Tag Archives: Education

TLC: What exactly am I learning?

I used to be a fan of The Learning Channel. Owned by Discovery (in the U.S. where the idea of one educational network owning the other apparently didn’t strike anyone as odd), it had some low-budget educational programming┬áthat differed from a Discovery Channel that then was more focused on nature programming.

But then something changed. As Discovery added Mythbusters and dozens of Mythbusters knockoffs, TLC shifted its focus to reality programming and home renovation shows. “Bringing Home Baby”, “Take Home Chef”, “Flip That House”, “My Skin Could Kill Me” are among the shows on today. It’s the Medical Diagnosis Channel/Vehicle Repair Channel meets Home and Garden Television.

As if to underscore the fact that learning isn’t important to them, the channel has announced that it is carrying the exact opposite of everything that learning stands for:

The Miss America Pageant.

Just what am I supposed to learn from that?

Knowing when to laugh

I’m always a bit taken aback when people in serious jobs like police officers and ambulance technicians act in unserious ways. It’s hard to remember sometimes that they’re regular people with regular jobs, and they have to laugh and smile too, even when they deal with unpleasantness.

Police officers nowadays are even expressly putting themselves out there on a social level, so that people can feel more comfortable going to them. They want to be positive role models to troubled teens instead of evil authority figures to be hated.

But there is a limit to this humanity. For example, if you’re treating someone during a medical emergency, it’s best not to laugh about it in front of his niece.

Though they deny laughing during the call, the health board is taking steps to re-educate ambulance technicians on their conduct in these situations.

City bus drivers are not nannies

An interesting story out of the West Island: After an elementary student spat on a bus driver and others refused to pay their fares, the driver took the bus to the police station to complain, leading to the arrests of three children on assault charges.

It all started at (the former) Allancroft Elementary, when a student spat on the driver and others in a group of 20 rowdy students refused to pay their fare getting on the 217 bus, which goes from the school to the Beaconsfield train station and then Fairview Pointe-Claire.

It’s a little-known secret that paying fares is entirely optional on city buses. Drivers are trained never to leave their seats or start confrontations with passengers. Instead, if someone refuses to pay their fare and goes to the back of the bus, the drivers tend to do nothing and continue on the route rather than start an incident.

Probably because of the spitting, this driver decided to do something about it. He pulled the bus into Station 1 on St. Charles Blvd. and complained. Rather than profess their innocence and blame it all on the driver, one of the kids kicked a police officer in the back. For their troubles three of them got charged (including the one who spat on the driver) and issued fines for everyone who didn’t pay their fare.

Considering there hasn’t been mass protests in the streets against the bus driver, the police, the school and everyone else parents could possibly blame besides their children, I’m guessing they had some long talks with their little troublemakers.

This post is 174% accurate

Back when I was in high school, I didn’t read books. Not because I couldn’t, I just didn’t like them. Even now I don’t own any novels, rarely read biographies, and my bookshelf consists of Star Trek technical manuals, old Garfield books, and some computer science and philosophy textbooks I still think are interesting.

So the library wasn’t exactly my place to be. I still went there for the computer books and other non-fiction instruction books, but you’d never find me in the fiction section.

One day, I was researching a school paper in the local library (Shout-out Pierrefonds/Dollard-des-Ormeaux Intermunicipal Library! Yeah!). These were the days before Google, so I actually had to look at books to find information. I was walking down the aisle and I happened on this book about statistics. I couldn’t remember what the title is, though it was a play on “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”. I flipped through the pages and started reading.

I read the entire book cover to cover. It was fascinating (well, fascinating for a teenager who didn’t have access to Wikipedia, anyway). It talked about advertisers using bad statistical math saying things like “200% off” and how that makes no sense.

I credit my high-school English teacher for getting me to read more. She was a forest’s worst enemy, photocopying Shakespeare, Chaucer, and mythology texts from all over the place. We needed three-inch D-ring binders just to hold them all. I still have mine at home, and will probably read it one day when I can finally understand it.

When my mother told her I went into journalism and became a writer/editor, she apparently laughed. I don’t blame her. I was a mathematician who had no room for English back then, and the English teacher was always my worst enemy. She turned out to be one of my favourite teachers.

Anyway, getting back on track, the Canadian Freelance Union, a new group trying to secure rights for freelancers with big media corporations (a long battle if there ever was one) released its first newsletter. In it (and on its website), it says freelancers’ real income has dropped by 163%, taking inflation into account, over the past three decades.

The number, of course, makes no sense. Unless we’re paying publishers to use our content (I wouldn’t put it past some aspiring writers to make that offer, mind you), income cannot be below zero. In reality, the average freelancer income has stayed constant, while inflation has made everything else 163% more expensive. That means buying power has decreased 62%, not 163%.

I know journalists aren’t supposed to be good at math, but numbers like this should at least be put through a sanity check before they’re published.

Boys will be boys

Cecil Humphries, the principal of Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School (my alma mater) is getting raked over the coals over comments he made that bullying is a “conflict” which is a “natural occurrence”.

It’s not an isolated case. Schools everywhere consider bullying to be not their problem, and as long as nobody dies they freely ignore the psychological trauma inflicted on these kids. And the government, which cuts education funding every time they can find a new gimmick to throw money at for votes, isn’t helping anything.

But seriously, don’t deny it exists.

Teacher is a poo-poo head

Freda Lewkowicz has some thoughts in today’s paper about the St. Thomas Burn Book situation, and rightly points out that the problem is not with Facebook or the Internet, but with students’ attitudes toward teachers.

She theorizes about some of the causes of this behaviour. One potential cause, the negative impression teachers give by striking, should be discounted entirely. While I never experienced a teacher strike, I and my fellow students were actually largely supportive of teachers’ salary and other demands. At least, those of us mature enough to understand labour politics beyond “Yay! A strike! No school today!”

The problem is that elementary and high schools have become more and more like mommy. It makes sense: during the school year, teachers see students more than their parents do. So that natural teenage rebellion that is usually aimed at their parents also portions out some of its rage toward authority figures such as teachers.

But that’s not the end of the story. Students are not sufficiently disciplined today. Part of it is because of the stereotypical overbearing parent blaming the school for everything that goes wrong. Part of it is the schools’ “boys will be boys” attitude that condones bullying, vandalism, rudeness and other anti-social behaviour. And part of it is just that some kids out there are stupid and mean.

Everyone, teachers and parents, need to make it clear that this type of behaviour is not tolerated.