Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

I apologize, like, I'm so totally sorry

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I have to apologize for not giving some of my readers what they've come to expect last week.

I spent a considerable amount of time last week in three schools, which cut substantially into the time available to trash teachers and to write bad things about bad teachers and bad students in bad schools, that some of you in the teaching profession believe has long been my sole reason for drawing breath.

I know, I know, that's no excuse.....

I've already mentioned going to Rolf Salfert's class at Principal Sparling School and having a delightful time being interviewed for a class project. I later in the week ran into another of the prospective interviewees, who told me it sounds like an interesting project, but she doesn't know if she'll have any time between now and May 12.

I was at Churchill High School, where teachers Dan Bergen and LeAnne Froese arranged to have Mennonite Central Committee disaster relief expert Bruce Guenther come and talk to the kids about Haiti.

And I made my third or fourth visit to Glenlawn Collegiate's art room, where incredibly enthusiastic and innovative visual arts teacher Cloyd Barth's students will present their paintings, that be can seen through touching, to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind later this week.

Barth's students are so into their art that he didn't hesitate to go into another side room with three students and me for the interview, with absolutely no worries that the class would go feral in the teacher's absence.

So, no excuse, for those who believe I do nothing but attack teachers and students and schools, I'll pop a couple of grumpy old man nasty pills, and get back to work.

Sigh.

I must admit that my last couple of visits to Churchill High, I've come away feeling really old. Back in the fall, there was the kid in junior high who said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed a really long time ago, and when I asked him if he knew it was in 1982, the kid says, yes, that's what I said, a really long time ago.

So Guenther is giving the kids a quick history lesson about Haiti. I remember when Papa Doc Duvalier and the Ton-Ton Macoute were my current events, not ancient history, and I'm not even sure the Churchill teachers went that far back. And then Guenther talks about places that MCC has been active, and mentions Kosovo, and then says that it was before his time, and that it was a long time ago.....Kosovo? A long time ago?

Sigh.

I received an email from a media watchdog organization in San Francisco, entitled, "Is the Media Raising Your Kids?" Well, if we are, then your kids will know that 'media' is a plural word, and takes the verb 'are'.

Sigh.

Before any of you get your noses out of joint over the University of Toronto's invading our backyard to drum up funds, it's a common practice. Our local schools organize alumni groups in major cities, including internationally, and hold receptions as far away as Hong Kong to hit up grads who've done well for themselves. It's one of the key university fundraising activities.

U of T chancellor David Peterson is here next week to host a reception downtown for U of T grads. Peterson is better-known as Liberal premier of Ontario from 1985 to 1990, when he had an enormous majority in the legislature and suddenly decided less than three years into his second mandate that it would be a great idea to take advantage of the polls and call a snap election. Oh, well......

I know Peterson from way back in the day from London, Ont., where he was a backbencher, a lawyer running the family business. I covered the leadership campaign in 1982 that featured five candidates -- Peterson, Sheila Copps, a before-his-time treehugger and actor named Richard Thomas (remember him as kindly Uncle Ben in the bacon commercials, teaching kids to gobble up cholesterol?) who never won a seat, and two long-time MPPs who horribly overestimated their name recognition.

And I covered the 1985 election, the one in which Tory Frank Miller thought Ontario wanted its own Thatcher or Reagan. Miller won 52 seats, Peterson 48, and NDP leader Bob Rae (yes, that Bob Rae, who became premier in 1990 after Peterson's horrific decision to pull the plug) won 25 seats. The Grits and N-Dippers brought down the government, then Peterson formed a government with NDP support.

Like most honourable members, Peterson wasn't always all that thrilled with the media, particularly his hometown paper, but I remember a 1987 campaign lunch stop in Barrie. Peterson had three kids, and knew we were expecting child the elder, and gave me some non-electoral advice about impending fatherhood, which I've always appreciated.

And now for something completely different........

I don't know how I end up on all these mailing lists, but here's Jake, a public relations guy from Missouri, asking me to tout his distribution company's handling 55 movies that received nominations for the Golden Globes. Jake, as a responsible journalist, I couldn't possibly do such a thing without extensive due diligence, so if you want to send me the DVDs of those 55 flicks......

And an email from closer to home, from the Fort Garry industrial park, written on company email. Does your boss know you're writing angry letters on company letterhead, and is it your company's policy to call unfortunate members of the community 'retards'?

And again very close to home, let me explain back-lane etiquette to you. When you pull out of your place, and see someone already in the lane and going in the opposite direction, that person has right of way, you pull back in and let the person pass. Driving your much, much larger vehicle directly at the person and forcing him to reverse down the back lane is just plain rude, and not at all neighbourly.

Well, those grumpy old man pills are sure kicking in, aren't they?

I've had two people who want me to call right away, people who've been done wrong and want to tell our entire readership all about it......clean out your full voice mail boxes so I can let you know I've returned your call......harumph.......

And moving right along, why on Earth would someone in Neepawa be asking me to help Ken Waddell pay off his debts from the 2006 Tory leadership race?

Yes, I know this 'special request' was a mass mailing, even though it seemed to be addressed to me personally, but don't people vet these lists before hitting send?

And let's end on an unexpected upbeat note.....quite the spiffy new glossy colour magazine just out, University of Manitoba Research LIFE. I'm having a gander to look for story ideas.

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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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