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A student asks for my help

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I’ve been having an extended correspondence with a high school student from Steinbach today.

And before we go any further, I’ll emphasize that I really am willing to help students. Just as long as the teacher is cool with it.

I remember the email I received a few years back from a student at Windsor Park Collegiate, who asked me to explain why (his words, not mine) the high school science that they teach in Manitoba is so bad, and when you answer, please make it at least 3,000 words. And I responded by asking the student if he’d like me to include footnotes and an annotated bibliography,

Anyway, on to today’s student.

The first email I received consisted of just the one sentence: "Why do you think the MHSAA resist giving the Pasternak what they wanted?"

That was it.

A few back and forths later, I had ferretted out that my correspondent is a senior high student at Steinbach Regional, and that this is a course assignment that the teacher gave the class. The student asked for a day of my time to interview me, and we bargained it down to two hours, a date to be determined subject to conditions.

But I had to ask in three emails before the student told me that, no, he has not read any of the stories and blogs I wrote back in 2006 when the Pasternak twin sisters challenged the Manitoba High Schools Athletics Association in a landmark human rights hearing to be allowed to try out for the boys’ hockey team at West Kildonan Collegiate. Nor had he read anyone else’s coverage. All he knew was what the teacher assigned the class.

I urged very strongly that the student find and read what I wrote eight years ago, before we discuss his using me as an interview subject. I made a strong case that I would be OK with being part of his research, subject to the teacher’s approval, but I would not do the research for him. I wanted to see evidence he’d done his homework, starting with his knowing who the Pasternaks were and what it was all about.

I told the student that I want his teacher to let me know if he/she would consider his interviewing me to be initiative on the student’s part, or a shortcut to doing the legwork that he/she expected the student to do.

And that’s where it was left.

And on the subject of helping students, I received an email last Thursday from a graduate student at U of M asking for my help in finding data on family incomes for each school division in Manitoba. I replied in some detail about such specific data not being compiled, largely because of privacy legislation — StatsCan can tell you the average incomes in a neighbourhood, but that doesn’t address where kids in that neighbourhood go to school, or separate the public/private/home-schooled families from the general local population as a distinct income group. The only way to compile such detailed data would be to allow schools the right to ask parents their incomes, and that’s not going to happen. You can extrapolate, you can generalize, you can try to convert the StatsCan numbers into division-by-division information, but you won’t get the nitty-gritty the graduate student sought. But I made some suggestions.

Some people would have acknowledged my response, however inadequate, with a simple thanks. Some people.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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