Thursday, 7 December 2017

This is how I will socially engineer your child


I will make you give your child to me when he is young. When his bones are soft and his heart is open and his thoughts are pure.


I will seat your child sit with other children. Some of these children will be rich. Some will be poor. They will be of all colours and religions. Some will have had every privilege. Some will have struggled to survive every day of their lives. But in my room, no one will be superior to another. And although I cannot make them care about each other, they will.


I will let your children tell their stories. And I will listen to every one. Every story will matter. The stories of those who have lived on this land for tens of thousands of years. The stories of those who arrived yesterday with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The story of each child- a thread in the tapestry that is Canada. They will discover that when all those diverse threads are woven together, Canada will be strong and they will be strong.


Your children will play. They will play with paper and paint and numbers and music and words and colours and things that grow. Together, we will explore the universe with all its wonders and injustices. Your children will play with others. They will play with ideas. They will explore the thoughts of others and their own notions of who they are and what they value and how they should act because of their beliefs.  They will play with ideas about where they will go and who they will become.


In my classroom, your child will dream. She will dream of a world where she is strong and hopeful and resilient and she has a place. She will dream of the world she wants, the world she will help create and change. I will help her make those dreams come true, with your help.

This is how I will socially engineer your child.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Monochronic Teaching in a Polychronic World

I wrote this article in 2007. Is it still true today?

One day my daughter came home from school and watched me at work.

“Why do you always have so many windows open?” she asked.

She wasn’t talking about the glass ones, although she does complain about those being open too. She was talking about my computer. I was marking an online quiz; I had my marks programme open so I could submit a grade; I was using Wikipedia to research a question the assignment had stimulated; my web mail was open so I could hear that tell-tale “ding” of a new message, and I was in the chatroom providing homework help. From my early days as a teacher librarian, through my time as a stay home mom, I’ve been a multi-tasker, usually with a bunch of projects on the go all at once. Some people call this a “polychronic” personality.

Like personalities, cultures are also considered “polychronic” or “monochronic.” People in polychronic cultures think of time as cyclical. They work in a non-linear way with many things happening all at once. They can change plans at a moment’s notice. Time is subordinate to interpersonal relationships. That’s different from a “monochronic” culture that is time-driven, linear and orderly; where lateness and interruptions are not tolerated, and one task is always completed before the next is begun.

Most of today’s schools and classrooms are monochronic. Students must be on time, hand in their work on a prescribed day, and write their exams on a set date. For classroom teachers, classes begin and end at the same time, supervision begins and ends at the same time and the meetings begin but rarely end at the same time. And of course, attendance and marks and professional growth plans must be submitted according to a school, district or government mandated timeline. But our students are living in an increasingly polychronic world. While class is in session, they may be on MSN or YouTube or MySpace or Nexopia or even E-bay. One hand is on their cellphone, waiting for a text message and the other is on their ipod. (Remember, I said I wrote this in 2007! Nexopia! ha!)

Many teachers are not comfortable in this polychronic culture. If students are connected to the globalizing world via technology, are they connected to the classroom? If the world shines brighter to them through the window of the internet, then does the glow of a lesson appear a little dull? If they aren’t listening to teacher’s voice, whose message is being heard? It’s tempting to ban our students’ access to technology by forbidding laptops or web surfing; to ban cellphones and ipods. It’s tempting to shut our students off from their contact with the larger world. It’s tempting to try to force them to live in our monochronic world.

But a culture is not right or wrong. It’s not good or bad in and of itself. As any Canadian knows, even those who believe in pluralism to their core, when cultures come into contact, both challenges and opportunities arise. When monochronic meets polychronic, we can practice cultural imperialism, with the dominant subjugating the minority or we can promote reasonable accommodation to allow each other to flourish.

As our students walk through life with their virtual windows open, they are connected to each other and to the larger world, regardless of time and space. It’s through those windows that they see and are seen. If we close those windows, are we hiding them from the light of day? What could we see if we opened those windows ourselves?

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

When love is not enough

Many years ago my mother had a baby, and that baby was me. My mother loved me with her whole heart.

Then she had a miscarriage.

She and my dad were older. They wanted more children but they were afraid they wouldn't have any.

So they applied to adopt. The social worker asked them if they cared what race the baby was. They hadn't even thought about race. "No," they immediately said. "Why would race matter? We will love this child no matter what."

Not long after my mother had her second child, a charming and smart little Okanagan boy who she loved with all her heart.

Then my mom gave birth to their third child, a boy. And she loved him with her whole heart.

Then came my baby sister, from Tsawout First Nation, a girl who was lively and generous of spirit and my mom loved my sister as much as any mother loved a child.

But the town we lived in was racist in ways we white people didn't even see. While one teacher put my brother on an accelerated math programme until she ran out of worksheets, the next told my mom she was letting him-with his reported IQ of 140- run the projector-because he wasn't clever enough to do math. Another claimed my brother had no friends. Yet after school and weekends and holidays our house was full of little boys- boys he played hockey with and went to cub scouts with and wrestled on the Sunday School floor with. He took a stick to the face in a hockey game when he was a teenager and waited for hours in emergency until his white parents showed up. He argued with a teacher who told him he wasn't an Indian. 

My mother raged and ranted. 

My sister's first teacher insisted she was hyperactive and should be sedated. Other teachers had low expectations of her- she was only a native after all. She was bullied and called a squaw. She was told what saints her parents were for adopting an Indian. Many called them her "foster parents".

Again my mother raged in ways that only a mother can rage. How did people not see the brilliance of her children? How did people not recognize their gifts? 

And time went on and things did not go so well for my brother and sister. Still my mother loved them with her whole heart. She loved them when she told them they were adopted. She loved them when she explained their birth mothers loved them but they were young and couldn't care for them and so they had given them, in love, to a home that could provide them with the things they could not. She loved them when she told them they were of indigenous descent and that was something to be proud of. She loved them when each of them told her, in turn, that they were going to meet their birth mothers. She loved them when each of them moved away to live in the communities that were theirs by birth. She loved them when she met their birth mothers. She never feared they would love her less- only that the families they found would not embrace them.

But day she said to me, "Your dad and I love your brother and sister. When we adopted them, we knew we would love them. And we do. We thought love would be enough to make up for any hardships they had in their early days. We thought love would counteract any problems they might face. But now I see, love is not enough." 

My mother knew, despite the deep and abiding love she had for her children, love was not enough.
Love was not enough to battle racism.
Love was not enough to help them deal with the dichotomy of being First Nations kids raised in a white home.
Love was not enough to make up for years of institutionalized discrimination.
No matter how much she loved them, love was not enough to make up for them being taken from their communities.

My sister says "Love was enough, I was able to come home from the racism and know that I belonged and that I was loved because I was ME." But my mom didn't see it that way.

That is why I am passionate about education for reconciliation. For my brother and sister.  For all the kids who were made to feel small because of the colour of their skin. For all those who felt invisible because their history was not acknowledged. For those who were not allowed to tell their own stories without fear of humiliation. For every kid who grew up believing they were worth less than another. And for my mother. For mistakes that cannot be undone. For unintended consequences. For all those who lived with the guilt of doing the wrong thing for the right reason. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Albertans: You are being lied to

About me: I began teaching in rural Alberta in 1980 . I taught in the NWT for a year before taking several years off to raise my children. I returned to work with Alberta Distance Learning Centre where I have worked for the past 17 years. I am currently the Social Studies Department Head.

Alberta's Social Studies curriculum is being politicized.

The UCP's Jason Kenney and Brian Jean would have Albertans believe that the current curriculum review committee is stacked with NDP activists and ideologues who are dead set on promoting "politically correct" themes in order to brainwash today's youth. They are lying.

A little history.

The current Social Studies curriculum was revised from 2000-2007 under the Progressive Conservative government with Ralph Klein as premier. At that time, I was asked to sit on the K-12 Provincial Advisory Committee for Social Studies. That committee was  primarily composed of employees of Alberta Education, including several Social Studies teachers who were seconded from their teaching positions. Also present on the committee was the President of the Alberta Home and School Association, a First Nations representative, a representative of the Métis, a Francophone representative, a representative of the College of Alberta School Superintendents, three members of the Alberta Teachers Association, two university professors, a representative of the Northwest Territories Department of Education (which at the time followed Alberta curriculum) and me, as a representative of ADLC, Alberta's largest distance education provider. 

There were no public consultations. There was little government interference. There was no expectation that committee members provide their political credentials or personal views in order to sit on the committee.  Alberta Education employees came up with an overarching structure and topics and concepts in each grade level. These were then workshopped by "curriculum circles" in which practicing teachers looked at the scope and sequence of the programme of studies and the outcomes which were broken down into "values and attitudes", "knowledge and understanding" and "skills and processes".  These teachers made suggestions which were then incorporated into the programme of studies.

During the years I sat on this committee, I only remember two incidents. One was when Peter Lougheed, long retired from politics, suggested that Canadian History be taught as a separate discipline. The committee discussed this idea but decided that the interdisciplinary approach to Social Studies education, which has been in place in Alberta for decades, was the most effective approach. The second incident involved the ATA. Some members felt a section of  Social Studies 10-1:Perspectives on Globalization needed revision which necessitated some additional curricular work. I recall no newspaper articles, no outcry from the public, nor any political posturing from the official opposition or any other political party.

Shortly after the new Social Studies curriculum came out, Alberta Education moved forward with intensive public consultations about the direction of the future of public education. "Inspiring Education" -under the leadership of Education Minister Dave Hancock- included surveys and public meetings alongside research. Innovative ideas were discussed such as competency based education, credits for real-world learning, and an end to mandated "hours of instruction"and credit based funding. I- along with hundreds of educators, parents, community members, members of the business community and the post secondary world- took part in these deep and lively conversations that looked at the challenging world in which today's young people find themselves. A world where the simple memorization of facts and formulas is not enough. Where the old "factory model" of education does not meet the needs of our students or today's society. Instead, critical thinking, learning how to learn, creativity and the ability to adapt in the ever-changing workplace are of increasing significance.  The one theme that emerged was that we need to do better in our education system to prepare kids for an uncertain and unknowable future.

Following on the heels of "Inspiring Education" came curriculum redesign and curriculum prototyping where Alberta Education employees completed significant research and built new software to develop systems whereby the entire programme of studies K-12 could be overhauled effectively.

In May of 2015, the NDP was elected in Alberta. Just four weeks later the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report and issued a call to action which was endorsed by Canada’s premiers. The Alberta government indicated that future curricula would ensure that all Albertan students would learn about the culture, history, perspectives and contributions of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Alberta Education, largely staffed by the same employees as it was under the PC government, proceeded with the work of curriculum development, following up on the work of "Inspiring Education" and including its promise regarding the TRC. However, instead of just using a handful of employees and community representatives, their new approach was to include a great deal of input. In the fall of 2016, it launched a survey to Albertans. More than 30,000 Albertans responded, the largest survey of its kind in Alberta. School divisions were asked to nominate experienced educators to be a part of "expert working groups" in each core subject area as well as the arts.  

My principal asked if I was willing to let my name stand. I submitted a resume that included my education and experience, including the curriculum development I participated in previously and my current work regarding treaty education and Aboriginal Studies. I was invited to participate and I agreed.  At no point was my ideology discussed. I live in Slave Lake, my principal lives in Calgary and my superintendent lives in Barrhead, I don't believe either of them know what my political beliefs are, nor do they care.

In our Social Studies group of about 60 people, including teachers, professors, historians, and archivists, we began by discussing the core concepts and skills we believe a Social Studies student should acquire over the course of their K-12 education. We were not told
what should be included or what should be left out, although we were tasked with considering how literacy, numeracy, inclusive education and competencies would be reflected in our subject area. 

As our work progressed, we reviewed the results of the initial survey and incorporated the thoughts of Albertans in our work, recognizing some of the shortcomings and gaps in the current programme. We listened to presentations from numerous organizations about the kinds of things they believe Albertans should learn. In smaller groups, we then grouped and sequenced and refined these outcomes which were then provided to Albertans in the form of another survey. 

The curriculum working groups are diverse. Although at my table we have never shared our own political leanings, as evidenced by the heated dialogue, there is a great diversity of views about politics. Our discussions are deep. They are lively. They are passionate. As all conversations about things that matter should be. 

Neither Kenney or Jean attended public high school yet they are of the view that all Social Studies teachers are socialists. They are mistaken. Many Alberta teachers are conservative. My son's high school teacher was a conservative who invited Brian Jean to speak to the school. A few years ago a grade 8 teacher in our town took her grade eight class to attend a rally in support of our provincial PC candidate Pearl Calahasen. In my federal riding, the first candidate to seek the Conservative nomination was a teacher from Peace River.  I've marked diploma exams numerous times and there are many conservatives who teach Social Studies, and some of them sit on the curriculum review committee. 

The curriculum review committee is not part of a socialist agenda to support a particular ideology. Neither the government nor the New Democratic Party has interfered with the development of the curriculum in any way. If Mr. Kenney and Mr. Jean think otherwise, they are at best ignorant or at worst, lying for their own political gain.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

My Father's Letters

Our daughter Jordan was home last week. Recently engaged, she asked me what I knew about her grandparent's engagement since neither of them are around to tell her about it.

They were high school teachers in Dawson Creek when Dawson Creek was young. They were a bit older than most of their colleagues- Dad was a WW II pilot and an engineer before he became a teacher, Mom had a degree in Commerce and a Masters Degree from the U of A, but neither had found their "soulmate." As the only two single teachers at their school, they were frequently thrown together at staff events. Before long, they started going around together. Then they became an "item". Then they started wondering if they were just together because they were the only two single people they knew. Or maybe that the one thing they had in common was that they were both teachers. My dad got cold feet. He resigned his job, got a new one in Victoria, and went to Syracuse New York to take summer school courses in teaching special ed, which was for some reason the area he, as a decorated WW II pilot with an engineering degree, had been assigned. My mom stayed behind.  They wrote back and forth. My mom went on a cruise to Alaska to mend her broken heart. Out of the blue, my dad proposed.

"I know their story," I told Jordan.  "And I have his letter of proposal."

Stored away in a box of paper, my dad's love letters to my mom, in his perfect penmanship, written with a fountain pen in turquoise ink. Eleven letters I had never had the nerve to read. Eleven letters that went with her from Dawson Creek to Victoria to Trail, back to Dawson Creek, to Tumbler Ridge, and finally back to Victoria. Details both personal  and mundane. Why did she save them? Mementos of their early life together? A symbol of his love? Did she mean for anyone else to read them? I think she did. 

So I gave them to my daughter to read, and on a road trip to the airport from whence she would return to her adopted nation and her fiance, Jordan read them all with gasps and laughter and the occasional "Oh Granddad!"

 Here they are!

My mom and dad

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

How Not To Say "I'm Sorry"

I am sorry you interpreted it that way.

That's not what I meant.

I''m truly sorry if I hurt your feelings.

In my defense...

I apologize if you were offended.

It was a joke: sorry you didn't get it. 

I didn't intend to disrespect you.

You misunderstood what I was trying to say.

I can see now that what I said might have been taken that way, however...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Back to School


You're in the first staff meeting and there's this old teacher, y'all know that guy.

The guy with the cardigan and the coffee mug he's been drinking out of for 20 years, and he's like, "Nope, we did that back in '74 and it didn't work."

The guy that's all, "Been there, done that." The guy that's so old his cliches make you roll your eyes.

And you're thinking, like, "Old man. Wake up and smell the coffee.Things ain't like the way they used to be."

And he's like, "Sorry honey, but I bin around the block a time or two. I was young like you once, I tried a bunch of new ideas, some of them worked, most of them didn't."

And you're still like. "Yeah but I'm new and my ideas are awesome and no old geezer is gonna tell me what's what."

And he's like, "Take my advice, I am older and wiser. Go down that road and you're gonna regret it."

And you're like, "Old man, give it up, your days are numbered and I'm the future."

So you go ahead and try your funky new ideas and damned if the old man wasn't right and the new ways didn't exactly work but dammit you're not admitting to nothing, cause, you know, you're proud  and you worked hard and maybe you just didn't implement it right or maybe if the goddamned old man would have helped you out just a little, you could have made it work. 

And then...

And then...

You're in the first staff meeting of the year and there's these new teachers, y'all know the ones.

The ones that are cute and fun and have trendy outfits, and they're like, "Let's try this, it would be so fun and cool!"

And you put down your coffee mug and say "This ain't my first rodeo." or "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt."

And in the middle of wondering why no one listens to you and why don't they value your institutional memory and how is it you just know that when you say you tried that already and it didn't work, their just gonna go and do it anyway? And then you think back to that very first staff meeting and you think maybe just maybe years ago you should have listened to the wisdom of your elders instead of doing it your own way. But you know you never would have and they won't either and the wheels keep on being re-invented and it was ever thus and would you really want it any other way? 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Ideologies are for other people

Jason Kenney and Brian Jean like to say the policies of the NDP are "ideologically driven".

They say the word "ideology" like it's a dirty word. Something only bad people have.

As if their socially and fiscally conservative ideas are not part of an ideology.

What they really mean is that they prefer that conservative set of beliefs over those that are more progressive.

Ideologies are not in and of themselves, evil. Everyone has an ideology. Everyone has a set of beliefs about the nature of humanity that informs their views about how society should operate. Unless your intellectual functioning is so low that you are unable to construct abstract thoughts, you have an ideology.  Brian Jean has an ideology. Jason Kenney has an ideology. They are lying if they say only the NDP operates based on ideological principles.

An ideology is defined as "a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy." How on earth could the United Conservative Party NOT have an ideology? 

In today's Social Studies programme of studies in Alberta (created when Ralph Klein was premier) students learn that ideologies are based on interpretations of history, beliefs about human nature, beliefs about the structure of society and visions for the future.  We may not all have thought deeply about these issues, but we all have core beliefs that inform our ideas. And based on those ideas, we formulate what we think is the best way forward for ourselves and our society. And then we vote.

What is your interpretation of history? If you are an aboriginal person in Canada, your interpretation of Canada's history will not be the same as mine. Your view of colonialism will be one of oppression and injustice and betrayal. For people like me, the perspective will be more about the opportunities that led to a good life for generations of my family. Mr. Kenney's interpretation of our history seems to be that it began when the first white man set foot on our shores. It's about venerating a past based on land appropriation and unfulfilled promises. Kenney believes colonialism is a "politically correct theme" and that the glorification of our military is of greater importance than other, more painful aspects of our past. 

What are your thoughts about human nature? Are people intrinsically selfish and greedy and therefore need to be controlled? Or is there a human desire to do the right thing so that we can all live well together? Are most people lazy? Are all cultures and genders equal? Or are some more deserving than others?  Those ideas impact the platform and policy of every political party and government, including our former PC government, the NDP, the Alberta Liberal Party, the Alberta Party and the United Conservative Party. 
How should society be structured?  Should there be social classes? Should the rich help pay for services to the poor? Should there be few rules and limited taxation and correspondingly few government services? User-pay own healthcare and education? Or a larger role for government where everyone pays in and everyone benefits? The UCP has clear ideas about the structure of society-ideas that are the very foundation of their party.

Question from a recent survey from Brian Jean.

And what about visions for the future? What should it look like? A multicultural land where there are equal opportunities for all, or a land for "old stock" Canadians? Should a government try to go backwards in time to "Make Alberta Great" again? Or should it move boldly forward to a new future that includes everyone, including our aboriginal people? Will it be a place where the price of oil magically increases, providing employment and government revenue? Or a place where we have created alternative employment opportunities for a prosperous future? 

Having an ideology doesn't make you a bad person. Admitting you have one just makes you honest.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The 23 and the 1200

All week we have been bombarded with images of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation of Texas and the floods of Houston. Tales of heroism and tragedy. Tales of compassion, courage and fear.

The destruction is spectacular. Images of flooded roads and homes under water and people stranded on their rooftops makes for sensational viewing. Outrage over churches refusing to open their doors and the reaction of the President and Melania's stilettos fill social media.

Meanwhile the floods in Asia get a bare mention, despite the 41 million people impacted.


I suppose it's only natural that we care more about our neighbours than people far away, but should we care more about people 3,700 kilometers away more than those who live 11,000 kilometers from our home? 

Why do we care more about Texas than India? Is it because we have closer social and economic ties to our southern neighbour? 40,000 people immigrated to Canada from India last year. Shouldn't we feel a closer connection? Is it because we relate more to the way of life in a person in Houston than one in Mumbai? Is it because more Canadians have visited Houston than Kathmandu? Is it because we think Asians are poor and hopeless used to this kind of thing while Americans are more like us? Is there an undercurrent, somewhere, that the people of Asia deserve to suffer more than we do? Or do we just not know what to do or how to help?

Is it because we are not seeing photos of Asia in the news?

Does this

matter more than this?

Do these people

matter more than these?

Why do the deaths of the 23 people in the U.S. matter more than the 1200 in Asia?

Or are we so jaded by the barrage of disasters that our compassion is exhausted?

I don't have any answers. Do you?

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Amber light filters through wildfire smoke.
Paints rock walls ochre and bronze
Glints straw-yellow on the river below
The road ahead a metallic ribbon

Above, mountains shade indigo gunmetal grey powdery silver

A message from Allen

"I define grace as God's unconditional love for us at work in us for the healing of the universe. God mends us so we might work for the good of all. But I think you can also use grace to describe humans; humans act in grace when they act without worry of recompense, doing the right thing because it is right. The word grace comes from the Greek 'charis', or gift."





The brutal blackness of anger and hate
The carnage and the horror and the heartbreak
Far from grace, man's inhumanity to man

How to reconcile the outrage in my heart?
Where to begin the healing of the universe?
I await that gift.
And I find it.

Here, on the road to Golden, God's grace rains down in amber light.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Dangers of Self Interest

Yesterday Derek Fildebrandt resigned from the UCP Caucus.

The 31 year old Fildebrandt is known for his fiery outbursts as much as his libertarian values and his criticism of government regulations. The former Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation which ironically advocates for greater government accountability, was found to have rented out his taxpayer-subsided accommodations, double dipped on expense accounts, and claimed a housing allowance for an apartment he shared with a co-worker. He is currently charged with a hit and run accident in his condo parking lot.

In a statement ripe with irony Mr. Fildebrandt kinda sorta accepts responsibility for his actions.
I have worked for more than a year to help create the United Conservative Party, because Alberta needs a new government that can fight for the common-sense priorities of regular people.
During the fight for unification I said that we must put Alberta before our party, and before ourselves.
This young party cannot afford to be distracted from the formative period that it is in right now as we come together as conservatives. I owe that to my colleagues, my party members, my constituents, and all Albertans.
Right now, media controversy is distracting from the work that must be done as the UCP is founded. The UCP Leadership race should be focused on issues of leadership and values, and not on personalities.
I have made honest mistakes – always doing what I believed was best at the time – and I accept responsibility, and am truly sorry.
Honest mistakes? 

You can make a mistake once but when you keep making them, it's a pattern of behaviour. Not a mistake.


This is a man whose own website states he has consistently stood for free speech and personal responsibility yet blames the media instead of himself as his reason to quit caucus. The same free press that somehow implies he is a victim by calling him both "embattled" and "beleaguered" instead of a man whose errors are of his own making. 


This is a man who called for a wage freeze for all  government employees and scorned an increase in the minimum wage while earning more than $138,000 a year as an MLA.

This is a man who "led the fight against the abuse of taxpayers’ money" yet has now abused that same taxpayer dollar to line his own pockets.

A man who instead of initially taking  responsibility for his actions, claimed  there was a smear campaign against him- a juvenile response that  indicates he feels "it's only wrong if you get caught." 

Fildebrandt is a self-proclaimed conservative and libertarian. He believes in acting in self interest but his also believes there should be very few regulations governing human behaviour. 

If the ideologies of conservatism and libertarianism are combined, all citizens require a moral compass to guide their actions. If that moral compass does not exist, laws must be in place.  Unfortunately, Mr. Fildebrandt has demonstrated that those laws must be detailed as the "letter of the law" is not enough. Apparently, for people like him, it needs to be spelled out that you cannot claim the same expense twice. It needs to be explained that you cannot receive a housing allowance and then rent out that same accommodation for profit.  You cannot share an apartment with a colleague and then both claim it as an expense.

His actions clearly exemplify the flaws in his ideology. If one is encouraged to act in self-interest, how do we preserve the common good? If we maximize personal autonomy, how do we protect society from those who choose to bend the rules? 

Mr. Fildebrandt may have left the caucus, but the ideology he espouses remains. 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Barbaric Cultural Practices

Inuit taken to Germany by J. M. Jacobsen. Lived in zoo.L-R: Ulricke, aged 24, holding Maria; Tobias, aged 20; Abraham, aged 35; Sarah, Aged 4.All died of smallpox in Europe. 
I found this photo in the Glenbow Archives while doing research.

It is chilling.

What kind of people capture other human beings, take them across the sea, away from all they know, house them in a zoo and watch them die? 

Jason Kenney says Alberta's new Social Studies curriculum is all about "politically correct" themes such as colonialism. He says the new programme reeks of "social engineering". He thinks 
Alberta's Social Studies teachers should concentrate on Canada's military history.

These people were abused. Their rights were stripped away. Their treatment was nothing short of barbaric. And then they died.

They died because of colonialism and ethnocentrism. They died because of the actions of our forefathers.

Mr. Kenney can wrap himself in the flag if he wants. He can strut around full of jingoistic patriotism and willful ignorance in order to rally his supporters. He can promote Canada's "military history" to the exclusion of other more far reaching Canadian realities.

Nothing he says will negate the truth. Canada was founded on colonialism. It would not exist if not for colonialism. Colonialism is not a "politically correct" theme. It's a sometimes ugly reality that impacts the way of life of every single Canadian today. That's why it is taught.

I am not sure what Mr. Kenney thinks education is for. 

Is it to "socially engineer" a society of ignorant people who blindly support the status quo?

Or is it to help the next generation to understand their world so they can make informed decisions for a better tomorrow? 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Grow up Jason Kenney

July 29, 2017

At Kenney's "special" event today, he announced his formal intention to seek the leadership of the UCP.

He also took the opportunity to fire some shots at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, suggesting Trudeau should not use Canada's 150th as an opportunity to apologize for Canada's past.

Setting aside the fact Trudeau is Canada's PM and Kenney has his sights on being Alberta's  premier, let's look at Canada's past.

Is it 100% something to be proud of?

When our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald deliberately reneged on the Crown's obligations under Treaty 6 and 7- to provide for First Nations people in times of famine-should Canada celebrate that little piece of our past? The Pass System? The 60's Scoop? Should we continue to ignore the intergenerational impacts of residential schools? The fact many First Nations communities don't have potable water? The suicide rates, at epidemic proportions in many indigenous communities? The unconscionable rates of murdered and missing aboriginal women? Should those legacies of Canada's colonial past be ignored as we demonstrate "gratitude" for those who "built our great country"?

Look, I'm as "old stock Canadian" as Mr. Kenney. My roots as an Albertan go back much further than his. I am proud of my ancestors. But I am not blind. I am not willfully ignorant. Why? Because I am a grown up.

A grown up can keep two things in his or her mind at the same time. An acknowledgement of the errors of our past and pride in our accomplishments. As a parent, I admit I made mistakes raising my kids. I can also recognize I did some things right and I am proud of their successes.  As a teacher, I know I had something to do with where my students end up, for good or ill. As a community member, I will accept some responsibility for the many ways things screw up in my town and I vow to try and make things better.

Kenney, however, prefers a view of the world that is so simplistic, it is downright comical.

Grow up, Jason Kenney.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

El Camino: Summary of the Portuguese Way

We started our spring walk in Porto, a gorgeous city of hills and brightly painted buildings with tiled murals and interesting shops and cafes along the Douro River. Worth at least two days.
Accommodations: Boutique hotel Oporto Near, a great combination of modern amenities and rustic elements not far from downtown.
Highlights:Old bookstore Livraria Lello. Clerigos Tower, Chapel of Souls, Sao Bento Railway Station. Sipping a drink along Cais da Ribeira. Port tasting on the Gaia side of the river.
Food and drink: Tapas. Flaming chorizo. Douro wine. Port. O Bolina and Taberna Manuel on opposite sides of the river. French toast at Majestic Cafe.
Stamp: Porto Cathedral
Suggestion: Walk from Porto to Matosinhos 8.4 km and stay there overnight.

Note: You need at least two stamps per day from Tui onwards to receive your final certificate in Santiago de Compostela. Most cafes, bars, churches and hotels en route will stamp your passport which must be obtained before you arrive.
Crossing the bridge in Matosinhos
April 28
Porto to Vila do Conde 24.7 kmTrain from Porto to Matosinhos. Walk across the bridge and down a long street to the waterfront. Turn right at the ocean front and walk along the sands and flowers and ancient shipbuilding villages with their brightly painted houses till you can't go any further.
Accommodations: Residencial Princesa Small older hotel, cheap, clean and comfortable. Excellent staff. Cafe next door for breakfast.
Food and drink: Tons of modern seafront cafes serving bocadillos and beer and coffee and ice cream along the route. Harbourfront restaurant for dinner. Octopus and risotto.

Stamp: Matosinhos Tourist Booth
Suggestion:Overnight at the small homestay "Sandra" at Vila you don't have to walk so far the first day.
Senda Litoral, the seaside path
April 29
Vila do Conde to Sao Pedro de Rates. 15.6 km
We turned inland at this point although you can continue up the coast. Interesting walk out of town, especially the old aqueduct which has been hacked apart so the road and train can go through. For much of this walk, the waymarking was removed so we used Google maps which took us through some quaint lanes by some gorgeous houses and even right through a farmer's field to the country roads and paths to the village of Rates- a small and very tidy agricultural village of whitewashed homes with a charming and deserted church filled with flowers. One long cobblestone street up the middle.
AccommodationsAlbergue, an interesting old building with a very friendly staff and laundry and kitchen facilities. By donation. Several large rooms. Everyone asleep by 9:30. So much snoring. SO MUCH.
Food and drink: Nondescript pizza. Fish and chip dinner. Bottle of Douro from the local shop. Cafe up the hill for breakfast.
Stamp:  This albergue had the prettiest stamp of the trip!

Suggestion: Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones.
April 30
Rates to Barcelos 22.9 km
A pleasant walk, mostly on the back roads, past very nice houses and some farms and vineyards to the quaint city of Barcelos which was having a blow out "Festa das Cruces". Originally a religious festival but now several days of live music, markets, folk singers marching through the lit-up streets and more frivolity.

Accommodations; Modern albergue. More snoring. Beds pushed beside each other so you might get someone of the opposite sex sleeping inches away from you with their garlicky breath or cranky shushing.

Food and drink  Francesinha at Taberna M. A huge Portuguese sandwich of bread, cheese, meat, cheesy sauce and some kind of gravy. An amazing beer.

Suggestion: Book a room in advance and you can get a very pleasant hotel room for a reasonable rate. 
Broom on the doorways
May 1
Barcelos to Balugaes 20.23 km
Lovely walk through farms and vineyards and small villages, over a Roman stone bridge on the Labruja River. The broom was in blossom everywhere, just spectacular. Almost every house was decorated with a spring of yellow broom on the doorway, an April 30 tradition dating back to medieval times to keep the evil spirits at bay.

Accommodations: Casas da Quinta da Cancela, an ancient vineyard turned into a boutique hotel. We were upgraded to the 4 room suite that included an antique piano, four poster beds, a shrine to the Virgin and lovely stone window seats overlooking the vineyard as well as a relaxing courtyard with kitchen access to the honour bar with 8 euro wines.
Food and drink: Vinho verde. Excellent full breakfast in the Quinta's farm kitchen.

Suggestion:The Quinta serves dinner. We did not know that so we went to the tiny cafe in "town". There, we tried the "green wine". Not really green, actually white or red-but fresh and frothy and still fermenting in the bottle.
View from our rooms at La Quinta
May 2
Balugues to Ponte de Lima 18.9 km
Far and away the most beautiful walk of the trip. Flowers, forests, birds singing. The broom flowering in the hills. The pathways of ancient stone. 
Wonderful. Ponte de Lima itself is a gorgeous small town along the river with wonderfully restored buildings and delightful cafes and fountains and music playing.

Accommodation:Boutique Hotel Terraco da Vila A charming room with a view in the centre of town.
Food and Drink: Sangria at a cafe on the square near the bridge, Tapas and the best lemon meringue pie ever at Taverna Vaca Das Cordas
Suggestion: Stay longer.

Ponte de Lima
May 3
Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes 16.4 km

This was the hardest day of walking as you must ascend a steep hill through a pine forest. The sap from the pines is being collected, possibly for use in turpentine manufacture. The walk is more of a scramble over boulders than a proper path ending in a clearing at an old forestry station where there are great views.

AccommodationAlbergue Constantino Large rooms. The owner will drive you into town to his restaurant.
Food and Drink: Stop for lunch and water at the last stop before you begin the ascent. Great small bar in a farmyard after you descend, right before the "town" where everyone stops to celebrate their climb. Pilgrim's menu of delicious soup and pan-fried trout and potatoes at the albergue's inn.
Suggestion: Take your time. It's a steep climb but very do-able. 
On the path under the pines
May 4
Rubiaes to Tui 23.4 km
A good day of walking through pretty countryside. Valenca, on the Portuguese side, has a charming 13th century walled city with lots of quaint shops and cool historical sites with good views down the river. Tui Cathedral is worth the stop. The area around the cathedral is charming with lots of shops and cafes.
Accommodation: Boutique hotel very close to the cathedral Pensión O novo Cabalo Furado  Really nice and quiet.
Food and Drink: Lots of restaurants and tapas places.  The most excellent Ideas Peregrinos, just down from the hotel, serves a great breakfast and sells some traveller's items.
Suggestion: Stay an extra day to see Valenca properly.
Early morning, Tui
May 5
Tui- Mos 21.5 km
An easy walk. Make sure to avoid the industrial area of O Porrino, which the guidebook calls a "soulless slog". The official path has been re-routed through parkland along a lovely river path. However many of the locals have removed the waymarking to direct foot traffic back to their cafes. You need to keep your eyes open through here!
Motion-activated shrine
Accommodation: Albergue Casa Blanca. A smaller and quieter albergue. Excellent sleep.
Food and Drink: The cafe across the street serves most pilgrims on the route. It's a very small place so everyone congregates in the same spot. Food was so-so but the visiting was good.
Suggestion: Mos is is a tiny town. If you can manage to go a bit farther to Redondela there is a nice old albergue there.
Under the broom
May 6
Mos to
 Arcade 17 km.
The walk was pretty at the start. Found a great cafe with a view for breakfast en route. Redondela is an interesting town with a few cool old buildings including a nice church, worth a good wander. Past the town you have to walk along the highway then down the hill to the ocean where the ancient town of Arcade lies. Once you get past the medieval bridge there are some interesting old stone houses. Very pretty. You will see many traditional horeos, elevated grain bins that are now a designated historic feature throughout the region.
View over the bridge from the cafe
 Accommodation: Highway Hotel San Luis Hotel A liitle over a km out of the town. Includes breakfast. There are other accommodations as you enter town which may be better.
Food and Drink: Great little bar just past the medieval bridge that serves light meals. Perfect for people watching. Arcade has renowned seafood restaurants and we ate a late and large dinner at Restaurant Veiramar
Suggestion: When the seafood platter says "minimum 2 people" it really serves 4.
Just past Arcade
May 7
Arcade to Barro  15 km
A nice walk through the old city of Pontevedra which has a great old city full of charming cafes where people don't get up until noon. A bit of this walk is along the highway but mostly through forest and village.
Accommodation: Portela Albergue is a deserted old elementary school next to a church. There is nothing else there. There is a beer fridge with 50 cent beers and wifi and laundry facilities and a chill courtyard to hang out in.

Food and Drink: There are two busy restaurants in the small town of San Amaro before you get to the albergue. The proprietors of the albergue cooked dinner for us. Spanish omelette, pasta with sauce, bread, salad and beer for 7 euros. Wonderful outdoor dinner with everyone sitting around the table outside. They provided breakfast for the morning as well.
Stamp: At the restaurants in San Amaro and the albergue.
A shared meal
May 8 
Barro to Padron 25.8 km  
A long walk today through some small towns and forest paths
Accommodation: Boutique Hotel A Casa do Rio (before Padron at Puentecesures)

Food and Drink: The food at the hotel hear sucked and it was pricey. Go into Padron or even the bar across the river
Suggestion: Go the extra couple of km to Padron which has lots of interesting sites and history.
Ulla River
May 9 
Padron to Picarana 12.3 km
A short walk with a bit of time in Padron which has a lot of cool things to see. Historic religious sights mostly. Then up through some farm land mostly paralleling the highway. The town here is mostly an industrial area with a few local bars and not much else. But we wanted to get to Santiago for the noon Pilgrim's Mass so that's how we timed it. There are more and more shrines and religious symbols as you get closer to Santiago.
Accommodation:Pension Gloriosa A large room, surprisingly quiet for its location. Our room faced the back with its fields and vineyards. A good place to rest up.

Food and Drink: Not much for food here. Pretty dull. There was supposedly a good bar/restaurant across the road but it was closed. 
Stamp: At the Pension Bar.
Oldest cross on the camino
May 10
Picarana to Santiago de Compostela 15 km  
Kind of a weird walk for the last bit.  First, along the highway in the dark and rain. Stopped for breakfast at a small inn. Then into the city which seems to go on forever. We took a shorter route that went through a park and through an old neighbourhood and over a big bridge and along some city streets. There are many bus tourists here. I guess there are many ways to make a pilgrimage. Lots of shops and cafes as befits a tourist destination.
In Santiago
Accommodation: Budget Hotel Plaza de Galicia. Our room had a wonderful balcony with a view over the rooftops.
Food and Drink:Great tapas at A Taberna do Bispo where we happily but unexpectedly met up with a Dutch couple from earlier in the trip.
Suggestion: Do not miss the Pilgrim's Mass at noon!  There are many other masses during the day but this is the one! You cannot take your pack or walking stick into the cathedral but you can leave it at your hotel or there is a left luggage area at the post office not far away. Stamp: Get your passport stamped at the official office. And get your official certificate saying you have walked!

Bom Caminho!