Teachers’ resentment is understandable, says York’s education dean

A new poll shows elementary teachers feel they have poorer working conditions, less communication with their principals, worse relations with parents, fuzzier responsibilities and a weaker sense of community than high school teachers, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 1.

“One of the big differences may be that it’s harder for elementary teachers to feel like professionals when they can’t even take a bathroom break because the children they supervise are so young,” muses Alice Pitt, dean of York University’s Faculty of Education. “There’s much less privacy, much less independence and…that can translate into huge resentment.”

Still today, if you want to teach high school, you’ll need a four-year degree to get into York’s Faculty of Education because you have to be a specialist in at least two subjects, while elementary applicants need only a three-year degree. This is just because high school teachers need a deeper knowledge of their subject of specialty, notes Pitt.

“An elementary teacher in some ways has to be a Renaissance person, able to teach a range of subjects in the integrated way, the way the young learner thinks – not fragmented into distinct subjects,” says Pitt.

Province’s bike helmet laws saving six lives per year

Ontario’s bike helmet law for people younger than 18 helps save one life every two months, an analysis of cycling deaths that occurred before and since the bill was enacted suggests, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Sept. 2. An injury prevention expert at York University said the findings refute a claim made by opponents of mandatory bike helmet laws, who argue that helmets don’t prevent deaths due to cycling injuries.

Alison Macpherson, a professor in York’s Faculty of Health who was not involved in this research, insisted that even though the overall effect isn’t massive, it is significant. “You know, it’s not huge,” she said of the number of children whose lives were saved. “But if one of them was yours, it would be a huge difference to you. Every death that you can prevent is worth it for the parents, for the family and for society.”

Universities are supporting (or tolerating) unofficial info blogs

At York University’s YUBlog, Hana provides a detailed map of how to get around campus “without ever having to go outside,” wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 2 in a story about student-written campus information blogs that receive support or are tolerated by university administrations. Hana apparently spends a lot of time in the underground tunnels and has invented a fictional character, Jebediah, who lives in York’s basement.

Windsor revs up offence to spoil York coach’s debut

York University Lions head football coach Mike McLean might be missing his old job back East already, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 2 in a story about the York Lions opening day loss to the Windsor Lancers.

McLean served as the defensive coordinator of the Saint Mary’s Huskies for the past two seasons. He didn’t see too many days like this in Halifax, wrote the Globe.

The Lancers (1-0) scored at will against a porous York defence, building a 25-0 lead at the half. The Lancers defence did the rest, holding York starting quarterback Bart Zemanek to 23 yards on three of 13 pass attempts. Zemanek also threw an interception.

Jason Marshall was the lone bright spot for the Lions, rushing for 164 yards – including a 40-yard touchdown run that ended Windsor’s shutout bid with 1 minute 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Spare a thought for temp workers on Labour Day

It was no laughing matter the next time my boss came for me, wrote Georgina Hunter in The Ottawa Citizen Sept. 1. She led me to a meeting room to tell me to clear my desk and go home. A permanent employee was hired and would begin tomorrow. What happened to the two-weeks notice that my boss agreed to? Clearly, her verbal promise meant nothing; the federal government Public Works department standing offer stipulates that temp workers can be terminated without warning or compensation. Legal? Yes. Humane? No.

My recruiter told me this workplace has a reputation for terminating temp workers without notice and not to take it personally. I felt vulnerable and shaken.

With some political will, the Public Works standing offer could be reworded to give notice. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Harry Arthurs produced “Fairness at Work: Labour Standards in the 21st Century” in 2006 and advocated for vulnerable workers, many of whom are women, newcomers and visible minorities.

Live well by plotting out your future

One woman’s retirement plan is a textbook example of how finance professor Moshe Milevsky of York University’s Schulich School of Business would advise all of us to plot our futures, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 30.

In a world where folks are living longer, where prices keep rising, investment returns vary and company pensions are getting rarer, he argues we need our own tailored mix of income sources. “As we get closer to retirement, I believe that asset allocation (the choice between bonds and the stocks of large, small, foreign and domestic companies) takes on a more limited role,” the brilliant mathematician writes in his latest book Are You a Stock or a Bond?

Milevsky’s book, scheduled out next month, is a tour de force in the relatively simple way it discusses stock market fluctuations, inflation protection and the odds of death and a long life.

He thanks wife Edna, “who carefully reviewed the manuscript to make sure I was speaking English at all times” and notes his mother made it to chapter 10, when his unfamiliar acronyms and comparison grids get rather technical. She read enough to buy an annuity.

His theory and methodology for matching income sources with a person’s unique risk profile could turn into a business venture. He and colleagues at the Fields Institute For Research In Mathematical Sciences have formed the QWeMa Group, which will license to financial institutions the software to calculate allocations of income products.

Company’s problems hard to digest

Analysts and brand experts say it may take Maple Leaf Foods Inc. much longer to reach its goal of transforming the company into a producer of high-profit prepared sandwiches and ready-to-eat meals in three years, in the wake of the listeria crisis, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 30. “There will be a three-month period where industry sales will be soft,” said Allan Middleton, a marketing professor with York University’s Schulich School of Business. “After that it will move up. It may not fully recover.”

For now, Maple Leaf remains focused on the outbreak, rather than the bottom line. Like other observers, Middleton says Maple Leaf is doing a good job of handling the crisis by openly discussing what steps they’re taking to figure out what happened and ensure precautions are taken to avoid further ailments, while taking full responsibility for the outbreak. “What we’ve got here is a guy who stood up and said, ‘As far as I know, we’re accountable’,” Middleton said of McCain’s statements on the issue.

Students living on their own for the first time learn many life lessons

Most of us learned to dispose of our trash at the same age we learned to tie our shoes and make our beds, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 30, in a story about life on campus for new students. Just in case that didn’t occur, York University has life skills built into the orientation for freshmen who are living in residence. The students get a handbook covering personal safety and security, interacting with roommates and conflict resolution. There’s a section on cleaning and recycling, too.

Osgoode prof calls Hargrove savvy and sophisticated

Buzz Hargrove is on the eve of marking his last Labour Day as Canada’s best-known union leader, president for the past 16 years of the 265,000-member Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 30.

While other academics accuse him of costing the country thousands of manufacturing jobs by keeping wages too high, Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Sara Slinn, a specialist in labour law and industrial relations, calls Hargrove savvy and sophisticated, saying he has played a positive and influential role in the economy, working side by side with industry to strengthen sectors where CAW represents employees.

After the holiday, I’ll be sharpening my portfolio pencil

One big proponent of seasonal switching is Perry Sadorsky, an economics professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 30 in an article on changing investments with the seasons. He says that getting out of the market by the beginning of May and returning in late fall means avoiding the market’s summer doldrums (when people go on vacation and trading activity slows) and the “plain bad luck” that characterizes the S&P/TSX composite index in September and October (“rough months,” he says, “that have a disproportionately high number of bad events.”) Sadorsky returns to the stock market in early November for the relative stability of the winter and spring months.

It is a pretty passive, conservative approach to investing but, strangely, it also seems like one that I think would require a lot of discipline. I don’t know if I could keep out of the market if, say, it tumbled in September and prices were enticingly low. But Sadorsky is adamant that no wavering is allowed: “You don’t deviate. You’ve made a conscious decision” to stay out until November. The rewards of such discipline, according to Sadorsky, are remarkable results.

There are plenty of real health stories

The Star is to be commended for its editorial and for allowing Dr. Ronald Labonte to comment, “Soaring social inequality makes too many people sick,” on the World Health Organization’s final report from the International Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, wrote Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, in a letter to the Toronto Star Sept. 1.

Sadly, this story was not reported by the Star’s health reporters although they were informed of its upcoming release days before the event. This neglect is consistent with Star reporting of every single article that trumpets another medical breakthrough (usually in mice) and obsessive coverage of issues such as weight, exercise and tobacco and alcohol consumption, which are rather less important to Canadians’ health than their living conditions. When will the Star begin to report the real health stories that are out there?

Jane Street transit plan draws mixed reaction

Hammering out design details for the Jane Street Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, such as whether a portion of the line will head underground, will be decided during the Environmental Assessment (EA) process, wrote InsideToronto online news Aug. 29. The city held its first of two public open houses Tuesday, Aug. 26 on the proposed Jane Street LRT, which would run along Jane Street from Bloor Street to Steeles Avenue, turning east to the future Steeles Avenue West subway station at York University.

Former York football coach lands in Victoria

The Victoria Rebels introduced Tom Denison as possibly being their best acquisition in the off-season, wrote Victoria’s Times Colonist Aug. 30. But Denison isn’t a player, at least not any more. He’s a quarterback and receivers coach, and an assistant offensive coordinator that brings a boatload of experience to a Rebels squad filled with inexperience.

Turning pro, Denison had stints in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts, and even took reps in the Arena Football League in the United States. In the meantime, his coaching resumé includes 2 1/2 years at York University, as well as seasons with Ontario high school and varsity leagues.

Change agent reaches rare heights as female CEO

Today, Carolyn McGill-Davidson (MBA ‘88) assumes a role rarely occupied by women in Canada – she becomes a CEO, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 1. Her company, CNW Group Ltd., is not large but it is a key news dissemination channel in Canada that distributes press releases to the media and other users. McGill-Davidson, 45, is running an organization where there is a culture of female leadership.

Osgoode alums have an athletic family

Athletic smarts run in the family, wrote The Waterloo Region Record Sept. 2 in a story about hockey player Jeff Skinner and his brother Ben. The two Skinners have four sisters. Andrea and Jennifer, the twins, just finished playing college hockey at Cornell and Harvard respectively. Erica plays for Carleton. Their parents, Andy Skinner (LLB ’77) and Elizabeth (Campin) Skinner (LLB ’78), met playing basketball while attending York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.