Monday, December 15, 2014

Pity Ontario...

The Auditor-General reveals that the Ontario 'Lie'brals have blown over eight billion dollars with not much to show for it. Report seems a bit harsh but even if it were remotely accurate this is still disturbing. I am not sure what is more pathetic? The lack of respect that the Grits have for taxpayer money or the electorate, who keep voting these nimrods back into power.

Twelve Years in........What I have learnt as a science teacher?

1. Students care more about fairness than anything else. This seems to be a very strong human sentiment. 2. Make yourself approachable. 3. Kids don’t stay angry for a long time (unlike adults who can hold grudges for years). 4. Hands-on lab work is important for the learning experience in the sciences. 5. Don’t kill the fun of labs by burying the kids in one lab report after another. 6. Treat your students as human beings. Respect them and they will respect you. 7. Don’t underestimate the power of busy work but it should not be the mainstay of your teaching 8. Nothing beats a strong explanation. 9. Keep learning as a teacher. Aim to know your subject matter inside out. 10. Encourage questioning but don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know the answer. Don’t BS the kids they are smarter than you think. 11. Set the standards from day one and don’t deviate from them. 12. Frequent mini quizzes ensure consistent learning. Kids may hate the idea initially but will grow to accept them as it ensures continuous learning and less cramming for larger unit tests. 13. Homework allocated must be useful. It has to reinforce the big ideas. 14. Make sure the kids know what the big ideas are. Don’t let them focus on the grains of sands while ignoring the dunes. 15. Movies shown in class must be relevant and if possible entertaining. 16. Use humour when teaching. It makes the kids relaxed and they learn better that way. I am the king of puns (not always good ones either). 17. Have a realistic marking scheme that rewards methodology and thinking even if the final answer is incorrect. 18. Remember that your kids are human beings. Each class is different. Every student is unique. You may be teaching the same course (or subject matter) but your presentation of the material should be adjusted accordingly. 19. Keep challenging yourself to be a better teacher. Never stagnate. 20. Present both sides of a controversial issue when fostering discussion. 21. Make sure that the students are aware of the practical applications of the theory that they are learning. 22. Encourage innovative answers that step outside the framework of the traditional solution. 23. Challenge your students to make connections between the content learnt in one discipline with that of another eg. electric fields in physics can explain ion balances in the human body or Newton’s laws are very useful in kinesiology. 24. Use technology in the classroom but don’t let the technology overwhelm the environment so that the human element is sacrificed. 25. Make sure that you deliver the material to the students in an organized manner. Ask yourself….What misconceptions need to be addressed at each stage of the learning? 26. Hand back tests and assignments as soon as possible. The Kids like that and it will pay dividends as the end. 27. Worksheets are not an outdated learning tool. If they are well crafted in a manner that shows a progression towards high orders of thinking the students will gain from them. 28. Use the internet for teaching resources but modify accordingly. Customize to maximize learning. 29. Don’t let the kids bully you for extra marks on a test. There are occasions where extra marks are warranted but this is not always the case. Be flexible but firm. 30. Student groups must be balanced. Rotate group spokespersons and make sure that the spokesperson keeps the group on track. 31. Listen to the ideas and advice of other teachers even if they are not that practical (you can modify based on your own experience if you see fit). 32. Field Trips should align with the curriculum and just like in-class movies must serve as a vehicle for learning. 33. Build up a vast library of testing resources so that you don’t fall into the trap of recycling tests. 34. Lab Reports must be neatly presented. Make sure the students are aware of the positive impression that neatness conveys. 35. Be creative in your projects. I have had the students build pinball machines, Rube Goldberg devices, toys, bridges, trebuchets/catapults, kaleidoscopes in the past. Other projects have included graphic novels, children stories (focusing on a scientific theme), in-class debates and factory visits. Science Fair projects have their place but need to be well monitored. 36. Encourage your stronger students to write the myriad of interschool competitions available. Kids thrive from the challenge and will surprise you. 37. When speaking to the class. Make the sessions as dynamic as possible, The Socratic two-way method of questioning is powerful but one has to make a conscious effort to allow more voices in the classroom are heard. 38. Offer extra help as often as possible. 39. Make sure that supply teachers have very clear instructions. When you are absent those classes should not transform into a ‘lost’ period. 40. Above all else…Enjoy your teaching. Kids pick up on that and it benefits both them and you.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Open Letter to Jian Ghomeshi

An Open Letter to Jian Ghomeshi To Jian Lets face it the situation is looking bleak right now. Those accusing you of sexual harassment have reached double digit levels and while you are still lagging behind Bill Cosby in this department you need to act fast before the situation really spirals out of control. You have already erred so far with that silly lawsuit now its time to limit the damage. ...My suggestion is to change your strategy. Throw the ball back at your accusers by charging them with Racism and if that fails pull out the in vogue Islamophobia card. Argue that you are the most successful Iranian-Canadian in media history and that you have set the trend for others to follow. Remember that you broke through a glass ceiling. In a sense you are a trailblazer who has had the rug ripped from below his feet by systemic white racism that masquerades as liberal tolerance, just when you reached the top of your profession (whatever that is). Force the establishment to swallow that (no pun intended). If they don’t cave they will surely buckle, especially in politically correct Canada, where racial intolerance of any kind is regarded as an unspeakable offence. Is this dishonest? Of course it is…but we are not here to debate morality only to get you out of spending time in prison where you would likely discover first hand what it is to be on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances. My thinking has much promise. Remember that racism always triumphs sexism in today’s calculus of grievances and the fact that you were an icon of the left should guarantee you some points as well (a big advantage over Bill Cosby who made the mistake a few years ago of uttering opinions which many deem to be conservative and now is seen by the media as being someone who is ‘less black’). OJ Simpson used such a defence, and it worked. Hell.....He got away with two murders. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have made fortunes and gained notoriety playing the race card and the best aspect of all is that if it does fail you don’t have to apologize to anyone afterward. Sharpton never does and he is wrong almost all the time. Signed A regular citizen trying to make sense of a world fraught with double standards.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Media Bias: An Analogy

Bias in political opinion is the philosophical equivalent of the concept of relative velocity in physics. When one is moving with the same velocity as another object then one does not notice the motion of that object. By the same token if one’s opinions are in agreement with an article or media report we tend not to sense the bias as that would call into question our personal asymmetries (and it is of course human nature to see ourselves as intrinsically fair). Hence Liberals don’t see the obvious bias in the MSM as it gels with their worldview. Conservatives, as well as those of the far left, are removed from this frame of reference and can clearly see the bias. The far left will argue that the MSM is right wing (which in their reference frame it is) and conservatives will claim that it is either liberal or leftist depending on the individual stance of the conservative making the call. The problem with the liberal mindset is that its synchronous walk with the MSM autopilot allows it to shelter in default position that can foster ‘lazy thinking’ and a blinkered vision of the world. A specific case in point is the inability to see that the rhetoric offered by networks such as MSNBC and CBS is just as slanted in its degree of bias as those of Fox.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good bye Chucky

Chuck Hagel, the anti-Israel Secretary of Defense appointed by Obama in 2013, has resigned. I wonder if he will complain like his predecssors Robert Gates and Leon Panetta about the administration's micro-management focus and lack of consistent strategy in the Middle East. I never liked Hagel so I can't say that I am loathe to see him leave but considering the POTUS's poor record in cabinet apointee's (John Kerry ranking amongst the worst) it won't surprise me if Hagel's successor drags the bar even lower.

Thoughts on what is greater

I am not an orthodox jew but I do believe in a transcendent entity that for convenience I call G-d. Essentially I am a rationalist theist. There have been times that I have gravitated toward both atheism and deism. I rejected the former as it fails to adequately explain the reality of why there is something as opposed to nothing. The latter while addressing the origin question leaves us with the harshness of a world without intrinsic purpose. Yet I struggle with some big qu...estions that were further highlighted by last week's brutal synagogue attacks. How could G-d let this happen in a house of worship geared to him? If he is indifferent then surely he is not worthy of our worship. If he lacks the power to stop it then he is clearly not the Almighty. These are questions that have been asked over and over again yet with each horror they naturally re-surface. The best that we can posit as theists is that we don't have a complete understanding of the bigger picture. There are greater forces at play but we a humans, being limited by our rational and sensory constraints, can only comprehend a sliver of the vast mosaic. This is not entirely satisfying explanation but to abandon it would leave me floating in the existential abyss of the relativism of the mind. I cannot stomach that. A world where a position of evil is only in 'opinion' worse than that of good is a world of nothing that passes into the night with no worth. For me that would be hell. So I continue to believe. My faith is shaken at times, but the alternative is much more frightening.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Yet another outpouring of evil

Tuesday 18th of November marks yet another tragic event in the tortured history of our people. Five Jews were killed and eight others wounded in an act of hatred and evil that furthers reveals the malignancy that resides in the Palestinian mindset. It is a depravity born from a self-destructive yearning that values death over life, ridicules rationalism and wraps itself in the barbarism of cult-like fanatical behaviour. In practicality it finds sustenance in a media machine that dehumanizes the... Jew and teaches from a young age an anti-semitic bile that constantly invites such atrocities. The killings have happened before and they will unfortunately occur once again. While Palestinian leaders may decry such evil, with an insincerity that only a fool could believe, their hands drip with the same blood that grace the hands of the terrorists. In their rhetoric and support for a corrosive education and values system these leaders have nurtured demented and extremely hateful thinking. This is the tragedy that they have catalyzed. However Israel will survive and it will grow stronger. The Jewish people have a history of outliving our tormentors and we will defeat this scourge as well. At times we are isolated and it feels like that again. However our strength is in our solidarity, not just with ourselves but with those like-minded voices, who value the human spirit, the sanctity of our shared civilization and the need to be vigilant and not tire in the defence of the great values that separate us from those that seek to reduce our species to the lowest possible moral depth. Am Israel Chai.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Terrorist Acts in Canada this week

Well it had to come. The Islamists are hitting targets on Canadian soil and will continue to do so. First there was Monday’s hit-and-run attack now Wednesday’s shootings at the War Memorial and Parliament Hill. The role of ISIS in catalyzing these events is still unclear but the Jihadist link is very strong. The usual terror spin doctors in the media will of course urge us to show restraint while arguing with no particular evidence that the perpetrators are not real Muslims ...and that their actions are inconsistent with the Koran. While a part of me wishes that this were true my personal investigation into the dogma that drives these fanatics reveals a conclusion at odds with this obvious simplification. Besides the nauseating restraint request (something we in the West have followed through to a fault…often with our own safety at risk) there will be those, such as certain columnists in the Toronto Star, who will no doubt find a way of blaming these attacks on neo-conservatives, George Bush, Harper’s support for Israel, Lepanto, cartoons, Charles Martel, low budget You Tube movies and the Crusades. Anything except the real cause…The Armed Jihadist impulse in the Islamic World…A well established phenomenon with origins in the days of the prophet himself. Now I am heartened to see that some Liberals are waking up to this threat. Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher come to mind but there are still many who continue to sprout the ‘hear no evil, see no evil lines’ best exemplified by Ben Affleck in his insinuation that criticism of Islam by its very nature must be tainted by racism and that overused meaningless newspeak term Islamophobia. While a Grade eight student with a smidgeon of critical thinking could of course debunk the Affleck assertion, opponents of the Counter-Jihad continue to use his faulty line of reasoning to ever play the faithful water carrier role and give those who would like to relegate western civilization to history’s trash heap their best possible kick at the can. Good people who know that our liberties are well earned and worth fighting for should not cave into the bullying of this totalitarian ideology, nor the whining of their dhimmi apologists. We stared down National Socialism and Marxist-Leninism and we will defeat Islamism as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Marie Antoinette

A lot of the bad publicity surrounding Marie Antoinette emanates from the smear campaigns directed against her by the Jacobins, although incidences such as the Diamond Necklace Affair and the Madame Deficit labelling clearly pre-date the Jacobin attacks. I don’t believe that she was bad person however she does appear to be both frivolous, naive and if I have to say so not particularly bright. Her love for her husband and children is admirable and she did seem to support Jacques Necker in his bid to bring the nation’s finances under control. Historians have debated for some time as to the degree of influence that she had on her husband but I do believe that she had a significant role in encouraging Louis XVI to make his ill-fated ‘Flight to Varennes’, a turning point in the fate of the monarchy as an institution. Her connection to the arch-enemy, Austria, was no doubt a legitimate concern for the revolutionary government, and did materialize into a real threat to France with the War of the First Coalition. I think that is reasonable to compare Marie Antoinette to Catherine the Great at least with respect to their origins in the political scene. Both were foreigners (Antoinette from Austria, Catherine from the Germanic States), both were married to weak kings (Peter III for Catherine, Louis XVI for Marie Antoinette), both arrived in countries with large populations, that had strong nobilities and a gigantic poorly treated peasant/serf /third estate class. Each nation was a key centre for a brand of rigid Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy for Russia, Catholicism for France). Both countries had a very strong war driven monarch who in the not too distant past had resurrected their countries fortunes from the doldrums (Peter the Great for Russia, Louis XIV for France). Yet one of these women went on to greatness, Catherine, while the other, Antoinette, is associated with failure. It is tempting to blame this on spending but Catherine the Great was no fiscal conservative either. What I do believe was the big difference (other than their intellect) is that Catherine successfully ‘Russified’ herself from day one. She changed her name and dropped all connection to her German background. Antoinette did none of this and was always seen as a foreigner. So that when the revolution came it was natural that she should be vilified as an enemy of the state. If Marie Antoinette had stepped down from her pedestal on day one, it is possible that she may have become the People’s Queen, like Catherine and saved the nation from some of the bloodbath which was slated to occur