Saturday, June 9, 2007

Convocated, certified, and contract signed!

So I convocated yesterday (June 8). It was a fun day. It was so weird to be called up with the words "Bachelor of Education (Distinction)" after my name. I still feel like a kid at heart in a lot of ways. But now I turn the page over to a new chapter in my life... I'm excited for what the future holds!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Canada ranks 8th peaceful country in the world...

This is an interesting study done by Vision of Humanity.
It is the first time that an index has been created that ranks the nations of the world by their peacefulness. 121 countries have been ranked. The countries are ranked from most peaceful to least peaceful, highlighting their ranking as well as their score. You can click on a country to see the details of its peace indicators and drivers.
Canada ranked 8th, while the United States ranked 96th.
Coming in first place was Norway, and the two bottom countries--not surprisingly--are Sudan and Iraq.
The study is interesting. I mean, I have some reservations about placing numbers on peace, but the point is definitely evident. While it may not be 100% accurate, the picture is definitely illustrated as we compare the top half of the countries to the bottom half.
Canada still ranked 8th place, despite the plight of Aboriginal peoples in this this nation, the state of homelessness (namely in East Vancouver, Edmonton's inner city, Calgary, Toronto), our local state of North Central Regina, and the list goes on. My only hope is that albeit Canada is among the top of the list, that it (citizens and government) will work to improve the unpeaceful conditions that still exist in this nation. In addition, I hope Canada will contribute to promoting and improving the peace of those countries on the list below it.
"Peace is not something you wish for; It's something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Testing and the lengths people will go...

A story that appeared yesterday in the BBC News just floored me. Testing is a pretty hot topic on the education debate market, and this is more fuel for the fire.
Wow... the lengths people will go. Parents are giving their children internet-bought Anti-hyperactivity medicines like Ritalin, to boost their performance on tests.
"We are moving into a phase now where informed parents can by-pass the medical profession, go online and prescribe the drug themselves."
Wow. Think about the health risks, the danger of purchasing drugs over the internet, the disregard for medical expertise, and the growing competitiveness of educational achievement.
"In our culture, educational attainment is valued so highly. People sell their houses to get near a school or lie about where they live to get a child into a school... It's a distorted value in our culture. So anything a parent can do to get some kind of educational advantage - they will do it."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Students and social responsibility...

A story that appeared in today is one of the main reasons why being a teacher is--in my opinion--the best profession in the world!
The opportunities that await through the classroom door each year are endless. From my experience, kids become so passionate about social issues--which is something that all of us adults can learn from--and their passion can be transformed into action.
The story is about a seventh grade social studies class. This class took action on the idea that banning school bus idling is a way to save fuel and protect the environment.
They took this idea and passion to their government, and the government pulled through. Gov. Jim Douglas signed into law a bill to ban school buses from idling while parked on school grounds.
"Throughout the legislative session the students argued the merits of banning idling... schools will save over $300,000 that would have been spent on fuel for buses that are idling... [and they] helped the health of 75,000 school-age children"
This is a great story!
Furthermore, "In addition to banning idling, the new law asks the Department of Education to develop a model policy to encourage school districts to restrict idling on school grounds by all vehicles."
I like a quote by JFK and find it suiting to this post: "Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Keep the pressure on...

I received the following e-mail today. As it says, while this is a "positive step, victory will be achieved only when the people of Darfur are safe."
Over the last few weeks, Save Darfur Coalition activists have sent 151,507 emails and faxes to Fidelity Investments, calling on it to cut its ties to companies like PetroChina, that provide financial support to the genocidal Sudanese government.
The result? Fidelity listened!
Last week, Fidelity announced that it had greatly reduced its holdings of PetroChina, one of the "highest offending" companies helping fund the genocide.
This is a truly promising development in the effort to divest for Darfur.
We must keep the pressure on the Chinese government, which is not just the majority shareholder in PetroChina, but also Sudan's largest foreign investor, a major political supporter, and a key arms provider.
In fact, the Chinese government recently demonstrated its support of the Sudanese regime by providing a $13 million loan to build Omar al-Bashir a new presidential palace. Most disturbingly, China sells arms to Sudan, weapons which are used by government forces and the Janjaweed militia to maim and kill innocent Darfuris.
It's time for China to fully invest itself in ending the genocide by using its unmatched influence to convince Sudan to cooperate with international efforts to end the violence and build a lasting peace in Darfur.
While Fidelity's announcement is a positive step, victory will be achieved only when the people of Darfur are safe.
And China has the power and influence to help make that possible.
China must lead the world in pressuring Sudan to follow through on its commitments to cooperate with international efforts to end the violence.
Then please forward this message to your friends and family and ask them to join you in taking action.
Thanks for your continuing support in this movement to bring lasting peace and protection to the people of Darfur.
Best regards, David Rubenstein - Save Darfur Coalition

You can e-mail, snail mail, or fax PM Stephen Harper at:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900
You can also voice your concerns to your local MPs. Here is a rough template for what you can say.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Take a look at your fingers--apparently they show whether you're better at math or english...

I came across a neat article today in The Daily Mail.

There is a new study that claims to predict ability in the key areas of numeracy and literacy. I am not sure how true this is, but apparently there is quite a bit of research backing up this theoretical prediction.

So here is how it goes: Take a look at your ring finger and index (pointer) finger. Those with longer ring fingers (than their index finger) are said to more likely excel in numeracy, while those with shorter ring fingers (than their index finger) tend to be more adept at literacy.

I may take a look at my students' hands in the fall--just for fun and curiosity's sake--to see how much authenticity this research bears in my classroom.

By the way... my ring finger is shorter than my index finger... which according to this study means that I am more literate than numerate. This is definitely true!

Netiquette #2...

Just a small followup with what I wrote about yesterday, concerning teachers being subjected to libel on the internet... a story appeared today about this subject in the BBC News.

UK Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, has said that, "web publishers have a moral obligation to cut offensive videos of teachers being attacked, harassed or ridiculed."

Some examples of these online attacks, harassment, and ridicule that teachers have faced were outlined in the article:

  • One teacher gave the example of pupils who had created a web page on which abuse, intimidation and even death threats were made about school staff.
  • Another shared information about a "We Hate Mrs XXX" website created by a pupil after the teacher in question reported them for an incident.
  • One teacher claimed she had received 68 malicious mobile phone calls over a three-week period in which she was threatened with rape and murder.

It's a real touchy subject yet again because many of the "bullies"--for lack of a better term--say that they are just expressing their freedom of expression when they make these websites and videos. But again... sometimes it just gets mean, and sometimes it even gets frightening and/or harmful.

The article reads, "The pupils who do this are afforded anonymity. The teachers are named, exposed to ridicule and subjected to false and malicious allegations. Teachers' self-esteem and sometimes their health is seriously affected."

If you are interested, here is the story.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Practicing netiquette...

With the whole Facebook/MySpace/YouTube revolution, there's quite a fine line when to comes to libel and freedom of expression.
Here's an interesting article that appeared in Macleans primarily concerning teachers and students.
One day I did a search on Facebook to see if there were any groups just for teachers--as kind of a networking thing--and the search result was quite frightening. There are groups that promote hate about teachers and the majority of comments left on the walls of those groups are extremely defamatory in nature. Furthermore, many students create groups about their peers at school entitled "I hate so and so", etc.
I am in favour of freedom of expression... but I do think that it crosses the line at times and is just plain mean.
"Students have been disparaging teachers long before the Internet's inception. But placing those comments online turns it into a whole new ball game, said University of Toronto sociology professor Barry Wellman. 'It's one thing saying "The teacher sucks," to your friends over a beer or a cigarette or a Coke,' he said. 'That's slanderous, but nobody really cares about that. When you put it on the web it's libelous because it can be read by anybody and can hurt the person's reputation.'"
Another example of this appeared in, where some students made a rude video of their teacher (without her knowledge) and posted it on YouTube for the whole world to see.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

6 billion others...

You know, sometimes I reflect on the segregation that exists in our world. The "othering" of people and the creation of "us" and "them". This segregation has a strong tendency to lead towards inequality, inequity, and indifference.
These "others" are often undervalued and forgotten about... i.e. Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Uganda, Eastern Congo, etc...
But as much as we are all unique, there are similarities that exist among and across all human kind, regardless race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, disability, socio-economic status, and level of suffering.
Looking in the distance
I saw something move
Coming a little closer
I saw an animal
Coming a little closer still
I saw a man

Coming up real close
I saw my brother
-Tibetan tale

I came across this project called 6 Billion Others. It is a growing collection of full-frame up-close videos of people from many different walks of life and creates a unique opportunity for one to identify with people of very different origins. They discuss parenting, joy, family, God, dreams, love, nature, fears, happiness, tears, laughter, children's dreams, and presentation.
The creator of 6 Billion Others, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, describes his developing project (expected to be completed in 2008) by saying, "The confrontation of voices from all over the world underlines both discrepancies and surprising similarities of thought. All of our encounters are linked together by three main human processes: that of testifying, that of feeling, that of thinking."
Arthus-Bertrand presents a compelling and thought-provoking suggestion--one that I see bears much truth. I also recommend reading his linguistic illustrations of testifying, feeling, and thinking.
Visit this site, and see how much we share with all of humanity on parenting, joy, family, God, dreams, love, nature, fears, happiness, tears, laughter, children's dreams, and presentation.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Myrtle McGee & big smile on me...

I received a letter today informing me that I was selected for the Myrtle A. McGee Award. This prestigious award is presented to the most outstanding intern teacher in the University of Regina's Faculty of Education. I'm totally shocked and very humbled.

Child soldiers...

Over 250,000 children are actively serving in armed conflict in TWENTY countries around the world.

Their health, their lives, and their childhoods are sacrificed.

Many female child soldiers are forced to serve as sex slaves of military commanders.

Albeit numerous child soldiers are in non-governmental armed opposition groups… governments in TEN (of these 20 countries) are implicated in child soldier use. “The U.S. government provides military assistance to nine of them… U.S. tax dollars should not be used to support the exploitation of children as soldiers. Moreover, US weapons should not end up in the hands of children.”

There is a very touching video about Ishmael Beah who was one of thousands of children forced to serve as a child soldier in the Sierra Leone Army.

This video calls for the U.S. to use their influence to cut military aid to countries using child soldiers. You can view it at:

To see the countries that child soldiers are currently serving in, visit:

The proposed Child Soldier Prevention Act (S1175) is:
"bipartisan legislation… the bill would restrict five categories of US military assistance (International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Foreign Military Sales, Direct Commercial Sales, and Excess Defense Articles) to governments… until they end any involvement in the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The bill would not automatically cut off these military assistance programs; governments taking concrete steps to end child recruitment and demobilize child soldiers would remain eligible for assistance directed solely towards the professionalization of their forces for up to two years before any prohibition on assistance would be imposed. This bill will provide clear incentives for governments currently implicated in the recruitment and use of child soldiers to end this practice and demobilize children from their forces. It also encourages the United States to expand funding to rehabilitate former child soldiers and work with the international community to bring to justice rebel armed groups that kidnap children for use as soldiers.”

If you are inspired to take action, you can write or phone government representatives, write your local newspaper, educate yourself, and spread the word to family, friends, classmates, colleagues, etc.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

International diplomatic dynamics & Darfur...

A great article, written by activist Mia Farrow, appeared in The Wall Street Journal. It examines China's responsibility in the current ethnic-cleansing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa.
"China is pouring billions of dollars into Sudan. Beijing purchases an overwhelming majority of Sudan's annual oil exports and state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. -- an official partner of the upcoming Olympic Games -- owns the largest shares in each of Sudan's two major oil consortia. The Sudanese government uses as much as 80% of proceeds from those sales to fund its brutal Janjaweed proxy militia and purchase their instruments of destruction: bombers, assault helicopters, armored vehicles and small arms, most of them of Chinese manufacture. Airstrips constructed and operated by the Chinese have been used to launch bombing campaigns on villages."
Check out her article here:
It may also be a good idea to write to the sponsors of the 2008 Olympics expressing shame and suggesting they withhold cooperation with the Beijing Olympics until the people of Darfur can be safe. The official sponsors are: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Visa, Swatch, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, Adidas, Volkswagen, Eastman Kodak Company, Eastman Kodak Company, Atos Origin, China Netcom, CNPC/PetroChina, Sinopec, China Mobile, Bank of China, Air China, and Manulife.
Think of how much money will go into the Beijing and greater Chinese economy from the Olympics... and then much of it will go to fund a genocide
This, coupled with the fact that, "After the 9/11 attacks, the Sudan regime--out of fear of reprisals for their earlier support of Osama bin Laden [bin Laden even lived in Sudan from 1991-96] and continuing contacts with other terrorist groups--intensified their counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S. government. President Bush wasn't kidding when he uttered the famous words 'You're either with us or against us.' In this case, Sudan is with us, and that bought the regime breathing room while it unleashed the genocide in Darfur." (Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond) Counterterrorism and combating crimes against humanity do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Tripled with the fact that, "Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of our resources devoted to international military operations are being diverted to these conflicts. Consequently, there is little spare change left over for anything else--the Law of the Tool." (Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond)
Even though these complexities exist... it's not impossible to end this genocide. The famous saying comes to mind: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If citizens of this world make enough noise... the governments will have to act--they don't want to lose our vote. There will be a cost if they don't listen to us.
Furthermore, a policy of pressure has a proven track record with the Sudanese government. For example, "in the 1990s, the UN Security Council punished the Sudanese government with a series of multilateral UN sanctions for its support of terrorism, and the regime quickly changed its behavior, evicting Osama bin Laden from the country, dismantling the al-Qaeda commercial infrastructure, and cutting its ties with other terrorist organizations." (Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond)
Again, over 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced from their homes, and hundreds of thousands of women raped by the Janjaweed militia... when will this stop?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Where does Mothers Day come from?

In today's consumer culture, we have come to know Mothers Day as a day to buy chocolate, cards, flowers, spa gift certificates, etc., for our loving mothers.

Mothers Day is a very important day, and I think it has lost meaning over the years...

"Mother's Day was originally suggested by poet and social activist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, after witnessing the carnage of the American Civil War and the start of the Franco-Prussian War, she wrote the original Mother's Day Proclamation calling upon the women of the world to unite for peace. This "Mother's Day Proclamation" would plant the seed for what would eventually become a national holiday." (

Check out this video for a modern version of the Proclamation, which features Felicity Huffman, Vanessa Williams, Christine Lahti, Fatma Saleh, Ashraf Salimian, Gloria Steinem, and Alfre Woodard.

"It is important for each of us to take the time to celebrate and thank our mothers for all that they do." (

We can add that "meaning" back into Mothers Day by honouring and loving our mothers, promoting peace, and healing the victims of war and injustice.

At, you can send an e-cards to your mother, with a donation in her name going to No More Victims, whose aim is to help heal victims of the Iraq War.

FYI: Julia Ward Howe was a poet, writer and activist who fought vigilantly for peace, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Darfur... my venting...

What will you tell your grandchildren some day when they ask you what you did while there was a genocide going on in the world?

We are living on a plant that has a genocide occurring right now.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings are being systematically targeted for extermination. Their only “crime” is that they are of non-Arab ethnicity and deemed to be sympathetic to rebel groups in Darfur.

It frustrates me and angers me that over 400,000 people have already been exterminated, and 2.5 million others displaced from their homes. So why—WHY—does this continue? Why isn’t our government doing more? We’ve surpassed the 200,000 deaths in Bosnia. Are we waiting until the count is 800,000 like that in Rwanda? Six million like the Holocaust?

Well… some of the reasons I think, are that people dismiss the entire continent of Africa as hopeless because all we hear about (in the off occasions when Africa is actually in the news) are the growing epidemics of AIDS, poverty, starvation, and killing. Indifference has swelled: out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps people do not want to get involved with a sovereign country’s matters.

But there is another very important element in this mix of inactivity:

"Sudanese government officials, who were close to Osama bin Laden when he lived in that country from 1991 until 1996, are now cooperating with American counterterrorism authorities. The regime in Khartoum rightly concluded that if they provided nuggets of information about al-Qaeda suspects and detainees to the Americans, the value of this information would outweigh outrage over their state-supported genocide. In other words, when U.S. counterterrorism objectives meet up with anti-genocide objectives, Sudanese officials had a hunch that counterterrorism would win every time. These officials have been right in their calculations so far. As of this writing, near the end of 2006, the United States had done little to seriously confront the Sudanese regime over its policies."


"In order to win the peace in Sudan, we must first win an ideological battle at home. We must show that combating crimes against humanity is as important as combating terrorism. Often, as in the case of Sudan, the pursuit of both objectives doesn't have to be mutually exclusive. History has demonstrated that Sudanese government officials change their behavior when they face genuine international diplomatic and economic pressure."

In their book, Don Cheadle and John Prendergast take about WHY we should be concerned about the genocide happening in Darfur right now:

  1. It’s a moral imperative
  2. We have made the promise of “Never Again”
  3. Eradicating genocide will make the rest of the world safer (including us in the western world): “History has taught us that regimes that target their own people rarely confine their murderous ambitions within their borders. The victims… tend not to go quietly into the night. Some radicalize, taking up arms… and, eventually, join criminal or even ‘terrorist' networks. The violence spreads; the innocents suffer.”

If “citizens can make enough noise to press their government to do what's right, then we will have saved literally tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives in Darfur." John Prendergast.

So, I try as best I can as only one human being on this earth among 6 billion others to do the following: educate myself, blog, raise awareness, raise funds, write letters, sign petitions, call for divestment, join organizations, lobby the government, etc. I would also love to vist this area sometime to offer humanitarian assitance and write.

Here are some good videos on YouTube that illustrate a only a fraction of the devastation that is happening in Darfur right now:

“Throughout American history, social movements have helped shape our government's policy on a variety of issues.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Preventing disability... or accepting human diversity?

"About 90% of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion."
This is a very thought-provoking article that touched me. As a special education teacher who works with children from all diverse walks of life, I can truly say that children with special needs have special gifts that are so very valuable to our society. In my humble opinion, I think I have the best career in the world!
Back to the article...
There is broader and increasing prenatal genetic testing that can inform parents that their child will be born with Down Syndrome. While I see that it could be positive that the parents would have time to prepare and become ready for their future family with prenatal genetic testing... using this information to terminate a pregnancy is almost bordering on eugenics. Are we subconsciously sending a message that this type of diversity is not welcome in our world? There are also many families who would be more than happy to welcome this special young child into their home and into their lives.
"A dwindling Down Syndrome population, which now stands at about 350,000, could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical research. It could also mean a lonelier world for those who remain."
This article talks about a group of activists who just want to get the word out as to how special and valuable people with Downs Syndrome (and other special needs for that matter) are.
“It isn’t about abortion politics or religion, it’s a pure ethical question.”
Even if one doesn't agree... this is at the very least something to critically think about.

Organ donation...

Interesting article. I don't really have a firm opinion on it, as this is an extremely controversial and complex issue, but it was a good read nonetheless.

In any case, with the atrocities that are occurring all over the world when it comes to organ markets and human rights (i.e. body brokers profiting off of human suffering, encouraging impoverished people to sell their organs, governments selling the organs of political prisoners, etc.), coupled with the reality that many people die before receiving the organs they need, definitely calls for some kind of reform of the organ-donor system.

This article is thought-provoking and discusses a variety of opinions.

Also, take a look at the current going prices for organs in different parts of the world:

$15,000-40,000 Pakistan $20,000 Iraq $25,000 Russia $35,000-85,000 Philippines $65,000 China $80,000 Colombia $120,000 South Africa $145,000 Turkey
$150,000-170,000 China $290,000 Singapore $290,000 South Africa $290,000 South Korea $290,000 Taiwan
$25,000 Egypt $25,000 Pakistan $60,000-130,000 China $100,000 Colombia $100,000 Philippines $290,000 Singapore $290,000 South Africa $290,000 South Korea $290,000 Taiwan
$110,000 China $140,000 Singapore $140,000 South Africa $140,000 South Korea $140,000 Taiwan
$90,000 Colombia $130,000-160,000 China $290,000 South Africa $290,000 South Korea $290,000 Taiwan $290,000 Singapore

(Prices taken from:

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The iRack...

With all of the new technology coming out from Apple (iPod, iBook, iMac, iPhone, iTunes, etc)... Mad TV introduces the i-Rack.

This is definitely a must-see.

Puts things into perspective (visually) about the current happenings overseas right now... Make sure you check this link out:

Monday, May 7, 2007

Teachers are held to a higher moral standard #2...

Here's a follow-up video to the post I made last week about the university education student not being given her teaching degree over a myspace photo and its accompanying caption.
Pretty tricky subject.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

How would you spend $456 billion?

I came across a really thought-provoking piece on

"[The] total cost of the Iraq war may reach $456 billion in September."
That's almost half a trillion dollars!!!
So... it leads one to wonder: What would $456 billion buy?
(These are in no particular order):
1. Being a new university grad about to pay back a huge loan... this one really irks me... $456 billion could have bought "At published rates for next year, 14.5 million free rides for a year at Harvard... or 44 million at the University of Massachusetts."
2. With gas prices sky-rocketing... $456 billion could have bought "Free gas for everybody for 1.2 years US drivers consume approx. 384.7 million gallons of gasoline a day." (This is problematic in itself...but that's another topic...) "Retail prices averaged $2.64 a gallon in 2006. Breaking it down, $456 billion could buy gasoline for everybody in the United States, for about 449 days.
3. With climate change and environmental sustainability a growing concern, $456 billion could have bought "With just one-sixth of the US money targeted for the Iraq war, you could convert all cars in America to run on ethanol. estimates that converting the 136,568,083 registered cars in the United States to ethanol (conversion kits at $500) would cost $68.2 billion."
4. And the one that touches my heart the most... $456 billion could have bought "According to World Bank estimates, $54 billion a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015, while $30 billion would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth. At the upper range of those estimates, the $456 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world's poor for five and a half years."

I guess the way it's spent says something about the priorities of those in power who are spending it.
Of course there are many other ways $456 billion dollars could be spent... what are some of your ideas?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Peeing your pants deserving of national attention?


"A sixth-grader who was denied permission to use the restroom while taking a state achievement test this week had an accident in class."

Okay, granted the teacher should have had an adult supervisor escort the student to the restroom... but are you serious? This story deserves national attention over the other (what I would argue to be) bigger atrocities taking place in the world? Like my posting below and other newsworthy issues in the world are being shafted because a kid peed their pants.

Like Cheadle said in the posting below, "It's disturbing the mainstream media gives so little attention to the killings in Darfur, while crime stories [and apparently peeing your pants... among other things, like hollywood gossip] in the United States will be reported on ad nauseam."

One question that wasn't raised (maybe fellow educators want to take a stab at this)... What part did the state achievement test play in this incident?

State achievement tests determine school rankings, funding, and the state's annual report cards.