Blog Archives

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher (not me)

A retired teacher from Maryland blogs an open letter to university professors about the effects of No Child Left Behind.

If Ontario ever heads this direction, I’ll be racing to elevate my position to convince the powers that be otherwise.


We Need to Talk About Literary Analysis

I’m reading one of my favourite books, We Need to Talk About Kevin, for the second time.  It’s fantastic.  I’m devouring it just like I was the first time.

What I’m noticing in myself is how I’m analyzing it like an English teacher might.  Noticing foreshadowing, narrative, the highlighting effects of opposites, giving serious thought to the characters and who’s right and who does Kevin hate more, etc.  Not that doing this is ruining it for me, it’s just passive thinking while I read.  If anything, it’s provided me more enjoyment.  I’m getting a lot more out of it.

Since this is the first time I’ve been conscious of such analysis, I wonder what it is about the book that evoke it.


EDIT (8:40pm) So the print edition I read has book club discussion questions at the back.  Somehow, this cheapens the realizations I made while reading.  Sad.

Economic Opportunities for Youth

I made the following 3 suggestions to the Ontario Trillium Foundation in response to their question, “What would it take to transform economic opportunities for Ontario youth?”

1. Youth employment should match employment demand
Youth employment should provide experience in fields where demand for employees actually exists – so it is more likely to lead to job opportunities in the future.

2. Educate students and *parents* about the economy
Many parents believe that the only way for their child to succeed in life is to attend university, when in reality, unspecialized university degrees do little other than to provide entry-level employment. More promotion of college/apprenticeship programs would be useful. This should be done by grade 10 so students can plan ahead.

3. Universities should become more exclusive
Ontario has flooded the job market with too many young people with generic arts and science degrees. The employment demand for these people is very low and outlook is poor. Universities need to act less like for-profit corporations and more like facilities of education. Reduce the number of undergraduate spaces in generic programs, and kick out students who don’t take their education seriously. Maybe then a university degree could mean something again.

Link: Ontario Trillium Foundation – Future Fund

Learning French

As any Canadian, I took French in school for 10 or 11 years. I remember it being really tough to learn all the verb tenses. They talked about past participle, future progressive, past perfect, etc. What probably made this tough is that I didn’t know those terms for English verbs. I obviously knew the meanings of “flown”, “will be flying” and “had flown”, but until I taught ESL, I couldn’t have matched the terms to the tenses. I think I might have been a bad English student… maybe a bad French student too.

It was even hard to explain the general meaning of tenses. Explaining “will fly” vs. “will be flying” vs. “will have flown” vs. “will have been flying” was a huge challenge. I had to give it serious thought to generalize what time a tense refers to. Try it yourself, I dare you.

Let’s go for a fly!

With Regards to Catholic Education…

How does the Toronto Catholic District School Board still exist? After all this corruption among the trustees, and the ridiculous and unfair concept of one religion getting a publicly-funded school board while others do not, why doesn’t the world’s most multicultural city just assimilate the two public boards into one? Score one for diversity, by exposing more students to various backgrounds and religions. Score another for added efficiency, because having more schools means more students will live closer to a school they can go to, and resources can be distributed as necessary.

It would probably be wise to grandfather everyone, so students continue the program in their current school, but going to a new school means changing programs. After a few years, the system will be assimilated and the kinks mostly resolved.

Some people would be outraged, but most of these people would be Christians/Catholics, who should at least accept that they’ve been getting a lucrative deal this whole time. You can get a religious education at church. There is no other significant difference except the racial backgrounds of these schools. So if you’re saying the Catholic publicly-funded board is better than the secular one, it almost amounts to saying “You get a better education when you’re in school with all white Catholic kids.” I don’t think they have a leg to stand on, do they?

The private schools would probably get some questionably race-motivated enrolments. That’s all good, you can get any education you want if you’re willing to pay for it. But the Catholic school board should not continue to receive public funding.

As for the trustees… I guess they thought they were created in god’s image?

Link: National Post

EDIT: Later read an article about how some people put their kids in French Immersion programs for similar superficial reasons.

Also, this post is not anti-religion, rather, in support of fairness amongst religions and creating more diverse schools.

What I Love About English

Admittedly, English is a language rife with problems, but it has distinct advantages. The typewriting/computing era has got to love a language with no accents on any letters, meaning keyboards are free to have more commonly-used symbols.

But one element we take for granted is the absence of gendered nouns. How irritating is it that in many languages, words like tree and pen and milk have genders? Does this make sense to anyone? Paper is masculine and streets are feminine; of course, how could I not have known!? It’s probably easy enough if you’re used to it; just one more thing to memorize (as if it was included in things we need to know anyway, like definition and spelling). If I go to France and say “le piscine”, which is the wrong gender for “pool”, is that a big deal?

Maybe English speakers can get away with ignorance on this one, but we’d certainly be mocked if it was done en masse. East Asians have been mocked for their muddling the letters L and R, which are not 2 distinct sounds in some East Asian languages. As I write this, I’m believing more strongly that we English speakers get some flak for our misuse of other languages.

What’s interesting, too, is that some languages have genders that vary by the speaker, rather than the subject. Portuguese and Japanese both do, at least.

Anyway, I wonder if people who speak non-English languages have an easy time remembering the genders of nouns. All I can say is, I’m glad we don’t have to.