January 2006 Archives

Calling all brainiacs

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Almost every day, one or both of my sons, Colin and Robert, come up with questions that require a lot of thought and/or research. So I thought, hey, why should I do all the thinking?

Tada - a brand new spinoff, What My Kids Want to Know. Have fun!

Brokeback Decarie

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A special note to the guy in the red pickup in front of me on Decarie during this morning's bumper-to-bumper adventure: I have to tell you I was immensely relieved when the curly blonde head in the passenger seat - the one the had been bobbing up and down frenetically into your lap - stuck itself out the window and turned out to be a poodle.

Having said that, I have to ask: poodle? in a pickup? really?

Also, to the driver of the fancy-schmancy sedan in the next lane: yes, we're in slow traffic. No, that does not mean you can read the paper at the wheel. Not even the comics.

Silver lining, anyone?

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Ok, well, my original election prediction was a little off.

The good news is that there's no way the Harper Valley bunch can do much damage, considering that they're in an uncomfortable position (for a Conservative party) of having to broker deals with either the slightly leftist Liberals, the all-the-way left Bloc or the so-far-left-left-looks-centrist NDP. So chances are we'll get to keep our pot and gay weddings, and we're not likely to be scrapping Kyoto or rushing off to Iraq in the immediate future.

The better news is that the result forced Martin to make an actual decision and step down as leader - so we may finally get genuinely new blood at the Liberal helm. Which means that the party actually stands a chance in the next election, presumably scheduled for later this year (unless the Tories have actually learned something from their last minority fiasco).

The best news? No more campaign!!

New year, new philosophy

Last Wednesday we began the fourth Master Teacher course, Assessment as Learning. Which means - more journal entries!!

Since the beginning of this new course, I have been rethinking my teaching philosophy. Way back in College Teaching, I formulated a philosophy based on the idea that “you can’t teach in a vacuum.” This philosophy – which I still hold to be true – states that neither teaching nor learning happens in isolation. Teachers and students must be aware of, and be prepared to exploit, prior knowledge, preconceptions, subsequent goals, and so on.

At one specific point in the last week, though, it suddenly struck me that I have a new philosophy, whether I wanted it or not. As a fan of analogy, this is how I see the birth of my new philosophy – an Ikea DIY leaflet...

She turned me into a newt!

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Lately, I have studiously avoided getting all het up about political issues on either side of the border. I'm admittedly a little blue about my personal employment situation, and avoiding the outside world and its goings-on is one way of coping. That and chocolate.

But there are limits...

We're five days away from a federal election here in the Great White North, an election that appears to be all but sewn up for the hitherto too-scary-to-contemplate Conservative party. Down below the 49th parallel, things are pretty much unchanged - from a Canadian perspective, the US is ignoring its most important trading party as usual, except for the occasional potshot about pot and gay marriage and diseased livestock; rather than mending rifts, the Bush league seems, as usual, intent on imposing democracy and freedom and the American way of life on the Middle East, whether they like it or not.

And now this.

An alumni group is offering students up to $100 per class to supply tapes and notes exposing professors who might express extreme left-wing political views at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Bruin Alumni Association president, Andrew Jones, claims that they are "just trying to get people back on a professional level of things." On the group's web site, the UCLAP project is lauded as a measure against "an increasingly radical faculty." This week's target, professor Douglas Kellner, is villified as follows:

While in public not much of a fire-starter, especially compared to the roustabout behavior of his more active radical colleagues, Kellner is an absolute tiger on paper. A close look at Kellner’s personal history and theoretical background reveals a professor whose political views are a witch’s brew of worldwide conspiracy, Marxoid theory, “critical pedagogy,” and an overwhelming dose of anti-Bush hatred.

In other words, despite the group's stated objective of removing politics from the classroom, Kellner makes the list for his publications, not his lectures. Kellner is a prof in the Education faculty - hence the appearance of 'critical pedagogy' among his various sins.

This might be easier to swallow if the group's targets were not limited to liberal profs. If any prof who exploited the captive audience to proselytize his or her political views out of context were to be 'exposed,' regardless of hisor her pro- or anti-Bush leanings, this thinly disguised witchhunt might be almost palatable. To specifically target only the so-called anti-Bush 'radicals,' however, not only smacks of McCarthyism, it's downright insulting - aren't the UCLA students smart enough to listen to professorial rhetoric and judge its validity for themselves?

The ultimate insult is that the group - presumably made up of graduates of UCLA and therefore, one hopes, well-educated and well-versed in US political history - seems completely blind to the irony of the term "witch's brew." Senator Joe would be so proud.

Oh, and "Marxoid"???

Maybe I'll take up macrame

So, six days ago I had my interview at Dawson College. Five days ago, they called and asked for reference letters, which were provided at remarkable speed from both Champlain and Vanier (thanks again!). Since then, I've been keeping my phone nearby at all times, just in case.

Classes start today. No phone call. Sigh.

Internet humour

Age of innocence

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I just overheard Colin, the eight-year-old, explaining the concept of French kissing to Robert, the six-year-old.

The good news is that they are both absolutely disgusted.

Home, sweet home

Well, we're home, and happy and tired and grouchy and tired and hungry and tired and happy and tired and... you get the idea.

Pictures are up, more to follow, perhaps.

Bookending

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24 hours from now, we'll be on a plane, homeward bound.

We've had a great visit, about which I will write later - I was unable to successfully connect the laptop and have been forced to use a Mac (!!) for the two weeks I've been here, and somehow blogging isn't the same on an unfamiliar keuvoard. Or rather, keyboard.

So, pictures and anecdotes are on the agenda for next week, as are laundry, unpacking, starting the next M.Ed. course, and an interview at Dawson College (I got a call from them as I was trying on shoes at the local Clarks store). In the meantime, we're enjoying our last few hours with the UK branch of the family - but I'm also really starting to look forward to seeing my house and my cat and my Mum and my friends and my bed and my car. I'll even enjoy the snow for a day or two.

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