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Promoting simplistic view

A number of recent articles have promoted the trades and other practical educational institutions and programs, and to varying degrees denigrating university education of the more liberal-arts sort.

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But perhaps the most baffling is the March 11 column, Trying to learn is failing, based on B.C.'s bizarre "Hipster isn't a real job" campaign.

Such articles promote a simplistic view of the challenges faced by young people making educational and career choices today.

First is the challenge of interpreting mixed messages. Despite the claims in these articles, many statistics and arguments also favour university education. Second is the fact that young people today are making guesses about what the job market will be like in five to 10 or more years and, perhaps more important, what the market will be like throughout their 30-40 years of working life.

This is no easy task given many unanswerable questions. What jobs will robots be doing in the future? What jobs will disappear? Will jobs exported overseas remain there or return to Canada? Will workers in some occupations have their earning power undermined? Will governments continue to eliminate jobs for young people?

A third consideration is what people enjoy doing. Certainly ease of employment and earnings are important, but they are not the only consideration in having a satisfactory work and personal life. A good percentage of people's lives, amounting to many thousands of hours, is spent at work. Probably all of us would hope that our jobs, like our relationships, give satisfaction much of that time and ideally even provide enjoyable experiences, at least on occasion.


Professor of psychology

University of Winnipeg

Airships a great idea

Martin Cash's March 12 story, Airships to fly our friendly skies?, is right on the money.

He should keep up the good work by supplying information on what I also think is a great project. Just think, Manitoba Hydro could put up towers and not have to build roads in muskeg and other difficult areas.

Supplies could be shipped to First Nations reserves in containers. This is better than the bush-plane era. Ice roads would be obsolete.

Maybe we could start manufacturing here in Manitoba to complement the airship industry, such as making shipping containers and other spin-offs. I can't wait for more of this kind of positive reporting.



Land transport needed

In interviewing a prospective resident of Minneapolis living in Winnipeg, I was surprised to learn that there is no public land transportation between the capital of Manitoba and any point in Minnesota.

The closest one gets is a shuttle from Winnipeg to Grand Forks, N.D., and an occasional charter bus from Winnipeg to the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Frequent monopoly air service to Winnipeg by Delta is very expensive.

Even if scheduled bus transport between Winnipeg and the Twin Cities is not heavily used, it would seem to be in the best interests of Minnesota and Manitoba to support such a service.

Canada is Minnesota's largest trading partner with $20 billion in annual revenues. We should do everything to foster better communication between our two closely allied regions.



Expectations too high

One March 9, you published two letters, one from Lynn Bestland and a second from Cal Dueck both expressing skepticism about city councillors, their intellectual involvement and their commitment to acquiring adequate knowledge before making decisions about what this city refers to as rapid transit.

After years of attending committee hearings, and city council when it is purportedly listening to citizen presentations, I have to admonish the writers. They expect too much from these politicians.

The concept that they are there to understand and weigh their decisions in light of their responsibilities to the citizens is extremely naive. What councillors are is a glorified 311 system, designed to create distraction and a barrier between the public and those who actually manage the city in the interests of the economic elite.

As nice as it is to read letters for those still dreaming of democratic process, they, like most Winnipeg citizens, are destined to be arrogantly ignored.



Preferring subjectivity

It's inevitable that whenever a return to standardized testing is proposed, a variety of groups and individuals get nervous and look for every excuse to denounce them (A doomed monster, Letters, March 9). To them, any device that can measure learning with some degree of accuracy is anathema; they'd much prefer to use more easily manipulated subjective procedures.

Education faculties often oppose such tests because their unproven, hit-or-miss innovations are usually exposed as failing to improve student achievement. They succeed only in wasting students' and teachers' time as well as taxpayers' dollars.

Similarly, education departments and ministries are against them since they frequently reveal flaws in imprecise curriculums that de-emphasize the type of skills evaluated by them.

Then there are those including teachers, parents, students, administrators, trustees and politicians who worry the tests will interfere with the grade-inflation trends that have become so widespread across the continent.

There is nothing wrong with standardized tests, provided they don't comprise more than 30 per cent of the final grade. And while they are anything but foolproof, neither are any individual teacher's assessments.

In Manitoba they need to be re-introduced at more grade levels to supply another viewpoint of student progress.



Serving and protecting

Hats off to our Winnipeg Police Service. Our van was stolen on March 14 at 7:30 a.m., right off our front street. Patrolling the neighbourhood afterwards, I stopped and chatted with an officer in a cruiser.

He knew all about it. He had heard it on the radio. He knew we had a Blue Bomber plate and was keeping his eyes open.

At 11:25 a.m., we got the call. They spotted it and recovered our van. Thanks to all the staff and police for their hard work. It is greatly appreciated.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 18, 2013 A8

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