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Show young people respect

Ken Osborne raises fundamental questions about the role of education in society (More to schools than jobs, Feb. 4).

But Osborne may be ignoring or blurring an important distinction. He concludes by saying "it might well be that what we used to think of as a liberal education... is the best preparation for citizenship after all." Yet for most of the article he could be interpreted as arguing for renewal of citizenship education, with some of the old liberal-arts elements mixed in.

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Osborne acknowledges the coercion and repression that historically have been committed under the banner of citizenship. The problem with the concept is that it means we presume to know how to manipulate young people to fit our idea of the "good citizen."

This dooms us to make the same mistake over and over again. Far from being in decline, citizenship education is front and centre when educators go on endlessly about teaching mutual respect, motivating kids for social justice and civic participation, encouraging them to take sides on the trivial controversies of the day, and so on.

There is nothing wrong with mutual respect, but to teach it by preaching and moralizing for 12 years is heavy-handed. Teach respect by showing respect to young people, who by their nature want to learn.




Melnick, Selinger split

Premier Greg Selinger's contention that Christine Melnick acted alone is simply absurd (NDP bids goodbye to Melnick, Feb. 5). To get that many people to show up on a weekday afternoon would require a mammoth effort requiring significant political direction. That's why it caught the attention of the media who were there that day -- they knew something was amiss.

There were the images of Andrew Swan, with speech prepared and talking to the throngs, with microphones and lights all ready to go. Did they know there would be such a sizable crowd?

Selinger's splitting of hairs -- saying his staff were involved in the planning of the event, but not in the direction of civil servants -- suggests he is doing advance damage control.

While Melnick's initial answers were wrong and did indeed mislead the legislature, what benefit was there for her to make her recent statements? Already banished to the backbench, there was almost no chance she would have another shot at cabinet.

Perhaps she chose to go out as she did because the party she supported for three generations no longer exists, or because she was the sacrificial lamb to save Greg Selinger from political embarrassment.




Yet again Christine Melnick does the work, this time communicating about issues senior leadership should have taken on but did not (Selinger's capacity to lead now the issue, Feb. 4).

Melnick took on the toughest and most neglected heritage issue in Winnipeg -- the resurrection of Barber House in Point Douglas -- in an area that holds the lowest voter turnout in the city, along with traditionally low incomes and neglected service delivery.

The highly significant heritage structure was little more than a burnt-out shell until it finally opened as a beautifully restored architectural gem in 2011 with a seniors drop-in centre, adjoining modern daycare and multi-use creative space.

Residents say this wouldn't have happened without her help -- the "political will" that heritage advocates say is fundamentally important to built heritage issues.

Her being dropped from the NDP caucus was needless.




The morality of the hunt

Jeff McMaster appears to think that when a hunter goes out and selectively harvests an animal, that animal is wasted (Buck hunt not a harvest, Letters, Feb. 4).

McMaster calls trophy hunting "morally unacceptable." If he finds it more morally acceptable to buy meat from a grocery store shelf after someone else has harvested it, so be it.




Tough talk about mayor

After I finished reading James Turner's article on our mayor suing a university student newspaper (Katz suing over Uniter article, Feb. 4), I continued down the page to read Bartley Kives' article on surface parking lots (Develop surface parking lots -- or face penalty, Feb. 4).

Kives states it "would take a tough mayor" to rein in the owners of these lots and put some money into developing downtown.

How ironic.




Problem with pension numbers

Gwyn Morgan, a self-described "retired Canadian business leader who has been a director of five global corporations," has penned a column that is both pernicious and alarmist (Public pension liabilities top $300 billion, Feb. 4).

He quotes the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimate that public-sector unfunded pension liabilities are "likely" in the range of $300 billion, working out to $9,000 for every Canadian.

The liabilities in question, however, were accumulated over the full careers of all civil servants and do not come due all at once, but over the course of a retirement period. Morgan also neglects to mention that the pensions he calls "gold-plated" are typically at least half-funded by employee contributions.

Morgan wraps himself in the banner of democracy, "the best of all governance systems," while attacking the democratic right of free association and collective bargaining: "Governments must be prepared to defy union resistance by all available means."

That goes by a name quite different than democracy.




Weary of windrows

I sympathize with anyone dealing with the city's windrows in back lanes (City to mull over back-lane windrows, Feb. 5).

I live near a school, and parents doing pickups persistently drive down nearby back lanes. With only one way in and out, there's no room for anyone to pass, making it hard for residents trying to get home.

On several occasions I have had to back up onto a busy street, holding up the school bus.

Parents picking up children from schools should stick to the main streets and stay off residents' back lanes -- at least until the snow is gone.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2014 A11

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