Ontario high-school grads adrift in math, says new study

One-third of Ontario high-school graduates are failing or struggling with math in their first term at community college, putting them at an “unacceptable risk” of dropping out, wrote the Toronto Star, Feb. 13, in a story about research done at the York-Seneca Institute for Mathematics, Science & Technology Education (YSIMSTE).

The study calls on both schools and families to realize college programs require solid math skills, especially in business and technology, said Graham Orpwood, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Education and one of the Institute’s lead researchers in the provincially funded research project.

“If you’ve taken applied math in Grade 9 and 10 and you’re starting to show interest in college technology programs, you’re going to have to crank up the math for the next two years and not just take the easiest (courses),” said Orpwood, whose study followed students who took math just before Queen’s Park revised the math curriculum. The researchers hope to see in the next few years whether those changes help students’ math grounding.

“Parents and students and teachers all need to realize that, truthfully, college courses are very challenging and shouldn’t be looked at as easy,” said fellow Institute researcher Margaret Sinclair, a professor in the science math & technology department of York’s Faculty of Education.

  • The College Mathematics Project, compiled by York University and Seneca College in Toronto, blames a lingering snobbery toward colleges, which a research team concluded is causing high schools to produce ill-prepared students who took wrong turns as early as Grade 9 by steering away from academic-stream math, wrote CanWest News Service Feb. 12.

From school to the workplace: It’s no easy leap

Len Karakowsky, a human resources professor in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, says there’s a growing disconnect between postsecondary education and the workforce, wrote Canwest News Service Feb. 13.

“While postsecondary education is clearly a requirement in today’s market, it no longer offers the same guarantees for job attainment that it once did,” he says. Moreover, the emphasis on “fit” with company values or culture and a concern for related job experience is growing, adds Karakowsky.

But with the first of the baby boomers on track to retire this year, it’s still a job-seeker’s market in most sectors, he adds. “This is perhaps the silver lining among the challenges faced by newcomers to the job market. The massive retirement of baby boomers will help open doors.”

And students should start the hard work of improving themselves long before they graduate, stresses Karakowsky. “Most students view their career as not starting until the day after they graduate or until the first day of work,” he says. “It’s much more productive for students to view their career as ‘in gear’ the moment they start their postsecondary education.”

Hundreds of TO cabbies making less than $3 an hour, new study finds

It’s not fare, wrote The Toronto Sun Feb. 13. Hundreds of cabbies across the city are pulling marathon workweeks for an average pay of just $2.83 an hour, according to a study to be unveiled in Toronto this morning.

Written by University of Toronto sociology Professor Sara Abraham, Ryerson politics Prof. Aparna Sundar and Dale Whitmore, a student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, it’s the first report in 10 years to zero in on what Abraham calls Toronto’s “dysfunctional” taxi industry. It’s possibly the first independent academic write-up ever to scrutinize the economic conditions endured by the city’s hacks.

  • Long hours, low pay, abusive customers and police harassment have long been familiar verses in the taxi driver’s lament, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 13. But these problems have grown worse despite regulatory changes that were supposed to improve things, the authors of a new report say.

“Drivers have become fragmented amongst themselves; they have become demoralized, insecure and bitter against the industry and city council,” wrote the three academics. “It is our firm belief that improving conditions for drivers is integrally related to, and can only have a positive impact on, the quality and viability of the taxicab industry, and the public interest more generally.”

Chocolate with a social justice twist

York alumnus Michael Sacco (MES ‘03) pauses mid-sentence to rummage through his pockets and produce a digital camera the size of a deck of cards, just to show a picture of the man who grew the cacao bean he is about to grind into drinking chocolate, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 13.

Don Marcelino stands next to a cacao tree, papaya-shaped pods jutting from the trunk and branches, in his yard in a village five hours from the capital of Oaxaca, where Sacco learned to make chocolate and where the idea for his company, ChocoSol, was born in 2003.

The Ah Cacao Real is a special bean, a hybrid between two varieties called trinitario and forastero. It is small and unfermented, which means it has a bitter note. It also has a very nutty taste. Not many chocolatiers would work with it, but Sacco, 32, is not your everyday chocolate maker.

He is an artisan, but wouldn’t call himself an artist. He doesn’t fuss over ganache and you won’t find a pastry bag in ChocoSol’s Cacao Loft, a kitchen that Sacco reclaimed on the fourth floor of St. Joseph House in downtown Toronto. “I’m more into the food and nutrition and social justice and ecology side of the business,” says Sacco, who has a master’s degree in environmental studies from York University.

Evidence obtained in illegal police search admissible, Ontario court rules

The Ontario Court of Appeal has approved the use of evidence obtained through flagrant police misconduct, saying any black eye caused to the justice system is outweighed by public interest in prosecuting a serious crime, wrote The Canadian Press Feb. 12.

Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said by assessing police conduct to see if charter violations stem from any systemic failings, the court has now “set the bar so high” that exclusion of tainted evidence “will be a rarity.”

“There’s no question that this court and other courts are losing interest in the whole enterprise of excluding evidence. There’s no question in my mind,” he said Tuesday. “What they’re doing is basically saying, ‘the trial judge discovered serious violations, but now we’re going to require a more serious violation,’” Young said.

Osgoode dean is ‘steaming mad’ over QuickLaw fee demand

Canada’s law schools are rebelling against a demand by QuickLaw that law students pay $50 each next fall, or an estimated $500,000 annually across Canada, for access to its digital repository of case law, statutes and other legal research, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 13. In a letter to QuickLaw, an association of Canadian law librarians estimated the charges would be devastating to annual library budgets.

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said he is steaming mad about the fee and will move to another digital service if QuickLaw doesn’t back down. He said the fee “violates the spirit of partnership of QuickLaw,” which was founded in 1973 by a Queen’s University law professor in collaboration with students and law Faculties. QuickLaw was purchased by US-based LexisNexis Canada in 2002.

Sharing experiences of violence against women

Denise Taylor doesn’t want you to call her a victim, wrote the North York Mirror Feb. 12. The York University women’s studies major suffered abuse, both physical and psychological, by her husband for years before seeking help.

Taylor plans to share her story of abuse through a class project focusing on violence against women. Noxolo Nkomo, one of several York students working on the project with Taylor, said her mother endured years of verbal and physical abuse by her father in Zimbabwe. “It’s sad because my sister is 17 now and she is violent and got kicked out of school,” Nkomo said.

Taylor’s group plans to organize violence-against-women workshops at York University and will visit at least one North York high school in the spring to talk about abuse, she said, adding a violence-against-women march will be held March 10 on York’s Keele campus, followed by a skit focusing on abuse.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic board hosts secondary black history conference

Dufferin-Peel Catholic schools have a long tradition of celebrating Black History Month with special events and activities held throughout the month of February, wrote the Caledon Enterprise Feb. 13. Among the events planned this year, is the fourth annual board-wide conference for secondary students, entitled “Teach One, Be One: The Strength of Today”, Feb. 28 at Sheridan College in Oakville.

The conference will include keynote speakers Carl James, professor of sociology in York’s Faculty of Education, and Kiki Ojo, diversity manager for the Children’s Aid Society of Peel.

Is private money ready to go nuclear?

Global makers of nuclear reactors are looking to add some high-octane fuel to the much-touted nuclear renaissance by tapping private capital pools to finance their multibillion-dollar projects, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 13.

But Mark Winfield, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, said private-sector players will only finance nuclear projects if they can shift the risk to the public. He said the power purchase agreements provide the developer with an assured market on an uncompetitive basis.

“Fundamentally, you are transferring the risk to the ratepayer,” he said. “You have to guarantee market and commit your electricity market to that technology. That’s different from any kind of a merchant notion.”

Local students learn the love of reading while learning to help others

Lambton Kingsway Junior Middle School teacher and York alumna Danjela Malobabic (BA ‘04) has instilled in her students the love of reading, wrote the Etobicoke Guardian Feb. 12. Her Grade 1/2 class read 100 books within a month for Scholastic Book Clubs’ philanthropy-based initiative, with some students reading as many as 10 books a night.

“I told them about the challenge and they finished reading 100 books in two weeks,” said Malobabic. “They were reading five books a night. One child…she read 10 books. They were so excited.”

The literacy campaign, called ClassroomsCare, is an initiative Malobabic had heard about while teaching overseas almost two years ago. She knew that when she came back to teach in Canada that it was a program she wanted to introduce to her students. “Anything to do with books, I’m on it,” she said. “It didn’t cost anything. We just had to read.”

Osgoode alumnus joins Parc Downsview Park board

Downsview Park welcomes local resident and York/Osgoode alumnus, Warren Rudick (LLB ’99), to its board of directors for three years, wrote the North York Mirror Feb. 12. Rudick is employed as legal counsel with Mackenzie Financial Corporation where he specializes in investment funds, while also leading a diversified practice that includes corporate law, employment law and charity law.

“I am delighted to welcome Mr. Rudick to the board and look forward to working with him as we continue to deliver on our mandate and build momentum for Downsview Park, said Tony Genco, president & CEO of Parc Downsview Park.