Passing students mandated
I have a major concern with the idea of holding teachers accountable for something they have no control over. What I am referring to is "social passing."
In case readers don’t know, the province mandated "social passing" many years ago. This means that a student between kindergarten and Grade 8 can be failed only once without parental consent. Students learn about this early in their school careers and respond accordingly.
As a high school math and psychology teacher, I have observed that most students arrive in my classroom with little or no self-confidence, and lacking most of the skills required to be in the class. It is very common for me to assist students who are struggling with math, but to find a student is not able to multiply 4 x 6 or add 6 + 7 in their head, which is a skill taught in grade 3 or 4. I then question, "How did this student make it to Grade 10?" and "How do I teach them what I am required to teach them?"
This is what high school teachers face every day. Elementary and middle-years teachers struggle, trying to ensure students learn something before they move them on to the next grade. They do not move all of them on by choice.
How can the province hold us accountable when they tie our hands behind our backs?
Tom Zdebiak, Winnipeg
While I have serious concerns about the government’s education bill, I will focus only on a non-partisan, fact-based issue because I’m interested in solving problems and not picking sides.
Representation by population is a key tenet in democracies. The current proposal by government is to have 15 regions and, democratically, each region should have roughly 12,300 students. But 13 of the 15 proposed regions will have fewer than 10,000 students. And Winnipeg? Just over 100,000.
This is unjust. Together, let’s re-examine the proposal to make the districts more representative.
David Long, Winnipeg
Re: Educators question province’s process (March 24)
Everyone expected the government to find the recommendations of its much-touted K-12 Education Review commission very valuable. Not so. The horrendous school proposals have almost no connection to the education review.
J.D. Lees called the province’s decision-making process "a bit of a mystery." This is very significant, since Lees is a career teacher and was a member of the 10-person provincial commission. He added, "They didn’t like the answer we came up with. You can recommend, but ultimately it’s the government that decides what to do."
This may explain the whimsical idea of the government appealing to volunteers to serve as parent councils to manage each of the over 690 public schools in Manitoba. Is this merely an experiment?
Derek Dabee, Winnipeg
Balance at Birds Hill
Re: Coyotes concerning (Letter, March 24)
Letter writer David Sutherland wants the numbers of turkeys and groundhogs returned to their previous high levels in Birds Hill Park but those numbers were artificial, created by campers providing food to wildlife. Turkeys aren’t even native to Manitoba; they were introduced around 1958.
Sutherland admits his bird seed is also intended for deer, so this would include all the ground-feeding animals and birds so attractive to coyotes. Add in all the interesting scent trails from pet dogs, themselves bait stations on leashes or off, and it’s no wonder coyote levels may have increased.
Coyotes go where food is most plentiful. They disperse if food availability lessens. Their removal — meaning trapping — would only be temporary. If there’s prey available, they’ll be back. And how detrimental to the park’s image would be a video of a pet dog in a trap?
Bird’s Hill Park is hardly a wilderness park, but it’s not yet a Disney-cartoon version of the wild. Campers could try harder to return it to a more natural balance.
Brazil offers warning
Re: Media’s COVID-19 agenda (Letter, March 26)
Francis Trueman’s letter is way off base in asserting that non-masked folks are "sensible" and public health officials are "blithely locking down and ravaging an entire civilization."
Perhaps Trueman and like-minded people could move to Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonsro had preached the far-right beliefs of vaccine hesitancy, opposition to lockdowns and criticism of face masks. Brazil’s hospital system is now close to collapse, and there are more than 300,000 dead and 3,000 people dying daily from COVID-19. Personally, I’ll stay in Canada, where public-health officials are making the right calls.
Mac Horsburgh, Winnipeg
Carbon tax inconsequential
Re: Supreme Court says the federal carbon price is constitutional (March 25)
The carbon tax is constitutional! The planet is saved!
Actually, no. The same science relied upon by our illustrious leader in Ottawa to justify his carbon tax is unanimous that whatever Canada does to reduce emissions will have no measurable impact on the world’s climate.
So what does this decision mean? That it’s okay to pollute, as long as you pay a tax.
But then, what do you expect from a trust-fund kid whose only qualification for higher office is his last name?
Larry Roberts, Winnipeg
Remember liquor-store thefts
Re: Premier hints at wine sales in neighbourhood stores (March 25)
Premier Brian Pallister seems to have forgotten that Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries recently spent a significant amount of money to solve the problem of robberies in liquor stores. Do private stores want to make this huge investment to protect their employees from the same culprits who have threatened and assaulted liquor store employees? Will these same stores make it mandatory their customers show proper ID to purchase alcoholic beverages?
Manitoba liquor stores provide exceptional service and the private wine stores and beer vendors certainly give the public an expanded choice of products.
Gary McGimpsey, Winnipeg
Editor’s outlook appreciated
Re: COVID-19 briefing, editor’s newsletter
Approximately one year ago, the editor’s daily newsletter appeared in my inbox and continued to appear. I so enjoyed the articles — they’re straightforward with a dash of humor — that I became a Free Press subscriber, even though I left Winnipeg in 1988 and am now happily retired on Vancouver Island.
Each day, I look forward to Paul Samyn’s perspective and personal COVID-19-related experiences, be them his children’s issues, concern for his colleagues’ health and welfare, the sad loss of his father-in-law or the good news about his parents’ vaccine.
The one and only thing I will miss post-pandemic is Samyn’s words of wisdom, perspective, and balanced mix of negativity and levity. Thanks to him for gracing my West Coast inbox each day.
Jennifer Fleming, Qualicum Beach, B.C .