velvetpage: (oxford comma)
Re: Ministry of Education’s School Nutrition Policy

Trust the Government of Ontario to take an essentially sound idea and mess up the implementation until it’s barely recognizable.

Teachers aren’t allowed to give candy as prizes anymore. I can get behind that. But we’re also not allowed to serve freezies after the annual Terry Fox Run or Play Day next June, unless of course they’re 100% juice. This strikes me first as far too restrictive, and second as wrong-headed; as any nutritionist will tell you, juice has too much sugar and too little fibre to be good for you anyway. Similarly, diet sodas are no improvement over regular because the sweetener is one not recognized by the body; they’re at least as bad for you as regular Coke, but the diet caffeine-free ones are permissible.

Pizza places have to comply with the regulations to sell pizza at elementary schools. That means whole wheat crusts, low-fat cheese, and most importantly, full-disclosure ingredient labels. That last effectively puts all small businesses out of the running for the school market, because they can’t afford to put their ingredient list on every box. Way to support local business!

Many teachers have arrived at their first in-service of the school year to discover that the regulations designed for children are also applied to situations where no children are present. I’m rather surprised that a crowd of angry, under-caffeinated teachers didn’t show up at Queen’s Park when they realized that the Board of Education was no longer allowed to serve coffee and tea with caffeine in them at events designed for groups of teachers. How exactly does serving coffee at an in-service with no children at it set a bad example for children?

Could we go back to teaching our children about a reasonable balance between healthy and non-healthy foods? This policy is so restrictive it’s punitive, and that in the long run will do more harm than good.
velvetpage: (teacher superpower)
x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] ontario_teacher

It is time for the teachers of Ontario to take a personal stand against the EQAO test by withdrawing their children from it.

My daughter is entering grade two in the fall. I have started to consider the possibility of withdrawing her from school the week of the EQAO testing in grade three. It's a difficult decision to make alone. On the one hand, my daughter doesn't need to do well on a standardized test to prove that she is working at grade level. I already know how advanced she is, and so does her school. She tends to get nervous before events she sees as tests, and I don't want her developing that nervousness at the tender age of eight. Furthermore, I know that as a French Immersion student, she's at a disadvantage: the inclusion of good spelling to get a level 4 is prejudicial to students who don't study English until that same year, though they catch up later. I'm not interested in putting that level of stress on her for no gain.

On the other hand, her teachers are my colleagues. If she doesn't write the test, she counts as a zero. Having taught in a turnaround school, I know what kind of pressure low scores put on a school, and I know that they'll be predicting a high score for my daughter. Withdrawing her from the testing hurts her school and potentially hurts my relationship with her teachers. I don't want to do that.

This decision should be supported by the union. The union has a role to play in asking teachers who are also parents to boycott the testing, not for their students, but for their children. At an individual level in our schools, we can't force this testing to stop; but collectively as a group of concerned parents, we can significantly impact its validity in a way that is completely legal and without repercussions for our jobs.
velvetpage: (exterminate)
In the testimonial from the Mayo Clinic she went to in Arizona, her
condition is not a life-threatening cancerous brain tumour; it's a
vision-threatening benign cyst on her pituitary gland. She was not
going to be dead to wait six months, if in fact she'd even had to wait
six months - she didn't wait to find out.

Furthermore, she's not suing the government to get her money back;
she's suing the government to dismantle the health care system we
have, and she's funded by a registered charity called the Canadian
Constitution Foundation. Registered charity - that means our tax
dollars are paying for it via tax deductible contributions.

Holmes is misrepresenting herself, and our system, to Americans.
She's a fraud. I wonder if her circuit of talk shows and that
commercial have paid off the new mortgage yet?
velvetpage: (Default)
There's an article on the opinion page, from a professor of economics, on the research she's done suggesting that competition between the Catholic and public school boards in Ontario works to raise scores.

Um, no.

Should I send them an article? Or should I edit it to letter length?

Oh really?

Aug. 21st, 2008 11:39 am
velvetpage: (Canada rainbow)
Our newspaper occasionally reprints opinion articles from other newspapers around the globe or in Canada, to give another perspective on events in the news. Today's is from Saudi Arabia, about the lack of medals they've experienced in the game, and calling for more investment in their sports infrastructure to improve their chances at future games.

I'm debating writing a letter to the editor to point out that, while investing in their athletes might pay off for Saudi Arabia, until they allow women to compete, they're still going to be lower on the medals than other nations simply because they're cut out of so many possible competitions.

Sport is about excellence triumphing over any other consideration. Saudi Arabia lets gender discrimination triumph over excellence. As such, they're missing part of the point of the Games.
velvetpage: (studious)
Every time i stand up, I see stars - but I can still think and type! Comments welcome - I haven't sent it to the newspaper yet, but I'm going to. It's about the right length for an article on the Opinion page, though far too long for a letter.

Fears of nascent sexuality in recent events )
velvetpage: (Default)
Link to local story

The choicest quote: Jim Enos, who identified himself as vice-president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council, representing families with Christian values, said terms such as homophobia misrepresent the rational fear of disease students should have.

He said he felt passing the policy would cause HIV rates to rise if kids lose a fear of the "serious consequences of homosexual conduct."


Thank you, Mr. Enos, for proving conclusively how badly our school board needs this policy.

I've written a lot of letters to the editor in recent months. Does anyone else want to take up that gauntlet this time? If not, I may still do it.
velvetpage: (Default)
Background: Some years ago, under the aegis of a government that doesn't deserve to be remembered by name, Hamilton underwent a forced amalgamation with several surrounding suburban municipalities. Since then, the suburbs have seen their taxes go up, for several reasons. First is that the suburbs could afford lower taxes when they were separate - they didn't have social services to pay and their infrastructure was mostly much newer, so upkeep was less. Second was that housing prices were lower across the board, and property taxes are linked to a home's value (even if people didn't touch the value of their home.) Third, in Flamborough at least, there was a subsidy coming in from Flamborough Downs, a racetrack with slot machines.

Well, when the city underwent amalgamation, taxes went up due to rising property values and some evening-out of the tax system. Mind you, we in the old city also underwent tax increases which have exceeded inflation every single year, and the city is still broke. But Flamborough residents kept the subsidy they were getting for Flamborough Downs - the money was not pooled into the city coffers to affect everyone's taxes.

Until now. City Council has voted to end the subsidy and pool that money. That means a 9% increase in property taxes for Flamborough - and a 3.1% increase for the lower city where I live.

Letter to the editor )
velvetpage: (cat in teacup)
There was an article in yesterday's newspaper about a topic that has been fairly quiet in Canada for a number of years: abortion.

The issue: the Hamilton Right To Life association bought some advertising in bus shelters, and put up an ad that reads: "9 months: the length of time an abortion is legal in Canada. No medical reason needed. Abortion: Have we gone too far?" Then there's some contact information. The picture is of a clothed pregnant woman, with an ultrasound-style image of a fetus superimposed over the belly.

The ad was pulled by the city's transit commissioner as too controversial/offensive, and yesterday's article was from the president of the Right To Life Association, who happens to be a Catholic priest. The article said (rightly, I think) that the ads should not have been pulled just because somebody disagreed with them, when they were in good taste. The problem I have is that he then went on to defend his subject matter. He talked about the "slippery slope" towards abortion starting in 1969 in Canada, and culminating in 1988.

Well.

My letter )
velvetpage: (Default)
This one is about the proposal to make the public transit system in Hamilton free for users, and about a taxi driver complaining that this will kill his business.

Read more... )
velvetpage: (Default)
The proposal is to lower our bag limit from three to one, with exemptions for families with three or more kids under five. My response, in the form of a letter to the editor:

If City Hall expects me to be able to lower my garbage output to one
bag a week, it needs to make the green bin program friendly to
disposable diapers. I get one bag of diapers alone every week, and I
only have one child in diapers. Cloth is simply not practical for our
lifestyle, though I did it for many months.

Other municipalities have green bin programs that allow diapers, and
the pilot program in Hamilton allowed them.

It would also be helpful if the program could take the biodegradable
plastic bags that contain the mess in green bins so much better than
anything made of paper.

Also, if you expect me to recycle as much as I can, perhaps the
disposal people could manage to look beneath the one or two pieces of
garbage that other people put on top of my neatly-sorted recycling bin
every week, or perhaps even take newspapers in plastic bags when the
bin overflows. After a week or two of yellow stickers, everything
ends up in the trash because we can't keep up with that much stuff on
our porch. With so much less garbage to deal with, perhaps some of
the workers can be diverted to the recycling trucks to make this task
easier.

Meet us halfway, please. Make it possible for families with young
children, already being hit hardest by the garbage restrictions, to
cope.
velvetpage: (Default)
In answer to this article, I wrote the following letter to the editor:

Mr. Urquart, in his column, seems to think that the way we elect our representatives is a minor thing, and the real job is to get on with the real work of government. He believes the voters of the province understood the proposed change to the system and rejected it.

The polls do not bear this out. They showed, throughout the campaign, that people really didn’t have a clear idea of what MMP would mean. Politicians didn’t talk about it, or did so in the vaguest of non-partisan terms. The referendum happened in a vacuum, so that voters made up their minds based on incomplete evidence and the opinions of newspaper columnists like himself.

I have a particular bone to pick with Mr. Urquart’s statement that the reformers believe proportionality should trump accountability, tradition, simplicity and stability.

Anyone who believes that MMP would lead to less accountability for representatives hasn’t studied the countries in which it has been running smoothly for decades, like Germany. There, it’s a truism that list seats go primarily to opposition members while riding seats are the purview of the governing party. Translation: if the opposition members elected from lists want to form a government, they have to get a riding seat the next time out. List members and riding members both fight for riding nominations and the votes of individual constituents. That means at least two representatives courting each vote. That doesn’t strike me as a lack of accountability – in fact, it strikes me as better accountability, because you get to see two candidates in action before voting for either of them, it eliminates the incumbent edge, and it maintains the local character of elections.

I don’t see tradition as a good reason to keep things as they are. I’m a firm believer in, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but citing tradition as an argument against MMP is a way of saying, “we know it’s broke, but we’ve always done it this way so we’re not changing.” If the traditional way doesn’t work, it needs to be adjusted. Simplicity is in the same category. Simplicity at the expense of functionality is a bargain with the devil. Let’s go with the simplest system that works. First-past-the-post doesn’t fulfil that requirement.

Which brings us to stability. Stability is a straw man argument, because there’s no good reason why a minority government can’t be stable. Again, the matter of Germany: they get away with reasonable intervals between elections because their politicians work at forming coalitions. But even if you assume that a minority government is by definition less stable, you’re forced to ask the question: what price do we pay for our stable majority governments? And the answer is: the disenfranchisement of the 58% of voters who didn’t vote for the winning party, and the disenfranchisement of all those who didn’t vote because they didn’t see how it would do any good.

I want electoral reform because proportionality does indeed trump non-functional tradition, simplicity, and the value of majority governments as a stabilizing force. I believe it would lead to more accountability, and to more people taking an interest in politics and demanding that accountability. And I’m angry that the politicians in charge of the referendum did not create the kind of climate of public debate where these issues could be properly debated to allow for an informed choice. Once again, our system circumvented real democracy.
velvetpage: (outraged)
I still write them occasionally. I don't know if it will be printed, because there are several similar letters in the paper at the moment, but most of them were written before Stockwell Day chimed in to support the SQ's bald-faced lie about the incident, so that might mean I get published.

My letter )

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