York’s mothering expert is deeply worried about this generation of children

“We’re raising a generation of children that deeply worries me,” said Andrea O’Reilly, professor in York’s Atkinson School of Arts & Letters and founder of the Association for Research on Mothering at York, in the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 4. “Children are growing up unable to amuse themselves or make real decisions. They don’t learn how to fall or to fail.” She says society must give autonomy to children and restore authority to parents. “This is the only job you can do by the book and get railroaded. You can be the absolutely perfect mother and raise imperfect children. Life happens.”

O’Reilly has done her research on mothering, but she’s also lived it, said the Citizen. She started her PhD when she was six months pregnant, her son just turned two. “I used to be an intensive mother and then I had to stop,” she goes on to say. “I had a third child.” The professor of women’s studies at York University argues that excessive mothering – in which children are all-consuming – reinforces traditional gender roles. “Women have fewer children and more labour-saving devices,” she notes. “Yet they spend more time, energy and money on their children than their mothers did in the 1960s.”

Men are another missing piece of the parenting puzzle, she argues, even in egalitarian homes where they are doing more around the house. “It’s a fact, women do the second and third shift. No one can dispute that.” Of course, she’s not just talking about loading the dishwasher. “Men have a responsibility to remember, to plan, to anticipate, to worry.” To fathers who challenge this point, O’Reilly would offer a pop quiz: What is your child’s shoe size? When was their last immunization? What food won’t they eat? When is their next dentist appointment? What is their issue right now? “Real equality means men are doing that thinking, too.”

Tax shifts set stage for war between young and the old

After a 90-minute interview with York University finance professor Moshe Milevsky on Sunday night, there seemed little left to discuss about personal finances, wrote The Edmonton Journal Nov. 4. “Public policy,” said Milevsky, fittingly sitting beneath the famed Fathers of Confederation reproduction portrait at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. “What are we going to do with all these people who haven’t saved enough?”

He said a bimodal situation exists in which one group of people has forsaken lavish vacations and cars and invested wisely for the future, while another group has either worked less, spent like drunken sailors or invested poorly. “I think you’re going to see an increase in our taxes to pay for the retirement of all the people who were negligent,” said Milevsky. “And the way that tax increase will occur is that there’s going to be cross subsidies, like Garth Turner tried to do in having people split pension credits.

“That’s obviously going to cost quite a lot, and taxes are going to have to go up. People who don’t have enough for retirement are going to look who they can vote for so they keep more of what they’re earning,” said Milevsky. “The young are going to have to pay for this and there’s going to be intergenerational warfare. It’s going to be the people in their 60s and 70s voting for politicians that let them keep more income, at the expense of younger people who aren’t going to be that vocal and vote enough.”

Environmental studies professor welcomes star power

Should we look to the stars to save our planet?, asked the Toronto Star Nov. 4. With more evidence every day that global warming is leading the planet into a desperate future and other indicators of degradation, environmental issues have become the cause du jour of the renowned and famous. But is celebrity support always good for the cause? For some, it can’t come a moment too soon. “I think at this stage, anything is a good thing. Especially on the climate change issue; anybody who stands up and says something is a good thing. Time is running out and if celebrities who have the magic honey are prepared to speak out, I’m all in favour of it,” says Peter Timmerman, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Timmerman points to the activism that singer Sandra Harmer has done to preserve the Niagara Escarpment – including her recent song, Escarpment Blues – as a great example of effective local environmental activism. But he is concerned that some celebrities may have a hidden agenda of self-promotion. “The thing that’s most important is that, if celebrities are going to get involved, that it isn’t just one more celebrity finding a good cause to buff their name and image on,” Timmerman says. “Some celebrities are worth emulating and some are not.”

York English prof defines Trudeau liberalism

B.W. Powe, an English lecturer in York’s Faculty of Arts who was a friend of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, said the enduring appeal of Trudeau goes beyond politics, wrote the National Post Nov. 4, in an article on the Liberal leadership campaign. “He has become a myth, and when you become a myth you begin to transcend politics and you’re in the realm of emotion,” Power said in an interview. Trudeau, he said, has evolved from a politician to a “mythopoetic figure” remembered as much for his style as for his policies. Asked to define what makes a Trudeau Liberal, Powe listed four beliefs or characteristics:

  • “A belief in Canada as a unique, audacious experiment, which the separatists have not given a powerful enough argument to counter.
  • “Canada cannot be a world military player any more…. We really have a very different role in the world now, more attached to the United Nations, perhaps more as mediators.
  • “The notion of social justice, the just society. It’s not something he was successful in implementing; it’s a long-term project. The idea was that the individual counts, that the individual must have rights within the larger context of the culture and institutions.
  • “He constantly addressed hope. He was an inspirational figure…. A political leader is responsible for the symbolism and emotion of the country.”

Powe, a lifelong Liberal who calls himself a disaffected Michael Ignatieff supporter, says none of the current batch of contenders fits the bill entirely. He thinks Dion comes closest. “It seems to me he comes more from that intellectual, activist tradition that recognizes that Canada has a special quest, a mission in the world,” he said.

York approves prof smoking pot at school

York University is cool with a criminology professor smoking pot on campus, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 4. Brian MacLean, criminology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, will get his own ventilated room beginning Monday after the school agreed to accommodate his use of medical marijuana for a severe form of degenerative arthritis.”We take it seriously because we pride ourselves on trying to be progressive in terms of the way that we approach people with disabilities,” Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, said in an interview yesterday.  “A person wants to be a functioning member of society and in order to do that certain people need different types of medical accommodation.”

Bilyk said it took two months to deal with MacLean’s request because York had to review its policies, find a room near his office and make it work given that the university is now a smoke-free environment. “This is the first case we’ve ever had of this,” he said. The University of Toronto and York are believed to be among the first employers in Canada to give employees a place to use medical marijuana while on the job.

Public sector prepares for baby boomer exodus

Canada’s universities are gearing up for a hiring boom in the public sector as aging baby boomers retire from their government jobs, reported CanWest News Service Nov. 6. Four Ontario universities – the University of Ottawa, Ryerson University, York University and the University of Toronto – are the latest in the rush to create new public management or public policy programs and tap into the thousands of jobs that will open up at all levels of government as boomers retire over the next decade, said Sandford Borins, president of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration.

Cool cartoon ads remove dating service stigma, says York marketing prof

Toronto’s Lavalife did its own makeover, starting with the brand, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 5. The company focused on mainstream advertising efforts. Personal ads were no longer something secretly flipped to at the back of the classifieds. Ads were placed on subways and billboards. They feature a few very attractive cartoon characters in romantic situations, their eyes sparkling and connecting across a crowded room or busy intersection. If it works for them, surely, it should work for you. So what if they aren’t human? “You’ve got to make the shame and stigma irrelevant,” says Ashwin Joshi, marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “You’ve got to introduce fun and humour.” Social networks, such as church groups, used to be the prime way people met their mates, says Joshi.

Acoustics like never before from mesmerizing picker

Expect something different when guitarist Norman Liota (BFA ‘86) brings his specially prepared guitar to the Cowichan Folk Guild’s monthly coffeehouse Nov. 11 in Cowichan Station, BC, wrote the Duncan News Leader and Pictorial Nov. 4. Queer sounds from his handiwork are pulled from frets modified by inserting objects such as paper and plastic between the strings. Resulting effects fascinated Winterfolk festival director Brian Gladstone. “There is no question the crowd was mesmerized,” he said of a Liota show. “Liota’s music will hold your attention like it hasn’t been held in a long time.” His bent for the extraordinary comes from a career as a wandering minstrel of sorts. The graduate of York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, taught high school for a time then set sail for the road, never looking back.

On air

  • Lesley Wood, professor in York’s Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, was at a demonstration in Toronto against rising violence in Oaxaca, Mexico, and was interviewed on CBC Radio Nov. 3.