Monday, January 29, 2007

Apologies for our yokels

Today in the news I was reading about the small village of Hérouxville north of Shawinigan. They set a declaration laying out a code of conduct for imigrants who might wish to come to their village. Here is a small example: since all women are equal, you mustn't stone them or set them on fire. You are not allowerd to wear a veil, unless it's Halloween. Carrying a kirpan is strictly prohibited in schools (even if the highest court in the land has stated otherwise) etc. etc.
I hereby declare and categorically state that these yokels do not represent me, my family, my friends or anyone that I know.
I live in the West Island (western part of the island of Montreal) and there are many immigrants. I have yet to participate in a stoning much less in an auto-da-fé. We all live and let live.
I must say that I find Hérouxville's attitude rather disgusting and more than a little disturbing. Yes there has been some problems with "reasonable accommodation" lately and the media is making a big deal of it, (which is a problem in itself, without the media coverage it would just fizzle out) so it has sometimes escalated, but that is no reason to be so xenophobic. As for "reasonable accommodation" as far as I'm concerned if we can do it without taking away rights from others then why not, but if we can't and it becomes unreasonable then all we need to say is simply no. Maybe that is one of the reasons why we have had problems with "reasonable accommodation" because the people in charge don't have the guts to say no, to say that it is unreasonable. But that is neither here nor there. Even though there have been tensions that is not a reason for labeling immigrants as savages that go around burning and stoning their women. It is also strange that this declaration makes no mention of the good "Québecois de souche" getting piss drunk and beating the crap out of their wives and children, or sexually abusing their children, or driving down the highway drunk as a lord and wiping out a family in a car wreck, or murders, or rapes or the other things that any society has to live with.
This declaration just besmirches the good name of all resonable Québecois and Québecoise and paints us as a gang of ignorant yahoos. The democratically elected representatives of the village that came up with this asnine idea should be impeached. They obviously don't have enough to do if they have time to come up with such bigoted trash. Unfortunately what is really frightening is that they are getting support from like minded bigots. I am ashamed that these are my fellow citizens.
So please ladies and gentlemen do not put us in the same basket as those yahoos, they do not represent the majority of Québecois who are tolerant and open.

Here are some web sites with more information:
Municipal Web Site ->
Municipal Web Site with documents ->
PDF of declaration ->

Sunday, January 28, 2007

11 rules for life or how to become a productive member of society

I found this on the internet... it has been going around for a while. This is not from Bill Gates. It's an excerpt from the book " Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves, but Can’t Read, Write, or Add (St. Martin’s Press, 1995)" by educator Charles Sykes. It is a list of eleven things that children do not learn in school and is directed at high school and college grads. It talks about how feel-good politically correct teaching (eg: never telling a student that his work is sub-standard, as this might make him feel bad about him/herself) is creating a generation of children with a very small grasp of reality. In French we call this "la pensée magique" (magic thinking) which means that because they want it so, so shall it be. Unfortunately that is not how the world works. Never did, never will.

*Comments in italics are my thoughts

Here are the 11 rules...

Rule 1: Life is not fair-get used to it.

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone, until you earn both. (no schooling = minimum wage = can't pay for a big apartement, recent model muscle car, clubbing and a girl friend... at most you'll end up living with mom and dad forever!)

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. (or just life in general!)

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity (especially if it is a student job to help pay for your education.). Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping-they called it opportunity. (with no schooling that is about all you'll be doing.)

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them. (taking resposability for your actions can be sooo hard, it's everyone's fault but your own... but whining doesn't get you out of the manure pile!)

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room. (unfortunately some parents are stuck with their "Tanguy**" forever, some couldn't leave home even if they wanted to... not that they would want to. )

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life. (How true... wouldn't want them to feel bad, unfortunately when they get to the real world the shock is awful, and who's fault is that? Often we get fragged by parents because they think that we were too hard on their poor little angel, that we just don't understand and won't give them a chance! It's not his/her fault it's our fault for not being more comprehensive.)

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. You have to do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs. (Television and the internet tells them that they'll have the good life, with no effort or hard work, after all they deserve it.... pensée magique)

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. (Maybe not but the good hard working students (and there are still some out there) are going to be the ones footing the bill for the lazy wastrels.)

** Tanguy is a French movie about a 30 something man who just won't leave his parents' home and the parents end up doing all kinds of things to get him to go,. It's hilarious, but something that many parents have to live with.

Full disclosure: I am a teacher and I can tell you that much of this is perfectly right.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Right brain, left brain, no brain*

I was listening to a report this week about bilingual people. The researchers with the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain in Toronto (how's that for a mouthful) did the study and found that the onset of dementia symptoms was on average four years later for us bilingual people (71.5 for unilingual and 75.5 for bilingual). What was really interesting was what they found about the language center in the brain. You would think that all languages would be using the same part of the brain but no. For your second language a different part is used so the brain must coordinate the two parts so you can use one or the other language. This exercising of the frontal lobes (your cognitive part.... the part that thinks... the part that is you) builds up cognitive reserve (more brain cells/connections) so when the old brain starts to go you have enough reserve to keep going for a while longer.
Rather interesting... good thing I've always been bilingual. I guess I'll be able to be an irasible old codger and bug people for the longest time. Only in Canada would we find such a good reason for being bilingual.
* I know the title has nothing to do with the blog besides the word brain, but it sounded nice.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

13 photographs that changed the world

Came across this site while surfing, 13 photographs that changed the world.
Very interesting photos. I might have included a few more such as the picture of Armstrong on the moon with the earth in the background, a picture of the first atomic blast, but interesting none the less.