Media Bytes

Sep 04, 2003

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A compendium of articles that appeared in the media during the last few weeks quoting members of the SFU community.

Could the B.C. burn have been prevented?
Globe and Mail, Aug. 26

Could better attention to forewarnings from provincial Auditor-General Wayne Strelioff have prevented many homes and forests in B.C.'s Interior from going up in flames? While the province's chief forester says no, many critics of the B.C. government's public policies around forest fire management say yes. In a 2001 report Strelioff warned that B.C. needed to be better prepared to deal with interface fires, those that sweep into adjacent communities, or face potentially great losses of property and life. SFU assistant professor of public policy Kennedy Stewart says there are enough questions about whether the government heeded Strelioff's warning to warrant an independent inquiry into this summer's unprecedented outbreak of devastating forest fires. “An inquiry doesn't need to be a finger-pointing exercise,” says Stewart. “It could be constructive. But the important thing is to take it out of the hands of government.”

Crunching numbers in crime
Vancouver Sun, Aug. 25

SFU criminologist Neil Boyd is skeptical about the reliability and universal applicability of novel technology that is impressing corrections officials in the U.S. Triant Psychometrics has developed a corrections risk analysis system (C-RAS) to help corrections officials predict the chances of criminal offenders returning to a life of crime if released into society. The computer program, which has been proven to have an 85 to 90 per cent accuracy rate in predicting recidivism in Wisconsin, uses advanced pattern recognition technology to compare an offender with a database of criminals. Boyd questions the applicability of such a program across the U.S. and Canada given the variation in penalties for various crimes in different states and provinces. He is also dubious about the reliability of number crunching as a basis for making criminal justice decisions. “I think parole boards have always thought that there's a danger in reducing the decision about parole to nothing more than statistical compilation or statistical analysis,” says Boyd.

Idle minds can sprout creativity
Calgary Herald, Aug. 21

In the waning days of summer many parents and caregivers are desperate for an injection of new ideas to keep kids active and out of trouble. The challenge of keeping children's minds busy when it seems as though there's nothing left to do but watch television - another eventually humdrum activity - has educators pumping out books on things to do. But SFU professor of education Kieran Egan, also the author of The Educated Mind, a book on children's imagination, says unscheduled time might not be so bad. “Everybody thinks engaging a child's imagination is the key to successful learning,” says Egan, “but rambling idle time - being able to observe the natural world - seems to be crucial for imaginative development.” Egan adds one activity that does encourage a child's mind to ramble creatively is storytelling. He notes stories allow kids to conjure images, whereas television and the internet - even reading picture books to kids - thrusts images upon them.

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