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A doomed monster

In thinking worthy of Victor Frankenstein, (Saskatchewan students will benefit from standard tests, March 5), Michael Zwaagstra and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) want to dig up a lot of questionable body parts from the corpse of American education reform and stitch them together into something that walks and talks like an education system.

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It has already been tried and has failed. Diane Ravitch, who served as a Clinton appointee on the U.S. National Assessment Governing Board has concluded that high-stakes testing, utopian goals, draconian penalties, school closings, privatization and charter schools didn't work.

Zwaagstra's dream creation will eventually share the same fate as Frankenstein's doomed monster. However, the issue won't die soon because there is a lot of money (in the U.S. about $500 billion) to be made by those who get to take over the schools, create the tests and destroy the teachers' unions.

If Zwaagtra and the Frontier Centre really want to better the lives of children (and improve academic outcomes), they should put their efforts toward addressing the scandal of child poverty, which is still the most accurate predictor of low academic performance on national and international tests.




Michael Zwaagstra of the Frontier Centre appears to know little of standard tests. He notes that schools in rich neighbourhoods will automatically outperform schools in poor neighbourhoods. He does not go on to explain that those who make up the standard tests are those economically privileged people who think that being middle-class in Canada and the United States is a worthy goal, in spite of the global warming and resource depletion some are foisting on the world.

Being rich is becoming a problem for many people, so joining those ranks may not be beneficial. Many universities are becoming aware that admitting those who get high scores on tests does not assure them the creative and wise people they once thought such good scores indicated. Some universities are now ranking community service higher than test scores.

We know how to create good schools. Building on the learners' experiences is better than rising scores on standard tests. Often good work and high test scores are in conflict. I recall one brilliant aboriginal person who scored low on a standard test because he did not know a specialized word that middle-class learners would have known.

Standard tests don't indicate good schools. Rather, they indicate that such schools link the test marks with those likely to achieve middle-class or higher status. This may not be a benefit to students living in this turbulent century.




Women were chattel

Carolin Vesely's March 3 article, Yea or née, was a shallow piece of fluff worth neither the space nor the ink.

The tradition of a woman taking her husband's name is an artifact from a time when women were considered chattel. The marriage ceremony was a property transaction, where ownership of the woman transferred from her father to her husband. The woman's surname changed to indicate to whom she belonged.

Vesely's failure to learn the history of this tradition resulted in a weak article lacking depth. This piece could have been much more interesting if she had bothered to research beyond the comments fed to her from the Free Press website. How would women respond if the online question had included this history?




Transit priorities

I appreciated Bartley Kives' March 2 piece, A route not yet taken. It seems that the city has difficulty determining its priorities with mass transit and tries to superimpose development of business on construction of the transit line itself.

Shouldn't the route be placed where the greatest number of passengers are located at the time? After all, running the route through vacant, unpopulated land seems to defeat the primary purpose of the transit line.




The mad rush to get rapid transit for Winnipeg could turn out to be a disaster for the people and politicians of Winnipeg. The first warning sign of this for me is that some politicians are rushing to approve the route without actually doing their own research.

For example, not one of the politicians at the standing committee had taken the trouble to look at, or walk over the land and the area that they are so anxious to cover with pavement. Nor, I believe, did any of the councillors listen to the presentations made by half a dozen citizens on the negative impact of going through the Parker Lands.

Secondly, it appears to me that councillors on the standing committee had not read the rapid-transit report carefully or thoughtfully. For example, the report correctly assumes that on average, wealthy people will not be drawn to rapid transit. But then it ignores the fact that any new developments along the Parker route will of necessity be high-end.

The report also states that few people will walk to the terminals that are being planned for the Hydro corridor. If this is true, then my question is, where will all the new potential riders come from, and how can you label any new developments in that corridor as "transit-oriented"?




Driving without pride

Having driven extensively in Europe, I concur with all he the points Doug Firby makes in his March 2 column, We could drive like Europeans. As I see it, what is lacking in most North American drivers is pride, awareness and common courtesy.

If the average North American driver took pride in driving, then smooth, intelligent, non-tailgating drivers would become more commonplace. If they applied awareness to their driving habits, they might manage to see beyond the vehicle immediately ahead of them. Then they would actually be able to react to a potentially dangerous situation.

Would that more drivers read Alan Sidorov's excellent column Twists and Turns in the Free Press Auto section on Fridays. Over the years, Sidorov has had some great driving tips and updates on some of the newer technologies within our vehicles.

Perhaps it should also appear in the FYI section of the weekend edition. Maybe then it would be seen by more drivers. And if taken to heart, perhaps we would see better driving and fewer accidents.




That's a tall order

As a longtime daily subscriber, I read with interest your Editor's note to readers on March 2.

I would hope that your proofreading would extend to the newspaper as a whole and not be confined to headlines.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2013 A14

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