Job Training 1, Education 0

A lot of ink has been spilled lately over the future of Saskatchewan’s two universities. Currently, they’re undergoing extensive program reviews with the goal of trimming costs and reallocating resources to meet student demand in some class areas and generate more revenue to compensate for relatively static public funding over the last 20 years or so. 

In Saskatchewan, job prospects in areas like health, geology, business and engineering are strong, so they’re over-subscribed. If universities (not just in Saskatchewan, but pretty much country-wide except for a few places like Newfoundland and Manitoba) were funded properly, they could meet shifts in student demand while still fulfilling their traditional mandates in areas like liberal arts and pure research where job prospects aren’t seen as being robust. Instead, they’re being forced to contemplate cuts to those areas which critics argue is short-sighted and ultimately harmful to the long-term well-being of our society. 

Over the holidays the Leader-Post is doing a three-part series on the future of education in Saskatchewan. Thursday’s first installment examined how high school students were increasingly eyeing the skilled trades and other types of specialized job training when they contemplated extending their educations beyond high school. In today’s second installment, which more or less expands on that theme advanced education minister Don Morgan had this to say: 

We’re doing everything we can to try and focus the young people in the province on the areas where they’re going to have the best opportunities to work and participate in the growing economy. 

That would seem to make the government’s agenda pretty clear. You can read the entire article here


Pick of the Day: Chair in Police Studies Lecture

The official title of this lecture is the Dr. Gordon Wicijowski Law Foundation of Saskatchewan Chair in Police Studies Lecture. The guest-speaker is Simon Fraser University criminologist Gail Anderson. And the topic of her lecture, which comes with a PG 16 advisory, is Murder and Maggots: The Use of Insect Evidence in Criminal Investigations.

The lecture goes tonight at the University of Regina (Rm 193, Education Building) at 7 p.m. To help you gird your loins, so to speak, here’s a time lapse video of the process which Anderson will be extolling the forensic virtues of. Enjoy!

Let That Be a Lesson, Children

Here’s a link to an article in yesterday’s Guardian by Katherine Stewart on fundamentalist Christian after-school clubs that are obliterating the boundary between church and state in the U.S. They’re called Good News Clubs, and in 2001 they won a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively required publicly-funded elementary schools to include them in their after-school programming.

In her article Stewart notes that one of the lessons that’s taught in the clubs is how genocide is morally justifiable if the people being killed are unbelievers. It’s a lesson the Bible apparently teaches in a story on Saul and the Amalekites where God instructs the former (depicted above with spear in hand) to slaughter the latter. Although Saul eventually bailed on the complete annihilation of the Amalekites (he killed all the women, children and men, but spared the king and all the healthy livestock), so God punished him with the loss of his kingdom.

With faith-based schools on the rise in Saskatchewan, and the provincial government having recently allocated 50 per cent of 90 new day care spaces in Regina to organizations with strong Christian ties , it makes you wonder how much damage is going to be done to children and society as a whole in the next while as indoctrination becomes an integral component of our “education” system.

Outrage In the Nation’s Capital!

Last summer, the Saskatchewan Science Centre hosted a touring exhibit called Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition. It was organized by the Montreal Science Centre with the goal of providing pre-teen children and teenagers (and any adults who were interested, too) with straightforward information about human reproduction and other aspects of sexuality.

You can read Carle Steel’s take on the exhibit here.

The exhibit opens Friday at the Canada Science & Technology Museum in Ottawa, but it’s already apparently generated a fair bit of controversy. No less a personnage than federal Heritage Minister James Moore has waded into the fray, chastising the museum for daring to host the exhibit which he said is an affront to, you guessed it, “taxpayers”.  He also stated that it was contrary to the museum’s mandate to “foster scientific and technological literacy throughout Canada”.

If there’s one thing the Harper Conservatives are expert at fostering it’s scientific literacy, so I’ll yield to his judgment on that point. In a statement released by his office, Minister Moore encourages Canadians who feel as he does to besiege the museum with complaints about the exhibit — which was assembled with the help of teachers, nurses, doctors and sexologists.

In the Ottawa Citizen article linked to above, Saskatchewan Science Centre director Sandy Baumgartner is quoted as saying that when Sex was in Regina last summer it caused nary a ripple of concernObviously, our three Conservative MPs Tom Lukiwski, Ray Boughen and Andrew Scheer were totally asleep at the switch and failed miserably in their sacred duty to protect the impressionable youth of Regina from disgusting material like this by launching their own vitriolic attack on the Science Centre. Shame on them, I say.  

Pick of the Day: Life After Teaching

I haven’t actually seen an episode of the CBC sitcom that Gerry Dee (pictured) stars in called Mr. D about a teacher with competency issues, but some of the adverts have been kind of funny (like the one where he’s playing hoops in the gym while the kids are trying to write final exams.)

Tonight, Dee’s in town to do a stand-up show at Conexus Arts Centre at 8 p.m. (tickets $41-$46) where, among other things, he’ll crack jokes about the years he spent working as a teacher. To give you a taste, here’s a three-minute bit from last year where Dee riffs on the profession.

Pick of the Day (Tomorrow Edition): Body, Soul & Spirit Expo

For more information on my pick-of-the-day* here’s a link to the Body, Soul & Spirit Expo website. This is an annual event that includes stops in many cities across Canada, and features a mix of presentations, displays and product demonstrations by well-known practitioners in the fields of alternative health, healing, knowledge, awareness and holistic well-being.

The Regina version of the Body, Soul & Spirit Expo goes at Conexus Arts Centre Friday from 3-10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are $12 a day, or $25 for a weekend pass.

* This column is for information purposes only. I assume no liability for any actions taken in reliance thereon. I provide this information only as a convenience and do not necessarily endorse the event therein described. If you decide to partake, you do so at your own risk and it is your responsibility to take all protective measures to guard your safety and well-being (holistic and otherwise). I make no representation or warranty regarding any product or service appearing thereon. Accordingly, you agree that I will not be responsible or liable in any way for the relevancy, legality or effectiveness of any p-o-t-d recommendation that you decide to act on.

Special Anniversary

A notice came into our office awhile back about the 40th anniversary of the Balfour Special Tutorial program. It was established in 1972 to prove support for young women who became pregnant in high school and wanted to continue their education.

The program is now known as the Shirley Schneider Support Centre (SSSC). Fifteen years later, in 1987, the Mackenzie Infant Care Centre was established to provide on-site child care services for the women once they returned to class after giving birth.

It wasn’t easy then, and still isn’t that easy now, to be pregnant and attend school on a regular basis.  SSSC provides that secure, accepting program for the young women in order to manage a healthy pregnancy while attending classes in a setting with other young women.  The transition to being a young mom attending classes is also very difficult, hence the establishment of the infant care centre.  As well, the young women receive many other support services to assist them in parenting their children.

The above is an excerpt from the notice sent to prairie dog by Shirley Schneider. She went on to note that a celebration is being planned for May 4 to commemorate the two anniversaries. In the afternoon there will be a reception at Balfour Collegiate. That will be followed by a dinner and silent auction at the Royal United Services Institute. The SSSC is interested in contacting as many students who have been part of the program as possible to inform them about the anniversary celebration.

As noted in the poster, the contact number for the SSSC is 586-6647.

Pick of the Day: Art For All Essential

For some time now, arts advocates have argued about all the benefits that the arts provide to society. Invariably, these benefits spill out beyond the niche that arts have been relegated to in our market-based society where pop culture is the dominant force. Properly structured, arts programs can benefit children, teens, adults and seniors in many ways: education, health, criminal justice, community identity.

That doesn’t diminish the importance of the professional arts. At least, it shouldn’t. But sometimes it seems as though art is only valued if it provides some back-end benefit in one of the above-noted areas. Instead of plundering the extremely modest amount of funds that go to the professional arts now to achieve these broader societal goals, it would be nice if money could be directed to the arts from other areas in recognition of the value that they deliver to our community.

Which brings us to the p-o-t-d. March 27-29, Common Weal Community Arts, in collaboration with Jumblies Theatre, is hosting a workshop called Art For All Essential that explores various aspects of organizing, funding and presenting community art activities. Before that event starts though, a free symposium on community arts is being held today at the United Way Centre (1440 Scarth) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

For more information on both events call 780-9442 or visit

Pick of the Day: Stapleford Lecture

This year’s lecture is being delivered by University of Minnesota law professor John Borrows (pictured). Of Anishinaabe descent, and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation, Borrows obtained his LL.B. from the University of Toronto in 1991 and his doctorate from Osgoode Hall in 1994.

The title of Borrows’ talk is One Law for All: Understanding Canada’s Indigenous Constitution. Here’s a synopsis:

Canada’s law is Indigenous. While it is heavily dependent on British and French legal traditions, it is also home-grown. Canada’s law needs to become even more Indigenous. In addition to strengthening our European-derived legal traditions, it needs to further reflect the traditions of First Nations, Métis and Innuit peoples. When Canada’s law incorporates the values, customs and ideals of all its peoples within its singular framework, freedom is enhanced, democracy is extended, and the rule of law is strengthened across our land.

The Stapleford Lecture goes at RIC 119 at the University of Regina at 7:30 p.m.

Pick of the Day: Monsieur Lazhar

While it didn’t pick up any hardware at the Academy Awards last month, this film by Quebec director Philippe Falardeau was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s about an Algerian immigrant who takes over as a substitute teacher in an elementary school classroom after the previous teacher committed suicide.

Monsieur Lazhar screens tonight at 7 p.m. and Sunday night at 9 p.m. at RPL Theatre. Here’s the trailer.

It’s St. Paddy’s Day, of course. And if you’re looking for something else to do that doesn’t entail a rowdy bar, consider a show at Creative City Centre by Calgary singer-songwriter Samantha Savage Smith. Doors are at 8 p.m. tickets are $10, and Robyn Barbour will also be performing.

To give you a sense of what Smith’s about here’s the video for her 2011 song “You Always Come to Mind”.

Pick of the Day: Woodrow Lloyd Lecture

When we discuss health care in Canada, we typically focus on nuts and bolts issues tied to funding and provision of services. That’s certainly relevant to what Margaret Somerville (pictured), the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics & the Law, will be discussing tonight, but her talk falls into more of a philosophical area.

Taking and Making Human Life: Has Healthcare Replaced Religion? is the title. Here’s a brief synopsis from the University of Regina website:

Humans used to form shared values largely through a shared religion. No longer possible in secular and multicultural Western democracies, healthcare has become a major values formation forum, as our dominant concerns shift from the health and longevity of our souls to the health and longevity of our bodies. We now seek ‘medical miracles’ and ‘immortality’, or at least greatly extended life spans, and we seek control, through the use of new technoscience, over the two great events in human life: birth and death. Through an examination of the legal and ethical implications of assisted human reproductive technologies (birth) and euthanasia (death), Somerville will explore the conflict between what individuals want and society requires.

The Woodrow Lloyd Lecture goes tonight at RIC 119 (the Lab Building Addition) at 7:30 p.m. For more info call 585-4226.

Segregated Education System Causes Problems in Israel

Even with the recent move by the Saskatchewan government to provide expanded public funding for associate/private schools the situation here is much different than it is in Israel, so I don’t mean this post to be alarmist. It’s more a cautionary warning because in Israel a lot of concern has been expressed lately with the ultra Orthodox component of the Israeli education system which comprises about 25 per cent of students.

In Saskatchewan, associate/private schools, most of which are faith-based, must follow the provincial curriculum and meet other academic requirements to receive public funding. In Israel, that’s not the case. In ultra Orthodox schools, this Associated Press article says, students typically don’t do much in-depth study of subjects like math, science and the arts. Instead, they focus mostly on religious studies. This has led to a marked decrease in the performance of Israeli students in international tests in comparison to students from other countries (another contributor to this poor performance is the underfunding of education for Arab Israelis). As adults, ultra Orthodox Jews are ill-equipped to function in the job market, and the Israeli government apparently provides significant welfare payments to thousands of ultra Orthodox Jews so they can survive.

Also, the self-segregation that the ultra Orthodox community imposes on itself leads inevitably to culture clashes with mainstream, largely secular Israeli society. In December, there was quite an uproar when a Jewish woman riding a bus route frequented by ultra Orthodox Jews declined to give up her seat near the front of the bus and sit at the back in deference to Jewish males as is the practice in the ultra Orthodox community. Secular Jewish girls and women who, in ultra Orthodox eyes, are regarded as dressing and behaving immorally are also subjected to harassment.

Ultra Orthodox Jews are also hard-line proponents of expanded settlements in the occupied West Bank which is a huge stumbling block to any peace agreement being reached between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. And that’s a problem we all have to deal with.

Pick of the Day: Music Appreciation Series

Don’t know if it’s still that way or not, but when I was in unversity you could take a course in Music Appreciation to satisfy the Fine Arts requirement in the general Arts program. I opted for Art History instead. And that’s where my initial interest in the arts was piqued, leading me a decade or so later to start writing in the area.

Tonight at 7 p.m., Regina Public Library kicks off a three-part music appreciation series. All three sessions are at Central Library in the film theatre. Tonight’s session is titled Crash, Bang & All That Jazz: Music of the 20th Century.

February 27 at 7 p.m., it’s Isn’t It Romantic: Music from Beethoven to Brahms. Then on March 12, it’s Baroque & Beyond: Music of Bach, Haydn & Mozart. Pre-registration isn’t required, and more info can be had by calling 777-6120.

Blind Spot: What Happened to Canada’s Aboriginal Fathers?

Tonight at the Albert-Scott Community Centre (1264 Athol St.) there’s an advance screening of this CBC documentary by Geoff Leo that looks at the absence of roughly half of aboriginal fathers from their children’s lives and the negative impact this has on the children’s growth and development.

The documentary also examines the root cause of this breakdown in family harmony — specifically, the harm caused by Canadian colonialist policies that greatly disrupted the ability of successive generations of young aboriginal men and women to learn good parenting skills from their own parents and grandparents.

The screening will be held at 7 p.m. It will be followed by an open discussion with Leo and Nick Helliwell of Healing Heart Ministries Men’s Group. 

The documentary itself will screen on the CBC News Network on Saturday Jan. 14 at 9 p.m. and midnight CST. Here’s a link to the trailer.

Pick of the Day (Tomorrow Edition): The Globalization of Addiction

When it comes to globalization I’m of two minds.

First of all, I feel it’s an inevitable (and vital) step in our ongoing evolution. Over the millenia, we’ve gone from living in small tribes or clans to towns, city-states, countries and even associations of countries like NATO and the United Nations. As our burgeoning technology permits us to become progressively more integrated it’s only natural that we should expand our concept of community to encompass the globe.

Unfortunately, thus far anyway, the globalization agenda has been pretty much driven by powerful economic (and military) interests. Interests that tend to value production and profit (and conquest and control) over the welfare of people and the broader natural environment.

Economic development and improved national security are key components of globalization, of course. But it should also promote and celebrate our diverse cultures, traditions and ecologies, which is the true key to our long-term survival on Earth.

In a lecture at the University of Regina (Rm. 119 Research & Innovation Centre) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Bruce Alexander explores a possible negative consequence of this relentless march toward a global consumer culture — specifically, that the soul-destroying nature of this culture is spawning feelings of alienation and emptiness that  people are trying to dull through drugs, alcohol and other addictive behaviours. 

For more info call 522-3515.

Making Sex Ed More Fun!

A video game about battling STDs and burst condoms. And it’s called Privates (tee hee). The trailer below is safe for work unless you work somewhere especially uptight.

Privates is from Zombie Cow Studios, authors of the very well regarded adventure games, Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please. You can also read more about Privates at the Guardian‘s website.

Pick of the Day: Pi Day

Paul kind of stole my thunder on this with his post last night which, being March 14, was technically Pi day. But because this celebration is being hosted by the University of Regina’s Math, Actuarial Science and Statistics Students Society, it got shifted to today.

As a high school and university student, I was pretty good at math. Not a genius, but competent. So I can at least relate to mathematicians and understand the nature of the work they do and its importance to society. And I’m not simply talking about having seen A Beautiful Mind either (which I have, although not the Russell Crowe movie, but as a stage play at the Globe a few years back).  I actually know, and occasionally socialize with, a couple of mathematicians at the university.

In numbers, March 14 reads 3/14. Pretty funny, eh? Or maybe not, depending on your degree of math expertise. What about if I take out the backslash and substitute a decimal so it reads 3.14? It’s probably still pretty obscure, but those are the first three digits of pi.

From what I remember of high school geometry, pi was developed by the ancient Greeks and is a constant used in certain geometric calculations. A circle’s circumference, for example, equals 2πr (two times pi times the circle’s radius) while its area equals πr(pi times the square of the radius.)

As a fraction, pi is expressed as 22/7. When you reduce it down, you end up with 3.1415926535897932 … I could continue, for a very long time I could continue, perhaps even to the end of time, because pi, as far as we know, never ends. There’s other fractions like that. 10/3, for instance, reduces as 3.33333 … ad infinitum. Pi never repeats, though. And it’s not like its an inconsequential number, either. It’s a cornerstone of Euclidean geometry. And its neverending. Kind of cosmic, don’t you think?

Anyway, to celebrate the glory that is pi MASSSS is hosting Pi Day. You can read the details in Paul’s post here.  The movie Pi, by the way, is a 1998 thriller about a paranoid mathematician who uses a supercomputer to predict stock prices with great success until his program malfunctions.

Later tonight, the U of R Education Department is holding another of its Talkin’ About School & Society discussions at LaBodega Restaurant at 7 p.m. The topic? Accountability & Standardized Assessment: Who is Being Served?

Also, the Stars From The Commitments are at Casino Regina tonight. They’ve been through here before. Here’s the trailer from the 1991 movie (itself based on a best-selling Roddy Doyle novel) that they starred in. It’s got a 92-per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So I guess they’re entitled.

Finally, I’ll have more on this tomorrow, but as part of Les Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebecois, a mini-festival of Quebec film being presented by the university’s Institut Francais and the Conseil Culturel Fransaskois, there will be a screening of Denis Villeneuve’s 2009 film Polytechnique at the RPL Theatre tonight at 7 p.m. (adults $8, students $6.). It’s based on the 1989 massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.