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Student protests and oodles of other stuff, even some that's relevant

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I’ll be away the next two weeks, which we hope will be full of kayaking, hiking, swimming, reading a book every day.

Anonymous trolls, you’ll either have to save up your invective, or maybe just go after one or two of my colleagues. MA or Bartley tend to be somewhat provocative...

Meanwhile...

You may have seen my story today on the protest at the University of Manitoba Thursday, in which international students accused the faculty of engineering of discrimination.

That’s a pretty serious charge.

U of M says that engineering isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been university policy for decades, that the university by policy treats Manitoba and Canadian students differently than it treats foreign students.

Foreign students already pay higher tuition, up to three times as much, which is supposed to cover the taxpayer subsidies to a university education which foreign students and their parents obviously don’t pay.

The contentious issue that allegedly justifies the charge of discrimination is that because engineering is in huge demand, and U of M guarantees it will take 10 per cent of enrolment from qualified foreign applicants but has a target ceiling of 12 to 15 per cent, then foreign applicants tend to get in with higher average GPAs than domestic students.

What it comes down to, and which student leaders would not address, is whether foreign students have an inherent right to compete for spaces in a Manitoba university on the same level playing field as do Manitoba students.

U of M Students Union president Al Turnbull declined to comment.

Zach Fleisher, Manitoba chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, said CFS has not yet set a policy on the issue of equal access for foreign students.

Yet both Turnbull and Fleisher, and the associations they head, vilified U of M with the accusation of discrimination.

I might suggest Fleisher go on-line and check out the reports published publicly which show voluminous reports and policy papers on both the board of governors and senate websites. He hasn’t been reading them, particularly the dozens of pages about enrolment strategies, said Fleisher.

As for the 50 or so chanting students...the chants were much more clever back in the 60s, when I don’t recall that student protesters could afford, or would ever even consider showing up with, dozens of specially-printed t-shirts and sign shop placards. That would have been proof back in the day of rampant bourgeois attitudes.

I know that there are vast differences between my generation and the current one, with the anonymity of the Internet and social media and all, and our sense that you put your name on what you say or write. And I know that my attitudes may be totally invalid and are certainly out of date.

Nevertheless, if you chant discrimination while brandishing a sign that says "I have a 4.0 and I can’t get in," then people of my generation will read that and interpret it as meaning that you personally have a GPA of 4.0 yet have been rejected by the faculty of engineering. But each of the students whom I approached who was brandishing such a placard said that, no, he or she did not personally have that experience, but was merely holding the sign to support someone whom someone else taking part in the demonstration knows.

What part of ‘I’ is so hard to understand?

Moving on.....

A whole bunch of things has been piling up here, some of them involving my getting grief from grown-ups who sign their real names and take responsibility for what they say.

A caution now that I’m about to wander all over the map with all kinds of things, and that my train of thought will switch tracks with absolutely no warning. It’s doubtful anyone will stick with me to the end, although if I refuse to rule out saying anything about education property taxes, maybe Colin Craig will hang in there...

Let’s start with the mother who’s sent me four exceedingly lengthy diatribes blaming me for her daughter’s ongoing woes, which would have been resolved long ago had I only put the situation in the paper.

Her daughter is 27 and has an issue with student loans in connection with her studies at a community college, whose name most astute readers would recognize. And each time this woman writes to me, I tell her the same thing which I tell those handful of postsecondary parents who want me to write about problems with their children’s schooling: your daughter is an adult, if she wants to talk to me for possible publication, she is free at any time to do so.

Moving on....

I’m glad to see that those little kids in Interlake School Division had their science project sent into space and performed on the international space station. I wrote quite a few articles over a couple of years on the project, which involved hundreds of kids in grades 5 and 6 from eight schools having a lot of fun while learning a lot about science and other subjects.

I thought the articles were all quite positive, though it’s often the positive ones that get you into far more trouble than the controversial hard-news stories.

Suffice to say that the attacks on my competence and character and integrity over two of those stories were in any top 10 list of the most scathing signed attacks I’ve received in recent years. The more recent of the two, which was copied to me but sent to Big Editor (not his real name) accused me of having offended NASA so deeply that the American space agency would kick the Interlake kids out of the program and leave them heart-broken.

Sigh.

I know St. James-Assiniboia school trustee Ed Hume is less than thrilled that I have not seen fit to pursue some issues he’s raised with me.

At the Manitoba School Boards Association convention, Hume proposed that the trustees use some kind of clicker device to vote on resolutions, rather than holding up a voting card from their seats. He lost, and afterward came over to ask me if I would be writing a story about his idea — he seemed genuinely taken aback that I wasn’t going to write about it.

Speaking of MSBA, I segue, and this time it’s from that well-known correspondent, anonymous...someone who didn’t sign his or her name sent me a copy of some minutes of the MSBA regional minutes, with reference to some changes in the ways that regional reps would be chosen, and that this could be the end of the world. I didn’t follow up and write about that; acknowledging that I can often be quite dim on things that seem obvious to others, you’re going to have to email or phone me and explain to me why this is a big deal.

Same with an anonymous letter about a school division that’s been in the news, and not in a good way. You challenged me to publish the allegations you sent; if you are indeed an educated person, you might have some inkling why I would choose not to, nor would Big Editor allow me, to name people and then say that they are corrupt and incompetent and bereft of integrity, without a single shred of substantiation.

Otherwise, yes, it might be a story if you could prove it was true...

Me: Tweeeeet!

Player: What was that for? I didn’t do antyhing.

Me: You certainly didn’t. I called it on the girl who fouled you.

Player: Oh. That is sooooooooo embarrassing.

Oh, sorry to digress here, but I always take note of July 12, which would have been my father’s 92nd birthday. I didn’t notice any King Billy activities or events that day — what happened to that tradition of celebrating sectarian hatred from the Toronto of my youth?

And changing topics....

Many of you think I’m neurotic, and now I’ve been diagnosed as such. How did my neurosis manifest itself? As a child lay writhing in pain, I asked the coach to come on the field and tend to his player...then when there was no compliance, asked a second time...then asked a third time, at which point the coach dismissed me as being neurotic.

And on another topic....Recently, a school trustee asked me if he/she should run again. I replied that, as a reporter, this trustee’s activities were the gift that keeps on giving. As a citizen, whose children had been in the school system for most of this trustee’s time in office, I was non-committal.

Which segues into the recent Ontario provincial election. I covered five of them to varying degrees back in the day, two full-time on the bus, and this was the first time I looked at one with a real interest at stake. Whoever won in the past, when I lived in Upper Canada, my world would not change all that much.

Child the younger has hopes of pursuing further postsecondary education and a career, most likely in Ontario. She is passionate about nature and the environment, and looking at the party platforms, I thought that both the Liberals and NDP understood that government jobs are not the source of all evil, and both parties understood that nature and the environment are good things.

I’ve seen a lot of politicians and back-room advisers in my time, some brilliant ones who kept the Ontario Conservatives in power for 42 years by always occupying the centre, John Tory and Hugh Segal among them, but who in the world told now-former Tory leader Tim Hudak that chopping 100,000 public sector jobs would get his party elected?

Meanwhile....I can’t believe all this hogwash about the loyalty shown by LeBron James in returning to Cleveland, where he will accept bazillions in salary and endorsement money to play basketball. It’s a job, and sports are a business, and James is one of the few professional athletes whose talent and free agent status allow him to call his own shots.

I’m reminded of what some people said when Buck Pierce came back to the Blue Bombers as an assistant coach, about how few athletes repay loyalty, and that somehow Buck was repaying loyalty.


What loyalty? They’re paid for their work, and when they get hurt, or get older, or are half a step slower than someone earning less money, they’re unemployed. Loyalty? Players obliged to pay back somehow? The Blue Bombers released Will Ford this week. Anyone know where Fred Reid is today, or Ian Logan, or any of the dozens of other young men who were history the instant they were no longer of use?

If that’s too vaguely-Marxist for you, you know how to send an anonymous vitriolic reply.

Sigh.

Here’s another very convoluted segue. I saw all the stories ridiculing the guy who’s suing for $10 million after he was shown and trash-talked about on TV when he fell asleep at a baseball game.

But it reminded me of something about which I’ve thought numerous times, but about which I had yet to blather here, when we pay a lot of money to attend a sporting event, are we agreeing implicitly that we are agreeing to the possibility of being humiliated?

I’m thinking specifically of people’s being shown on the kiss cam. What about all the people who don’t want to make a spectacle of themselves, and are held up to derisive laughter? What if they simply don’t want to kiss for the entertainment of 15,000 people, or maybe they’re siblings, or it’s their first date, or she’s with the guy on her right but they’re showing her and the guy on her left, or they pick on two complete strangers who happen to be sitting next to each other? And has anyone ever seen a same-sex couple on the kiss-cam?

Speaking of humiliation, as another seamless segue appears...

I wrote several stories when Dakota Collegiate brought in Ken Carter for a fundraiser for its new athletic field. This would be Coach Carter, who’s built quite the public-speaking and camp/business empire on the basis of five years of coaching high school basketball and having Samuel L. Jackson play him in a movie.

I had a lot of trouble with the one incident at Dakota, when a kid asked Coach about the importance of winning, and Coach stared down the kid in absolute seething bewilderment, then told the entire school that winning is all that matters.

You’ll never convince me that winning is all that matters — though what do I know, especially compared to Coach with a capital C? — but I always thought that winning, especially in high school sports, is a product of all the good and positive things that go into being a member of a team. Jump in here anytime you want to get my back, Morris.

Which gets me back to that kid who got put down in front of the entire school, then was punished with 50 pushups. Coach did that to a lot of kids that day; back in high school, I couldn’t do 50 pushups, and I’m betting not every kid in that Dakota gym could do 50 pushups. What happens if one of those kids gets double the humiliation, being put down in front of the entire school, then be unable to perform his or her punishment?

Yes, I know, you’re not supposed to ask such questions.

All together now, pointing at me: Loooo-zzzer!

Staying tangentially on high school sports, I was watching TSN with child the elder and partner when I was in Victoria for law school graduation, and there was a mini-documentary on BC running back Andrew Harris, who was at Grant Park the same time as my kids, though I don’t think Harris knew them.

Anyway, TSN was reporting how Harris had overcome problems back in the day, and the documentary showed him flanked on either side by two young men or boys, just as the narrator said that Harris had fallen in with the wrong crowd. There was no context for the photo shown, nor did the show blur out the clearly-identifiable faces. The inference was that those two were part of the wrong crowd. No, Big Editor, I would never do that.

Briefly recalling that this blog is supposed to be about education:

You may have seen the story in Tuesday’s paper about the efforts to save an inner city training centre that provides Grade 12 academic completion and carpentry courses to aboriginal young people. No one pitched that story to me — I came upon it through Twitter, a tool that we senior citizens use, one of the social media in which we old people are quite conversant. Some of you young people out there may want to check it out.

Changing topics...

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the Romans and the Vikings, who seem to have received a pass for slaughter and slavery that have vilified most other races and states throughout history.

My ancestors in Northumbria being among the people slaughtered, raped, and enslaved.

So we were at the Royal B.C. Museum, a fabulous place, and the travelling exhibit was Viking artifacts.

The exhibit allowed as how, yes, the Vikings raped and pillaged and slaughtered and enslaved and stole, but said that everyone they attacked did the same, so it was OK.

Oh.

And the exhibit explained how the Vikings enslaved people who’d survived the slaughter, and described what duties the slaves then performed. It was all quite dispassionate and not the least bit judgmental. And I was standing there wondering, would it have been handled the same way if the exhibit had been on another group, let’s say white plantation owners in Mississippi circa 1858?

Sigh.

Keeping in mind that both my children are cyclists, I was driving home along Academy Road, passed a really fast adult cyclist in the curb lane, and getting most of a block ahead, signalled that I was going to pull over to the right and park in front of a store. But I looked in the rear view and didn’t like the body language that I was seeing, that this guy was leaning to the right as he rapidly closed the ground between us, and I stopped in the centre lane and watched him swoop by on my right between me and my parking spot...I’m really hoping I don’t read about that cyclist as the victim in a police news release one of these days.

Sigh.

Just to keep you off-balance, back to education.

I got a call at home this week for a young man who said he was a researcher for the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging at McMaster University.

He immediately launched into a question, and I interrupted, telling him that the appropriate place to start was to ask me if I was willing to give him my time, and also advising me how long this would take.

He told me five minutes.

I know a lot of people, among them postsecondary types, who figure I’m not too bright, but the point of a longitudinal study is that it takes a tad longer than five minutes.

I pointed this out, and told the guy that I’m well aware how academic research works, that I’ve been an interview subject in several projects and watched numerous projects conducted, and I know that there are forms to be filled out and confidentiality of human subject agreements requiring my signature, and all sorts of stuff required by his ethics review committee.

He was quite obviously uncomfortable with being knocked off script.

He told me that all of that would be sent to me, and that he had my contact information right in front of him. How do you have that, I inquired, and if you have that right in front of me, then tell me who I am.

Huh?, he responded.

You phoned me, I pointed out, and you say you have my contact information in front of you, so tell me who I am.

He stumbled for words, told me he was putting me on hold and would be right back, put me on hold, and a few seconds later disconnected the call, and didn’t phone back.

But I went on-line, found McMaster’s Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, found it to be legit and very impressive, and seeing that I fit into the demographic — apparently, Mac can guarantee I last until at least age 85, so I don’t skew the data — I contacted the researchers and have volunteered to be an interview subject.

Longitudinally.

I seriously doubt anyone has stayed with me this far, but pretty obvious I need a vacation, eh?

I need to rejuvenate and rest up for the non-stop excitement and drama and intrigue of what may very well be my last school boards election campaign.

And a crackerjack of an election it will be. Coming to work today, I saw a re-elect trustee Mark Wasyliw sign on Academy.

 

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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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