Many learn in other ways

The starting point for Chuck Hopkins, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, is simple: Many people learn best in ways that don’t involve reading, wrote the Toronto Star May 17, in a story about research into how the brain learns and Hopkins’ work as UNESCO Chair at York. Yet schools and universities teach primarily through the written word – and this leaves a lot of bright young minds in the lurch.

“We need to rethink what global sustainability means,” Hopkins says. The world can’t afford to shunt hundreds of millions of people into occupations below their capacities. “A global glut of unskilled labour is not sustainable. We have to change education systems.”

Hopkins is charged by the UN with “reorienting teacher education to address sustainability.” He points out that there are 60 million teachers worldwide. So far, 70 institutions around the globe have been working with him to develop local plans for training teachers.

For him, it’s a race against time. “We have these huge masses of people who need education,” and conventional teaching systems won’t work for a lot of them. “We’ll have massive unemployment, a total waste of human beings” if our approach to learning doesn’t diversify, he says.

Candy shop founder will represent Canada at Global Entrepreneur Awards

It is a sweet victory for Canadian entrepreneur Joseph Moncada, who last week was named national champion of the 2008 Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship student entrepreneur competition, wrote the National Post May 20. Since Moncada founded Sweet Tooth Candy Emporium two years ago, the business has grown to include three locations in Ontario, employ 25 people, and sell rare and imported sweets and chocolates.

His venture was selected by a panel of more than 30 executives, out of a group of full-time students from across the country who have started and run a business. Moncada is a fourth-year student at York University’s Schulich School of Business, enrolled in the International BBA Program. For his win, Moncada receives $10,000 and will represent Canada at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Chicago this fall.

Grads get invaluable advice

You’d think a self-made billionaire like York benefactor Seymour Schulich would have some good advice about getting rich. And he does, wrote the London Free Press May 17. After receiving an honorary degree yesterday during convocation for the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry – which was named for the Montreal native after he donated $26 million to the school in 2004 – it didn’t sound like money was his answer to the question of happiness.

So what’s his solution to satisfaction? “It’s all about trying to make a difference,” he said. “That’s my mantra. It doesn’t matter 100 years from now what car you drove, what house you lived in, what clothes you wore. But the world may be different if you help some young people. “And that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Of course, when Schulich says “help,” he’s not talking about a pat on the back and 20 bucks for gas. The 68-year-old entrepreneur – who made most of his money in stock brokerage, investment counselling and mining – has donated more than $220 million (no, that’s not a misprint) to a variety of schools including York, UWO, McGill University and the universities of Calgary, Toronto and Nevada.

Author shares story of couple who escaped slavery

A vivid historic tale of slavery, freedom, love and history will come to life in Belleville Tuesday (May 20) evening, wrote the Belleville Intelligencer May 17. York lecturer, Karolyn Smardz Frost will speak at the Hastings County Historical Society monthly meeting. As always, everyone is welcome to attend. Frost is the author of I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad.

“I spent seven years doing a PhD so I could write this book,” Frost said, recalling earning a doctorate in African-Canadian history. She studied race, slavery and imperialism to ensure she didn’t make any critical errors in the text.

It worked: Glory Land was awarded the 2007 Governor-General’s Award for Non-Fiction and Frost continues to give speeches about the book and its principle subjects, Thornton and Lucie Blackburn. She’s now teaching part-time as a contract faculty member in York’s Atkinson School of Arts & Letters and working on her second book, "Steal Away Home".

The Jesus puzzle

There’s a bestselling book in stores that’s crammed full of puzzles – and they’re not those brain-teasing Sudokus, wrote the Waterloo Region Record May 17. The historical and theological puzzles in this longtime bestseller – the Bible – are what prompted Barrie Wilson to write his own book.

Wilson, professor emeritus in the Religious Studies Program in York’s Atkinson School of Arts & Letters and Atkinson’s Religious Studies Program, who was raised an Anglican and converted to Conservative Judaism about five years ago, spoke earlier this month to about 60 people at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo.

In his book, How Jesus Became Christian, Wilson said, he ponders three Biblical mysteries: how Jesus evolved into the Christ of Christianity, what was the relationship between Jesus and Paul, the most famous Christian evangelist, and how the closest followers of Jesus – Torah-observant Jews who lived in Jerusalem – came to be separated from Judaism.

Wilson concedes he’s going against the grain of the current scholarly trend. “It’s a minority view,” he said. “There’s also an undercurrent of scholarship on Paul that sees him as having abandoned Judaism,” he added. Wilson acknowledges that not everyone will agree with his solutions to some of history’s mysteries. “Even if people disagree with how I’ve done it, we’re still left with the puzzles,” he said.

Editorial cites Osgoode professor’s views on dysfunctional democracy

Allan Hutchinson, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who sees Canadian democracy as seriously dysfunctional, has observed: Redirecting our undemocratic trends won’t happen through increased interventions by judges in the micromanagement of governmental policies, wrote the Cape Breton Post May 17 in an editorial. The replacement of one elite rule (executive) by another (judicial) can only be considered positive under the most warped sense of democracy, said Hutchinson.

Pistol competitor has trigger-happiness in her sights

York alumna Lien Chao (MA ’86, PhD ’96) arrived in Canada in 1984 with $35 in her pocket and a desperate hope for some kind of equality, wrote the Toronto Star May 18 in a feature story.

She’d risked everything for a passport out of China, leaving her 9-year-old daughter Avianna behind at first, as she became one of the first self-sponsored students from her country to arrive here. With help from the visiting professor whose readings mesmerized her, she got a scholarship to study Canadian literature at York University.

Flash forward a quarter-century – to the unthinkable. Lien Chao is going back to China this summer to watch her daughter Avianna, now 33, compete for Canada as an Olympic pistol shooter. Avianna picked up a gun only seven years ago, following her boyfriend into the sport, and now she’s an Olympian.

As Lien Chao quickly points out, the storyline could never have unfolded in China, where athletes are selected in childhood and groomed on a daily basis to become champions. “It’s amazing, a miracle if you say; it’s a wonderful miracle, but it could only happen in Canada,” said Lien Chao.

Union boss sparks SCOC ruling on fired workers

The law always has allowed employers to force dismissed employees back on the job to work out their notice period to mitigate damages but it’s a provision that rarely has been used, wrote CanWest News Service May 18, quoting Toronto lawyer Howard Levitt, in a story about a court decision in the case of former Teamsters employee Don Evans.

Sara Slinn, an employment law specialist in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the ruling recasts the legal landscape to make it more employer-oriented, in part because it takes less into consideration how the work environment would affect an employee ordered to return to work. Slinn said it was “astonishing” that the Supreme Court thought it wouldn’t be acrimonious for Evans to return to work.

A return to tolerance

In the words of philosopher Daniel Marc Weinstock, Canadian multiculturalism is “a remarkable success” for having “woven a highly diverse population, drawn from the four corners of the planet, into a peaceful, prosperous and remarkable cohesive society,” wrote the Ottawa Citizen May 19.

Two Muslim scholars, Haideh Moghissi, professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, and Shahrzad Mojab, from the University of Toronto, are Iranian-born academics who echo this view. In a recently published and online essay, they argue that too many people in the West bow to the demands of the “rigid totalitarian ultra-conservative Islam” in the name of “respecting their cultural heritage.” This, they say, “is to give up on principles of citizens’ equality before the law and the hard-won norms of women’s rights. Still worse, tip-toeing around the harmful cultural practices as some left and feminists are doing is tolerating for Others what is intolerable to ‘us’.”

The two academics denounce those who allow their vaunted tolerance to promote intolerance. “The fact is that in Canada we are facing a very serious and growing problem of the rise of religious zealotry. Canadian multiculturalism, failing to combat racism and Muslim-phobia, is gradually moving towards adopting faith-based multiculturalism, allowing the formation of cultural ghettoes immune from social and legal scrutiny against violations of human rights.”

Moncton drivers are the worst in Canada, says York grad

Over the weekend of May 10 I had the privilege of hosting a young lady and her Percheron/Hackey cross mare as they make their way across Canada, wrote Nancy MacConnell Bourque in a letter to Moncton’s Times & Transcript May 20. Kimber Sider (BA ‘06) is a recent graduate of York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts with majors in film & theatre and she is attempting to duplicate a ride made in 1949. She is hoping to prove that hospitality is alive and well in Canada and she will be producing a documentary film when her ride is concluded.

Every Moncton driver needs to go on her Web site and read what she has written in her blog about her experience attempting to get past Moncton. She was tailgated by 18-wheelers who blew their horns at her, crowded off the road and eventually pushed into a ditch. These people deliberately frightened her horse because they couldn’t allow her a few minutes to cross an overpass. Her horse is very steady and dependable and would have had no trouble negotiating any obstacle with a little patience from the drivers. She has mentioned that Moncton drivers are known as the worst in the country.

Clean speech a cozy cloak for dirty eco business

In 2008, some 20 years into real public environmental awareness, everybody wants to be green, wrapped tightly in ecological correctness, wrote the Toronto Star May 17. Sometimes claims are justified but, when pretense is suspected, it’s called greenwashing. Mark Winfield, a York University environmental studies professor, says there’s no easy way to spot it: “You’ve got to take every company case by case. Has there been a change in behaviour, or is it just PR strategy? You’ve got to look behind the green tinsel.”

Today’s search for tomorrow’s teachers

A study of Toronto’s teachers shows only about 23 per cent are from visible minorities – yet seven in 10 high-school students are not white, wrote the Toronto Star May 19. The Toronto District School Board, like many across the GTA, has said it wants to shrink that gap as one way to engage disaffected students. If it votes to open an Africentric alternative school, it would seek to hire a number of black teachers as role models.

Educators agree there aren’t enough teachers of colour, and it’s not that Faculties of education across Ontario aren’t wooing visible minorities. York University’s Faculty of Education gives extra consideration to applicants who identify themselves as visible minorities and runs active outreach programs in the nearby Jane-Finch neighbourhood. It also runs an urban diversity program for which half the students must be visible minorities.

Yet of the 1,000 teachers York graduates each year, a little more than one in five are a visible minority.

Judicial opposites on personal freedom

On April 25, 2008, two of Canada’s highest courts issued decisions reflecting a profound difference in attitudes toward freedom and privacy, wrote James Morton, adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, for the Toronto Star May 20.

The Supreme Court of Canada managed to stir up a hornet’s nest of criticism in two separate but related findings, both involving police use of sniffer dogs…. The two rulings concluded that both a spot search in a Sarnia high school and another at a Calgary bus terminal were “unreasonably undertaken because there was no proper justification.”

The court spoke of the common law as “a law of liberty.” Without specific cause, a sniffer dog ought not to be used to hunt for drugs at bus stations or schools.

At the core of the two decisions was the court’s view that even while committing serious crimes, individuals were entitled to privacy, and that their privacy was entitled to legal protection. It was unconvinced by the argument, “if you’ve got nothing to hide, why are you troubled by a sniffer dog?”

On the same day, by chance, the Ontario Court of Appeal took quite a different stance on the right to privacy, upholding provisions of the Ontario Sex Offender Registry (“Christopher’s Law”) that require sex offenders to register their addresses with police and provide a current photograph. The Ontario court’s support for the provincial legislation was hardly surprising, yet its implicit rejection of the federal court’s “law of liberty” rhetoric stood out, especially given the timing.

Police seek help after York assault

A second woman has been sexually assaulted at a York University bus loop by a middle-aged man, wrote The Toronto Sun May 18.

Toronto police said the man last struck at 8:40pm Thursday on the south side of the Harry W. Arthurs Common area. The woman, who is a student at York’s Keele campus, was waiting for a bus at the time, police said. The victim fled and the attacker also ran away, police said. In a previous attack on March 16, a man with a similar description sexually assaulted another woman in the same area. Police said the victim wasn’t hurt and the suspect fled the scene.

The groper is described as being male South Asian, between 40 and 50 years old. He spoke with a heavy accent and is about 5-foot-10 with a medium build.

The University’s security service had stepped up its patrols after the March incident and has launched a security audit and spent about $3 million more on security measures since last September.

  • Police are asking the public for help investigating an assault on a woman at York University Thursday evening, wrote the Toronto Star May 20. The assault occurred on the south side of Harry Arthurs Common. Anyone with information is asked to call 416-808-2222.

On air

  • Jim Whiteway, professor in York’s Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering, spoke about the Mars Phoenix project on CBC Radio’s “As it Happens” May 16. His colleague, Prof. Peter Taylor, also spoke about the project on CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” May 17.