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Truth and fiction

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2011 (3900 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Truth and fiction

I can’t blame Tom Oleson (‘We are more than nothing and deserve better,’ Dec. 3) for being moved by the story of Jewish persecution in Tsarist Russia as told by Bernard Malamud in his 1966 novel, The Fixer. But Oleson’s emotional response illustrates the great danger of historical fiction. Malamud’s retelling of the Mendel Beyliss story is incredibly twisted. Beyliss was never tortured by Russian authorities. In fact, his trial outraged liberal opinion in Russia; he was defended pro bono by leading Christian lawyers and ultimately acquitted by a Russian jury. Sadly, it does little good to point these things out. Jews and Arabs, black and white, Asian and aboriginal, we all cherry-pick from our respective histories in order to justify our present-day hostilities to our ethnic adversaries. We should all just try to remember that usually there are two sides to a story.

MARTY GREEN

Winnipeg

Invisible and risky

It is a shame that people cannot or won’t learn (A sick girl and her hurt dog make no decision easy, Dec. 3). I remember last winter a dog went through the ice in Assiniboine Park Forest and was nearly lost. Thankfully it wasn’t, but it seemed the owner was also using an “invisible” leash. Contrary to the popular opinion of some dog owners, Assiniboine Park Forest is not an off-leash park.

As sad as the recent column was, there would not have even been a story there if not for the dog’s owner using the same type of ‘leash.’

Even putting aside the total disregard for anyone else walking their dogs, kids, or even just having a stroll through the forest or down the street, one has to wonder how much people who use them actually care about their animals. How many times have people been bothered by dogs whose owners proclaim don’t worry, “my” dog never bites?

BOB HAEGEMAN

Winnipeg

Failing parents, kids

Re: Numbers game (Dec. 3). It is unfair to tell parents — as one teacher put it — to “get off their behinds” and ensure that their children are properly educated. An educational system that requires significant involvement from caregivers is inherently two-tiered: The children of parents who can afford to invest their time, energy and money in their education succeed, while the children of those parents without these resources languish. Our society is responsible for the provision of high quality K to 12 educational opportunities to all children, regardless of family circumstance.

All children need to be provided with a solid grounding in basic arithmetic. Children who do not receive these foundational skills are unfairly handicapped in the upper grades and in post-secondary education, when they attempt to learn more advanced topics in math. It is therefore heartbreaking to once again read, and listen to, arguments from some math support teachers/consultants who suggest that practice runs counter to understanding. If one talks to a mathematician, they will almost certainly stress the importance of practice for success.

My advice to anyone who cares about K to 12 mathematics education is simply this: The development of automaticity with basic arithmetic — addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the ability to work with fractions — in elementary school is absolutely essential for later success in mathematics. To ensure that children have a wide variety of career opportunities when they are older, we must foster strong arithmetic skills at an early age. This goes beyond counting stairs, doing “grocery store math” and playing games. It also goes beyond providing answers to contrived examples such as 505 – 498. (Try: 3124 – 1637, 4567 x 345 and 11,046 divided by 42.)

ROSS STOKKE

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

University of Winnipeg

No will, no way

When Tom Harris (Time for some Kyoto honesty, Dec. 3) claims that average Canadians feel government and industry’s capitulation to environmental lobby groups looks ridiculous, he’s probably right since polls and elections show fighting climate change is hardly urgent for citizens.

During the recent Ontario elections, Liberal candidates in ridings where wind farms were proposed were all defeated. In addition, that province is so committed to solar power that it’s forecast to provide a mere 1.5 per cent of its electricity and not until 2030. By that time, Alberta oilsands production is expected to nearly triple.

Despite all the hype about electrics and hybrids, they comprise less than three per cent of vehicles in Canada, and several of the types aren’t even marketed across the country because their cold-weather reliability is suspect.

The Swiss bank UBS reports that ineffective climate policies have cost Europeans 210 billion euros for “almost zero impact” in cutting CO2 emissions, a fact that Ottawa should note carefully before continuing with Kyoto or signing onto any new deals that will amount to little more than wealth transfers.

Edward Katz

Winnipeg

Jets make their mark

I attended the Jets game on Dec. 1 with my 10-year-old son, who is being treated for cancer. Because part of his treatment compromises his immune system, I asked if there were any facilities where we could be out of the general crowd to limit his exposure to germs. They were willing to help us in any way they could.

After the game, we had a chance to meet with the players in the dressing room. The players treated my son like a king and spent 20 or 25 minutes showing him around the whole facility, answering questions, talking with him and introducing him to everyone. It didn’t cost the players anything except for a few minutes of their time but for him it was an experience he will remember for the rest of his life.

ALLAN SCHEIRER

Winnipeg

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When it was announced the NHL was returning to Winnipeg, I did a rather conservative calculation as to how much discretionary spending would soon be directed its way. I thought $75 million seemed reasonable given that a minimum of 40-something games at roughly $90 per seat, plus whatever fans were spending on parking and concessions.

It’s all fine and good from a business perspective, but let’s not forget that long before the NHL arrived it was the arts that provided this city with its international reputation for excellence and creativity. The arts and cultural sectors of this province remain one of the highest net producers of GDP and employment and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a result of homegrown ingenuity and productivity.

As much as I appreciate the game of hockey when it’s played as intended, I can’t imagine living in a place where it alone defines me.

DAN DONAHUE

Winnipeg

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Re: Bodychecked at the box office (Dec. 1). How could the arts possibly compete with the Jets considering all the free publicity the Jets get on the front page and throughout the Free Press practically every day? Instead of a half-page picture of our beloved Jets on the front page, why not give equal time to the artists who also make our lives more enjoyable?

I am a sports fan but also enjoy the arts and would appreciate equal time for the arts. If you haven’t got news to report, please highlight the arts and give them equal space. The arts could use your help. An artist holding a violin is at least as attractive as a toothless hockey player holding a stick.

DICK TOEWS

Winnipeg

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Re: Jerseys cleared for… rip off (Dec.2). Never mind just labelling the fake Jets jerseys rip-offs, what about the authentic ones? The prices of all the bona fide Jets clothing is outrageous, given that most if not all of it is made in Asia for comparative peanuts, even taking into consideration licensing fees. The fact all pro sports gouge their fans is no excuse.

BARRY CRAIG

Winnipeg

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