowing how we have traditionally dealt with plagiarism in the humanities.
Pupil: Sir, you gave my paper a D.
Tutor: Well, Bloggins?
Pupil: Sir, Snokes told me that when he submitted this identical paper last year, you gave it a C.
Tutor: My dear Bloggins, you’re not allowing for depreciation.

William Cooke
BA 1968 Trinity
Toronto

Preventing Plagiarism
“Stolen Words” (Winter 2009) and the letters you’ve received about plagiarism certainly resonated with my own experience as a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) from 1986 to 2007. Like Ifty Nizami, I found senior university administrators generally reluctant to pursue cases of plagiarism. With one notable exception, where the administration followed policy to the letter, the general tendency was to provide excuses for the student and to discourage me from pursuing the case.

I was told, for example, that one student “didn’t really mean to plagiarize” (a case in which the student had copied an entire paper verbatim from the Internet). In another instance I was warned that the student could sue me. It was not clear to me how, since I was telling the truth and could back up my position with thorough documentation.
A university degree is devalued when administrators hold the view that a dishonest student “isn’t going to fly a plane or do brain surgery so where’s the harm in granting the degree?” Apart from the obvious answer, this attitude is an affront to the students who earn their degrees honestly, on their own merit.

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj
BA Woodsworth 1977, MA OISE 1981, PhD OISE 1983
Professor Emerita, OISE
Toronto

The Meat Market
No doubt some members of the gay community equate human beings with sexual objects to be raffled off to the highest bidder. But that the University of Toronto should implicitly condone such a view is disgraceful! Why would the university support Professor Adam Green’s research, as reported in “All the Young Dudes” (Spring 2000), and why would U of T Magazine print such an article?

Merv MacPherson
BA 1984 Woodsworth
Trenton, Ontario

Solving Africa’s Water Problems
Desalination plants and water pumped through a network of pipes, all powered by nuclear reactors, may solve the African water shortage.

However, Africa is blessed with abundant sunshine, which could be used to evaporate water. The cool ocean is present to aid distillation. Is nuclear power really required?

Rather than pumping water vast distances, I would suggest making the desert bloom around the distillation plants and distributing the water relatively short distances using pumps powered by solar power. Then bring the people to the water, not the water to the people.

I was surprised that Tennyson advocates dairy farming. This sort of sophisticated western farming consumes huge amounts of water and is unneccessary in a warm country where crops grow all year. Better to grow food that requires little water and to plant trees that will provide timber and shade. Trees will anchor and improve the soil. This could be a long-term solution. Eventually, less distillation and pumping may be needed, as the desert starts to bloom and the local climate reacts.

R. S. Osmaston
BASc 1957
Seaford, England

Small is Still Beautiful in Africa
Yet another mega-project to ameliorate all the problems facing Africans? Poverty and political fragmentation in Africa are historically complex and deep-rooted problems that are unlikely ever to be solved by billion-dollar infrastructure investments.

During my first visit to Africa I was shocked to learn that aquifers could lie beneath communities lacking simple wells or other means to access water. Meanwhile, foreign interests exploit African reserves of petroleum, precious metals and gemstones – sometimes at devastating human and environmental costs.

We must ask ourselves honestly why such an arrangement exists and what our role in it is. I urge Professor Tennyson and others to read Africa’s Missing Billions (IANSA, Oxfam, Saferworld, 2007), which estimates that armed conflict in Africa between 1990 and 2005 resulted in destruction of $300 billion, an amount equal to development aid to Africa during that period.

As long as foreign interests fuel conflict and instability in order to extract resources, programs that successfully address Africa’s problems are likely to be community-based, locally rooted, and entrepreneurial. E.F. Schumacher’s idea that “small is beautiful” stands to bring more meaningful improvements to the majority of Africans who are living in poverty than any trans-African infrastructure will, at least for now.

Samer Abdelnour
BA 2000 UTSC
London, Ontario

Mixed Messages
There is a distressing irony in your winter edition’s juxtaposition of the article “Women Wanted,” about the engineering faculty’s aim to reverse the slide in female enrolment” and the 1948 photo captioned “Chariots of Godiva.” The latter clearly has women in a cheerleading or catering or fundraising role. Such a contrasting message certainly will not promote the stated goals of the article.

Dr. Jacqueline Karsemeyer
PhD 2000
Toronto

Regarding Philosopher’s Walk
With apologies to Robert Frost

Four years at Toronto, my university
way back, but not a footfall did I make
on Philosopher’s Walk, from which re-
percussions may still be felt this late,

the walk well-traveled by likes
not like me, students and professors
on, tradition went, meditative hikes,
and, after twilight, 1950s-style lovers,

all that purged from memory until
the spring ’09 alumni magazine
told of (unpurging if you will)
work on one gate’s iron and a line

of plantings and the walk’s history
and a planned amphitheatre halfway.
And now I’m whelmed, in a quandary:
Had I walked the walk one day

instead of veering entirely clear
or hurrying past without a glance,
instead of skipping it each year,
would I be someone else perchance?

David Simms
BA 1960, St. Michael’s
Berryville, Virginia

Cheeky Title
Micol Kates seems to have “Ms.ed” the point about the title of your excellent feature on astronaut Julia Payette (Letters, Spring 2009). If anything, the cheeky title is not a “blatantly sexist double entendre,” but a blatantly feminist one that aptly pokes fun at the Miss Universe contest and its rather superficial criteria that objectify women. To answer her question, some might find comparing Stephen Hawking to Mr. Universe – a steroid-injecting body builder – in bad taste, but, considering Dr. Hawking’s numerous appearances on satirical sitcoms like The Simpsons and Futurama, I think he would be quite amused.

Marc Johnson
BA Victoria 1998, BEd 1999
Alliston, Ontario

Animal Health
James FitzGerald outlines in “A New Era in Public Health” (Winter 2009) the importance of our country’s public health system.

The story neglected to mention veterinary science. Speakers at a recent international veterinary conference in Vancouver noted that 60 per cent of human pathogens are of animal origin, 75 per cent of emerging animal diseases can be transmitted to humans, and 80 per cent of bioterrorism agents are pathogens of animal origin. The convergence of human, domestic animal and wildlife health (due to globalization and human encroachment into wilderness areas) is evident in recent outbreaks of West Nile virus, SARS, mad cow disease, and avian influenza.
Presumably the Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s has developed affiliations with veterinary experts in fields such as epidemiology, ecosystem health and public health.

Murray Flock
BSc 1975 New
Vernon, B.C.

The Importance of Organ Transplants
As a first-year medical student, I was heartened to hear that the spirit of altruism is still very much alive and well in the U of T community. Live-donor organ transplants and other gifts of bodily substance can make a world of difference to someone affected by illness, and I’ve sometimes wondered, only half-facetiously, why every incoming medical student isn’t required to donate blood – or more substantial tissues! Pipe dreams aside, I would like to point out a small error in an otherwise heart-warming article: anti-rejection drugs, while certainly crucial in the post-transplant period, are not used “to ward off infections,” but rather to prevent the recipient’s immune system from attacking the newly-installed donor organ.

Edward Weiss
BSc 2004 Woodsworth
London, Ontario

A Case of Mistaken Identity
Many readers wrote to inform us that we had incorrectly identified the car in the picture from VE-Day (Time Capsule, Spring 2009) as a Volkswagen. In fact, the first Volkswagens did not arrive in Canada until the early 1950s. Gordon Thompson (BASc 1947) cleared up the matter, writing that he and his friend, Bob Duncan (BASc 1947) used the car (they called it a “sound truck”) to advertise upcoming campus events. The vehicle was a Buick from around 1936, and belonged to Bob’s mother. Thanks to everyone for their comments.

Wait No More
The article “The Ties that Bind” stated that Student Family Housing has a waiting list. This is no longer the case.


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by William Sparling on September 1st, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

The continuing hyperbole being spouted by proponents of the global warming chimera remind me of 30 years ago. For those who don’t remember that time, we were all told that an ice age was imminent (Newsweek April 28, 1975; Science March 1, 1975). I haven’t seen Winnipeg crushed under sheets of ice, but I’m sure they felt cold enough some days.

Now, we are all being preached to that the world is caught up in runaway global warming; that “life as we know it” is coming to an end. This is, of course, bovine excrement in great heaps. “These lurid accounts of a despoiled and poisoned planet accelerating in a headlong rush to doom” are advanced by persons with other agendas and politics at stake (James Hogan, “Kicking the Sacred Cow”, 2004, p. 243). This hijacking and misuse of science is typical among certain political lobby groups and unfortunately there are always scientists willing to pander to them, for whatever reason. I can’t even ascribe dishonest motives to the panderers as everyone, at some point, feels the need to make a difference in the world; but there is always a danger in extending authority in one field to other, unrelated fields. Unfortunately, this is what is happening today.

Proponents of climate change and global warming would have us believe that human influenced changes in the global climate are catastrophic and altering the permanent state of affairs. This is, of course, incorrect; climate is never static but ever-changing and, in fact, the world is cooler now than several hundred years ago-which mirrors the solar sunspot cycle but NOT atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Without going into great detail, I think we should point out something about atmospheric CO2 that is ignored in the debate: The greenhouse effect is a NATURAL PROCESS! Without the greenhouse effect, to put things in perspective, the Earth would be about 33 degrees Celsius COOLER, meaning permanent ice on the equator.

Now for some numbers. Human activity adds about 30 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere yearly. This seems like a lot until you realize that nature adds about 1,800 billion tonnes yearly; and deals with the total through the natural functions of the biosphere; meaning that yearly human activity amounts to less than 2% of the total. And, by the way, water vapour has a grater effect on the greenhouse effect and is in atmospheric concentrations 10 times GREATER than CO2. So, which is the greater greenhouse gas and how will you tax that? Also, the rise in CO2 has taken place during a period of cooling NOT an increase in global temperature as some have claimed.

As for the statement that the science of global warming is conclusive; poppycock! The Leipzig Declaration (1995) states there is no “general scientific consensus about the importance of global warming” and “we cannot subscribe to the politically inspired worldview that envisages climate catastrophes and calls for hasty action”. As for U.S. President Clinton’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the report so gleefully pointed to by the doomsayers is fatally flawed:

a. the majority of signers were NOT climate scientists but political appointees;

b. the report was rewritten AFTER SIGNING to ensure the “correct” output;

c. the IPCC report contains numerous factual-science errors; and most damming

d. Frederick Seitz, former head of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences,
recorded “this report is not what it appears to be-it is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists … I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process” (Wall Street Journal, 1996).

Furthermore, for a comprehensive review of how the IPCC process was corrupted see Fred Singer’s “The Road from Rio to Kyoto: How Climate Science was Distorted to Support Ideological Objectives” (2000). As well, a survey of climate specialist scientists by the German Metreorologisches Universitat Hamburg and Forschungszentium found that 67% of Canadian, 87% of German, and 97% of American scientists rejected the notion of global warming due to human activity.

And some would have you believe that the science is conclusive!

Some final thoughts: tighten up environmental laws and practices to reduce pollution and I’m onside. Devote more research and resources to clean energy projects and I’m onside. Put some resources into local clean energy production and pollution control and I’m onside. Put more into local food production and clean water projects, I’m onside. Put more into education, local and in traditionally disadvantaged areas and I’m onside. Let the average person do more in these areas and I’m on side. Look at low tech solutions, and I’m onside (just because it’s hi-tech doesn’t make it the right tech. For some excellent older technology that is still suitable see http://www.lindsaybks.com.)

And most important, stop the fear mongering and distortions to support something that doesn’t exist.

Add a Comment

required, use real name
required, Not for Publication
optional, eg: BSc 2008

Next story in this issue: »
Previous story in this issue: «