Does Canada Have a Systemic Racism Problem?

A commentary on systemic racism

The Beaverton, a weekly satirical Canadian news show, recently had the headline: Country [Canada] responsible for the Indian Act, Chinese Head Tax, Komagata Maru, Africville, “None Is Too Many,” Japanese Internment Camps, Sixties Scoop, Residential Schools, Oka Crisis, and MMIWG declares itself not racist. This headline is based on prominent Canadians such as Stockwell Day, Doug Ford and Rex Murphy claiming that Canada is not racist. Stockwell Day is a former Conservative politician, a person I met with when he was a member of Alberta’s Legislature. Doug Ford is presently premier of Ontario, and Rex Murphy is a Canadian commentator and author.

These three prominent Canadians have all argued that Canada is not a racist country. Mr. Day resigned from several roles, such as a Telus board member, after being called out when he denied the existence of systemic racism in Canada on CBC’s “Power Play.” Here is a link to his comments (see Power Play).  Doug Ford drew strong criticism when he claimed that Canada doesn’t have the same “systemic, deep roots” of racism that the United States has. (see Doug Ford’s comments on racism ignore history of black trauma in Canada).  The National Post’s article; Rex Murphy: Canada is not a racist country, despite what the Liberals say, has the commentary by Mr. Murphy where he says:

“…Canada is a mature, welcoming, open-minded and generous country. It would be helpful if these Liberals kept the full story of this country in mind when discussing racism, and not leap so reflexively to grim characterizations of a country that, while not perfect, has been doing its best to be tolerant and welcoming.”

Canadians are watching the events of our southern neighbour and comparing them to Canada.  I (#blogger, #blog, #YA, #authors, #somseason) taught Social Studies for many years and I taught about the Indian Act, Chinese Head Tax, Africville, “None Is Too Many,” Japanese Internment Camps, Sixties Scoop, Residential Schools, Komagata Maru, the Oka Massacre, and MMIWG. I’ve provided links should you be interested in learning more about these Canadian events.  Most of us Canadians like to see ourselves as “mature, welcoming, open-minded and generous,” but the truth is, our history reveals that Canada’s past is filled with racial bullying (#bullying, #antibullying). The Beaverton’s list proves that. Systemic racism is just as much a Canadian problem as it is a USA problem, and likely a worldwide problem.  Systemic racism is all of the policies and practices entrenched in society that harm certain racial groups and benefit others. Canadian history books rarely, if ever, talk about the systemic racism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The problem is, most people read a history book thinking it is fact. My students did until I taught them that history is an interpretation of the past, so it is not necessarily factual. Here is a social studies lesson.

What do I mean by past? It refers to primary documents; records created in the past that have survived into the present. Historians use a wide variety of written records, from personal diaries to statistical records kept by government departments, as the basis for their historical investigations. Historians even use non-document records, including photographs, moving pictures, the spoken word, architectural plans, or botanical (plant) inventories to find clues about how people lived in the past. All of these primary documents are the “raw materials” that historians work with as they attempt to figure out what happened in the past.

So, what is history? History is a story or tale of what has happened, or may have happened, in the past. Historical interpretation is the process by which we describe, analyze, evaluate, and create an explanation of past events. History involves debate, discussion, and conversation. Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in 1957, ‘history that is not controversial is dead history’.

The Magazine, History Today, has an article titled, A Question of Interpretation, that says:

“Yet the truth is, if you take a group of historians working on the same problem, writing at different times and in different places – even if they all use their evidence in a scrupulous, honest, critical and informed way – the conclusions they reach may differ.”

The reality is, a historian’s belief system, values, biases, prejudices, and experiences, all influence how a historian interprets the past. Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, wrote “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” There is truth in that statement.

With my students, I always gave a concrete example, so let’s use 9/11, the alleged terrorist attack on the US.  I say alleged because there are many who question if we have been told the full truth. For example, Reader’s Digest has an article, 12 Questions People Still Have About 9/11, with questions that have not been given convincing answers. The Foreign Policy Journal’s article, 9/11: Finally the Truth Comes Out? Says;

Every informed person is aware that elements of the US government were involved either in the perpetration or a coverup of the 9/11 attacks

I certainly have questions about 9/11. The article, 737 Passenger Plane Possibly Struck and Damaged by Drone on Landing, shows damage done to a plane by a drone. This video shows a plane going through a twin tower.

My question is: How is that possible, when a drone can do that much damage to a 737 and when jet airplanes are made of light materials, like aluminum, can go through a tower designed to withstand the impact of a commercial jet airplane? My point is, the past (9/11 event) is open to interpretation. Anyway, enough about 9/11 questions. I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist.

Returning to 9/11 as an example of historical interpretation. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, George W. Bush, president of the U.S. at the time, said; “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.”  Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attack, said; “America has been hit by Allah at its most vulnerable point, destroying, thank God, its most prestigious buildings.”  Same past event, but two very different interpretations.

Does Canada have a systemic racism problem? Based on our past, I would say yes. We have legislative documents to prove it. In last week’s post, I mentioned a meme I saw that defined White Privilege as, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t personally affected.” Perhaps those with white privilege, and those who aren’t personally affected, choose to see our nation the way they want to. They choose to deny that racial bullying exists in this country. It is time to wake up and take a closer look at our country folks! We’re not as innocent as we like to think.

An Opportunity, Or Back to the Same?

A commentary about Covid

Sonya Renee Taylor is an author, poet, spoken word artist, speaker, educator, humanitarian and social justice activist. I  (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) recently saw a quote by her which said:

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-Corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”

Ms. Taylor reflects my sentiments exactly! From the very start of this pandemic, I’ve always believed that this was some sort of awakening that the Universe, God, Yahweh, Allah, Creator, or some greater power is causing; awakening and nudging us to work together instead of against each other; awakening us to  the “greed, inequity, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” that is widespread on our planet, and making us aware of human abuse of the planet. Also, awakening us to racism, bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), misogyny, and tribalism in the form of toxic partisanism. Partisanism is extreme loyalty to members of one’s own party, faction, sect, or cause; typically, a political ideology. I continue to believe this pandemic is a wakeup call for the human family. I have always thought that this pandemic is an opportunity to create a better world. However, if I am honest, sometimes I get discouraged and confused; questioning if that is true.

I read a Global News report titled, ‘It’s up to all of us’: B.C. woman speaks out after intervening in racist incident, which reported on a woman who was in the line at a Home Hardware store and witnessed a person yelling at another man in the line who happened to be Chinese, telling him to move away from her, to move back to Wuhan, and that he was going to get her sick.  Time has an article titled, As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Xenophobia and Anti-Asian Racism, explaining the problem of racial bullying during this pandemic. Many articles, besides the two I’ve sited, make this claim.

When I hear reports of racial bullying towards Asian people because the pandemic happened to start in China, I have doubts if what the world is experiencing really is teaching us; if it really will create a better world. Why you ask? Because people don’t seem to be changing, but then I remind myself that the world didn’t get this way overnight. Change will take time.

Something that caused turmoil and confusion for me was a video I watched showing an Italian leader slamming ‘False COVID-19 Numbers,’ claiming 25000 did not die, and what is really happening was an attempt for some to impose a dictatorship. This made me question what is really going on. You watch it and you be the judge. Here is the video:

This Italian leader says 96.3% of deaths listed as COVID deaths were deaths caused by something other than coronavirus.

Now, I don’t wish to be a perpetrator of conspiracy theories, and that is not my intent with this post, but the video did make me question if what we’re being told by the media and by our governments is accurate. Are we being misled? Are we being told the truth? Is something sinister going on? I don’t know the answer, but when I research about COVID deaths, and how the statistics are reported, my Spidey senses go off. If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, it’s from the fictional character Spider-Man, nicknamed Spidey, who has an ability to sense danger before it can be perceived by other senses. Are conspiracy theories true? Certainly most are not, but Readers Digest lists theories that turned out to be true in their article, 12 Conspiracy Theories that Actually Turned Out to be True.

I have read a lot of articles, and watched videos of health professionals, questioning what is really going on. Some of these have been health care workers questioning the statistics of COVID-19. Many have argued that statistics of COVID deaths are skewed or misleading, and the numbers are designed to instil fear.

Fox News, a news outlet which I consider very bias, has an article, Birx says government is classifying all deaths of patients with coronavirus as ‘COVID-19’ deaths, regardless of cause. It says:

The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life.

The Illinois Herald News article, What counts as a COVID-19 death? says,

During Gov. JB Pritzker’s health briefing, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Illinois Department of Public Health director, said anyone who had COVID-19 at the time of death, even if the person died of other causes, is counted among the COVID deaths. In fact, even if a person is in hospice for other reasons but has COVID, too, that death is still counted among the COVID deaths, Ezike said.

BBC’s article, Coronavirus: Why death and mortality rates differ, says in the UK the Department of Health and Social Care releases daily updates on how many people who tested positive for Covid-19 died that day. This includes any patient who tested positive for Covid-19, but who might have died from another condition (for example, terminal cancer). But the UK’s Office for National Statistics counts all deaths as Covid-19 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, regardless of whether they were tested or if it was merely a suspected case of Covid-19. Italy counts any death of a patient who has Covid-19 as a death caused by Covid-19, as does Germany and Hong Kong. In the US, any death of a Covid-19 patient, no matter what the physician believes to be the direct cause, is counted for public reporting as a Covid-19 death. The picture is cloudier when patients have not had a Covid-19 test, but are a suspected case. Given that many deaths from Covid-19 are in people who have underlying health issues, doctors still have to make the call on the cause of death.

What counts as a Covid death varies, depending on the country. I couldn’t find how Canada reports a Covid death. It’s all very confusing and in my opinion somewhat misleading. Who knows what is really the truth. Still I ask, are these stats provided to spread fear throughout the masses? Is this to keep us afraid, compliant with rules, and safe, or is this a way to control the multitudes? Even more sinister, is this a way to remove our rights? There have been arguments saying all these things. If it is true, and this is all designed to control the masses, as some suggest, then we are being bullied on a massive scale. In my last post, Bullying Takes Many Forms, I suggested the definition: “If someone feels unsafe, threatened, rejected, or inferior because of another, then they are being bullied.” Are my rights threatened? All this media talk about COVID deaths certainly makes me feel unsafe. Are we being bullied by fear mongering? I don’t know the answer. I am merely asking questions. I am becoming more and more confused, wondering what is really going on, and what I should believe.

I still choose to believe something bigger is happening. I believe humans are being forced in one way or another to stop, think, and decide what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world where compassion is the norm? Do we want to treat the planet with respect? Sun Tsu, an ancient Chinese general, writer and philosopher once said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” We, as a human family, have an opportunity to create a better world. Whether there is something sinister happening, like an attempt to remove our human rights so we can be controlled, or something spiritual happening, or both, it doesn’t matter.  Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, says, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” Perhaps the human consciousness is being awakened to something, however, the question still remains the same, What type of society do we want to live in? Do we want a society where “greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” are the norm, or do we want “to stitch a new garment…that fits all of humanity and nature?” I want the latter!

It is Time to Get Serious, People

A commentary on the importance of following pandemic rules

PM Trudeau giving COVID-19 update

Global News reports that Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said in March that the federal government was/is considering invoking the Emergencies Act to help keep the Canadian economy afloat as the  COVID-19 spreads throughout the country. This act was created to provide a legal framework for power to be temporarily consolidated with the prime minister and cabinet to issue executive orders during national emergencies. It was only used three times in Canadian history. The War Measures Act—the act before 1988—was invoked during the first and second World Wars, as well as during the October Crisis of 1970 when members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), a terrorist group in Quebec, carried out kidnappings. (see October Crisis).

The point is, the Emergencies Act allows a great deal of power to the prime minister and cabinet. They would have the right to take over property, public utilities, provide special services and special compensation, regulate, prohibit public assembly, and prevent travel anywhere within the country, among other things.

This Act infringes on our individual rights, such as restrict travel in our own country, and dictate who we can and cannot see. The Megan Meier Foundation, a foundation working to create a world without bullying and cyberbullying, defines bullying as “an aggressive behaviour that involves an imbalance of power or strength.” One could argue, that Emergencies Act is aggressive and involves an imbalance of power, since governments would have all the power, thus making an argument that leaders are bullying their citizens to comply with their demands.

The Boston Globe has an opinion piece titled, A civil liberties pandemic, which debates the toll being taken on Americans’ freedom and constitutional liberties by the unprecedented restrictions that have been imposed to enforce physical distancing. The Military Times even has an article titled, Will coronavirus lead to martial law?  Martial law is the replacement of civil rule with temporary military rule in a time of crisis.

NPR is a media organization founded on a mission to create a more informed public. Their article,  Life During Coronavirus, reports that Chinese citizens are financially rewarded for reporting those who fail to follow quarantine orders reflecting a decades-long history of social control, which has been mobilized on an unprecedented scale for the COVID-19 crisis.

The Boston Globe’s opinion piece, A civil liberties pandemic, which I mentioned earlier reports that in Israel, the government has ordered a round-the-clock curfew and deployed anti-terrorist technology to track down people suspected of violating the coronavirus restrictions. In Norway, anyone caught violating isolation rules can be fined $2,000 or jailed for 15 days.

Even in Canada, most provincial governments have issued stay at home orders,  implemented fines for anyone returning to Canada and not self-isolating for 14 days, or not practicing social distancing (see Provinces inpose fines). The purpose of these measures is to avoid overwhelming health care systems and reducing the spread of the Coronavirus.

I have not heard, or read, anything, about any such debate occurring in Canada about civil liberties (freedoms to do certain things without restraint from government), other than the occasional meme on social media saying (paraphrased): “Stay at home or risk losing more civil liberties.”  No one that I have spoken to—via technology, of course—has mentioned any concern about their civil liberties disappearing, unlike the U.S. That doesn’t mean things couldn’t change. Our Prime Minister has not invoked the Emergencies Act as of yet, but if enough people don’t respect the stay at home orders and practice social or physical distancing, then more civil liberties could be removed. Our governments have warned us of that.

Yet, there are still a number of people who are not respecting the pandemic rules. CBC News has an news article, Grocery store staff fed up with ‘social’ shoppers who flout pandemic rules, reporting that customers are chatting and getting too close to others in grocery stores. Some employees say they have been yelled at, cursed at, and accused of overreacting as they try to enforce physical distancing measures put in place by their employers.

I’ve heard of “Snow Birds,” (Canadians who winter in warm places like Arizona or Mexico) returning to Canada after the Canadian Government advised all vacationers to return to Canada. In the town where I grew up, I’ve heard of Snow Birds ignoring the 14-day self-isolation rule by going into the post office to collect their mail. Local papers told of Snow Birds in a nearby town going in the grocery stores upon their return. Urban Dictionary coined the term “convidiot” for those misbehaving during the coronavirus pandemic. Its definition:

1. A stupid person who stubbornly ignored ‘social distancing’ protocol thus help to further spread COVID-19

2. A stupid person who hoards groceries needlessly spreading COVID-19 fears and depriving others of vital supplies

I am very willing to give up my civil liberties if it means keeping my family and me safer. I felt that way during the October or FLQ Crisis in 1970 as well. But the thing is, we don’t have to give up our civil liberties if all people followed the advice of the health professionals, and took this pandemic seriously. Or, to use Urban Dictionary’s word, stop being a convidiots. To me, it is all common sense. Perhaps the French writer and philosopher, Voltaire, was right when he said, “Maybe Common sense is not so common.” The bottom line, we will all get through this much faster—in theory—if everyone followed what the experts tell us, that is, follow the pandemic rules.

There is a post circulating on social media. It reads:

History repeats itself. Came across this poem written in 1869, reprinted during 1919 Pandemic. This is Timeless….It was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara:

And people stayed at home

And read books

And listened

And they rested

And did exercises

And made art and played

And learned new ways of being

And stopped and listened

More deeply

Someone meditated, someone prayed

Someone met their shadow

And people began to think differently

And people healed.

And in the absence of people who

Lived in ignorant ways

Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,

The earth also began to heal

And when the danger ended and

People found themselves

They grieved for the dead

And made new choices

And dreamed of new visions

And created new ways of living

And completely healed the earth

Just as they were healed.

NetFlix docuseries Pandemic

What is the truth around this poem? There was a Cholera pandemic that spread throughout the Middle East and was carried to Russia, Europe, Africa and North America, but according to Oprah Magazine, the poem was actually written by a Kitty O’Meara. Magazine editors contacted the author in her home outside of Madison, WI. Remember, not all you read on social media is fact!  Nonetheless, the message of the poem tells a truth. I’ve seen evidence that people are beginning to think differently. My hope is that there will be an absence of people who live in ignorant ways; who are dangerous, meaningless and heartless. When this is all over, I dream of people making new choices, having new visions, creating new ways of living, and ultimately healing the earth, just as the poem says. As I’ve said in other posts, maybe this virus is trying to teach the world, and more specifically each of us, to live differently. I also mentioned that we humans are slow learners!

Does Religious Bullying Occur?

A commentary on Religious Bullying

The National Post recently had an article titled, Christian school expels student who posed with rainbow birthday cake outside class, which reported that Whitefield Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, a private school, revealed it would expel students for living a lifestyle that does not align with Christian beliefs, and apparently that is exactly what they did. This Kentucky Christian school expelled a student after officials found a picture of her posing with a rainbow birthday cake. In the photo, the student of the Academy wears a long-sleeve sweater, with a rainbow on it, and she is sitting in front of a rainbow-coloured cake. For those who may not know, the rainbow is associated with LGBTQ pride. The Academy sent an email to the family outlining that the offending student, their child, showed “a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs,” and the photo was the last straw in a series of “lifestyle violations.” Some Christian groups reject people who identify as LGBTQ. The mother of the student says that her daughter is not gay, not that it matters.

Rainbow flag  (Photo credit PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/GettyImages)

Stories like these infuriate me! Why? Because this student attending Whitefield Academy is a victim of bullying.  Legal Match defines bullying as “the use of intimidation to achieve a state of dominance over another person. Bullying can involve conduct such as, threats, force, coercion, aggressive or offensive behaviour.” The Kentucky student is being forced to change her ways, or risk being expelled from the school she chose to attend. That means the student was bullied! This is the use of coercion, or intimidation, so the school can achieve dominance over their students; to force students to comply with their belief system. That means they are bulling. Let’s call this what it is. This is religious bullying. The W. Y. Alice Chan website says “religious bullying occurs when a religious…person chooses to intentionally or unintentionally degrade another person emotionally, mentally, or physically based on: the bullied individual’s actual or perceived religious…identity, or the doctrines or practices of their belief.” In short, degrading another because someone’s religious beliefs do not align with theirs.

What is this type of behaviour really about? This is yet another story about intolerance, cold-heartedness, and exclusiveness of another.  American political activist, Rabbi Lerner, calls this ‘desanctification’, which is not being able to see the divine in the other. French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called it “dehumanization,” which is not being able to see the humanity in the other.

Barbara Coloroso  is an international bestselling author and is an internationally recognized speaker and consultant on parenting, teaching, school discipline, positive school climate, bullying, cyber bullying, grieving, nonviolent conflict resolution and restorative justice. I’ve never had the honour of hearing her speak, but some of my colleagues have. In her book, The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander, she says,

 Bullying is not about anger, it’s about contempt, a powerful feeling of dislike toward somebody considered to be worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect. Contempt comes with three apparent psychological advantages that allow kids [or adults] to harm others without feeling empathy, compassion or shame. These are: a sense of entitlement, that they have the right to hurt or control others, an intolerance towards difference, and a freedom to exclude, bar, isolate and segregate others.

I like the way Ms. Coloroso defines bullying, and it applies to this story. The private Christian school is showing a powerful dislike toward the LGBTQ community and this student because she is perceived as being connected to the community. The community seems to be “considered to be worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect.” The school appears to think it has the right “to harm others without feeling empathy, compassion or shame.”  It appears the school has “a sense of entitlement, that they have the right to hurt or control others, an intolerance towards difference, and a freedom to exclude, bar, isolate and segregate others.”  By all definitions, the school is bullying. Just because someone has different beliefs, or disagrees with your beliefs, doesn’t make their victims any less human. Every human deserves respect, regardless of what they may believe.

In fact, this is the stand of the United Nations (UN). In the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it says in Article 1:

 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2 states,

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status…

As I said in my last post, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is the Golden Rule, which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Ironically, there are 6 scripture texts in Christian scripture that say this in one way or another. They are Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, Matthew 22:39-40, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:8-9, and Galatians 5:24. In my view, the behaviour of the Academy is unchristian, and hypocritical, since Christians are supposed to emulate Jesus Christ. Jesus was one of the most tolerant, understanding and accepting people ever, as Christian scripture says Jesus ate with many tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15). Tax collectors in biblical times were Jews who worked for the hated Romans. They were seen as traitors who enriched themselves at the expense of their fellow Jews. So, for Jesus to eat with them was a big deal. If every person lived by this simple rule, bullying would stop. It would make for a better world.

A Senseless Tragedy Because of Bullying

A commentary on the absurdity of bullying

From: timeout.com

Most people that I know go into the new year with optimism, hoping that the commencement of a new year will bring a better year then the previous one. Perhaps they hope that there will be more cooperation between peoples and nations, that people are more tolerant and inclusive, and love for fellow human brothers and sisters becomes more prevalent. Or, as one New Year greeting says, “The approaching New Year brings hope to everyone for calmness, kindness and fulfillment of dreams.” I started 2020 with this hope and then I came across the Telegraph’s headline, PhD student took her own life after classmates mocked her for not being ‘posh enough’, and my hopes for 2020 were shattered.

The article reports that a 26-year-old attending the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation in the city of Kent, England, was found deceased due to suicide. It seems this young student was vulnerable, as the third-year doctoral candidate struggled with anxiety, depression, and a low-self-esteem after allegedly being bullied because she was state-educated instead of privately schooled as her peers were. The post-graduate student also struggled with the “toxic” environment in the university laboratory, and according to her mother, was also struggling with her thesis.

What caused such a tragedy? The sad truth is the issue was the deceased anthropology student received a state education and the others received a private education. She ‘wasn’t posh enough’ her mother says. In other words, she wasn’t high-class or was considered inferior to her peers. Her mother reports that her daughter told her “about being mocked for her accent and because she’d never been sailing.”

My blood boils when I read a story like this. It brings me back to when I was in Grade 5 in the village I grew up in. In Grade Five, the farm boys bullied me because I lived in town where my dad ran a service station. The “farm boys” accused the town boys of being lazy, having no chores, and being weaklings.

The bottom line is a tragedy occurred for a ridiculous reason. This 26-year-old with the potential of changing the world for the better took her own life because her peers, who came from privilege, harassed her and saw her as inferior. I was bullied because my classmates  from a farming background saw themselves as superior because they did farm chores. The bullying that happened to me and to the anthropology student is absurd.

The rock band, Simple Plan, has a song titled, “Welcome to My Life,” that I believe relays what the 26-year-old in this story was likely feeling. If you haven’t heard the song, here it is.

Here are some of the song’s lyrics:

Do you want to be somebody else?
Are you sick of feeling so left out?
Are you desperate to find something more
Before your life is over

Are you stuck inside a world you hate?
Are you sick of everyone around?
With the big fake smiles and stupid lies
But deep inside you’re bleeding

No you don’t know what its like
When nothing feels alright
You don’t know what its like to be like me
To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one there to save you
No you don’t know what its like
Welcome to my life

This song, in my view, captures what a victim of a bully feels. Do you want to be somebody else? Yes. Are you sick of everyone around? Clearly, as that is why victims attempt suicide. No you don’t know what its like when nothing feels alright. You don’t know what its like to be like me. No one knows what it feels like to be a bully’s victim, unless they’ve been one. Only victims relate to these lyrics. To be hurt. To feel lost… I felt like this in Grade 5. I felt hurt. I felt lost. I felt left out. I felt rejected and unaccepted. Why? Because I lived in town and not a farm. The post-graduate student from Kent, England felt this way too—I would bet on it—because she was state-educated and not privately schooled; because she did not come from privilege, and now she is dead because of it. Shameful!

There is a very simple solution to bullying. It is called the Golden Rule, which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or as the Author of “If Heaven had a Mailbox”, Jill Telford says, “Start each day asking, “How do I want others to feel?” Then act accordingly.” If every single person lived their life following this very simple rule, bullying would stop. Try it!

 

Young People Who Inspire Me (Part Two)

A commentary on social activism.

In my last post, Young People Who Inspire Me (Part One), I talked about Greta Thunberg, Áine Peterson, and Malala Yousafzai, three young people who inspire because they are making an impact in our world. I would like to continue with that same theme.

Greta Thunberg

First, an update on 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. She is participating in the first ever Youth Climate Action Summit which brings youth climate campaigners together from more than 140 countries and territories to share their solutions to climate change on the global stage, and deliver a message to world leaders that we need to act now.

In her address to the UN Youth Climate Summit, she said, “Yesterday, millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action, especially young people. We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.” (see Greta delivers message). Her phrase, “young people are unstoppable,” caught my attention and I hope she is right since it is the youth that have  the most to lose.

CBC’s article, Protest for Climate Action, reported that millions of youth were taking to the streets in roughly 150 countries around the world on September 20,  as part of a global strike demanding world leaders gathering at a UN climate summit to adopt urgent measures to avert an environmental catastrophe. This worldwide strike was inspired by Greta, and these were her words to the demonstrators in New York:

“Right now, we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will…We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?”

I am excited about what is happening, as it gives me hope for change. I believe the world must change and UN Secretary-General António Guterres who spoke at the UN Youth Climate Summit said it best when he said,

“I have granddaughters. I want them to live in a livable planet. My generation has a huge responsibility. It is your generation that must hold us accountable to make sure we don’t betray the future of humankind.”

I don’t have grandchildren yet, but I want my children and future grandchildren “to live in a livable planet.” I’ve seen many science fiction movies that portrayed an uninhabitable world because we humans left the planet in ruins. The UN Secretary-General is right. The youth must hold my generation accountable. Let’s be honest; my, and previous generations, have exploited planet Earth for profits. American politician, Bernie Sanders, said, “What a disgrace that it takes a 16 year-old to tell world leaders what they won’t acknowledge.” He is right! So, I say, bravo, to Greta. I support your cause and wish you success.

Craig Kielburger, age 12

Craig Kielburger, a Canadian human rights activist and social entrepreneur, is another young person who inspires me. I used him as an example  of how one person can make a difference when I taught high school Social Studies. He is the co-founder, with his brother Marc Kielburger, of WE Charity, as well as WE Day.  In 2008, Kielburger was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

Craig Kielburger’s story starts in 1995, when at age 12 years old, he saw the headline, Battled child labour, boy, 12, murdered, in the Toronto Star newspaper. This was a story about a young Pakistani boy, a child labourer, turned child-rights activist who was killed for speaking out against the carpet industry. Kielburger did research on child labour and asked his grade seven teacher to speak to his classmates on the topic. Several students wanted to help, and the group of pre-teens started “Kids Can Free the Children” (later named WE Charity).

In December that same year, Kielburger travelled to Asia to see for himself the conditions of child labourers. While there, he learnt that then Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, was travelling to India. He requested to meet with Mr. Chrétien, and was initially denied.  Kielburger was granted 15 minutes with Chretien, and he advocated for Canadian action on the issue of child labour, making headlines across Canada and internationally.  Kielburger attracted international media attention with features on 60 Minutes and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Remember, this young man was 12 years old when he was inspired to act against injustice. I have taught many 12 year-olds, and don’t recall any of them being that aware of injustice in the world.

Time Magazine’s article, The School Shooting Generation Has Had Enough, tells the story of the Never again MSD movement. The days after the Parkland shooting—On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others—Parkland kids publicly called out the NRA’s influence on national politics, and shamed the leaders they considered responsible for the nation’s slack gun laws.

Cameron Kasky in centre

The Never Again MSD group was co-formed by Cameron Kasky and his high school friends in the first four days after the shooting.  After a vigil, Kasky invited Wind and Whitney (the other cofounders) to his house, and they came up with the name “Never Again.” The next three days after the shooting, the group gained over 35,000 followers on Facebook. The group organized a nationwide protest on March 24, 2018, where nearly a million kids across the country left class for the National School Walkout to protest the school-shooting epidemic.

The Never Again group has lost the attention of the media and is no longer making headlines. Since the groups inception, many attempts to discredit the Never Again movement have been attempted in the form of verbal attacks and misinformation by right-wing Republican leaders. Wikipedia provides specifics.

Many have spoken out about school shootings. Here are some of the most noteworthy in my opinion. Richard Patrick, an American musician, singer and songwriter, said:

“We live in a crazy time. Every other week, there’s a school shooting. There’s always some nutty thing and I’ve always wanted to kind of understand the crazy.”

Florence Yared, a Parkland school shooting survivor, spoke in Tallahassee, Florida. This was where five people were shot and wounded at the University Village Shopping Center. She passionately said:

“The right to bear arms … does not and never will overpower the individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…We cannot protect our guns before we protect our children.”

Brandon Wolf, Pulse nightclub shooting survivor, also spoke in Tallahassee. He said:

“After first graders were gunned down at Sandy Hook, what did you do? Not a damn thing. After 49 people, including my two brothers, were murdered at Pulse, what did you do? Not a damn thing. You plugged your ears and turned your eyes and hoped that we would stop talking. Now we’re here again. 17 people are dead. 14 of them are children. And what did you do yesterday when given the chance to do something about it? Not a damn thing.”

According to Wikipedia, there have been 28 school shootings in 2019, and that doesn’t include the many that have been thwarted. The young people behind the Never Again MSD movement have just cause.

Young people—high school aged when they started—are leading the way for change and speaking out against injustice. Why? Because they have Didaskaleinophobia, the fear of school or fear of going to school. An American High School student, Jillian French, said, “We shouldn’t have to be scared (when we leave for school) that we are not going back home.” Like Greta Thunberg, high school aged youth have to tell leaders in the U.S. what they won’t acknowledge.

I applaud these young people, support their cause, and wish them success! Thank God for youth! They just might save the world.

Was I One Those Teachers Who Smothered Creativity, or Indoctrinated Children?

A commentary on our education system.

Several months ago, a news article came across one of my news feeds titled, We are born creative geniuses and the education system dumbs us down, according to NASA scientists. My immediate reaction was: No way was I a part of a system that “dumbs down” kids. I made them smarter. The truth was, this headline disturbed me, and when I first saw it, I ignored it and never bothered to read it, thinking I’ll read it some time later. Well, later is here, and I read the article. Here is the jest of the article.

Scientists gave a test that looks at the ability to come up with new, different, and innovative ideas to 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5. What they found was that 98 percent of children fell into the genius category of imagination?  The scientists were so astonished that they decided to make it a longer study and tested the children again five years later when they were ten years old. The result? Only 30 % of the children fell in the genius category of imagination. When the test was given at the age 15, the figure had dropped to 12%. Curious about adults, they tested them as well. Shockingly, only 2% of adults are still in contact with their creative genius after years of schooling.

The results were replicated more than a million times, implying that the school system robs us of our creative genius. That is especially disturbing to me because that means I played a part in it. I was a school teacher for 35 years. I had to ask myself: Did I really “dumb down” kids? I refused to believe it, but these results suggest otherwise. This bothered me, so I set out to prove otherwise.

The Huffpost’s article, How Schools Are Killing Creativity, says this about schools.

You were bullied, made fun of, and you had this teacher that told you to stop dreaming and live in reality. So what did you learn at school? You learned to stop questioning the world, to go with the flow, and that there’s only one right answer to each question. The “whys” you have always wanted to ask are never on the test, and they are omitted from the curriculum.

I had to admit, there is a lot of truth in that. I taught in a system that gave standardized tests which counted 50% of the student’s final mark. My focus as a teacher was preparing students for the government test, so I’ll be honest, all creativity went out the window. We didn’t have time to create and look at a diversity of viewpoints. We taught only what we had to in order to  prepare students for the test.

Benjamin Greene, founder of Britain’s biggest brewery says, “The biggest atrocity of all is to indoctrinate our children into a system that does not value their creative expression, nor encourage their unique abilities.”  I would have to agree, and sadly, I had to admit I may have contributed to it.

During my research, I came across numerous articles suggesting that our school systems indoctrinate children. This was even more disturbing to me, as in my mind, there was no way I was a part of a system that indoctrinated kids. I was preparing them for life and the “real world.”  Was I naive?

Most dictionaries define indoctrination as, “The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” American Journalist and author, Peter Hitchens said, “Is there any point in public debate in a society where hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think?” Do our education systems teach children what to think? Having been in the education business, I would have to say yes.

Curriculum presents a point of view, and even though we as teachers try to teach kids to think critically, they are reluctant to do so. Students resist thinking critically, unless forced to, and with standardized tests, they didn’t have to for most part. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion said, “Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.” I must agree. I believe we as an educational system have failed to teach our students how to think for themselves, or at least do it well. Instead we teach them “facts” to learn for a test.

American astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “When Students cheat on exams it’s because our School System values grades more than Students value learning.”  Therein lies the flaw with the education system. There were thousands of times during my career when students would say to me, “Just tell me what I need to know for the test.”

American journalist, H.L. Mencken said, “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”  Are we teaching kids to be submissive? If we are, I am troubled!

I taught in the Catholic School System, and so I had to ask: Do Catholic schools indoctrinate? Catholic Answers’ article, In Defense of Indoctrination, does not hesitate to admit that Catholic schools indoctrinate, for it states:

…indoctrination itself is not wrong, because children have to be taught something in order to grow up to be functional members of society. The question is, what should they be taught? This means that Catholics and other Christians should have the right teach their children about God and his moral law without being unfairly labeled as practitioners of “indoctrination.”

Maclean’s article, Why are schools brainwashing our children? maintains that education systems in the Western world are “brainwashing” young children to be social activists, saying,

Increasingly, faculties of education in Canada and much of the Western world are preparing their student teachers to weave social justice throughout the primary school curriculum…as well as into a range of cross-curricular activities, events, and projects. The idea is to encourage kids to become critical analysts of contemporary issues, empathetic defenders of human rights and gatekeepers of the beleaguered Earth.

Is that a bad thing? Depends who you ask.  An article by The Federalist, says,

Many people have long suspected that governments sometimes attempt to indoctrinate their people to increase the government’s own power and influence. Unfortunately, ambitious governments will not stop at merely controlling what their people can do; they must control their minds.

The article goes on to say,

Few people seem to have a clear definition of indoctrination, and thus call anything they dislike indoctrination (e.g., “Leftists professors are indoctrinating their students,” “Those fundamentalist Christians are indoctrinating their kids,” or “Facebook is indoctrinating its users.”).

What is the solution to indoctrination then?  This same article states:

The only real solution to indoctrination, then, is good teachers. Good teachers (which include parents, mentors, and other knowledgeable adults) train students in methods of thought while supplying the stuff of thought. They teach a person to evaluate an argument properly, find actual solutions to problems, and determine what is true and what is false.

I tried to be one of those teachers, and it’s true! Most of the articles related to indoctrination and the education system are critical of the system’s use of a LGBQT Inclusive Curriculum, or promotion of a liberal agenda, or a conservative one, or a sex-education curriculum that they believed promoted promiscuity, and on and on. All maintained that the school system is indoctrinating children. According to the definition of indoctrination, they are. The reality is, you cannot remove viewpoints from school systems, as every curriculum designer, and every teacher has their point of view.  Is that Good? Depends on your perspective.

As far as I am concerned, if teachers are ‘indoctrinating’ kids to stand up for human rights and to protect the planet, then I am proud that I was one of those teachers. I say bravo to the teachers who do so. If our educational systems are stifling creativity and teaching kids to be submissive, then shame on them. As The Federalist article says, teachers must be allowed to teach their students “to evaluate an argument properly, find actual solutions to problems, and determine what is true and what is false.”

What is Wrong With Being Wrong?

A commentary on our culture’s obsession with being right.

Numerous posts come across my Facebook feed, and for the most part, I typically ignore them, but this week a post caught my attention. It contained the following meme:

It’s true. People do get offended if you say, or even imply, they might be wrong. I’ve experienced it. I have to admit that even I have had times in my life when it was important for me to be right. I can think of many times when I was offended when told I was wrong. It got me thinking about the question: Why are people so obsessed with being right? Why are people so afraid to admit they’re wrong? An email, which I get regularly from Neal Donald Walsch, arrived in my inbox, and ironically it was about that topic. It read:

I believe God wants you to know that being “right” has nothing to do with it.

The idea that you call “right” is the idea that someone else calls “wrong.” The solution that you call “perfect” is the solution that another calls “unworkable.” The position that you feel is unassailable is the very position that others assail.

What will solve all of this? Not attack, that’s for sure.  And not defence, either. So what is left? Simple human love. The kind of love that says, “It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. It only matters that you are not hurt.  And that we both can benefit. All true benefits are mutual.”

Wow! Those are some wise words, but it didn’t answer the question: Why is it so imperative to be right? I did some research, and in a Psychology Today article titled, Why Is It So Important to Be Right?  it said,

…this fixation is more likely wed to highly competitive cultures than traditionally oriented, cooperative societies. In the latter, issues of right and wrong don’t equivalently inform one’s sense of self or identity. The ego may be shaped by other influences, such as being honored, respected, or altruistic. In first-world cultures, the drive to be right advances one in the competitive race. In the desire to get ahead, this is utilized as a core value.

That explains it.  That answers the question. We live in a highly competitive world and being right (or being the best or being number one) is highly valued.   Our parents, our schools, and even our governments encourage us to be competitive; to be the best. If we’re not the best, then we are failures. Cooperation is encouraged by our religions, but even our religions are competing with one another to draw in believers. Cooperation is NOT highly valued in our culture. Our need to be right is ingrained in us from the moment we are born, because of the culture we live in.

In an another article titled, Why It’s Better to be Human Than to Be Right, it says the consequences of having to be right are:

  1. We oversimplify reality, as not everything can be divided into right or wrong.
  2. No matter how smart or logical we are, our mind plays a role in filtering our experience.
  3. We fear being wrong. We believe if we are wrong there’s something wrong with us.
  4. The decree to be always rights adds huge stress. Our brain is under constant pressure either justifying our thoughts or hiding our flaws.
  5. We stop listening to others. The belief of ‘being always right’ assumes that everyone else is wrong. When we own the truth, we stop trying to understand other people’s points of view.
  6. Resistance to being wrong paralyzes our understanding.
From: sheofferedthemchrist.wordpress.com

The above listed costs to needing to be right make a lot of sense. We do oversimplify reality, because let’s face it, our puny brains will never fully understand reality. Quantum Physics is proving that. We do fear being wrong, because we do think there is something wrong with us if we admit we’re wrong. Let’s be honest, being right adds enormous stress to our lives. Our brain must work overtime to justify our positions, or maybe we really are hiding our defects. Having to be right does paralyze our understanding. There is little doubt in my mind that obsessing about being right is damaging.

Psychology Today’s article, What’s Wrong With Being Right, says

Yet neither the positive nor negative perceptions that we hold represent an absolutely accurate reflection of reality. They are, rather, interpretations of ourselves, other people, and our world produced and shaped by our mental software. The difference between what is and what I think is can be an incredibly difficult distinction to make, because our thoughts can be extremely convincing when we are trying to discern the truth.

Practicing open-mindedness and reflection is enormously valuable in our close relationships [or any relationship for that matter]. It can be very difficult for those of us who have long been so attached to being right. It’s freeing, but humbling.

Realistically, our brain can never know all the facts, or understand the information we receive, because of our programming. A Christian would interpret information through Christian beliefs and values, whereas a Buddhist would interpret information through Buddhist thinking. A conservative would interpret information through conservative beliefs and values, whereas a liberal would interpret information through liberal beliefs and values. Our thoughts—or ego—convinces us that we are right and the opposing viewpoint is wrong. This doesn’t mean one is wrong and one is right. They’re just two different point of views, but as long as the need to be right exists, cooperation and consensus building cannot occur.

Perhaps American poet, author and teacher, Stephen Levine, said it best when he said, “Our addiction to always being right is a great block to the truth. It keeps us from the kind of openness that comes from confidence in our natural wisdom.”

So how do we move beyond the need to be right? Neal Donald Walsch says, “Simple human love.” Mother Teresa said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” I think Gautama Buddha, or The Buddha, said it best when he said, “Sometimes it’s better to be kind than to be right. We do not need an intelligent mind that speaks, but a patient heart that listens.” 

My favourite answer is a quote by Paula Heller Garland, a lecturer at University of North Texas. She says, “Often after arguing about differing opinions, I hear people say, “let’s agree to disagree.” I look forward to a time, so open-minded I’ll hear people say, “I’m right and you can be, too” That is what I’m working towards.