Our real first gay president – American History – Salon.com

Salon.com has just published an amazing article about American’s first actually 100% real gay president, not one who is just pro-gay- James Buchanan. It’s a rebuttal of sorts to this week’s Newsweek cover on Obama as “America’s First Gay President” for his support of gay marriage.

But, what impressed me so much wasn’t that the article focussed on trying to prove Buchanan was gay, but the emphasis it placed on what it terms Chronological Ethnocentrism. (I’d probably just have called it Chronocentrism, but that’s just me.)

From the article:

Despite such evidence, one reason why Americans find it hard to believe Buchanan could have been gay is that we have a touching belief in progress. Our high school history textbooks’ overall story line is, “We started out great and have been getting better ever since,” more or less automatically. Thus we must be more tolerant now than we were way back in the middle of the 19th century! Buchanan could not have been gay then, else we would not seem more tolerant now.

This ideology of progress amounts to a chronological form of ethnocentrism. Thus chronological ethnocentrism is the belief that we now live in a better society, compared to past societies. Of course, ethnocentrism is the anthropological term for the attitude that our society is better than any other society now existing, and theirs are OK to the degree that they are like ours.

Chronological ethnocentrism plays a helpful role for history textbook authors: it lets them sequester bad things, from racism to the robber barons, in the distant past. Unfortunately for students, it also makes history impossibly dull, because we all “know” everything turned out for the best. It also makes history irrelevant, because it separates what we might learn about, say, racism or the robber barons in the past from issues of the here and now. Unfortunately for us all, just as ethnocentrism makes us less able to learn from other societies, chronological ethnocentrism makes us less able to learn from our past. It makes us stupider.

I’d never really considered this before, especially the part about it being what makes history seem so dull to most, or how it prevents us from learning from other societies and times. (We’re “better” than them, so why should we learn from them?) It’s an excellent point, and the article does a great job going into further detail about it, so give it a read!

via Our real first gay president – American History – Salon.com.

Stop Certifying New Teachers in Ontario

In London, Ontario right now if you want to become an elementary or high school teacher, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Do four years of undergraduate university education in your major of choice. ($40,000 basic tuition)
  2. Go to teacher’s college for one year (or more for some specialties) to get your certification. ($10,000 basic tuition)
  3. Get certified by the Ontario College of Teachers. (Start paying $138 a year for membership.)
  4. Apply to get on the waiting list to become a supply teacher in the Thames Valley School board. (Which covers much of our section of Ontario).
  5. Wait 1-2 years to get on the list (for no pay).
  6. Get on the list, and become a supply teacher. (Find out if you actually LIKE teaching.)
  7. Spend 1-2 years (or more) on the supply list, while working nearly random hours where you may not make money for days, months, or weeks. (Oh, and you can’t take other jobs during school hours because it means you’re not available to teach at the drop of a hat.)
  8. Succeed in sucking up to local principals and people who are influential in the system.
  9. Apply for jobs as they come up. (If they come up.)
  10. Get a job with the system.
  11. Spend 3 years as a probationary teacher with the school principal or VP looking over your shoulder while you show them your lesson plans and undergo reviews.
  12. Teach.

From Step 1-4 will take you approximately 5 years (not counting multiple tries to get into teacher’s college) and you will graduate with a minimum of $50,000 of student loans- if you did it all through loans. (And that’s just tuition and books)

You then get to shoulder that $50,000+ for 2-4 years with little to no income, while making monthly payments on top of trying to survive in HOPES of getting a teaching job, which may never come. After which, you hit the goldmine and get to make $42,000 a year, while paying that debt off and trying to survive.

How did this monstrosity of a system occur? Well, you see, here in Ontario there are several factors at play right now:

  • Ontario’s Teachers Colleges (alone) are pumping out at least 9,000 new teachers a year. (Plus the ones returning from the US or Australia where they did their training instead.)
  • Ontario’s population isn’t having children.
  • School boards have less money due to recessions.
  • Schools are being closed and consolidated because of dropping student populations in many areas.
  • Baby Boomer teachers are retiring, but their jobs are going to other experienced teachers from their school or schools being closed and consolidated.

So, the end result is that we have a system in Ontario glutted with new teachers, 2/3rds of which have minimal prospects of finding a job, even if they do manage to survive the process.

Does this sound healthy to you? Or like a good system?

So, what can we do about it?

Well, I lived in another country that had a similar problem- Taiwan- an island nation with a shrinking youth population which was pumping out a glut of new teachers each year who had almost no hope of employment. There, the government did the most responsible (not to mention ballsy) thing they possibly could have done- they put a moratorium on certifying new teachers for a period of several years.

Yep, no new teachers could be certified in Taiwan for several years. That let the system work itself out and the excess number of teachers to drop because it gave the people who were already certified the time they needed to find jobs as the older ones retired.

That’s also what I propose Ontario do right now. Tell the Ontario College of Teachers to stop certifying new teachers in Ontario until such time as there are jobs for new teachers to fill. Without membership in OCT, you can’t teach, so this effectively means no more new teachers for the already massively overloaded system.

The teachers colleges don’t need to close, and people can still get their credentials, but they can’t teach here in Ontario and will need to look elsewhere (other provinces or countries) if they want to follow that path. It’s my experience that people who truly have a passion for teaching will still find ways to teach anyways, and those who were just looking for a public sector job will look elsewhere and forget the whole idea.

It’s the responsible thing to do.

Scriptwriting R US. (errr…ME!)

Every Autumn my college puts out a call for new course ideas for the arts department, with the intent that these course will be taught the following September if there’s enough interest by students. I tossed my hat in the ring this time, and the results were just released!

I’m the new course designer (and presumed teacher) of Scriptwriting for Mixed Media (working title) at Fanshawe College in Fall 2012.

It’s going to be interesting, but I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks to my time spent doing Audio Drama I’ve gotten to think a lot about scriptwriting over the past five years, and I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts and ideas with students next September. The fun part is that I’m not going to just do audio and video scripts, but Comic Book scripts as well.  (Hence the “mixed media” portion of the title.)

All I can say is- Celtx is going to be a godsend! (Like it wasn’t already! Thanks Jack!)

Rob

Chinese Rural Substitute Teachers Earn Little & See No Future – chinaSMACK

Link

For all those local teachers here in London, Ontario who think the job market here sucks- take a look at what it’s like in China. I really admire the dedication of these men to teaching, without them very few of these students would get any kind of education at all. :-/

 

They have no social status, they earn little, and they are called “substitute teachers”, referring to those who work in rural schools as temporary teachers without formal employment, and once called civilian/private teachers [not employed by the government/state]. While the Department of Education put an end to civilian teachers as early as 1985, it is still difficult for the government to employ professional teachers because living conditions are miserable in rural areas. Currently, substitute teachers still constitute a boost to education in the western regions of China, especially the remote mountainous areas.

via Chinese Rural Substitute Teachers Earn Little & See No Future – chinaSMACK.

When did my life become Glee?

So, this morning I was teaching a media class and the topic was radio. I decided that I’d start the class by playing the song Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles, it being appropriate and all. I asked them the standard question of what the first MTV music video played was, and then hit play, expecting them to happily listen and then go on with the lecture.

(Fun fact, the guy on the multi-keyboard in that video is the movie composer Hans Zimmer!)

What I didn’t expect was for them to start not only singing along, but jump up and start dancing around like it was a party! (And this is at 8am on a Thursday morning, ah youth!) It was literally like someone had suddenly plunked me into an episode of Glee! 🙂

Anyways, when they looked ready to start dancing on the desks I decided enough was enough and pulled the plug. It was fun, but the last thing I needed was for someone to fall off with me in charge! O_o

Still, that has to be one of the coolest experiences I’ve had while teaching at the college, and I really admire their enthusiasm! I played the rest of the song at the end of the class, and they danced out to it, to the bewilderment of the students coming in.

Rob

Webcomic- Teach English in Japan

Ahh, memories. ^_^ This is very similar how I ended up teaching in Japan the first time. A call, an easy interview, a few goodbye parties, and bang…off on the plane into a whole new world!

The comic itself is pretty good, give it a read if you’re interested in seeing how it goes…And it really does go like this…

Teach English in Japan – Page 1.

Digital Nation

PBS in the US aired a fascinating documentary called Digital Nation this week which everyone should watch, but especially teachers since a lot of it deals with the issues of how social media and the net are affecting the classroom and student behaviors.

I myself have long felt there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we teach kids today, as the old system is becoming less and less effective. That said, as this excellent documentary shows the over-stimulation provided by constantly being in touch with the world is actually harming students and their performance in some ways as well, so we need to be careful about how we go about this.

For example, today’s kids tend to be chronic multitaskers, something that isn’t helping them or their ability to focus or get their work done. They think they can handle it, but as this documentary proves, they clearly can’t. So give it a watch: