Tag Archives: education

Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer

It is a classic Christmas movie based on a Christmas song which was based on a Christmas poem: Rudolf the Red nosed reindeer has been playing on television sets since 1964.  Some 54 years after the movie debut, #RudolfTheRedNosedReindeer has become a popular hashtag on Twitter, not because it is a charming classic, but rather because people are looking at the movie from a new lens and finding its content problematic.

What’s wrong with Rudolf?

One of the primary issues identified is that bullying in the first part of the movie is rampant.  Rudolf’s own father tries to hide his uniqueness.  When the other young reindeer make fun of Rudolf, the coach encourages them to shun him.  Even Santa suggests that Rudolf should be excluded, much like the ‘misfit toys’ who are sent away to an exile because they don’t ‘fit’ within the expectations of the Christmas Eve delivery.  Likewise, Hermey the Elf is berated and ostracised because he does not ‘fit’ with the expectations of elves.  As a result, Rudolf and Hermey find solace together as outsiders in the Christmas story.

Bullying

In the last two decades, a lot of energy and resources have gone into educating students on the realities of bullying.  In fact, we now have an anti-bullying day  and a variety of charities devoted to anti-bullying including Bullying Canada.  School boards use various programs that emphasise how to recognise and address bullying amongst their peers.  One could argue that the criticism of this movie highlights the success of these programs, demonstrating the extent to which a new generation recognises the ways in which behaviours demean and undermine the self-worth of those who are bullied.

“Political Correctness”

For some, however, criticising a beloved Christmas classic feels like political correctness gone awry.  It would seem challenging people to see the story as more than a playful Christmas tale takes the fun out of it.  As one Twitter user explained:

 

Opportunity for Conversation

What would happen if, instead of polarising the conversation, we could see it as an opportunity to further explore themes?  Teaching media literacy in schools educates students to recognise those spaces in which the media we consume can and should be critiqued.  A student who can recognise bullying in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, might also be able to recognise the difference between “fake news” and the truth.  In what ways might this Twitter trend thus become an opportunity to explore how we can continue to critique the media we consume, so that we can be better informed as we participate in the wider world?

What do you think?

Has ‘political correctness’ ruined a Christmas classic or can the critiques become a springboard from which we can explore deeper themes through which we can better critique media in general?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Cursive

Some form of the meme keeps popping up on my timeline: “Share if you think schools should teach children to write in cursive”.  Every time I see this I want to ask why?  Why do children need to learn cursive?

“Share if you think schools should teach children to write in cursive”

Why is cursive important?

There is no doubt that cursive allows for us to write more quickly when taking notes.  It is an efficient form of communication for those contexts in which writing is used.  As a result, generations of students have been taught cursive writing to enable communication through this means.  Through cursive writing, we also develop our signatures which provide an important way of identifying ourselves for legal purposes – like when we sign contracts and make purchases with credit cards.

Communication in 2018

The fact is, however, communication is undergoing a significant transformation.  There are few places now where paper is the primary means of communication.  Instead, messages are sent via e-mail, text, messenger, and face to face communication.  Students have access to computers to take notes and information is available online through educational software to promote computerisation of education.  Purchases now happen through pin numbers and tap reducing the need for signatures.  Few need cheques given the ability to use paypal, e-transfers or credit/debit cards.  Even contracts are being modernised through docusign technology where electronic signatures are created and used.

Lessons take time

Recognising the shift in how we communicate, educators need to allocate class time to those topics which are important for students to learn.  Each choice fills in a block of time, limiting what else can be taught.  So then, what will not be taught if educators choose to continue to teach cursive?  Is this a sufficient priority to take up time in the education process?

But what about talking with grandparents?

One of the reasons I have heard to support cursive is that it allows children to communicate with their grandparents.  I am all for communication across generations and can understand how frustrating it might be to realise that grandchildren might not be able to read the birthday card sent to them by grandma and grandpa because they do not know cursive.  Is this a sufficient reason to include cursive in the classroom perhaps at the expense of other communication tools?  Or is it possible that grandparents could utilise other communication techniques, say printing which continues to be taught in schools, when they send those birthday cards?

What do you think?

When faced with those memes, how do you respond?  Do you like and share – promoting the teaching of cursive in schools?  Or do you think that it is time to accept that cursive is no longer as useful as it once was and that perhaps it is more important to spend time teaching other means of communication – like keyboarding skills?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Coat Ban

Did you know Canada Goose winter coats have been banned at a school in the U.K?  Moncler and Pyrenex coats have also been banned at Woodchurch High School in Wirral, England.  According to this article: “It is not because kids are stupid, lose things or steal off each other…Rather it is because of inequality.”

Canada Goose Jackets

Checking Prices

The Canada Goose website advertises youth parkas starting from $350 up to $750.  Moncler has coats for teen boys (12-14) that are upwards of $1000. Pyrenex jackets are the cheapest of the three ranging from $200-350 for children’s jackets.

What is the priority?

When I have looked for a winter jacket for myself or for my kid – I go with one priority, to find something that will provide warmth for our winters without breaking the bank.  Canada Goose, Moncler and Pyrenex may be wonderfully warm coats, but there are other, cheaper brands that are also sufficiently warm by my experience.  Thus, I struggle to understand why anyone would spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single item of clothing especially for a child who would outgrow that item even if they don’t wear it out, lose it or otherwise wreck it?

Does name brand matter?

Over the years there are many brands that have held the spot light and thus been in high demand: Nike, Polo, Levi, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Sketchers, Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch and so on.  For some, sporting these names helps to establish the individual as someone who is ‘cool’.  The problem is that the popularity of a brand can influence the price tag making it harder for everyone to afford and thus reinforcing the difference between those who have and those who don’t.

“Poverty Shaming”

In a time when wealth provides a sense of status and entitlement and when people are famous essentially because they have money, those who are unable to ‘keep up with the Jones’ (or perhaps the Kardashians) are looked down upon and can thus become targets of bullying.  In essence, while status is associated with wearing the ‘right’ brands, stigma is associated with the absence of such brands.  The assumption is that if you don’t have those brands it is because your family is poor and can’t afford them.

“Wealth Shaming”

One Facebook post complained that banning expensive, name brand coats is the equivalent of ‘wealth shaming’ – making people feel bad because they have money and can buy (really) nice things.  All of this, however, depends upon seeing the brands you wear as a means to define who you are.  Is this really the ideal we should teach in a school?

What do you think?

How important is what a student wears?  Should schools ignore those ways in which students  define one another based on clothing?  Or should the classroom and playground stress character and other qualities allowing young people to define themselves beyond what they wear?  Is limiting the brands students can wear a way to achieve this ideal? We want to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Gender Norms

Recently I visited the Caldwell First Nations’ Cultural Centre in Leamington.  The woman showing us around proudly highlighted a series of pictures showing children doing various activities.  She noted that there are an equal number of boys and girls, even if we didn’t recognise them as such.  It is interesting that she had to clarify this for us.  I wonder how many people had passed through previously who had required clarification.  What does this say about our assumptions and expectations?

Gender Identity

According to Wikipedia: “Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s own gender.  Gender identity can correlate with assigned sex at birth, or can differ from it.  All societies have a set of gender categories that can serve as the basis of the formation of a person’s social identity in relation to other members of society.  In most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females, a gender binary to which most people adhere and which includes expectations of masculinity and femininity in all aspects of sex and gender”

When did girls start wearing pink?

This article  from Smithsonian.com highlights the evolution of our understanding of masculinity and femininity based on fashion.  In fact, the idea that girls wear pink and boys blue has only been in practice since the 1940s.  Prior to that there was a time when boys and girls wore dresses until they were 6 or 7.  It would seem that as our society changes and evolves, so does our understanding of gender and its associated assumptions and expectations.

Policy Resolution R4

Last week the Ontario Progressive Conservative party passed a resolution that states that gender identity theory is a liberal ideology that is controversial and unscientific and thus must be removed from Ontario schools and its curriculum.

Given the extent to which gender identity is influenced by culture, I find myself wondering what exactly this motion will seek to remove from schools.  I suspect the goal is to reinforce a particular understanding of masculinity and femininity while undermining any efforts to accept non-conformity.  The questions then become:

  1. Who gets to decide what version of masculinity and femininity is considered the norm?
  2. What, then, happens to those who would challenge these norms? Is it OK to have a ‘tom boy’ or effeminate man?
  3. How far are we expected to take this normalisation of gender as a binary? Do they also expect families to reinforce conformity to avoid further controversy?

Who gets to decide?

Life is a journey in which we have choices to make which influence who we become and how those around us see us.  One of my kid’s teachers once asked me what I thought about her having a ‘spa day’ for the girls in the class where they could learn about how to do their nails and put on makeup while the boys played soccer.  My only response was: what if not all of the girls liked that kind of thing?

Who gets to decide what we like and what we don’t like?  Isn’t part of the reason we need specialised STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for girls BECAUSE for too long society has said these are not ‘feminine’ activities?  What about paternity leave, the opportunity for FATHERS to spend time with their newborn children – a very recent addition to employment rights because care-giving has long been assumed to be a mother’s job? How can we reach the ideal of gender equality if we promote policies that continue to narrowly define who we are based on socially constructed norms about gender?

What do you think?

Is it OK for anyone to choose not to conform to social norms about gender?  What risks are there to allowing space for fluidity?  What risks are there to reinforcing conformity?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Take your kids to work

I noticed on Twitter today that it was ‘take your kid to work’ day across the country.  Looking at #KidsToWork, there were loads of tweets of proud parents showing off their children in their workplaces as they were treated to a sneak peak of what their parents do at work.

Kids at work

My kid never participated in ‘take your kid to work’ day.  I don’t remember why.  Perhaps it was because dad is a teacher and it is easy to get a sense of what they do both at school and at home (marking is often all around our family room).  Mom, on the other hand, is a priest, a role which doesn’t necessarily have a typical day because there is a need to be available for pastoral visits, participate in meetings, prepare sermons, worship and other programming, preside at worship, and so on.  Some of these aspects would be inappropriate for a kid to be present and others would not be particularly engaging.

I suspect this dad, who works at the Canada Revenue Agency understands the dilemma of introducing your kid to a job that requires independent work that may or may not be particularly engaging for others:

Tailoring the day for the students

It would seem that some companies welcomed students and made a point of developing engaging programming that young people would enjoy.

CSIS Canada tweeted:


Baycrest provided experiential learning with an ‘aging suit’ according to this tweet:


Students at Alectra had some electrifying experiences:

What do you think?

Have you ever participated in ‘take your kid to work’?  If yes, what did that look like for you?  If not, why not?  Do you think that this is a meaningful opportunity for young people?  Why or why not?  To what extent do you think young people should be encouraged to explore careers through such hands on opportunities?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Protecting Ourselves

Jackson Katz asks men what they do daily to prevent being raped.  He is often met with silence.  Eventually, one student might say: avoid going to prison. 

He then asks the women the same question.  Immediately hands pop up with responses:

  • Hold keys as a potential weapon;
  • Look in the back seat before getting in the car;
  • Carry a cell phone;
  • Don’t go walking/jogging at night;
  • Lock all the windows when I sleep;
  • Don’t take a ground floor apartment;
  • Own a big dog;
  • Carry mace or pepper spray or a gun;
  • Have a home alarm system;
  • Don’t drink too much, and don’t let my drink out of my sight;
  • Have a buddy system;

And so on and so on.

Teaching our children

These are the messages we pass along to our daughters, teaching them from an early age to be aware of their surroundings, avoid certain areas, walk with a partner and so on.  Universities and Colleges offer workshops for female students to help teach ways to avoid being a victim, including self-defence techniques.  One study determined that only 22 women would need to participate in a rape prevention program to prevent one additional rape from happening that year.

What about boys?

A lot of time, money and energy is spent on helping females to avoid becoming victims.  As a result, females are often the ones held responsible for their participation in sexual activity.  In fact, in one analysis of a scenario, the commentary has focused exclusively on the role of the female since the 1990s, a point the professor continues to make.

How to prevent rape

Recently there are those who have turned the tables and created a list of things men can do to avoid raping. The emphasis in this instance in on the choices males make that could ultimately lead to rape with the encouragement to avoid these behaviours.  Underlying this message is an awareness that men are not helpless victims of their own urges but have the capacity to make better choices that will ultimately protect themselves and those whom they may sexually desire.

What do you think?  What should young people be taught?  How is this different for males and females?  When should this be introduced?  Who should teach it?  Your thoughts are welcomed!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Sexual Health

What do you know?

Sex Education

It seems like an ironic juxtaposition of events: As educators, parents and a variety of advocate groups seek to take on the Ontario government to reinstate an updated health curriculum created through consultation with many different individuals and groups, news of sexual indiscretions by Catholic clergy comes to light.  Information and commentary about these two circumstances have been a constant presence on my news feed throughout this summer.  This post highlights initial thoughts about the former situation. A vital thread connecting these two moments in time are the questions: to what extent and at what point should children learn the details about their private parts.

It is interesting that we have no problem singing songs that help teach kids names of parts of the body – head and shoulders, knees and toes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  Some, however, get a bit squeamish when it comes to teaching the proper names for private parts and instead use euphemisms.  Doing so, some believe, helps to maintain the innocence of children.

The challenge, however, is that these euphemisms are not universal.  What happens when, following an uncomfortable situation, a child reports that someone wants to play with their ‘dinky’ or take their ‘cookie’?  This language can be easily misinterpreted by other adults leaving the child vulnerable to abuse.

Of course, learning the proper for genitalia is only one part of the solution.  As this article highlights, it is also important to give children agency over their own bodies.  Children need to know that they can set boundaries and that body secrets are not OK. They need to have the tools to say no when they are faced with an uncomfortable situation and know that they won’t get in trouble if they tell a trusted adult about a problematic encounter.

These are conversations that can and should happen at home.  There have been many nights when dinner conversation around our table included frank discussions about sexuality from a very early age.  Having a kid who could read at age 4 and a parent who worked in the sexual health and social justice research lab at the University of Windsor, meant that some questions came up.  As one common story is told, I was asked: “what is a condom?” after my six year old had read the word on some interviews I was reviewing.  I responded in an age appropriate way and have continued to respond to questions ever since.

I am grateful that my kid has felt comfortable asking questions about sexuality and sex.  At times, so much so, that some of the questions actually came from friends.  Having a comprehensive sexual health curriculum can be helpful in ensuring that all children and young people have the tools they need to navigate their own sexual journeys in healthy ways.  This has proved evident in the Netherlands, where such education has contributed to lower rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among teens.

Still, the topic remains controversial.  Thus, we would love to hear your thoughts.  At what point did you learn the proper names for your genitalia?  Do feel that you were adequately educated about sexual health in school and/or at home?  To what extent do you talk about sexual health with your children?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Back to school…

This morning my timeline was filled with photos of children heading back to school.  I must admit, there was more than one photo that caught me off guard.  Facebook does this because it allows us to connect with friends we don’t necessarily see very often.  As a result, we see photos of children we remember as infants who are now making their way through school. Time flies.  My kid is starting university this week.

On days like this, it is easy to get nostalgic.  We may look back through our mind’s eye to the many first days of school that we have had with our children.  We may think about that first day of kindergarten, dropping our child off in a room filled with toys, books and activities especially well-suited to learning.  We may remember the gentle smile on the face of our child’s first teacher.  There is something about kindergarten teachers.  They have a way of making children and parents feel at ease.

We may also search ourselves for memories from our own school days.  I remember when somebody had given our class an appliance box – I think from a stove.  Our teacher allowed us to decorate it and create a playhouse.  At the time, I was the only one small enough to go inside so I had full reign of what to do there.

A lot has changed since I went to school.  Back then, we walked to and from school with our siblings and friends.  There was no expectation that we would be driven to school – we had two legs, we walked.  Nap time was part of kindergarten.  Most children went home for lunch.  At the time, it was still possible for families to survive on a single income.

Back in my time, there wasn’t a lot of technology in schools.  Teachers wrote on chalkboards and we neatly copied notes and did questions in our lined books. Research was done using encyclopaedias and card catalogues in libraries.  When computers did finally appear in schools, these were used only in computer classes where students learned to program, saving their work onto cassettes.

Students today might find all of this a bit tedious.  Internet search engines like Google are way more efficient than indexes and card catalogues.  In fact, some may already have voice technology at home – meaning they can ask a box a question and get answers for most of their queries.

There are definite advantages to becoming proficient in such resources.  These are important tools not only for education but for life.  Through the Internet, I was able to find out how to install crown molding.  I also use it extensively for research for posts.  Access to and use of these resources by students provides an important foundation on which our children can develop a future that will again be different from what we know today.

Google “children preparing for jobs that don’t exist” and you will find a variety of posts highlighting that upwards of 65% of children in primary school will end up in jobs that don’t already exist.  To prepare, our children need problem-solving skills and proficiency with technology so that what they don’t learn at school can be accessed when needed.  This is the task of the school system today.  The way we educate, needs to shift and change to meet the future needs of the students.  It is not an easy task and, sometimes, it means that parents need to adjust their sense of what learning is in order to better support our children.  Such is the reality of the 21st century.  So, let’s grab our phones, take and post those first day of school photos and then get friendly with google so we are ready when our kids get homework.

Are you ready?  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Learning the Basics

The education platform for the Progressive Conservatives included a commitment to “…focus on the fundamentals and that includes proven methods of teaching.” .  This includes the proposed scrapping of ‘discovery math’ as test scores for Ontario have shown a lack of improvement for this area.

What are the fundamentals?

While there are many who would agree that getting back to basics is important, few take the statement one step further and ask what the basics are.  What should students know and be able to do when they graduate from elementary school; from high school?  What steps are needed to achieve these goals?

Arithmetic vs. ‘Discovery Math’

There are generations of students who made it through a school system where arithmetic was taught by route.  Doing worksheet after worksheet of calculations to ensure that students knew how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  These are important skills and continue to be included in the curriculum.  The change is that now students are encouraged to learn through manipulatives which also help to develop problem solving capacities.

Why does it matter?

Learning arithmetic by route may mean that, at least for a time, students are able calculate 12 x 9 without assistance.  In life, however, there are no worksheets asking people to calculate basic questions.  Instead there are problems that we have to solve that may ultimately lead to a calculation.  For example, someone may need to calculate how many tiles are needed for a new 12 foot by 9 foot floor, someone might want to tip 12% or someone may want to calculate how much food is needed for a dinner party with 12 people.  While 12 x 9 can be calculated using calculators, calculator apps or even a cash register for those who are cashiers, people need to have sufficient skills in problem solving to know what to calculate.

Who likes math?

Compounding the issue is that, for some reason, mathematics is one of the few things that people are proud to say that they are not very good at doing.  In fact, math anxiety is widely accepted as a reality for a portion of the population. This includes parents, grandparents, teachers and students impacting confidence levels across generations.

What do you think?

Whether we like math or not doesn’t change its value to the education process.  So, assuming it is necessary, who do you think should decide what aspects of mathematics are foundational skills necessary for learning?  What resources should be used to decide how these skills are taught?  To what extent would you be willing to review these skills in order to assist your children as needed?