Letters to the Editor
The summer 2013 issue of the Review is the best I’ve read in all of my many years as an alumnus.
The article on the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) was really fantastic. Queen’s has had a major presence on the shores of beautiful Lake Opinicon since 1945. This is the first article of note about QUBS that I can recall in the Review in all the many years I’ve been receiving it and reading it.
The article on the Lees, the now-deceased Chinese couple who operated a laundry business near the University for almost half a century, was also very stimulating. When one realizes just how many sacrifices that couple had to make every day essentially to raise 16 children and have all of them go to Queen’s is mind boggling. Some immigrants to this country put me – basically a person who is 100 per cent career-oriented – to shame. Of course, Canada has always been a country built largely by immigrants, and those of us who were fortunate enough to have been born here should always treat the bulk of these newcomers with tremendous respect.
The article on the newest governor of the Bank of Canada was also very well researched and written. Stephen Poloz, Artsci’78, is another fine example of a person from the hard-working immigrant stock who make this country so great.
I always look forward to receiving the Review; simply reading about Queen’s and various activities there makes me feel that I’m back on campus.
The explosion of content in the Review is leading the magazine down a slippery slope.
My enjoyment of reading the Review is not what it used to be. Both the font and font sizes are making it quite difficult to do a casual read. Specifically, reading the Review in bed is a chore. It’s only possible to read it sitting up and with very good illumination. This led me to question my eyesight, but I have been reassured by my eye doctor that nothing is wrong with my eyes.
It appears that your quest to “up” the content is leading to the use of at least three different font sizes (from normal, to small, to minuscule). Adding to that, the use of background colours is not well matched with a font that’s bold enough for readers to make out the words.
Please consider eliminating the smallest fonts and increasing the boldness of the fonts [used against] coloured backgrounds.
By coincidence, the Review staff has begun preliminary work on redesigning the magazine. The current look is now more than a decade old, and while aspects of it have been tweaked, the time has come to wipe the slate clean and develop a cleaner, more reader-friendly and contemporary look. Two elements of the Review’s design that we’ll be looking at closely are fonts (typefaces) and the size of the type being used in various sections of the Review. If you have suggestions in this regard or about anything else that you’d like to see – or not see – in a new-look Review, please share them with us at review @queensu.ca. We welcome your suggestions. – Ed.
Re “Still at the head of the Economics class”, ISSUE #3-2013, P. 36
I enjoyed reading the Review article about the new Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen “Steve” Poloz. Those of us who were in the Economics Department in the late ‘70s remember him as a student, and many of us have interacted with him in more recent years.
Unfortunately, the article contains a glaring error. It refers to the supervisor of Dr. Poloz’s honours thesis as “Robert Fisher,” a “young British econometrician.” His supervisor was actually Dr. Gordon Fisher, who came to Queen’s in 1975 as a full professor and would have been in his late forties when Steve was a student. As the article states, Gordon is now at Concordia University in Montreal.
I ways appreciate it when unusual names are broken down into syllables for readers, but often we still don’t know how to say them because there’s something missing: the emphasis. Any word or name in English with more than one syllable has an emphasis on one of them. So is the name of the new Governor of the Bank of Canada pronounced “POLE-oz” or “pole-oz´”?
Stephen Poloz’s surname is pronounced “pole-oz´.” – Ed.
Canadians have applauded the appointment of Mark Carney as the first foreign-born Governor of the Bank of England. It was appropriate that he assumed the position on Canada Day.
The Queen’s community also takes pride in the fact that Carney’s successor at the Bank of Canada is Stephen Poloz, Artsci’78. As Hugh Winsor’s article points out, of the nine governors of the Bank of Canada, three have been Queen’s graduates: Gerald Bouey, BA’48, LLD’81, and David Dodge, Arts’65, LLD’02, in addition to the incumbent.
With no intent to diminish Carney’s accomplishment, it is worthy of mention that (Sir) Edward Robert Peacock (1871-1962), who earned his MA at Queen’s in 1894, became the first Canadian to be a director of the Bank of England, serving 1921-24 and 1929-46. He became a friend of Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England from 1920 to 1944.
When Norman was nearing retirement, Kingsley Wood, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the recommendation of the eminent economist John Maynard Keynes, suggested that Graham Towers, Governor of the Bank of Canada, should succeed Norman.
Peacock was charged with the task of persuading Towers to let his name stand for a five-year term as Governor. Peacock failed, and so did Chancellor of the Exchequer Kingsley Wood when he tried to influence the selection committee, although its members did “acknowledge admiration for Towers, his character and his ability as a central banker.”
Had Peacock and Wood been sufficiently persuasive, Carney might have been not the first, but rather the second, Canadian Governor of the Bank of England.
To read more about the life of Sir Edward Peacock, please visit the Department of Economics homepage at www.econ.queensu.ca/support/life/peacock.-- Ed.
Re “Missing something?” – Letters, ISSUE #3-2013, P. 3
As online faculty at the University of British Columbia, I was dismayed to read James F. McDonald’s argument that online learning “will never replace fulltime learning” and “will always be second-rate.” These are common misconceptions typically held by naysayers with no first-hand experience teaching or learning in a virtual classroom.
As a former on-campus instructor, I shared McDonald’s bias when initially hired in 2006 to develop and teach online courses for UBC’s then-new (now well respected) Optional-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing – the virtual equivalent, I might add, of the two-year, full-time graduate program I completed on campus at UBC a decade earlier (MFA’94). Suffice to say, my seven years as an online educator have drastically altered my perspective.
I’ve noticed, for example, that online learning pushes all students to actively engage in class discussion. In a traditional, on-campus seminar, it is possible to show up and say little and let other students carry the conversation. In an online setting, an individual student’s silence can be deafening. If you don’t contribute to the class through written posts, you’re as good as absent. Students also tend to put more thought and care into composing written responses than they do when speaking off the cuff. As a result, online discussions often have more depth and breadth when compared to the level of analysis in the equivalent, two-hour class in an on-campus seminar room.
True, an online class can never completely replicate the feel of face-to-face learning in a bricks-and-mortar classroom, nor can an optional-residency program hope to provide the fully immersive experience of full-time campus life. Indeed, online programs face particular challenges, such as potentially high attrition rates and student disengagement. However, a well-designed program strives not only to deliver dynamic online courses, but also to build a thriving, virtual community that meaningfully engages students both inside and outside of classes, promotes quality interaction, and helps foster long-term friendships and professional connections.
In our program, for example, students use community forum software (IP.Board) not only to participate in their courses, but also to engage with the entire student body outside of class. We have various online “salons” and general-discussion threads, where students share information, engage in passionate discussions and heated debates, or simply chit-chat and goof around, in the same way they would in the hallway outside a traditional classroom, in the student lounge, or at the university pub.
We have “pods” of students in major centres such as Victoria, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Los Angeles, to name but a few, as well as in far-flung places such as the Netherlands and Dubai, who arrange face-to-face meetings to socialize in their home communities.
The cornerstone of our program is our annual Summer Residency, where students fly in from across the country and around the world for a two-week, face-to-face, intensive experience that includes traditional on-campus classes, lectures, panel discussions, literary readings, and social time.
The in-person relationships forged at the residency carry over to the virtual classroom in the fall-winter term, making students feel more connected despite the limits of technology, and strengthening the quality of their online interaction. In fact, the Summer Residency has been such a rich, rewarding experience for our students that the on-campus Creative Writing program now plans to replicate it for its incoming grad students.
Online education is not only a growing trend, but it is also the way of the future. While traditional degree programs still have their place (I wouldn’t trade my four years at Queen’s for anything in the world), online programs make university education accessible to those who, for various reasons, cannot uproot their lives to study full-time on a university campus. This accessible education is undoubtedly different from a full-time, on-campus experience, but no less stimulating, engaging, and personally meaningful.
A few years ago I probably would have agreed with James F. McDonald’s bleak assessment of online learning as being “second rate”, but, having taught online, I take issue with his assertion. Everywhere I look I see what I always thought of, and what the generations of students who preceded me thought of, as the typical university experience – football games in the fall, housemates and piles of dirty dishes, juggled assignments, and fond memories of campus life. The imperatives and, indeed, pleasures, of a lived campus experience remain with us still, but online education has grown to address completely different needs.
More students than ever want access to a university education, and not all students can take four years of their lives to reside in a particular place, often far from home. Online education has enabled thousands of students of all sorts of backgrounds, ages, and perspectives to access what was once a fairly closed shop. It’s a bit of democracy and market responsiveness rolled into a novel technological format. By describing such courses as second-rate, without appearing to have taken such a course himself, McDonald struck an off chord with me.
Having taught at Queen’s now for almost 20 years, I can say that the best online students I have taught would have excelled in the live classroom as well. Indeed, online formats demand different kinds of assignments and participation components that, in many ways, free students to be more active and insightful than they might otherwise be. And poor students will always be poor students, whether they fail to show up in the classroom or at their computer.
The hard part in online teaching, to be sure, is reaching the middle pack, the students who, with a bit of prodding, poking, or persuading, could rise to a challenge and find success. But reaching such students has always been the greatest challenge facing any teacher at any time and anywhere. In the end, online learning will be what students and their professors make of it, which is the basic deal that has always underwritten campus life and the university experience.
Re “The Lee family’s legacy of love”, ISSUE #3-2013, P. 39
I was very moved by this wonderful human interest article. Many mornings, as I walked down Division Street to class, I would glance at the premises but had no idea that such an extraordinary story was unfolding within. The parents’ love of family and education is inspiring. I intend on sharing this with friends, many of whom are immigrants.
Re “Isiah had more to say”, ISSUE #3-2013, P. 5
I liked the letter from Diane (Richards) McKillop, Arts’63, regarding the University’s motto. At Queen’s, when I made inquiries as to its meaning, I was told it meant, “Wisdom and learning shall be the stabilizer of the times.” I subsequently asked an old friend (who’s no mean classicist) what the motto meant, but he didn’t know. So thanks to Diane, we know what the University’s founders assumed we would.
According to Herb Hamilton’s 1977 book Queen’s Queen’s Queen’s, when Principal W.A. Mackintosh had Queen’s crest registered with Britain’s College of Heralds, some campus Latin scholars and theologians supported a different translation of its motto: “Stability through wisdom and learning.” However, the English translation in the Queen’s Senate Minutes is “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times”– taken from a Thomas Hardy poem called “Aberdeen.” (Now, do those of you older grads whose degree parchment was in Latin ever wonder what it says above the Principal and Registrar’s signatures, hmmmm?) – Ed.
Re “Taking education in new directions,” ISSUE #3-2013, P. 32,
This is the second article concerning Aboriginal peoples that I have noticed in the Review in the last few years. As a geologist who has worked throughout northern Canada, I find these articles mystifying if not incomprehensible, particularly when it is suggested that Aboriginals do not have access to higher education. If they achieve the required level of education in secondary school, why would they be refused entry to a university in Canada?
Further, the Review article refers to an “Aboriginals Admission Policy.” It implies that Aboriginals may be accepted with lower scholastic standards than regular students. Perhaps the University plans to make up for this shortcoming by having students take an extra year or more, to learn basic high school math and science. Without this fundamental knowledge, no matter the field of study and degree, valid critical thought is not feasible in our modern life.
This article also suggests that natives have been disproportionately affected by the development of natural resources, and it infers that with more aboriginal engineers, this problem might be rectified. Any such suggestion is debatable, but, without a doubt, native engineers should contribute to a better understanding by aboriginals of these projects. However, without a major improvement in reserve secondary schools, the possibility of more native students becoming engineers is a pipe dream. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that reserve Aboriginals have very little interest in modern-day occupations or labour, and I think that might be attributed to poor schools.
We cannot change the past, but it can teach us. Even into the 1970s, Canada forced malnutrition “experiments” upon Aboriginal children trapped in religious residential schools. The very first generation to have missed all those “introductory courses” in Canadian culture is now spreading its wings.
I recently met a young Cree woman who was calmly and competently practicing her Laboratory Technologist profession in Weeneebayko Hospital near James Bay. I salute her hard-won success, and the vision of First Nations Technical Institute on Tyendinaga Reserve, and now, Queen’s, for initiating its new Indigenous Studies program.
We may find ourselves looking in the mirror when we learn more about Aboriginal peoples, few of whom escape unwounded from the maw of the resource sector wolfpack that still gnaws insatiably on their lands, so many generations after first contact.
If the University’s new Indigenous Studies program helps in that regard, please sign me up.
The letter writer is the author of the “Smithyman saga,” a series of four Colonial-era novels in which First Nations people play prominent roles. The inaugural book in the series, The Eastern Door (2006), will be reissued this fall by Fireship Press, www.fireshippress.com – Ed.
As someone who has taught both math and science on a reserve in the North, in addition to having worked there as a scientist, I read the article in the University’s new Indigenous Studies program with great interest.
It’s my observation that Aboriginal students in the North need an earlier intervention than at the postsecondary school level. They come from an oral tradition, learn in a second or third language, and use their first language in their home communities.
Off-reserve they may experience various forms of racial discrimination. Furthermore, the shadow of residential schools can be long, affecting, even now, attitudes toward learning in schools and from books, and using a language other than one’s own.
Nonetheless, as elsewhere, responses are individual. I taught students who were diligent and worked hard, and those who didn’t. I also had parents who worked with me as a team, and those who didn’t.
Accessibility is not a simple issue.