Tag Archives: student

T-Shirt Protest Finds Student Taking God’s Name in Vain

By Jason Menard

The case of a Nova Scotia teen who has been suspended for wearing a religious shirt is getting lost in the religious rhetoric. This is not about freedom of religion or bullying – and a deeper reading of the Bible could have prevented this skirmish from starting.

In a high-school version of Judgment Day, William Swinimer has been suspended for wearing a shirt that says, “Life is wasted without Jesus.” Continue reading

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

Dead Language Breathes Life into Modern English

By Jason Menard

I think it was Elvis who said it best when he sang, “it’s only words and words are all I have to steal your heart away.” And speaking from personal experience, if my words are any more eloquent, it is directly the result of the Latin training I received at South Secondary School.

Wednesday’s edition of The London Free Press profiled the retirement of Neil Tenney, the Latin teacher at that educational institution. And it also highlighted the fact that this program is the last of its kind in both the Thames Valley District and London Catholic School Boards – and that’s a shame.

Currently I make my living with words. Corporate communications expert by day, freelance columnist, sports writer, and radio fill-in by night, it has been through my abilities with the English language that I’m able to put food on my family’s table. And for that I have to thank my Latin teacher Jean Mayhew – formerly of South Secondary School.

You see, I didn’t learn English in English class. Far from it. I actually learned my English grammar during my time in Latin and French classes at South and, later, Western. It was there I learned about verb tenses, conjugation, and – most importantly – flow.

So while we’d be chuckling through the Cambridge Latin course reading silly stories about thepater Caecillius and his family, we were actually building a foundation upon which our appreciation of language grew. But without that foundation in the future, where will people learn?

I grew up in a time of English courses focusing on reading comprehension. It didn’t matter if you could spell your words or construct a coherent though as long as the general idea was expressed. And that continues, in large part, to this day. My wife and I fight a daily battle with our 12-year-old son about the importance of developing proper language skills, when his argument – justified by solid grades – is that “you get the point.”

I’m not a stickler for grammar. Few people annoy me more than those who absolutely refuse to dangle their participles or split their infinitives. Grammar is fluid and what sounds right is often less jarring and more effective than what the prescriptive grammarians would condone from their ivory linguistic towers. I’ve got no problems with people using “they” in the singular if it sounds better. After all, grammar is designed to let words flow and to allow concepts to be expressed – not to rigidly force everyone to conform to one ideal that may no longer apply.

Life goes on. Things change and we’re inundated with new cultural, technological, and linguistic influences each and every day. If we remain dogmatically chained to our linguistic past, we’ll be ill-prepared to deal with the challenges of the future.

However, one should have a solid foundation upon which the future can be built. Language – and one’s understanding of it – enables people to experience a world of influences that may be limited by lack of comprehension. For me, Latin and French gave me the structure and knowledge that was lacking from my English training, wherein my teachers were more concerned about me understanding what was said than how it was said.

If I can boast any way with words, it’s because of that Latin and French training. Before I became immersed in those language studies, I was the product of my teaching. I understood concepts and could generally express them – but it was far from precise and it was far from proper.

Words are one of the best ways we have to convey feelings, emotions, and experiences. It is one thing to string together a few words to get an idea out there – it’s something much different to use language to allow the reader to experience the idea through the lyric effect of words. And let’s not even start how Latin has aided in my rudimentary understanding of languages like Spanish and Portuguese.

We live in a world where instant messaging and social interactive media has turned conversation into a competitive race. It’s not about saying something properly, it’s about saying it in as few characters as possible. Yet, eventually, those IMers will have to converse with a real person. They’ll have to hand in an assignment – not to mention a resumé — that isn’t peppered with emoticons or LOL’s. The question is where will they find the skills to do so?

I was lucky. I had Ms. Mayhew’s Latin class to steer me on the right course. Little did I know that weekly bingos, annual banquets, and light-hearted learning would have such an impact on my life. But it has, and I’m a better writer — and a better man – for it. Hopefully generations of students at South will continue to have the option to take this class, because its value is immeasurable.

It’s just too bad that no other students in the region will be able to start a day with Ms. Mayhew’s, or any other Latin teacher’s, terrible Latin jokes like semper ubi sub ubi – or always [where] under [where]. It may have been a terrible pun, but it was a fantastic foundation for the future.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Me, Mom, and Henry Morgentaler

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Yet, now that the meal’s on the stove, the University of Western Ontario has decided to change the recipe, leaving many with the anticipation of a bitter aftertaste.

Western courted this drama by deciding to bestow upon Dr. Henry Morgentaler — a man who led the charge for legal abortions in this country, and the operator of six abortion clinics – an honourary degree at this year’s convocation ceremony. However, now that the moment of truth is almost upon us, Western’s decided to change the rules for the people that truly matter at this ceremony – the students and their families.

To accommodate an individual upon whom an honourary degree is being bestowed, we are inconveniencing a group of individuals who have legitimately earned their degrees from this institution. They have spent their years, attending classes, receiving good grades, and filling the university’s coffers with their tuition and ancillary fees. And now that it’s time to celebrate their achievement, to share with friends and family the fruits of their labours, the university is pulling the rug out from under them – for security reasons.

Convocation ceremonies are not about the glitz and glamour. Dr. Morgentaler, whether you agree with his stance or not, has made his mark in life. The students, upon whom this ceremony should focus, have yet to carve their place in the world.

In the past, students have been given two tickets, to whom they could distribute as they pleased. If they needed more, they were there for the asking. Now, the university has asked for those tickets back, planning to re-issue two new tickets that will be strictly controlled, requiring names of the intended recipients and photo ID verification upon arrival at the ceremonies.

In the grand scheme of things, this only affects 518 students. However, they are 518 students who should have the same rights as everyone else on campus. The other graduates aren’t subject to this type of restriction, so why inconvenience a certain group just because of an honourary degree recipient?

The convocation date is June 16 th. Does the university not think that people have already made travel plans? Booked hotels? Made whatever arrangement necessary to share in the student’s special day? Does offering a closed-circuit feed for the ceremony really count as an alternative?

Every experience at university is an opportunity for education. The university environment is one where open discussion, freedom of speech, and challenging convention should be the norm, not the exception. Making an exception for one ceremony based upon concerns about disruptions runs counter to everything higher education should be about.

If the intention of the honourary degree is to be provocative, then you have to accept what your provocation has wrought. You can’t walk on the knife’s edge and not think you might get cut along the way. As such, if the university has deemed it appropriate to give Dr. Morgentaler an honourary degree, then it should stand behind its decision and let the chips fall where they may. After all, university education is all about learning how to learn, and discovering how to stand behind your convictions.

These students have worked hard to develop their critical thinking, their ability to learn, and their ability to form their own opinions. And if a protester sneaks into the convocation ceremony who better to engage this person than a group of well-educated, independent thinkers? However, by restricting this particular ceremony, Western is shying away from the very controversy and discussion it invited by making such a bold decision in the first place.

Whether you believe Dr. Morgentaler’s honourary degree is a recognition of remarkable achievements in the promotion of women’s rights or an abominable affront to the concept of humanity, that’s totally up to your perspective. And our universities are there to ensure that whatever your opinion is, it is based upon fact, reflection, rational thought, and introspection. These are formed through an open expression of thoughts and ideals, not by sweeping controversy under the carpet.

So, if a degree is a recognition of achievement in higher learning, what kind of value does it have if Western doesn’t embrace higher learning’s very precepts?

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved