Archive for September, 2006

28 September 2006

“We honor ambition, we reward greed, we celebrate materialism, we worship acquisitiveness, we cherish success, and we commercialize the classroom – and then we bark at the young about the gentle art of the spirit.”

– Benjamin Barber, (1993, November). America skips school. Harper’s Magazine, 286, p. 42, as quoted in Teaching What We Hold Sacred by John I. Goodlad in Educational Leadership, December 2003/January 2004

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Asymmetrical Anxieties

21 September 2006

“New teachers are often troubled because they do not have enough material; experienced teachers are more likely to be troubled because they do not have enough time.”

– From Lesson Planning, pg 188 by I don’t know who because the prof. didn’t cite him/her

Dawson College

15 September 2006

What the fuck was Kimveer Gill doing with a Beretta CX4 Storm and a Glock 9 mm pistol, both of which were apparently legally registered? Clearly, I am sadly ignorant of just what our (Canadian) gun laws mean if someone can get their hands on these kinds of weapons just for shits and giggles. I think the anti-gun-law folks are way off base here. The proper response to Wednesday’s shooting is not abandon the notion of gun control but to re-inforce it; to make it stronger.

The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s really important to think critically about what would have made a difference at Dawson College on Wednesday.

Metal detectors at all the entrances to the school? The guy walked up to the school, shot three people outside and strode in. Even if a metal detector had gone off, that wouldn’t have stopped him from blowing past it. A metal detector will only stop someone trying to sneak a weapon into the building to be used later. Gill wasn’t trying to sneak anything anywhere.

Locked doors that only open for proximity passes? He could have just followed a student in or shot away the glass.

Security guards with guns? Maybe. Maybe they would have limited the number of people he could have killed before being stopped? Is the chance of limiting the damage from another rampage by another killer 10 or 15 years down the road worth living with armed security guards? Not to me.

Faster police response times? How could they have been faster? They were at the college in three minutes, apparently, and went straight in.

I heard one student on The National say that a SWAT team asked him the way to the cafeteria. One thing that might help, then, is if Emergency Response personnel had PDAs with building diagrams for all the major public buildings in their precincts. That might enable them to get places faster once inside the buildings. (This would be helpful for firefighters, too.)

But, generally, lets face it, there’s just not much you can do to prevent someone doing what Kimveer Gill did other than making it harder for him to get a hold of those kinds of weapons in the first place or living with armed security.

Since Gill was apparently some kind of Goth, and was into some apparently very violent video games there’s a lot of speculation right now about their role and the role of Goth sub-culture in his actions. Did violent video games cause him to acquire his guns and then go to Dawson and start shooting people?

If you want to maintain that the games were the sole cause then to be consistent you also have to argue that if he didn’t have access to those games then he wouldn’t have done what he did or something similar. And I find that hard to believe. On the other hand, he was into playing some kind of Columbine RPG that is supposedly out there (really fucking sick) and given that he went to a school and started shooting people it’s hard to believe that playing the game is an unconnected coincidence. It seems reasonable to me that media violence is implicated in what he did. Is the right conclusion to draw that we should impose censorship and ban violent games or certain web sites? It’s a question that should be on the table but let’s not forget that there’s a big price to pay for censorship and that freedom may be worth it even if more people are going to die because of a refusal to censor than would if we did impose it.

And if we’re going to have that debate and be honest about it, then let’s not just pick on video games or the internet. Have a look at Hollywood violence while you’reĀ  at it. And TV, too. I bet you it will be a lot less cut and dried in some people’s politician’s minds once you bring the traditional media into the picture.

Back to school

7 September 2006

Back at school in the B.Ed program at Ottawa U. I had my first class yesterday and I was kind of surprised to find myself getting pretty excited. And I’ve done one of the readings (by a guy named John Miller) and all my critical juices got to flowing. This is going to be good.

Regarding the John Miller reading…I’m willing to grant that Miller’s just attempting to introduce the idea of Holistic education but, man, you could drive a truck through some of the claims he’s making. One of the biggest things that struck me is how he conflates Holistic education as an attempt to explore the relationship between various concepts (e.g., the self and the Self, linear thinking and intuition) and Holistic education as an attempt to rebalance those relationships. The one tack is exploratory and not necessarily pejorative. The other is unavoidably political. I can (fore?)see plausible arguments on either of these two fronts. But Miller elides (is that the right word?) between these two without acknowledging (or awareness?) that he is doing so.

I think this arises, at least in part, because he takes the legitimacy of his critical project (to redress the imbalances of which he speaks) for granted. It is as if he cannont really imagine that anyone will disagree and so therefore doesn’t see the need to do all that bothersome justifying. However, at this point in history (with the forces of reaction once again in the ascendant) it’s incumbent on critics of the status quo not to assume that all readers will accept the legitimacy of their criticism.