uOttawa University of Ottawa - Canadas University
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Opinions - Timothy C. Lethbridge

I started writing the following items in 1994 when I first created my web page. That was before the era of blogs. Many years later I decided to start creating many more opinion-pieces, so started a formal blog at http://tims-ideas.blogspot.com/

I have left the items below for the historical record, but they will get out of date. I have reposted them to my blog, where I have also updated them. You should click through to the relevant blog entry listed by each item.

Elementary Education in Reading and Writing

See my 2011 blog post to obtain my updated opinions on the issue of reading and writing education.. The following was originally posted in the mid-1990's and is for the historical record only.

Probably the public issue that I am most interested in is public education. Frankly I think that we are wasting future opportunities by not adequately educating our young, here in North America.

My opinions have been moulded via several influences:

  • I compare the education in Europe to that in North America, including my own experiences in both systems.

  • I observe how youth are educated today.

  • I observe the arrival in university of those who are the product of the educational system.

  • I look at how we have to shape higher education to make up for the deficits of elementary education.

For me the biggest problem is that students are not stimulated enough in their elementary years. They read far too little (there is no reason why they should not be reading numerous books by the time they are in grade 4). And they do even less writing: They should be writing essays and lengthy pieces of fiction three to four years before they currently do.

People say that we have too many things to teach our children, and that this is the root of the problem. I say rubbish! If we teach children to read and write well, we will maintain their natural yearning for knowledge. They will learn on their own, and will pick up what they are taught later much faster.

What we do now is teach them lots of little facts in the early years -- most of which they forget. Reading and writing, however, are skills that are never forgotten.

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On environment, finite resources, and the inevitable cessation of economic growth

See my 2011 blog post to obtain my updated opinions on the issue of the environment, finite resources and the inevitable cessation of economic growth.. The following was originally posted in the mid-1990's and is for the historical record only.

We have our heads in the sand regarding the environment. Whenever people point out problems such as pollution, destruction of forests etc., the response from many people is: We have muddled by so far, and we have to make sure that the economy keeps growing, so the environment should not be a big concern. The response from typical politicians is much the same. However, they might add: "we will study the problem -- we will do something when we have proof that damage has occurred".

But do we want to wait for irreparable damage to occur before doing something? This is like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, waiting until the predator starts eating it before it admits there is a problem.

On economic growth and globalization: I am in favour of these! If economic growth comes because we are becoming more productive, and if globalization means that freer trade redistributes wealth better and reduces regional disparaties, then these are good things. What irks me is that the current political debate is between those who care about the environment and hate globalization, and those who care about economic growth and think there is no environmental problem. Unfortuunately, there is no place in the middle for people like myself. Business leaders have a responsibility to increase shareholder value, so they will naturally be drawn to the second camp, even if they do feel a sense of environmental responsibility. On the other hand, an environmentalist who claims to favour globalization may be ostracized by his peers! The only solution is strong political leaders who can promote globalization, with tough rules attached to it for the protection of the environment (and to prevent exploitation of people too).

Economic growth cannot continue forever at the rates we have grown accustomed to. It can only continue if productivity increases or the population increases. The population cannot grow beyond a certain level, and productivity increases are likely to get smaller and smaller. Unfortunately, we measure economic growth as a percent of increase, which implies exponential growth (with a small exponent). It would make more sense for us to strive for a stable, steady-state and sustainable economy. We should define recession as a significant drop in output, not any drop.

A few final words about this: It should be obvious to people that resources are finite. We will run out of oil and other fossil fuels. We will run out of cheap oil relatively soon. We will also run out of all other non-renewable resources. And we will run into increasing environmental problems through short-term thinking. Although business leaders are forced by economics to think only about the short-term effects of what they do, politicians must take a longer term view. Unfortunately, we let our politicians be dictated to by business, since we let business provide them with all their money!

 

The need to avoid burning wood in stoves

I have a separate page where I address the problem of the smoke produced by wood burning stoves and fireplaces.

 
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