Thought Police; For the Birds; Get Off My Quad; At a Loss

Illustrations by Hudson Christie
Illustrations by Hudson Christie
Thought Police

It’s wonderful to hear about the excellent mental-health training program used by the Peel Regional Police (“Crash Course in Dark Thoughts,” April). As the mother of a daughter living with schizophrenia, I welcome all the work that police departments are doing to better respond to mental illnesses. Many families I know in Vancouver, mine included, have been very grateful for the skilful and compassionate care that we have seen from the local police.

However, we need to keep asking ourselves why the police are dealing with so many cases of untreated or under-treated mental illness. What mental-health policies are leading to these problems? This issue deserves much more investigation.

Susan Inman
Vancouver, BC

By role-playing volatile situations, police are demonstrating their commitment to modifying current practices. However, I have two concerns: First, we have to continue this kind of training over time. One can’t honestly believe that twenty to thirty hours of training will still be applied confidently two or three years down the road, and dealing with people’s emotions—whether or not they are mentally ill—is the most complex part of police work. Second, Kay does not mention discussions or strategies related to self-management and team response. Imagine if one of the other attending officers at the fatal 2013 shooting of Sammy Yatim had recognized the signs of a triggered co-worker and taken away leadership of the interaction from James Forcillo. Perhaps the recent death of Alex Wettlaufer will produce more discussions on law-enforcement training and its challenges.

Steve Hall,
Oakville, ON

For the Birds

Calum Marsh (A Roost of One’s Own,” April) writes that roosting pigeons have been known to collapse a roof or set a building on fire. But he might have included even more details to dissuade those who continue to feed these rats with wings.

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Mississippi Bridge that carried the Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, suddenly collapsed during evening rush hour, killing thirteen people and injuring 145. The investigation that followed identified several contributing factors. One of these was a build-up of bird droppings—specifically, those of pigeons.

David Honigsberg
Toronto, ON

Get Off My Quad

Ron Srigley’s article (“Pass, Fail,” April) is the story of the emperor’s clothes rewritten for our university system. As an educator for over twenty years, I can sadly confirm that everything Srigley says about the decrease in the quality of our educational institutions is the naked truth. Fortunately, however, he has the courage and insight to spell it out.

Hilary MacLeod
Belleville, ON

I was both disappointed and angered by Ron Srigley’s description of the failings of our universities. In his opening paragraph, he describes “most” of his students as bored, unambitious, or just plain stupid. It is unfortunate that we entrust the higher education of our young adults to one who seemingly holds them in such
low regard.

While he condemns credentialism, he is disparaging of educators without PhDs. But the reality is that some academics, including those with PhDs, cannot present their material in an engaging way. Sessional instructors, many of whom have only master’s degrees, bring the kind of real-life knowledge to the academic table that most PhD lifers can’t touch.

As Srigley attacks two legs of the academic stool, the third—his tenured colleagues—goes unscathed. Yet in that cadre, there are some who see students as a bother that interferes with their academic interests or leisurely pursuits. Worse still are the academics who want to overthrow the social and economic order from the security of their tenured positions.

Perhaps a little more affection and respect for his students might change his outlook for the better.

Dan Cameron
Regina, SK

While Ron Srigley makes some important points about the state of our university system, his constant references to “your son and daughter” frustrate students like me. Surely we have the largest stake in our own education.

Equally problematic is Srigley’s reliance on anecdotal evidence that he assumes is true everywhere. Unlike what seems to be the case at the University of Prince Edward Island, at my university—York—I do not believe anyone is teaching outside of the education faculty with only a master’s degree in education. Additionally, the example he gives of his colleague being called to discuss a grade with an academic advisor goes against our university’s policy. For a more nuanced and methodological approach to this topic, I recommend Ivory Tower Blues, which does justice to these important issues and stands in stark contrast to this jaded professor’s self-aggrandizing anecdotes.

Liam Bekirsky
Toronto, ON

The Walrus gets a D for publishing this cantankerous and embittered diatribe. I think it is time for Ron Srigley to retire or take a sabbatical.

John Prescott,
Guelph, ON

At a Loss

I just lost my mom to esophageal cancer and found comfort in your words (“Modern Grief,” April). The struggle is real, and often it’s a journey that you take by yourself. In the beginning, you find a lot of people there to support you, but as time goes on, they lose compassion for your grief. I printed out all my mom’s emails and put them in a book to read when I need advice, encouragement, or just to travel back in time with her. I keep her pictures nearby. I wrap myself in shawls and blankets that she knitted for me. But that doesn’t stop the stream of tears from often just rolling down my cheeks. The most surprising thing about grief is that you feel as if you are not honouring that person’s life enough, or not in the right ways. It’s all very difficult to endure, but knowing there are a lot of us also struggling through our own losses can perhaps bring comfort. I hope peace finds you and all of us missing someone important to our hearts.

Jennifer Demoff
Clarkston, MI

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter, an email (letters@thewalrus.ca), or a tweet, or post on this website. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5

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