Letters to the Editors

Technology diluting classroom learning

Dear Editors,

Re: “Press play, sit back and take notes” (Journal, Oct. 12, 2007)

Whether it’s students frantically trying to type every word that drops from the instructor’s mouth, back-row slackers mindlessly playing solitaire or professors reading aloud the text of their Powerpoint slides, Lisa Jemison suggests that the introduction of the computer into the classroom has undermined the personal connections that once made university classes special places to be.

It’s too bad that bringing computers into the classroom is construed as innovative practice because, in fact, the use of such machines has enabled the expansion of classroom enrollments, the worsening of student-faculty ratios, and the transformation of higher education

into some kind of bad video game.

The other day I heard a colleague remark that employing remote control clickers in class, so that students can answer on-screen multiple-choice questions, was a nice way to ensure “active learning.” Seriously.

Jemison’s challenge to the place that technology has claimed in higher education is well-taken and marks a particular moment in the ongoing decline of undergraduate education at Queen’s.

James Carson
Associate Dean
Faculty of Arts and Science

Gore deserving of Nobel Peace Prize

Dear Editors,

Re: “Gore’s efforts aren’t Nobel enough” (Journal, Oct. 16, 2007)

This week’s editorial criticizing Al Gore’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize is patently false, succeeding only in broadcasting the Journal’s ignorance of Mr. Gore’s substantive contributions to the fight against global warming.

A look at Gore’s environmental advocacy achievements dispels any skepticism regarding his level of commitment.

As a junior representative from Tennessee, Gore piloted the first U.S. Congressional hearings to investigate the causes of rapidly increasing global temperatures, and illustrated the causal relationship between temperature and CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

His many legislative accomplishments in the U.S. Congress (1977-93) reinvigorated the environmental lobby, and included tax incentives for energy-efficient appliances, renewable portfolio standards promoting the adoption of clean energy sources for electricity generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels), and a plethora of regulatory reforms protecting our ecosystems, wildlife and natural resources. In the political arena, where the merits of an argument generally take a backseat to political tactics and special interests, one can hardly fathom such marked success absent genuine leadership and a vigorous approach.

You were right to suggest that Gore’s overall message of late is simplified, omitting technical specificity and scientific nuance. But this ignores his unique contribution to the broader movement—an ability to effectively communicate the problem’s severity and the dire need for practical solutions.

Even more commendable is his tactful ability to avoid tones of cynicism and despair, electing instead to espouse an optimistic vision of the future. Incorporating technical complexities would only handicap his exceptional talent for galvanizing global coalitions advocating for sound environmental policy.

Rem that some of the most successful social movements of our time (e.g. civil rights, feminism and labour) depended on straightforward, colloquial appeals for needed reforms.

Our capacity to stem the tide of global warming hinges on the contributions of every one of us.

Those who can intimately connect with people and unearth their political and social will for change deserve the highest honor the global community can bestow.

Justin Smith
ArtSci ’08

Save your bottles and your money

Dear Editors,

Re: “Tapping into bottled water concerns” (Journal, Oct. 16, 2007)

We were surprised by a few comments made by Environmental Studies professor Stephen Brown. He said that washing reusable water bottles requires a lot of water. However, later in the statistics section of the article it states that it takes three litres of water to make a one-litre bottle of water.

There seems to be no question as to which of the two options is less wasteful. Prof. Brown also expressed concern that criticizing the water bottles would end up supporting the soda industry; however, major bottled-water brands are owned by soda companies. For example, Dasani is owned by Coca-Cola and Aquafina by Pepsi.

We’d like to call on members of the Queen’s community to reduce the strain on the environment and your bank balance by starting to BYOB: bring your own (water) bottle!

Anna Thomas, ArtSci ’10
Gretchen McCulloch, ArtSci ’11
Members of Queen’s University Against Killer Coke

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