Tag Archives: education

Should Moonlight Porn Exclude School Employment?

By Jason Menard

I must have gone to the wrong schools. At least, to the best of my knowledge, we didn’t have anyone like Samantha Ardente in our hallways – and now it looks like Etchemins High School won’t either.

Ardente (her stage name) worked as a clerical worker at the high school. That’s by day. It seems she also has a side project: a porn star. Continue reading

Time to Stop Swimming Upstream and Dam the Damn School Boards

By Jay Menard

I was going to ask ‘How did we all let it get away from us?’ but the answer’s painfully clear: it’s apathy. So the next question has to be, “If we’re all on board and want to go in the same direction, why can’t we just start rowing that way?”

But that’s the problem with apathy. It’s a fast-moving current – and once it’s moving against you, it’s very hard to paddle upstream. Continue reading

Grammar’s Greatest Protectors Actually Doing Most Damage to Language

By Jason Menard

Today is National Grammar Day and while there appears to be increasingly little to celebrate if you survey the linguistic landscape, perhaps it’s time to reassess where the actual blame lies.

We all know about the challenges to the language that are our youth. Schools have increasingly abdicated their obligation to teach, instead settling for the lowered bar that is comprehension. Text and on-line messaging have also conspired to diminish the language as the next generation’s current form of communication is actively impeding their ability to express themselves.

So we could blame the kids – after all, that’s the easy way to do. Continue reading

Whitewashed Huck Finn a Lost Opportunity to Learn

By Jason Menard,

You all know how the road to Hell is paved, right? Well, a report in Publishers Weekly suggests that a pair of scholars is editing the book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to remove segments that have caused the book to be banned from some schools. By following this path, these scholars are steering our kids away from exactly the wrong thing – an opportunity to learn.

While the motive behind this action — exposing more kids to a classic piece of literature — is good, the devil is in the details. And those details are leading us down a slippery slope where ideas that run counter to the culture can be smoothed over, made more palatable – and, thereby, neutered.

At hand is Twain’s frequent use of the N-word. So while a literary giant like Little Wayne can “nigga” his way through life with impunity, because he’s not a modern-era rapper, Twain’s cultural output is going to get edited to make it more palatable for today’s readers.

Yes, I’m well aware that this edition is designed only for schools and that the original offensive-to-modern-sensibilities version will continue to exist. But isn’t school the best place to address these issues? Is it not in an environment where a qualified teacher is overseeing a group discussion examining not just the word, but how it got there a better way to deal with the past other than just whitewashing it?

I started this with reference to one adage, so why stop at one? You know what they say about those who forget history, correct? Slave, the preferred alternative, is not the same as the N-word. And if this squeaky-clean version exists, how many schools are going to stockpile that version over the original – just to avoid potential conflicts and complaints?

Instead of removing this word from the book, we should highlight it. Today’s youth has become desensitized to the power of the N-word through music and cultural assimilation of the term. They don’t understand what the word truly means.

It’s not just a rhyme for “trigga” – it’s a word that’s filled with generations of hate, ignorance, and the worst of human frailties. It’s a word that grew powerful upon the backs of men who were powerless. It’s a word that should be retired from the English language as a whole – not just in edited books targetted to a school-aged audience. But until that word’s been eradicated from our society, our society must be educated about its meaning.

Kids know it’s a bad word. But it’s not enough to know that it’s bad – one has to know why it’s bad. And that comes from understanding the societal forces that led from slavery, through Emancipation, to the equal rights and Black Power movements, to where we are today. If a kid questions why this word – so taboo in our modern culture – is so freely used throughout a classic piece of literature, then maybe that sparks a discussion about the way the world used to be. We can revisit our society’s horrors and our successes, and we can teach how to overcome ignorance – not just ignore it.

The Conspiracy Theorists will come out saying that this is just the start of a long path towards castrating our culture’s harshest critics. After all, some of our greatest social commentary has come from the realm of fiction. I don’t see this issue as the foundation upon which a 1984-esque totalitarian state will arise (although, very likely, in that case the government would be editing out parts of 1984, wouldn’t they?)

One of the scholars stated that it’s not about eliminating the question of race from the equation, but rather, “it’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.” The thing is, how we express that in the 21st century is directly attributed to the lessons we’ve learned leading up to 2011. If you remove the initial expression, does the lesson get learned in the future?

In the end, it is nothing more than our society’s reluctance to deal with the harsh things in life. It’s our society’s insistence of treating children like idiots. Just because they’re amused by Jersey Shore doesn’t mean the capacity for deeper thought doesn’t exist.

Yes, it may be harder to have a discussion about this particular word, but the benefits of that discussion will be far more valuable to students than going through life ignorant of the past.

We haven’t always been a good people. We, as a white culture, have done a lot of bad things to a lot of different races. And future generations have to know about our collective mistakes so that they can learn from them and prevent them from occurring in the future.

Anything less and we’re just whitewashing the past.

Great Communication is Learned One Day at a Time, Not in One Day

By Jason Menard,

One day can help start you along the right path, but when it comes to learning how to effectively communicate, one day’s just enough time for you to learn how to firmly lodge your foot in your mouth.

Earlier today, I received an e-mail at work promoting a course that promised to teach you “How to be an Outstanding Communicator” in one day. And while normally I pay just enough attention to these e-mails – you know the ones you receive after attending one conference, and then you’re stuck in an e-mail list purgatory for years – to figure out what the course/conference topic is, and then file it under “G.”

However, this one struck me as particularly audacious. Or perhaps it’s just simple vanity – to suggest that a craft I’ve been trying to hone for two decades is something that can be mastered in a day bruised the ol’ ego. Continue reading

School’s Out Forever

By Jason Menard

If I had to change career course mid-stream, you know what I wouldn’t want to be? A teacher.

Well, to be honest, I’m thinking being a postcard salesman would be number-one on my list – really, does anyone send postcards anymore? Even if you’re on vacation most people simply send an e-mail with digital photos that they’ve taken themselves – beats the bejeezus out of those cheesy “Wish You Were Here” photos.

But besides that and a few other jobs involving sewage treatment and other similar tasks, I think being a teacher would tax my sensibilities. That said, I already have a solid grasp of one of the fundamental philosophies of modern teaching techniques.

The lowest common denominator. Continue reading

School Boards Have to Stop Focusing on History

By Jason Menard

As a parent, you’d be pretty upset if the only class your child’s school taught was history. So why are we any less upset when the respective school boards are living in the past and refusing to accept a modern reality?

Faced with budget shortfalls, shifting demographics, and challenges in putting appropriate programs together, it’s no longer enough to look to what’s been done in the past. We must learn from those successes and redefine how our education system works in the future.

The Thames Valley District School Board is currently struggling to deal with a projected $7.6-million deficit, while the London District Catholic School Board may be forced to pry open the coffers and dip into a reserve fund to make ends meet. We’re presented with heart-wrenching stories of how counselors – a position that’s currently on the chopping block – are saved students from challenging pasts.

We’re presented with a lot of vivid imagery, but nowhere are we seeing a true vision. It’s time to bite the bullet and revamp our education system to meet the needs of today’s London – not try to push the round peg of today’s needs into the square holes that are left by yesterday’s infrastructure.

I have a vested interest in this with two children in the education system. My son is finishing Grade 7 in the TVDSB system, while my daughter is finishing her year in jardin, at Académie de la Tamise – a school for children of French-speaking parents, which is part of a separate school board. Personally, I’d like to ensure my children have access to the best possible education, but our desire to keep everything everywhere, regardless of modern demographics, is hampering the ability to do so.

One undeniable fact is that there are fewer students today, rendering some schools almost obsolete due to declining attendance. In addition, where people live today is far different to where they were even 20 years ago. Times have changed and it’s time for the school boards to change with them.

The first change that should be made is the amalgamation of the Thames Valley and Catholic School Boards. It’s time to fully embrace the secular nature of our country and – more importantly – recognize that this duplication of infrastructure is a cost that could be eliminated fairly easily. After all, would you rather cut administrative costs or cut teachers and counselors on the front lines?

This isn’t to say that there’s no place for religious education. However, if you choose to want your child educated in a faith-based environment, then you should have to pay for that right. Throughout Canada we see parents sending their children to alternative schools focusing on religion or culture: Arabic, Jewish, Armenian, Muslim, and many others. Why, then, do we assume that free Catholic education is a – pun fully intended – divine right?

In fact, this rationalization of resources could bring forth a return to religion in schools. After all, a course on faith – one that teaches an appreciation for all the religions of the world – would go a long way towards fostering an environment of understanding amongst our children.

With two separate school boards pooling their resources, you may be able to stave off cuts in both the short and long term. That may also require looking at the existing school buildings and making the tough choices of closing some schools and selling the property.

Just because an area was populated with students years ago, doesn’t mean that a school that was viable in 1970 meets today’s needs. And sentimentality can’t play a role in this. Already many of our schools are environmentally non-efficient buildings that are bordering on out-of-date, so why compound the problem by operating many of them at less-than-peak capabilities?

My former schools in Montreal have been made into a health care centre and a community centre, respectively. The same can be done here, or the land can be allocated to other needs, such as residential or commercial requirements. And any money raised through the sale or lease of properties can be rolled back into updating the remaining facilities to ensure our children are getting the best education in the best possible environments.

We go to school to learn how to learn. The education we receive is more than just memorization of facts – it’s an education designed to help us take what the world throws at us and make the most out of it. We learn how to adapt, change, and take the lessons from our past and apply them to creating a better future.

Isn’t it time for our school boards to learn those same lessons? It’s time to close the books on living in our history and turn the page to a more creative and successful future – one that meets the needs of today’s students and, hopefully, their children.

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