A Refreshing Take On Corporate Sports

Teach 2010: alternatives to mindless corporate culture

This is a collaborative website for teachers to post and find resources for teaching the 2010 Winter Olympics from a critical perspective. If you have a lesson plan idea, upcoming events listings or links to articles or organizations please send us an email at contact@teach2010.org.

This website is also being developed in collaboration with the Teaching 2010 Resistance project, which has developed a critically-minded Olympics workshop for students. This workshop is being presented in schools throughout Greater Vancouver beginning in October 2009.

Is Oprah Dangerous?

Columbia University professor, Herve Varenne, wonder’s about the pedagogic and health effects of Oprah.  In a world in which ‘experts’ are often derided, criticized, or just plain ignored, Varenne’s comments are a healthy inoculation to the reign of ‘common sense.’

In an earlier post, I asked a question, with a tongue in my cheek: “how could we tame Oprah?” I did not specifying who ‘we’ are, on what grounds ‘we” should try to tame her, and whether taming Oprah (and others like her) is something that could be done. After all, they are wonderfully extra-Vagant (as Boon, 1999, might put it) and likely to escape most forms of social control.

I leave the questions open for the moment in order to expand the puzzle triggered by a critique of the advice Oprah dispenses on matters like vaccination. There is every evidence that, from the ‘official’ public health point of view, her shows can be dangerous, particularly when she discusses vaccination. She may endanger the health of individual children not getting vaccinated, as well as the health of the public as these children get sick and may sicken others. At least this is what us, sober headed experts in public health as driven by medical research, might say (and have said). As a highly schooled expert myself, and someone who generally accepts what other experts tell me, I am uncomfortable at any challenge to my expertise, particularly when it comes from someone as powerful as Oprah. But I am not writing her to complain. I continue here to puzzle.

Read here for the rest of the item: “on taming the ignorant powerful …”  From: On anthropology, education, culture, and more …

Racism and Aborignal Education in BC

The recent issue of the BCTF Teacher published a refreshing, if hard hitting, look at aboriginal education and what might be the core factors impeding success.  Former northern BC teacher, Deb  McIntyre has this to say on the subject:

It is no secret that our Aboriginal students trail behind their non-Aboriginal peers in school achievement. The grim facts show up in standardized test scores, school completion rates and overall emotional satisfaction. (Aboriginal Report 2003–04 —2007–08 How are we doing? www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/performance.htm) Typically, a lot of blame gets tossed about. The more liberal excuses tend to blame the conditions of poverty. I have heard other teachers suggest poor parenting is involved. Some complain about an essential lack of inner motivation. We even blame the media for promoting “gangsta” lifestyles over scholarly pursuits. I would like to offer a radically different perspective. What if the problem is really a symptom of something that nobody wants to talk about; what if our educational system was inherently racist?

Read the full story here: “A different look at the problem of Aboriginal student achievement”

Olympic Cop Part of APEC ’97 Pepper Spay Brigade

The Tyee — Bud Mercer, the Olympics’ Top Cop

He was on the frontlines of some of B.C.’s most notorious moments of civil unrest, and now the security of the 2010 Olympic Games — and the nation’s reputation for peace, order and good government — may well rest on the decisions he makes if tensions arise during the games. Geoff Dembicki of The Tyee and Bob Mackin of 24 Hours Vancouver collaborate on an in-depth four-part series looking at Mercer’s controversial past, and present responsibilities.

Why does a research group require a media specialist?

The interesting thing I learned today is that some research units at UBC have their own hired guns in the media wars.  Maria Loscerbo, the principal of the private communications firm Epic PR, is in charge of “mak[ing] sure that there is a coordinated message and to ensure that it’s done correctly so it isn’t fractured” (see her comment on the Report Card).

This became an issue on Steffenhagen’s blog after Ms. Loscerbo inadvertently sent a chatty message telling the academics to sit tight until she got the story straight (my gloss, not her words).  Steffenhagen posted the email.

What has me curious is the fact that the Hertzman project is so big that they have hired outside help in managing their message.  Research across universities is fast being driven in the same direction as business firms, larger, more complex, integrated and oriented at generating revenue.   UBC has recently hired a former Best Buy exec to run the university’s finances.  WHIle some suggest this is a good thing, the rest of us our left wondering about the real state of affairs when cost efficiencies and coordinated messages take the high seat over real research and teaching.

Ouch! UBC Media Specialist Blows It

Maria Loscerbo, a communications consultant (and amateur pilot, skier and media consultant to the premier on youth issues, and a range of other random google traces . . .) working for the  Human Early Learning Partnership, really blew it and has drawn the ire of the Vancouver Sun’s education reporter, Janet Steffenhagen.  Drawing the wagons close she ‘inadvertently’  sent an email to Steffenhagen that basically tells a UBC research group to keep their mouths shut until they craft a common story (see email below).    Ms Loscerbo apparently holds not special concern for UBC staff communications personal either as she unceremoniously implies that Senior Manager, Privacy, Strategic Operations (Mapping) & Knowledge Management, Michele Wiens jumped the gun.

Steffenhagen posted the errant email on her blog with her own commentary on the matter:

Here’s my suggestion: Nobody should return Janet’s phone call until we decide what to do – Janet will probably try to call Clyde first, then Paul and Joanne.
“Let it go to voicemail, or, if you accidentally answer the call (Janet works from home so her actual name should show on your call display) , simply say you’re ‘not available to talk right now and will get back to her’. Get her coordinates and call me. Then we plan next steps, ideally schedule an interview with Clyde for Monday.

“Michele didn’t release any new EDI data – only background info that has already been published so we’re okay.”

Loscerbo quickly phoned to apologize. She said she is a communications specialist organizing release of the information, and the organization is not ready to talk about the new EDI. Wiens had “jumped the gun,” she added.

Read the full storyy: Avoiding my calls at UBC – Report Card

By the way Janet, I’ll answer your phone calls without having to call upon a high-price consultant to tell me to be quiet.

When is small small enough to close a school?

When is small, too small?  When does preserving small schools start to equal undermining medium to large size schools?  Irrespective of the merits of having pleasant small, neighbourhood schools where your children and one or two of her/his best friends attend, what are the demerits of keeping schools open.  Small school struggles in Vancouver, as opposed to small-school struggles in rural areas, seem to be about preserving boutique experiences for parents able and willing to spend the time to campaign and lobby.  In her education blog for the Vancouver Courier, Naoibh O’Conner talks about the Garabaldi Annex situation.  Charged with increasing enrolment to a minimum of 77 from 41, the school has achieved 58 students in two years of work.

The future of the Garibaldi annex is up for debate again.

The East Side kindergarten to Grade 4 school at 1025 Slocan St. faced closure in 2008 because of its dwindling student population, which stood at 41 that year. It has room for 165 students.

Parents rallied to save the elementary, arguing the prospect of closure was scaring families away from registering.

The Vancouver School Board agreed to keep it open until September 2010 if it attracted at least 36 more students. In September 2008, enrolment grew from 41 to 49, then to 58 in 2009. That’s still short of the 77 students needed to meet the school board’s expectation.

The cost of keeping its doors open is $114,742, according to school board staff. Read the full comment here: Class Notes: Closing time?

Resource info for BCTF Conference, Nov. 13-14, 2009

I’ll be facilitating a workshop on “What do parents want,” at an upcoming  BCTF conference (Public Education: Protecting our children’s future).  I did something similar a few years ago (click here) and will draw upon some of the same resources.  However, several years later I have a few different ideas.

For one thing, as parents themselves mature along with their children’s progress through school, one’s ideas of what is possible shifts.  Along with such life cycle changes our expectations take on different forms and, one hopes, matures.  The frantic hopes and desires of the kindergarten parent becomes replaced by a more sanguine attitude as our children move through the intermediate grades.  A new bout of anxiety emerges with adolescence and the transition to high school.  And then, if we’ve made it through to grade 12 a healthy sigh of relief as they make the transition into adulthood and hopefully get a chance to live the ups and downs of their own choices in life -fore better or worse.

I look forward to seeing this workshop develop and to meet the different people who will become participants as we explore what it is that parents want for their children in our public schools.

Declining Enrolment in the News -Again

West-side Vancouver parents in the news again on enrolment issues.  Over the last two years west-side parents, , Eric Mazi, Julee Kaye, Greg Lawrence (veterans of the Save QEA campaign), have argued hard to keep their small neighbourhood schools.  Part of their campaign has been to argue that the enrolment drop faced by VSB is not ‘real.’  Part of the attack of the enrolment drop has targeted private schools.  That is, Mazi and others have suggested that VSB is being out competed by the private sector and thus losing enrolment.  I have reviewed census data and school enrolment data for the past several years at several points over the past years and the thing is that private school drain thesis doesn’t hold water (for a previous comment click here).

In my February 2007 comment I concluded:

Based upon the BC Ministry of Education data we can infer that private schools in Vancouver have been able to pick up some students from the public system but the growth in the private sector can not be seen to have occurred totally at the expense of the public system.

Furthermore, declining enrolment is not just a local issue, it’s a national one.  Ultimately, the enrolment issue is a political question being fueled, in this instance, by parents who are working hard to ensure that their access to a privileged resource is maintained.

From the Vancouver Courier: ‘Activists’ question school enrolment information

Parents of Vancouver school students say the school district has misrepresented the reason for continuing drops in enrolment.

Enrolment fell by 250 students this year. Conventional wisdom suggests families are fleeing over-priced Vancouver properties for cheaper digs outside the city, but that argument isn’t borne out in statistics, according to Eric Mazzi, who calls that explanation a myth perpetuated by school boards.


Update: Vancouver Sun Reporter, J. Steffenhagen picked up the courier story today. She adds the following comment:

This year’s enrolment has fallen by 250 students. The suggestion that families are leaving Vancouver because of high housing prices isn’t supported by statistics, according to parent Eric Mazzi. He says the school-aged population in the city is climbing while the Vancouver school district enrolments are plummeting.

Without the full data it is hard to comment effectively.  However, one thing that I wold be interested in learning is the reduction in international fee paying students and whether that is any part of the enrolment decline.