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The super writes a super column

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I received one of those stereotypical anonymous plain white envelopes this week, no return address, hand-delivered to the Freeps office, unsigned.

Inside was a computer printout of The Superintendent’s Bulletin from Louis Riel School Division, with several passages highlighted, and two words underlined.

Superintendent Terry Borys had headlined his posting as "Pride Week Appreciates Human Diversity".

My correspondent highlighted four words in the first paragraph, in which Borys wrote about the growth in Pride Week, and the courage of the people who originated it in the face of rampant homophobia: "honours human sexual diversity" (‘honours’ underlined).

My correspondent highlighted far more words in the second paragraph: "the right of all people to be who they are meant to be. We must work to set the bar high, to surpass mere ‘tolerance’ or ‘acceptance’ in favour of appreciation." My correspondent underlined ‘appreciation’.

I’d like to think that someone was so impressed by Borys’s message that he or she wanted it to draw even wider attention. I’d like to think so, but I doubt it.


The homophobes among my diverse readership base already know where I stand on this, so that’s the one thing that makes me wonder whether this could be from someone who agrees with Borys.

Anyway, well said, Terry.

Oopsies... I meant to say, articulately phrased, Mr. Borys.

Moving on to another education topic...

As has every reader of your WFP, I’ve been following intently the stories by Bartley Kives about the race to become the anointed NDP candidate in the Elmwood-East Kildonan city council ward to be vacated when Coun. Lillian Thomas retires, a race that includes River East Transcona school trustee Rod Giesbrecht.

Silly me. In all the years that I’ve been dealing with Rod Giesbrecht, as he pushed buttons and stirred the pot and disturbed — no, can’t be vulgar — in a Butch and Sundance routine with seemingly-conservative trustee Peter Kotyk, I never once noticed that Giesbrecht was an N-Dipper.

How could I have missed that?

And a seamless segue...

I blogged earlier this week about Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Pat Isaak’s revoking her invitation to have Canadian Taxpayers Federation prairie director Colin Craig visit a school, because (said Isaak) students should not be subjected to someone with such (alleged) negative attitudes towards public schools. What Craig had griped about was that his right wing private lobbying organization doesn’t think teachers should get raises above inflation when there are wage freezes and layoffs in the private sector, but, anyway, nevertheless...

Craig emailed to say that my blog was the first he knew of Isaak’s having cancelled his invite.

And off we go, my attention span limit for one topic having been exceeded...

Soccer organizers are now using the assigning system for referees, from nine-year-old kids’ games to adult matches, and once you get the hang of it, this system in widespread use by a number of amateur sports in North America works really well.

But, hey, Mark and Andrea and Gilles, it misses the quintessential information that every referee of my vintage needs to know when considering whether to risk having an afternoon coffee: does the field have a bathroom?

And speaking of soccer, and linking it to education by pointing out that this also involves the school field behind Ecole River Heights Junior High...

I’m talking now to the alleged adult and dog owner, who was constantly interrupting our U-18 boys’ soccer game at River Heights Community Centre this week: what on earth was going through your head?

Second half, players are suddenly hollering to me that a dog had run on the field. And there it was, a little black-furred creature, darting around in all directions. The players shooed it off the field, and we resumed play.

But it was soon back, we stopped the match again, players shooed it off the field, and once again we resumed play.

And back it came.

This time, when I stopped the match, I asked the spectators to whom the dog belonged. And they pointed off in the distance, where a guy was standing maybe 200 yards away, holding a leash and watching all this.

Pretty soon, the dog came on again, this time during a scoring chance for one team. But the dog was racing around among all these mammoth bodies, and I stopped play.

And this time I yelled to the guy, still standing way off the field, that River Heights is not an off-leash dog park and would he please get his dog on a leash and stop messing up our match?

The guy just stared at me as though I was a complete moron.

And he continued to watch quietly as his little dog again ran onto our pitch, again disrupting play.

Finally, he called over his dog, and it ran around off-leash behind the school. As the dog left, I told the dog to get a leash on that guy and get him out of here.


Did you think it was funny? Did you think it was a real hoot to watch all this?

Forget about messing up the match for 28 to 30 pretty decent young men out enjoying a positive evening of fitness and hail-fellow-well-met fellowship.

Forget about the possibility of one or more of these young men’s tripping over your dog while running at warp speed and getting hurt.

Do you care at all about your dog?

We own a dog, but in our case, we love our dog. We would never dream of standing by and doing nothing while it was imperilled by 22 huge creatures, any of whom could have squished the dog accidentally, or who can blast a kick so ferociously — not always accurately, but ferociously to be sure — that the ball could potentially kill an animal that size.

What on earth was going through your head?

Self-righteous harumph.

End of rant.

And trying to get back to issues tied more directly to education...

Neat thing happened when we were in The Pas on education stories, and went off to the Lido to see Robin Hood in our free time. Couple of Frontier School Division buses pull up, disgorging dozens of high school kids to see the movie.

They took off quickly afterwards, so I didn’t get a chance to chat up the teachers, but speculation was that they were from Cranberry Portage, about 90 minutes away, some kind of field trip or reward for achievement.

It would be interesting to hear more about that field trip.

Did the teachers spend the trip back explaining to the students that the Magna Carta came early in the 13th Century, not the 12th as the movie’s expository on-screen written opening posited? Or that the French of that era did not try to invade England with 1944-style Normandy landing craft? Or that Robin and Marian didn’t have perfect teeth? Or that if Robin and Marian had been the age of Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, they would likely have been dead of old age before the movie began? Or that Richard the Lion-Heart was not actually a hero? Or that the battle scene with Wendy and the Lost Boys... sorry, history major born in England getting carried away with how Hollywood treated the icon of my heritage group’s working class...

Meanwhile, I received two responses to the annual package of convocation coverage I do. No, don’t run away, I won’t whine about how much work it is... maybe a little bit, some other time...

Anyway, one guy says he can’t find the list of Red River College award winners on our website, the one with hundreds of students’ names and awards. Send me the list, he says.

So I tell him where to find the link. Send me the list, he says.

Back and forth we go. Guy obviously thinks this is a perfectly reasonable request, and that I have all the time in the world.

I copy and paste the convocation coverage page on our website, show him precisely where the link is, tell him to click on it. I try it, it works just fine.

Won’t open, he says, send me the list.

So, finally, I go to the link, open it up, copy hundreds upon hundreds of names and programs and awards, and send it to the guy.

I’ve yet to hear from him again.


The other response I got was from someone disappointed that I hadn’t published the name of every one of the U of M graduates, all 2,780 of them.

This isn’t the first time I’ve received such criticism. I recall a year or two ago asking UM public affairs director John Danakas about it, and he thought that back in the 40s or 50s, that all the grads’ names got published in the paper.

And checking my email, an entrepreneur — sorry, let’s quote him properly, ‘a entrepreneur’ who gives me his phone number (area code of Nassau County on Long Island in New York) offering to show me (for a price, I wonder?) how to get rich on-line, labels his communique: What Ever You Do — Your Marketing You.

And I’m tempted, concluding that after slogging through his email, for a reasonable price I could correct his spelling and grammar. Hmmmmm, wonder if we have a policy about using blogs for personal businesses on the side?

Moving right along...

This does so count as an education item, because I was down in Ontario attending our son’s university convocation... During the week away, I met a relative by marriage, hadn’t seen him since I was a kid, and he told me that he’s a second cousin to Howard Pawley.

So, given that I’m an Englishman raised in Upper Canada who, OMG, spent considerable years living in Toronto, does this raise my Manitoba street cred?

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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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