Sunday, September 29, 2002

In Who Killed Canadian History? J.L. Granatstein discusses the death of Canadian political history. He certainly subscribes to E.H. Carr's "great man" theory of history: that Great Men make Great History, as discussed in Carr's What Is History?. But is Canadian history truly dead? Have the provincial education curriculums conspired to teach our children the history of a country fraught with social injustices--a history with no roots?

Such are the questions I'll be mulling over for the next few weeks. For my Canadian history class, I've decided to write my term paper by adding my voice to this messy debate. Now it's only a matter of figuring out where I actually sit...political history vs. social history.

Indigo is having a special feature called The World Needs More Canada in light of three Canadians being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Check out some neat books by authors like Robertson Davies, Stephen Leacock, Ann Marie MacDonald and Tomson Highway. The world definitely needs more Canada.
I've decided to add a comment system to this blog, despite the fact that (to the best of my knowledge) no one actually reads it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

"...[W]e were never able to make out, either to my own satisfaction or to yours, whether I am Whig or Tory or Radical. In politics I acknowledge but two parties--those who hope and those who fear. In morals, but two parties--those who lie and those who speak truth..."
     --Anna Brownell James


Kind of an interesting thought, especially for one who considers herself to have a fair ambiguous political affiliation. Anna Brownell James was an Englishwoman who came to Canada in the 1830s and spent a good deal of time rambling about the country by herself (sans maids, chaperones, etc.)--very unusual for a woman of the time. I think that this quote, to an extent, can be largely applied to Canada as a whole, in terms of politics. The Whigs are the Eastern provinces, geography making their need for government financial support and services very real; the Tories are the Prairies, politically and financially conservative as they come; the Radicals are much of Qu├ębec, desiring independence from the rest of Canada, wanting to be their own republic. Of course, politics and political organizations now don't quite have the same meaning as they did once upon a time. The politics of Canada are still quite neat, though. I've often thought political science would be a neat thing to study, but my doctor (just a GP) warned me off it when I was fifteen, and somehow in the course of university I ran out of electives.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

France vs. New France: Egalitarian Or Not?

Definitely something worth pondering--certainly these are two very different worlds.

By the way, who killed Canadian history?

Sunday, September 22, 2002

I am sad to report that my current classes have not engendered much in the way of fodder for this blog, but it is only the third week of the term, so there is still time.

In reading excertps of the Jesuit relations relating to the Ste. Marie time period, many people in my Canadian Lit class commented on the use of the word 'savage' to describe the Huron people. I find this interesting, because obviously the word 'savage' has many negative connotations, but at the same time I can't help but feel that this is a meaning that has been placed on it by us as English readers and writers. In the original French, the word used is 'sauvage', which translates to something more along the lines of 'wild' or 'uncivilized' than 'savage'. Within the context, I would say that this is understandable--the Huron way of life would be completely incomprehensible to the French, and it would seem uncivilized. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the French thought they were savages.

I am, of course, splitting hairs.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Interesting thought on high school education: What impact has the gradual phasing out of programs like home economics (aka family studies) and shop (design and technology) had on the students leaving the school system? My mother and I had a rather large discussion about such things a few weeks ago, apropos of something the CBC was talking about. She maintains that home ec teaches valuable life skills that, while they are not necessarily so appealing on an academic level, are certainly essential in terms of the actual living of life. When she was my age, she could--and did--make her own clothes, make her own pastry, cook five course meals, mend socks, balancing budgets and other such "homemaker"-esque things. Now, my hand sewing and needlework skils are adequate, I like to think my cooking is above that, but sewing machines frighten me and my math skills began to atrophy as soon as I stopped using them. Certainly, however, I am an exception, as my cooking and sewing skills stem from personal interest in such things (and a lot of reading books set in time periods where girls were expected to do these things).

So to counter my mother's argument that such things were valuable life skills that my generation was lacking, I maintain that if such a school program were to be brought back, it would make sense to implement another program that would teach other valuable life skills, like changing flat tires on a car and changing fuses (both of which are things I wish I knew how to do).

Of course, as we move closer and closer to cutting all the extra 'fat' out of our curriculum, it is unlikely that either of these programs would even see the light of day...and students wouldnt' be much interested in them, besides. But, still, food for thought.

Friday, September 13, 2002

I'm not really sure where this should fit in here (if it does fit in at all) but since it is an academic issue I will be ocntending with this year it may as well be included. I have just returned from my sociology class, where I discovered that we are going to be marked on a bell curve.

The bell curve is, in essence, one of the stupidest ideas known to mankind. The idea of having a pre-arranged grading scheme where you have to 'slot people in' just boggles my mind. My school is a newer school--we're actually celebrating the tenth anniversary of our charter this year--and has been under fire from many sources (most notably MacLean's Magazine) to become a 'real' school. Because of its newness, it is a relatively easy school to get into: the cutoff for most arts and science programs is usually about 65% or lower, and Nipissing as a name does not quite carry the same prestige as, say, Queen's, University of Toronto or McGill. I maintain that the education I am receiving here is certainly comparable to what I might have received elsewhere (I was accepted by Queen's, York and the University of Manitoba as well) and that the name on my degree does not necessarily indicate the quality of my education. However, the administration of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has decided that lowering marks (bell curving being part of this) will increase the competitive edge of our school--that if fewer people are receiving high marks (80% and above), it obviously means that the school is a tough one, that people are 'earning' the marks that they get.

As you can probably tell, I disagree with this practice. It was instituted midway through the last scholastic year, and as far as I can tell, I didn't really suffer too much from it, as I still came out with an 83.33% average overall. But I still have a fundamental problem with a system that operates like this--none of my marks in that class will in any way represent my actual abilities: they will represent what someone in an office thought the abilities of our class should be: "yeah, Sociology for educators...well, it's a required class for Orientation to Teaching, so we shuld give it a higher bell curve...let's try for 77%"

Grr.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

I have nothing of real academic note to include here today, in so much that I have Thursdays off (ah, the joys of being an arts student), but I did do some leafing ahead in my course books (photocopied collections of shorter works [plays, poetry, short stories] that we will be studying that are collated so we don't have to buy vast amounts of books) and I read Angela Carter's Black Venus, which was interesting. We read Baudelaire's "Sed non satiata" earlier in the week and it prompted me to change my ICQ name to 'Vixen Libertine' (though from what I can tell, our translation of the poem was pretty much shite). Angela Carter is a pretty neat writer. I can't say that I much like her, or the way she writes, so much, or even her feminist ideals for that matter, but she is an interesting writer nonetheless. The Company of Wolves was a text studied in my ENGL1105 class and also a not-so-good movie, but her deconstructionism is good, I think.

I spent $304.51 on books yesterday, for three out of my five classes, and not even all of the books for these classes were available. I still need The Importance of Being Earnest and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, plus all the books for my 18th century class and for Sociology of Education. I know I have Handmaid somewhere at home, it's just a question of being able to find it. It's more or less my favourite book of all time, as weird as that might sound. I've studied it three times at school already (grades eleven, twelve, and thirteen) in varying degrees of depth, and I've read it about once a year since I was fifteen. But it's always good to take a new (and hopefully more academic look) at an old favourite.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

And so it begins, once again. School is back in session. As I enter my third year, I have--as always--high hopes and aspirations for the coming year. This will be the year where I finally stop writing all my assignments the night before they're due. This will be the year that I start writing good poetry again. This will be the year that I will eat properly. This will be the year where I actually realize what potential I have.

I figure it's good to have hopes like that, even if they all come to naught.
welcome to academia nuts!