Rewriting Goldilocks

From the Gingerbread Man to the Little Red Hen, children are reinventing traditional narratives by injecting their own cultural and social experiences and identities, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 23. “Most of the resources kids get in schools are exclusive, like you pick up a book and you have nothing to do with it,” said Heather Lotherington, a York University education professor who works on the project with Joyce Public School. “But if you can create your own version and put your own spin on the characters, then you have authority in more ways than one.”

Exclusion through stereotypes exists in various ways, Lotherington said. “We are exploring ways of embodying multiculturalism in reading materials to beat the cultural stereotypes of Canadian,” she said. “This doesn’t always mean colouring the faces – it is far more serious than that. But kids shouldn’t think that Canadian means white Anglophone or Francophone. We have a multiculturalism policy – let’s see it in action.”

Started in 2002, the project – titled “Emergent Multiliteracies in Theories and Practice” – is a joint research collaboration between Lotherington and the school, overseeing students from kindergarten to Grade 4, said the Star. The results, program administrators have said, have been immense, with the school’s province-wide scores rising during the project’s duration.

In the end, Lotherington said, the children exceeded her expectations in how far they went in reinventing narratives – starting from simple things such as altering Goldilocks’ food of choice, porridge, into pizza, ice cream or pie. In one student version of the fairy tale, the three bears discover the little girl, “offer to feed her and walk her home, supervise her homework and then arrange for a sleepover for baby bear at her home. Is this not brilliant? Very contemporary read of an old story,” Lotherington said.

Vaughan – where the money flows

Five of the top 10 biggest-spending politicians in Greater Toronto in the 2003 elections, including four Toronto mayoralty candidates, were running for office in Vaughan, observed The Globe and Mail’s John Barber in his Nov. 23 column about a mayoralty vote recount. Incumbent Michael Di Biase spent $210,000, while regional councillors Joyce Frustaglio and Mario Ferri each spent $142,000 on their citywide campaigns. But even Bernie Di Vona, running in a single ward, spent $94,000.

A study of campaign financing by Robert MacDermid of York University showed that almost every nickel of that money came from land developers and associated interests, wrote Barber. But they don’t waste it: Winning candidates in Vaughan received an average of $138,000 from developers in 2003, according to MacDermid, while challengers received an average of $6,450 each. No wonder the losers are shouting at the recently re-elected marionettes and their latest tangled enterprise. It’s no joke to them.

Spend on infrastructure, advises economics prof

The Conservative government would be misguided by offering continued tax cuts at the expense of much-needed infrastructure renewal, Bernie Wolf, economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, told the Vaughan Citizen in a Nov. 23 story anticipating an announcement by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. “Generating long-term economic growth. That’s the route to go. They shouldn’t be overly myopic,” Wolf said. “Governments worry far too much about the time until the next election. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Former York dean appointed UOIT president

Ronald Bordessa has been formally installed as the new president of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 23. Bordessa is the second president of Ontario’s newest university, taking the helm from Gary Polonsky. The geographer spent more than 30 years at York University, heading the then Atkinson College, and more recently was vice-president academic at Royal Roads in Victoria, BC.

Money man garners praise for dedication

Paul Marcus is all smiles. And why not? asked the Vaughan Citizen Nov. 23. The stream of students and cars outside Marcus’s window on the York University campus are testimony to how, in its 50th year, the school is striding forward. Marcus, the founding president and chief executive officer of the York University Foundation, can also look past the window to his wall, upon which hangs a plaque commemorating one of the two awards he recently won. He was still riding high, having won the Outstanding Fundraising Professional Award from the Greater Toronto chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), when he found out that 27,000-member organization was awarding him its international equivalent as well. “When I received the phone call, it was very surprising,” he said. “It’s really very special, especially because it’s your peers.”

It is a modest admission from an energetic man who, at 45, has more to do despite what he has already achieved. The Thornhill resident was set to be a lawyer, but after a short time in the field, he realized the non-profit sector was where his heart truly lay. Soon he was working in that world, eventually serving as senior vice-president at the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation before taking the reigns of York’s enterprising effort five years ago. He was attracted by York’s innovative funding model, which is now being watched by many other educational institutions. Aside from a few schools in Quebec, Marcus said, York is virtually alone in Canada in having its own fundraising foundation. “We consider ourselves very much a forward-looking institution,” he says. “We’re very proud of our diversity and energy.”

Focus lens on missionary, says prof

George Leslie Mackay is a hero in Taiwan, and some Canadian academics would like this former Oxford County resident to gain a higher profile in his home country, reported the Stratford Beacon Herald Nov. 22. “He’s very big in Taiwan,” said Michael Stainton, a senior researcher with the York Centre for Asian Research and secretary of the Canadian Mackay Committee. “We’re trying to get him recognized in Canada.” Born in Zorra Township in 1844, Rev. George Leslie Mackay became a medical doctor and missionary who founded the first Western hospital in Northern Taiwan. Today, Mackay’s selflessness is commemorated in his adopted nation by both the Mackay Memorial Hospital and the Tamsui Oxford College.

Alliston cultural centre gets a boost from actors

As professional actors, Booth Savage and Janet-Laine Green have spent considerable time performing away from home. But even with a vocation that requires a lot of travel, the Tottenham residents haven’t forgotten the importance of contributing their time and talent at the local level, reported the Alliston Herald Nov.22. At a gathering at the Museum on the Boyne in Alliston Nov. 12, the couple performed a play reading as a fundraiser in support of a new theatre to be built in the Gibson Centre for Community Arts and Culture.

Since graduating in 1992 with a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from York University with a major in play writing, Savage has performed on almost every major stage in Canada as well as many in the United States and Europe. Savage was honoured with a Gemini award for his 1987 performance in the television drama, “The Last Season”.

York employee wins $100,000

Woodbridge’s Antonio Manza was in shock when he discovered his $100,000 Encore second-prize win from the Nov. 11 draw, reported the Vaughan Citizen Nov. 23. “It was hard to believe at first. I’m so thrilled with this win,” said the 46-year-old computing project manager at York University. He plans to pay off debts, pay down the mortgage, take a vacation and invest the rest.

Hanoi is a maze of hidden laneways

Hanoi is a city of secrets, wrote York librarian Mark Robertson, who spent part of his sabbatical last year as a librarian-in-residence at the Hanoi University for Foreign Studies, in a Globe and Mail Travelblog Nov. 22. It has its public face — its famous lakes, markets and pagodas, the quirky Old Quarter, its French colonial-era façades, embassies and Communist monuments — but after six months of living there, I came to see it as a city defined as much by its vast network of hidden laneways as by its boulevards and landmarks. One never knew what surprises lay hidden down the twisted laneways of the city.

On air

  • Daniel Drache, associate director of York’s Centre for Canadian Studies, was interviewed about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motion recognizing that Quebecers form a nation within Canada, on “Windsor Now” on CKLW Nov. 22.
  • Jennifer Mills, York psychology professor, discussed how women are pressured to look and feel young and to what lengths they go to look young and thin, on “Global News” Nov. 22.