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Letters, Jan. 4

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Opinion

Political perils

Re: Help! Manitoba’s Tories have fallen, and they can’t get up (Dec. 29) and Idealists, realists coexist in the NDP (Dec. 31)

Tom Brodbeck’s succinct summary of Heather Stefanson’s words and actions, both prior to and during her role as premier, offers a powerful reminder of the difference between principled governance and calculated political pragmatism.

Paul Thomas’s analysis of the compromises a particular party made to its foundational principles to appeal to a broader audience offers equally valuable commentary about the risks and benefits of “branding” as a form of political pragmatism.

If we truly wish to have government making decisions that honour the common good and are based on ethical principles, we also have to take responsibility as voters. When we expect our MLAs to favour the narrow interests of our own backyard, they can be only too ready to use that as an excuse to ignore the principles that define a truly just society.

Thanks to the Free Press for coverage that invites us to examine the values that guide our votes — and clearly differentiates between opportunistic politics and commitment to doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reason.

Linda Chernenkoff

Winnipeg

Paul Thomas presents a reasonably accurate picture of the NDP, particularly highlighting the tension between getting elected to form a government and being the conscience of Canada. There is no doubt getting elected has risen to prominence in this long-standing party tug-of-war. The NDP has become, as Louis St. Laurent once quipped, “liberals in a hurry.” Long gone are such words as “socialism” and a “planned economy.”

And as Thomas points out, fighting for the rights of workers and the disadvantaged has been a centrepoint of NDP policy, but has failed to change the permanent ubiquitous and growing problem of inequality. This, then, has been and still is a dilemma for the NDP. Without confronting capitalism and some of the basic arrangements in Canada regarding ownership and distribution of wealth, the party will remain a left-leaning liberal party, continuing to try to make capitalism more compassionate.

But the gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to grow exponentially, with all its attendant problems. Addressing this remains the challenge facing not only the NDP, but our society as a whole.

Robert Milan

Victoria, B.C.

Literacy crucial to education

Re: Librarian numbers shrinking in school division (Dec. 29).

Thanks, Maggie Macintosh, for highlighting the disappearance of school librarians in Winnipeg School Division (WSD), from 35 in 2013-14 to six in 2022-23.

WSD misunderstands the challenge of today’s information society when it allows schools to eliminate librarians and let students access content through digital learning commons.

We are awash in content, whether in print or on our screens. Our children need to learn a range of skills that go way beyond the “three Rs”: information literacy to discern disinformation from genuine information; digital literacy to stay safe as they gain independence online; research skills to respond intelligently, not only to school assignments but to everything from elections to global pandemics, for the rest of their lives.

School librarians teach these literacies. They are essential allies for classroom teachers in the great task of preparing the next generation of Manitobans to respond to tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges.

It is appalling the WSD’s response to the information age is to eliminate information professionals.

Greg Bak

Winnipeg

Thanks to reporter Maggie Macintosh for bringing the public’s attention to an issue in schools that should concern us all. The importance of a literate populace cannot be understated, and yet our current government continues to underfund education to the point many school libraries exist in name only, are shuttered for hours or days at a time, are staffed by volunteers or not staffed at all.

The inequity that exists in school libraries in this province is nothing short of appalling. There are currently only three divisions of 38 that follow national standards calling for both teacher-librarians and library technicians to be employed in school libraries. Leaving school library staffing up to individual schools, as is currently the practice in Winnipeg School Division, is clearly a recipe for disaster.

I challenge all parents and other stakeholders to ask their school and/or divisional administrators about the state of staffing and funding in their local school library. Every child in Manitoba (including those in federally funded Indigenous schools) deserves a fully funded school library with a qualified library staff.

Make no mistake, taxpayers can make a difference, as witnessed in Pembina Trails School Division in 2020/21 when concerned stakeholders argued against the division’s budget proposal to cut all teacher-librarian positions in its high schools. The result of this outcry, although not completely satisfactory, resulted in the high school teacher-librarian positions being at least partially maintained.

Jo-Anne Gibson

Hadashville

Education reporter Maggie Macintosh raised an important issue that hasn’t been given much attention.

During my term as a school trustee, I went to an elementary school to read to students during “I Love to Read” month. After the reading, one class of students came to me and told me their school didn’t have a librarian. Without a librarian, they said books were not often kept in order and it was hard for these elementary children to find appropriate books.

When there is not enough funding from the provincial government, schools end up without the resources they need, and school boards are left struggling to decide which programs get funded.

Without school librarians, we risk missing the critical time to inspire children’s interest in reading, which will eventually hurt the development of children’s literacy.

As the province develops its budget, we need to make sure school divisions receive adequate funding for the programs and staff children need. Literacy should be a priority.

Jennifer Chen

Former School Trustee, Winnipeg School Division

Winnipeg

Theological divide

I appreciated John Longhurst’s article “There are no guarantees in life” (Dec. 30).

Religious life in Canada seems to have devolved into two camps. In one, there are those who view religion as a universal insurance policy: if I do good deeds and live a moral life, and if there happens to be a God, I will reap the benefits.

The other camp has drained religion of all theological concepts and sees religion as simply the performance of social-justice acts. The United Church of Canada is an example of this viewpoint (I use the United Church as an example as I was raised in this church).

This viewpoint was highlighted a few years ago when a United Church minister in Toronto declared she was an atheist. There is nothing wrong with social justice, but you don’t have to believe in God or any religious dogma to commit to this attitude.

Therefore, we are in an interesting period of what I would call religious decline. We pray to God just in case He/She exists, or we use religion to justify an essentially secular view of the world. Take your pick.

Kurt Clyde

Winnipeg

History

Updated on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 7:52 AM CST: Adds links, adds tile photo

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