A Message To My Daughter As She Prepares To Graduate High School

Slow down, kiddo.

The other day, we talked a bit, and you told me about how you were thinking about going to trade school in a variety of disciplines. I in no way oppose this, and I understand that you are feeling the grade 12 rush towards What Will You Do With The Rest Of Your Life press down on you. As well, if I understood our conversation correctly, there are some opportunities that require you to leap directly from high school into post-secondary for financial assistance. These are all well and good, but ease up a bit. Hear me out, here.

I may be a silly-minded old fart, an aging musician who’s pretty cool but doesn’t really get the way the world is, but there’s a thing or two I know about the world that I want to share with you. They’re pretty important things, and they might start to sound a bit depressing. I assure you, this isn’t a gloomy message.

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Them New Maths Are Stupid LOL

Submitted for your approval, this article which was posted to FaceBook by a friend of mine. I hadn’t read the article when I commented (because that would involve me being a responsible person), but I was commenting on the comments themselves, which were expressing frustration that math was being treated like a thing you have to get through, to be totally ignored after you no longer needed to be tested on it.

My argument? That’s true of everything we learn in school. I’m going to go into a bit more detail here, and I’m going to break it down by each of the core subjects, because I’m bloody awesome that way. And then I’m gonna have a conclusion, and hopefully make sense of the whole thing.

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…Or D) None Of The Above

wpid-2013-10-16-08-16-53-1256943980.jpegI read last night about something that really annoyed me, how some schools are pushing multiple choice tests on students as early as kindergarten.  This is alarming to me, and being that I’m a prick with a blog, I get to tell you why.

One of the hats I have worn in my professional life was that of college instructor, and it was easily the most personally rewarding role I have ever had. Sadly, it was also one of the least financially rewarding, and I had to eventually stop doing it because the investment of time just didn’t pay off with a decent life. But I taught for over two years, and totally enjoyed it. It’s something I strongly consider going back to when I am once again in control of my own finances.

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Bishops Sending Letters

wpid-downloadfile.jpegWhen a Catholic Bishop advises Catholics on matters of faith, it is acceptable. When a Catholic Bishop advises Catholics on matters of health, it is stupid. Not only is it stupid, it is a reprehensible abuse of position, which ultimately is the one skill most in leadership in any church forget to include when doing a up their resume.

The Catholic School Board is sending home a letter to help parents understand the HPV vaccine. The letter, written by several bishops, is described as “timeless” in the article, because that word is what they trot out every time times change and their dogma doesn’t hold water. See, the document in question suggests that there is no consensus on the HPV vaccine amongst scientists, which I would assume was accurate back when they wrote it. It just isn’t true now. But, when one is informing parents, why let a little thing like the truth get in the way, especially when it conflicts with your desired message.

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Speaking Up For Salem

salemMany of my readers will remember Willy, the bartender at The Underground. He was a fixture there, and I can honestly say that the night Willy bought me a beer as a thanks for playing was one of those moments when I knew I was at least a half-decent musician. Willy’s just awesome. Willy and his partner Kat have a daughter named Salem, whom I recently met. Salem has cerebral palsy, but she is far from being “that poor kid with CP”, she’s witty, active, sweet, and funny, much like her parents.

Last year, Salem started Grade 1. Willy and Kat enrolled her in the Calgary Arts Academy, a charter school with a strong focus on artistic development. The school was aware of Salem’s special needs, and chose to enroll her despite not being mandated to do so by the people at Alberta Education. Charter schools, because they can have unique course content, are not required to accept special needs children. Money was allocated for an aide, and as a result, Salem thrived there.

The school staff are happy with Salem in their classroom. Willy and Kat are happy with the school. Salem loves her classes. So ends the story.

No. Because that would be too easy for a family that has already had so much to deal with. Instead, we must now introduce the antagonist, the superintendent of the school, Dale Erickson.

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High Schools Are For Testing Knowledge, Not Sluttishness

beltOnce upon a time, I worked on a project that I had some ethical concerns about. I was the analyst who designed five pieces of client-facing software and a sixth that acted as a communications hub, and it was interesting work, but it was software for the purpose of facilitating communications in the drug and alcohol testing industry. It was in many ways a really fascinating project, and I would be proud of the software if it had seen the light of day. The company simply couldn’t get off the ground, and my brilliance was lost forever. But I was concerned about this software, because I don’t believe in drug testing for most employment.

Let me make sure we’re clear, here. The primary customer for this was trucking companies. Anyone trucker who is driving through the Good Ole’ US of A legally has to submit to random drug testing. I can accept the potential for serious problems if a truck driver is stoned or drunk behind the wheel, and there are a great many jobs where safety is a priority and staff are required to agree to not use alcohol and drugs. If you tell your boss you aren’t going to be stoned and then get stoned, you kinda deserve to get in shit for it. End of story.

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Why I’m Totally Not Cool With Home Schooling

homeschoolThere are actually a bunch of reasons why I don’t buy into the home schooling concept, but the biggest reason is that I have an understanding of my own limitations. I know, you’re probably thinking that I am Big Ugly Jim, a creature without limits. Well, you’d be wrong. I, just like everyone else, have strengths and weaknesses. I can help you understand how to save millions in your corporation through properly assessing holes in your processes, and I can book a great night of entertainment, but don’t ask me to do anything “handy” or we’re all in a world of trouble. And that’s just one of the many things I suck at.

The truth is that I could quite possibly be the single worst teacher my kids could ever want. I’ve taught college, and I was good at it, but teaching college is a far cry from teaching grade school. Teachers in college can get away with being knowledgeable in their field so long as they possess communication skills, which (sadly) isn’t always a prerequisite for teaching. But teaching children, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of fish intestines. You go to school to learn to be a public school teacher because it isn’t bloody obvious. This attitude that people have that they could do as good a job as a someone who went to school for it is just plain ignorant. It’s the same attitude that tells us that we can build our own web site, fix the toilet, or swap out the brakes on the car without any training, and it often leads to really, really bad things.

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On Sex Education

sedI’m going to start with a story. It’s a true story, one where I am the protagonist and antagonist, all at the same time. It took place many moons ago, when I was in grade 5. My family went out for dinner to what I think of as a nice restaurant, though I have no means of really knowing that today. It had a Greek sounding name and there was no cheeseburger meal, so that may well have been all it took for me to think it was fancy. At any rate, my dad mentioned how tall I was getting and had me stand up next to my sister to compare our impressive heights. He then made the obligatory “Wow, son, you sure are growing like a weed!” comment, to which I smartly said, “That’s because I’ve started maturation”.

Only I didn’t say that.

“What?” quoth my father.

“Maturation, dad. I learned about it in Sex Ed. It’s when your body starts to grow and mature. Maturation.”

“That’s not what you said.”

I sat down. I realized that I had, standing in a crowded potentially-fancy restaurant, loudly and proudly announced to the world that I had started masturbation. Kids say the darndest things.

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My Reality

Big UglyI’ve been trying to find a way to express this one for quite some time, and have started and stopped posts like this for days now. And then I saw this post and decided it was high time to follow through with this one.

I went to college and got a degree in a field that was going to have tens of thousands of job shortages in my country alone. I won’t pretend I graduated with an exceptional GPA, but I quickly got a good paying job (for a new grad, at least) that would allow my then-wife to stay home with our pending bundle of joy. I quickly stood out in my field, largely because I have exceptionally good writing and oral communication skills, and in any technical field, this is a common lack. I moved quickly from the new kid who gets stuck in help desk jobs and what have you to Director of Strategic Web Services. On top of that, I was teaching college on the weekends. Everything was coming up Big Ugly Jim.

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Of Wolves And Businessmen

{Note: I wrote this in two installments, and I’ve not proofed it for sense. It might suck. If it does, sorry. Also, this post was at least partially inspired by the tattoo on my left calf and this post from Camels With Hammers. Go read the post.}

As a kid, I decided that what made us special as a species was our ability to think beyond our immediate needs and the immediate good of society. That sounds strange, but what I meant was simple. In all the pack animals that I had ever heard of, food went to the healthiest and strongest members first. If a wolf got to be too old and could not fight for their share, they went without and were slowly starved. This makes sense for the society, encouraging the fittest members of their society to thrive, hopefully passing on their genes to the next generation, and ensuring that the pack is not bogged down in the aged. But humans don’t do that. We take care of everyone, and that separates us from the animals.

Children can be so naive.

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