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Stop the presses! Union disses NDP!

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The Manitoba Teachers’ Society website takes a shot at the province’s compulsory grades 11 and 12 phys ed credits in a current online feature entitled Mowing for Marks.

It’s often quite humourous, and talks about how students can mow the grass or do housework to earn high school credits without breaking a sweat.

And those really are on the list of more than 100 government-sanctioned activities to promote and encourage physical activity among senior students.

But at the risk of publicly endorsing government initiatives in education, I’m going to defend the government’s compulsory phys ed — oh gosh, someone get Peter some smelling salts, eh?

First of all, there are no marks for grades 11 and 12 phys ed, simply a complete or incomplete.

The government added two credits to the previous minimum of 28 credits to earn a Manitoba high school diploma, so phys ed credits do not replace credits in science or math or other core subjects.

The whole idea is to help sedentary kids who are already at risk of obesity and lifestyle-related illnesses to find ways to be active while enjoying themselves, and to encourage trying new activities that students can pursue throughout their lives. And also to help active kids to find other enjoyable activities that they can pursue long after high school team sports have ended.

Some kids are so far gone by Grade 11 that pushing a lawn mower or wielding a vacuum cleaner may actually constitute exercise.

And those activities are easy targets for ridicule.

But there are more than 100 activities on the provincial list, and students and their phys ed teachers sit down one-on-one and discuss a variety of activities that each student will pursue and log. Parents sign off on those logbooks, and students and teachers meet to review how it’s going.

The government’s plan is a good one, with good intentions, and as weird as it may be for the Socialist Hordes to see me praising the government, and for the NDP’s enormous fan club over at the teachers’ union to be dissing it — wait, hold on, reception says there’s a Mr. Mulder and a Dr. Scully downstairs waiting to see me, and they want to know what the aliens have done with the real me.


And here comes a very helpful public relations firm in Arizona, which wants me to write about a client organization which "gives us insight into how moms feel about the hottest school issues including spending, cell phones and homework. I thought you might have interest in sharing with your readers..... a hot website that lets moms tap into the wisdom of other moms on key parenting issues. With over a million topics and answers posted, it really reveals the pulse of the mom community."


No, I won’t name the organization, or help this PR firm perpetuate gender stereotypes.

You want to let me know what parents think about school issues, you know where to find me.



Just past my birthday, and here’s an email to my WFP account from Hallmark, informing me that someone has sent me an Egreeting. All I have to do is click on the link, and I’ll do so right — hmmmmmm..........would Hallmark use a template that spells ‘received’ incorrectly so many times?


And here’s another message to me at work, informing me I’ve won one million Euros, if I just send my personal financial information to this enormous European banking institution.


You’d think that they’d know how to spell Madrid correctly, wouldn’t you?

And so I delete my million Euros.

Moving to yet another unrelated topic.....

Every year since 1997 I’ve had this delightful day each September, covering the U of M annual board of governors meeting.

This is the public event, alternating between Fort Garry and the medical school, in which a bunch of profs and a few students sit in a really comfy lecture hall and listen as a series of vice-presidents with nifty visual aids outlines all the great things that happened at the university — the year before.

All those great things, of course, are in the glossy annual report which people received as they checked out the coffee and baked stuff out in the hall.

Pretty much everything at the meeting was already known and reported months before.

And I sit there, hoping that when they finally get to the president, that there’ll be something new said.

Or if not, that someone will put a question at the end, either live or by closed-circuit from the other campus, that will produce a story.

And after two hours, I usually hustle down to the front and ask the prez a few questions, and get a story.

Hang on for some bad news... race yourselves... if you’ve already been planning to camp out at the box office to get good tickets, there’ll be no — gasp! — annual BG meeting this year.

Instead, reliable sources at UM tell me — oh wow, I love that newspaper talk — that president David Barnard will instead speak to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Sept. 17.

Resume boring mode...

I want to make a couple of apologies... first, to people who live around U of W. Yes, only an idiot could trigger a car alarm while sitting in a company car with the key in his hand.

Second, for almost being late to my soccer match in Selkirk. I made two consecutive green lights while driving through Winnipeg, and pulled off the road to phone the Guinness Records folks.


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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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