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Students' reasons for taking higher maths often don't add up


'Many students are opting for honours maths without understanding what is involved' (stock photo)

'Many students are opting for honours maths without understanding what is involved' (stock photo)

'Many students are opting for honours maths without understanding what is involved' (stock photo)

As our teenagers approach yet another bout of intense psychological stress in the annual slug-fest of the Leaving Certificate, it is encouraging to see an educationalist express grave moral reservations over the 25 bonus points awarded to those students who sit the honours maths paper (Irish Independent, Education, May 18).

I agree wholeheartedly with Billy Ryle's observations on the distorted and often misguided reasoning of young people who opt for the honours paper simply in the hope of gaining these extra points.

It appears there is rarely a deeper appreciation of the level of extracurricular study involved, suitability to the higher paper, or the student's own long-term objectives when deciding to take the honours paper.

As Mr Ryle points out, the choice is often driven by the governmental emphasis on supplying the State with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates. Consequently, the subconscious pressure to choose a degree programme which delivers a good career with a strong economic return has led to a nascent generation that is unknowingly subjecting itself to a lifetime of stress, resentment and unfulfilled potential by opting for careers they are wholly unsuited for.

Moreover, at a time when political, moral and religious strife is assailing the world, the corresponding lack of future philosophers, historians and social demographers is depriving society of lateral thinkers who can deconstruct complex cultural challenges.

This is not merely sad, but also potentially dangerous to an inclusive and fair society that we all surely aspire to live in.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, Kinsale, Co Cork

Housing crisis is not builders' fault

In the Irish Independent editorial on May 17, IRES Reit chief executive David Ehrlich was quoted as saying he had "never seen such extreme imbalance between supply and demand" in the Irish property market.

I have written many letters to your paper and to David McWilliams, clearly stating that levies are preventing house building in the Dublin area. Why do you continue to blame the developers and builders for a failure to move on sites?

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A levy of €46,000 per unit was imposed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 2008 to pay for a road costed at €143m. That road plan was scrapped many years ago but the levy remains. There is a country-wide levy of €8,500 per unit and a final levy of €315,000 per hectare - this amounts to €70,000 per unit even for a one-bed apartment. This is added to the price of the newly built house - and then the Government adds 13.5pc VAT.

From Cherrywood to Kilternan, there is planning permission for more than 7,000 houses. There's the M50, Luas, bus routes, Carrickmines retail park (which will soon have Dublin's second Ikea) and many schools - but no building.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney does not need "a Houdini act" to correct the housing crisis. More than 7,000 houses would give 700 social and affordable housing units, and that is just in the area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. There are many more such instances, where builders and developers want to build but can't because of costs.

Hubert Fitzpatrick and Tom Parlon of the Construction Industry Federation, estate agents, architects, surveyors and engineers have had countless meetings with the Government and have attended construction seminars, but to no avail. The media has completely ignored the elephant in the room.

Mary Berry, Carrickmimes, Dublin 18

Religion is the only real truth

I found it interesting that Jillian Godsil, in her "emotional ride through humanity's endless possibilities" (Irish Independent, May 18), begins with considering religion as a "security blanket" that has been set aside for "the cold, harsh light of truth" and ends by finding comfort in the face of death in the chapel at Trinity surrounded by hymns.

Dare I suggest that this is because in the cold harsh light of day, the only truth that brings any meaning to our lives is to be found in religion?

Revd Patrick G Burke, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

New Cabinet defies democracy

Winston Churchill maintained that the "best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter".

The average Irish citizen knows that the old British bulldog was wrong and the best argument against democracy is a glance at the credentials of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's new Cabinet.

Tadgh Martin, Address with Editor

McGrath's comments unhelpful

I refer to Finian McGrath's recent short-sighted comments concerning the smoking ban.

Our members have worked tirelessly to enforce the ban on smoking in workplaces in the 12 years since its introduction, with almost universal success.

A recent study by the Tobacco Free Research Institute found that an estimated 3,700 smoking-related deaths have been spared because people are less exposed to second-hand smoke.

Mr McGrath refers to smokers as "soft targets". May I remind the new Health Minister, Simon Harris, that the legislation was not designed to act against smokers but rather to protect the health of those who, through no fault of their own, are exposed to second-hand smoke.

May I also suggest that it would be in everyone's interest if Mr McGrath was to support the strategies outlined in the Tobacco Free Ireland plan including encouraging smokers who wish to quit.

Peter Gaffey, Environmental Health Association of Ireland, Bray, Co Wicklow

We don't need Soviet solutions

Those bastions of the free market, the banks, had to be nationalised because they were bankrupted by the reckless decisions of those in control of financial affairs in government and financial institutions during the Celtic Tiger era. They are now under Government control and the people whose decisions bankrupted the country want the State to have no say in making market decisions like deciding interest rates (Irish Independent, May 18).

The logic of that attitude is that we nationalise everything, like the former Soviet Union, where the state ran both the government services and the economy. Is that in anybody's interest?

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin

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