Thursday, July 21, 2022

We Need to Discuss Systemic Racism in Schools

In The Record article, "Waterloo Region District School Board Trustee Mike Ramsay speaks up about sanctions against him," Mr. Ramsay writes that he is concerned that education has shifted from a focus on literacy and numeracy to White Privilege and Critical Race Theory (CRT).

As a teacher at WRDSB this year, it is clear that anti-racist education is definitely part of the board's mandate since significant Professional Development time was provided for teachers to learn about how racial prejudice affects our students, but I have yet to see any evidence that the amount of time discussing race in our schools has in any way remotely outpaced or distracted from teaching curriculum. Our PD aimed to impact any implicit bias that teachers might have, information that is vital to student equity in our classrooms. Understanding prejudice means really understanding that we can never extrapolate information about a group to better understand any one individual within that group. We can't know a person until we get to know them. One PD video in particular, The End of Average!? reiterated that message specifically. The ETFO resource Mr. Ramsay berates, "Rethink, Reconnect, Reimagine," encourages teachers to see all students for who they are, for their unique skills and abilities, and to "create schools where all students are seen and remembered for their diverse identities, experiences, and talents." Becoming better teachers doesn't take any time away from the curriculum.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Masked and Vaxed in School

Q. Do you support bringing back masks mandates for schools, defying provincial orders, if necessary? Do you support your board demanding that the province add vaccination for Covid to the provincial list? 

 A. (on the fly on Twitter) It will be so much harder to get masks back now that they're gone! I'll do whatever I can. At the very least better messaging can make a huge difference. Vax being added to the list seems pretty do-able and more supported. 

 A. (after more thought): One of the concerns that provokes me to run for trustee is protecting students with Mask Mandates. N95 masks are very effective at stopping the spread of this virus, and the BA.5 mutation is even better at skirting around vaccine-provoked immunity. In Ontario, our rate of hospitalization for Covid is six times higher than for a car collision. We wear seatbelts to protect ourselves in traffic; we should be wearing masks to protect ourselves in classrooms. Removing mandates because cases slowed down just makes the next wave come sooner. 

Tossed My Hat in the Ring

I officially put my name forward to campaign to be a Trustee for WRDSB, Waterloo/Wilmot area. I'm confident in my ability to be a Trustee. I can read difficult and tedious reports and condense them into more accessible chunks to help people understand some of the issues and the decisions being made. I can research and present information. I've been teaching for decades, so I'm pretty good at explaining ideas to people and clarifying any misunderstandings. And I really, really care about the fate of the public education system in general and of the students in my region specifically. School should be a place that's safe for all kids and that kids enjoy. I whipped together a website:,  in no time, and Covid made me a pro at online meetings. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

3QD: Tossing the Canon in a Cannon

 I've started contributing to 3 Quarks Daily once each month. Here's my first:

Tossing the Canon in a Cannon - about choosing philosophers to read that aren't posthumously tainted by racist, sexist, or homophobic commons mixed in with more useful arguments.  

Here it is:

I knew it was coming, yet I was still surprised when it hit my classroom. 

“We shouldn’t be looking at this.”

Students have complained about my course before, certain that they should not be expected to read anything so difficult in a high school philosophy course. The effect of this grumbling can be seen in the watering down of some English courses deciphering Hunger Games instead of Hamlet.  I enjoyed that popular trilogy, and I’m no Shakespeare stan, but I do assert that it’s vital to develop more complex reading skills and close reading habits  in our teenagers with works that demand consideration of each word before they walk out of high school. Too many in our society are losing their ability to sustain attention to the end of a magazine article and grasp the nuances of an ambitious claim to the point of believing radical headlines and letting noxious chants sway their voting habits. So I firmly stand my ground, luring them to continue with the potential reward of being able to impress their friends and destroy their enemies with their enhanced reading superpowers.  

Monday, July 11, 2022

A Plague of Willful Incompetence

This The Tyee article, "Get Ready for the Forever Plague," by Andrew Nikiforuk, hits all the important notes about our ongoing pandemic. He says that we're dealing with a "plague of willful incompetence" as Covid continues to evolve. All reasonable responses have been abandoned, including masking, testing, data collection, and robust ventilation. Covid is not inevitable and in no way beneficial as reinfections increase the damage from Covid and each infection damages the immune system regardless how mild the symptoms. Two years ago Anthony Leonardi predicted that Covid would destabilize "the immune system by subverting T-cell function" creating a cumulative damage. 

We're headed for a BA.5 wave, which is more transmissible than any previous variant. Vaccinations help reduce death rates, but we need to focus on preventing infection or reinfection in the first place. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Covid and Climate Change: Similar Rationalizations, Different Intensity

I was searching through YouTube looking for things to include in my career retrospective, mainly looking for a clip of an old CKCO show, What's Your Point/The Final Round, from March 28, 2009, filmed at my school. Four teachers were set up to argue on various random issues, and Brent Hanson provoked us to argue with a poke in the back to indicate when we should each talk, and I'd jump in as commanded, which made it sound like I was intentionally interrupting people! By a student vote, I won the debate. Unfortunately (or not) that clip appears to be lost to the ether. But I did come across an old CTV newscast about an Earth Day festival I used to put on, and it has interesting connections with my reaction to our current Covid crisis. 

Back in 2010 (at 1:30 min. in), I said, "The feeling with a lot of my students, maybe 30% or so, is that this is all a conspiracy, that we're fine, we've done nothing to change the world, and some crazy environments are making us think that we did."

Sound familiar?