My thoughts on politics before #Ontario heads to the polls

When I was a child I remember my father participating in a public debate with our local MP about the death penalty. What struck me most about this debate was how both people remained polite to each other even though they obviously had very different viewpoints. They also clearly listened to each other as they would refer to points the other person made during their rebuttal.

As we head into a provincial election I wish we could bring back that type of respectful debate instead of the soundbites that seem to be our fate.

Every political party has a history that I can find fault with. I can also find great ideas in all the major parties. I want to get a better sense of the logic behind their vision. Instead of the name calling I see on social media let’s debate the merits of the parties and individuals – no name calling allowed. Stick to the facts to back up your opinion (not alternative facts). At the end of the day politicians are people – some are good, some are bad, some are wise, some make poor choices. Let’s raise the calibre of the debate so that we can get the best for our province.

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Canada needs to increase early access to coding to bridge gender divide – Toronto Star

Canada needs to increase early access to coding to bridge gender divide https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2018/03/06/canada-needs-to-increase-early-access-to-coding-to-bridge-gender-divide.html

What is the funding for school librarians? @ONLibraryAssoc

According to the Ministry of Education’s technical paper on education funding ( http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/funding/1718/2017_18_technical_paper_en.pdf ) page 26 states that there is funding for 1.31 Teacher Librarians for every 1000 students.  That works out to 763 students for one full time Teacher Librarian.

Ontario has an Open Data website that lists school enrolment: https://www.ontario.ca/data/ontario-public-schools-enrolment.  Now the board that my children go to is north of Toronto – not a single elementary school in this board is large enough to have a full time Teacher Librarian.  Out of the 40 schools only six are big enough to qualify for funding for a half time Teacher Librarian.

In the entire province of Ontario there are 3966 elementary schools – only 120 of them are large enough to qualify for a Teacher Librarian.

Where have all the librarians gone?

Lately I’ve been concerned about the state of school libraries in Ontario.  There is a wealth of research that indicates that a well staffed and well stocked library is a positive for schools – increased reading, improved EQAO scores you name it.  I’ve noticed a number of school boards have stopped staffing their libraries with teacher librarians.  The frustration is they claim it is a budget challenge while the Ontario Ministry of Education claims that they provide funding and it is the school board’s choice to not staff school libraries.

In order to determine if this decline is my perception or reality I decided to do a little check.  Teacher-librarians take an AQ (Additional Qualification) course to become a librarian.  If there are less librarian opportunities it stands to reason that less people would take the qualification.

The Ontario College of Teachers provides a list of the qualifications for every teacher in Ontario.  I put together a program that would go through teachers and record if they took the Librarianship Additional Qualification course.  Here is the result by year:

librarian graph

As you can see the number of teachers that took the Library AQ course has been on the decline since 2009.  In 2016 there were only 22 teachers that took the course – considering there are over 70 school boards in Ontario we are now at a point where even if school boards started to staff their libraries with qualified teacher-librarians there would not be enough.

What can be done?

Fundamentaly this impacts our children – do we want them to become passionate readers?  Do we want them to be information literate or do we want them to believe in alternative facts?  Nothing is being done because parents are not complaining.  Talk to your teachers, principals, trustees and MPPs.  This doesn’t change without you.

The numbers:

7640 teacher’s qualifications were checked on the Ontario College of Teacher’s website. 1029 library aq courses were recorded (since there are three courses there are a number of teachers had multiple courses).

I am happy to share my data for anyone that wants to verify my results.

Ian McTavish

 

 

My thoughts on the Canadian national anthem change #inallofuscommand

I have seen a number of posts about the recent change to the Canadian national anthem. I recognize both perspectives to this and feel strongly enough that I am throwing my two cents in.
I have a son and a daughter. It is very important to me that my daughter grow up in a country where she can attempt anything knowing that her intelligence, perseverance and skill will be the benchmarks for success.
I recognize that there are many other areas that the government needs to address but words matter. Symbols matter. Just look at how bent out shape some people get when football players kneel during the American anthem.
The only question I have regarding the anthem change is why did it take so long?

Arduino – how to do something useful beyond lighting up an LED

After today everyone in my robotics class will have completed their first Arduino circuit: make an LED blink. I don’t like doing things without a purpose so I want to share what you can do with an LED blinking.

A TV remote has an LED – it doesn’t deal with visible light, it uses infrared. The challenge is knowing the sequence. Each TV company uses a certain sequence of on/off. Thankfully there are people who worked out the codes and made them available!

A tear is shed for #Charlottesville

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The first play I acted in was when I was around 9 years old.  The play was about Martin Luther King Jr. – Skin Deep.  My father was one of the authors of the play and it was pretty powerful.  I had a pretty small role but the play stuck with me.

Fast forward a few years and we were travelling in the United States and visited the graveyard where Martin Luther King Jr. was buried.  My dad disappeared and when we found him he was talking on a pay phone to someone about the play he had written and that he planned to put it on again.  Turns out he had looked up Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, in the phone book and gave her a call.

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As a result of this phone call Yolanda King came to visit us to see the play.  Certain events stand out in your life and this was one for me.

This past weekend the violence in the United States erupted to the point that people died.  As I listen to the news and hear the term “identify consciousness” I am sickened to see how hate has continued to fester all these years later.  Slavery may no longer be legal in the United States (is it simply offshored now?), many of the inequalities that the civil rights movement fought against have been rectified, but our world is still festering with racism, intolerance and hatred.

When you come to protest carrying torches and bats, you are not starting a dialogue.  You are inciting terrorism.

To those I saw on Twitter that suggest the left is hypocritical because they denounce violence on the right, but ignore the counter protesters that promoted violence I ask that you consider this:  I denounce the violence on both sides, but when I heard Yolanda King talk about her Father being shot and killed when she was a little girl my heart broke.  He was killed because he wanted to be treated equally.  He was killed because he wanted blacks and whites to get along.  The violence this weekend was started by people who want to tear others down instead of bringing everyone up.

Black Lives Matter exist because in our world we have systematic racism that is accepted as normal.  Race, gender, religion, sexuality – none of these should cause us to not treat people with respect.  Yolanda managed to forgive a society that murdered her father.  I choose the path that was revealed in living room those many years ago – for every difference there are similarities that tie us together as the human race.  We need to denounce the violence but it can’t stop there, we each have a responsibility to ensure the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about is realized.

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John McTavish and Yolanda King