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To be, or not to be

To study Shakespeare or not to study Shakespeare: can we just not?

During the marital combining of the book collection, I had a Norton and the Mr. had a Broadview copy of collected works of Shakespeare, and neither of us would budge, so we ended up keeping both. I’m not sure why entirely, because I flat out don’t like Shakespeare.

My book came from the most torturous university class I ever had, a summer school Shakespeare course.  I had to read a new play every two or three days for the whole month of July. Despite a well-meaning professor trying to walk us through the Bard’s genius, the plays never came alive.

In a first-year English class I studied Taming of the Shrew and the professor convinced us that it wasn’t misogynistic at all, that it was actually very winking and clever and Katherine was in on the joke.

Maybe? Who knows. Even Shakespeare scholars don’t know much. Is there even any definitive proof he wrote all those plays? And besides are plays even meant to be read in the first place?

It’s also a real slog for students to learn iambic pentameter, putting stressed and unstressed marks over all those syllables, trying to understand the convoluted plots, and identifying all the poetic devices, while deciphering ancient wordplay.

It’s  additionally unsettling that women kill themselves all the time in Shakespeare plays and that there is so much gloom and doom. Aside from the questionable treatment of women in many of these plays, it’s also a heartbreaking and real problem when students start to hate English class and consider it an obstacle to their future. I’ve worked with kids whose grades in math and the sciences are in the 90s but are freaking out that their English grade will drag down their average and limit their university prospects.

There is beauty in the language of Shakespeare, and universal themes in his stories, but maybe we could limit the intake to some sonnets, studying one or two plays, one unit on Elizabethan England, or perhaps a  field trip to Stratford.

Some school boards have made waves by discontinuing the tradition of teaching Shakespeare. Will more follow?  Yes please!

 

What is the deal with eco-tourism?

It’s a term being thrown around a lot within the tourism industry — eco-tourism. But, what exactly does that mean?

In the simplest terms, eco-tourism is the idea that your travel will not impact the environment. Instead, it will actually contributes to the local community.

When people travel, they tend to bring a lot of their baggage with them. And no, I’m not talking about emotional baggage or your carry-on.

Tourists tend to focus on only one thing. Sightseeing. They want to hit the most popular destinations, take perfectly filtered images for their Instagram account at the nicest restaurants, or visit franchise stores to do some shopping. These tourists take taxis, trains, and planes, and sometimes even use products with dangerous chemicals that could contaminate oceans. Don’t even get me started on the number of plastic straws used in beverages.

Most tourists create a carbon footprint that has the potential to damage a community, especially in remote locations or islands that depend on their natural beauty to attract revenue. While there isn’t much that can be done about completely eliminating this footprint, there is a way to reduce it. The answer is, obviously, eco-tourism.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, for an activity to be a part of “eco-tourism”, it has to have an educational aspect. It should promote conservation and community, while trying to adopt sustainable practices. Guides and participants must recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People There should also be some financial benefit towards these practices. 

The activities must also operate within low-impact facilities.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) describes eco-tourism as “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

The definitions are still open to interpretation. Some agencies choose to describe any nature-related activity or tour as eco-tourism. For example, whale watching in Hawaii is described as an eco-tourist activity. However, the cruise boat itself could be impacting the ecosystem below the surface of the water. A more ecologically-friendly activity would be to kayak or canoe the waters with a guide who talks about the wildlife or the conservation techniques in place to protect the natural beauty of an area.

Tourists can take tours of plantations or farms; but they can also participate for a day, learning hands on how food grows and gets to their plate. Visit an indigenous settlement and listen to stories from the community. If you go on a nature walk, stick to trails — don’t wander into a natural environment without a guide. Remember, the purpose of eco-tourism is to learn and give back to the community.

Here are three eco-tourism activities you can do in Ontario:

  • Redwing Institute Culture and Nature Discovery Walk: Take this 3-hour journey and learn about the Indigenous people of Humber Valley. Participants will explore the river valley, participate in a traditional ceremony, sample food and music, and explore history through oral storytelling. Part of the fees go towards a skill-development program for women from the Indigenous community living in Toronto.
  • Visit a Biosphere Reserve: Wilderness Eco-Adventures offers half and full day guided excursions of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Reserve. Climb cliffs, explore caves, and see rare wildlife. They also offer more intensive workshops where you can learn a new skill like geology or bushcraft. Looking for a challenge? Spend three nights under the stars this winter. Proceeds support the Biosphere Association’s environmental projects.
  • EcoCab through Toronto: Instead of taking a bus or renting a car, see downtown Toronto up close with a pedal-powered bicycle. Don’t worry about the physical activity as each tour guide will also be your navigator and official pedal-er). There are four routes to choose from.

Have you participated in eco-tourism? Let us know what your experience was like in the comments below!

Canada missing data for inclusion in ONE analysis on girls education

For the last five years, Oct. 11 has marked International Day of the Girl, where people are encouraged to reflect on the importance of education and human rights, especially when it comes to the empowerment of young girls. This mission, led by the United Nations, aims to bring global attention and action to girls that are in crisis around the world, including access to safety, education, and a healthy life. This year, the theme will be to help girls before, during, and after a crisis.

In honour of International Day of the Girl, ONE campaign released their second annual report on the ‘toughest places in the world for a girl to get an education.’ ONE is an organization that spans worldwide and is focused on issues like justice and equality, especially in African Nations. The report is based on a data taken from the 193 countries in the United Nations. Education is one of the most important factor affecting the prosperous growth of women. Eleven factors were taken into consideration.

However, out of 193 member countries, only 122 countries had enough data to be included in the report.  The top 10 worst countries for girls to get an education are mostly located in sub-saharan Africa and the order is as follows: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Niger, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Burkino Faso, Liberia and Ethiopia.

Canada, France, and Germany were included in the list of 71 countries that did not meet the mark for proper data analysis. Canada only met four data points:

  • Girls’ upper-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ lower-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ upper-secondary completion rate
  • Girls’ government expenditure on education (as a per cent of total government expenditure)

All the data was collected from the UNESCO database. Some of the factors Canada was missing include girls’ youth literacy rate, mean years of school, primary teachers trained to teach, lower-secondary out-of-school rate and primary out-of-school rate. Canada is positioned as a country that supports girls education and development. However, there is lots of data missing to gather a full understanding of where girls stand in these developed countries. Canada is all about promoting feminism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leading the way as a self–proclaimed feminist. Canada also featured two cities, Toronto and Vancouver, on the top ten cities for female entrepreneurs, but the data collected by ONE shows a lot of information missing about our own educational system.

ONE’s report hopes to highlight key issues that need improvement in order for girls to thrive. Their report indicated that the toughest places for girls to get access to proper education are amongst the poorest in the world, and are often marked as fragile states. Girls can face social, economic, and cultural barriers all when trying to access and stay in school. However, the report can conclude that just because a country is poor doesn’t mean that girls cannot get access to proper education . For instance, Burundi has the worlds lowest income, but ranks better than 18 other wealthier countries in terms of girls education. While all the countries on the ‘tough list’ deal with different issues, ranging from childhood marriage to poor literacy, the key issues are transparency and funding.

President and CEO of the ONE campaign, Gayle Smith said that “over 130 million girls are still out of school— that is over 130 million potential engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and politicians whose leadership the world is missing out on. It’s a global crisis that perpetuates poverty.”

In February 2018, Smith hopes there will be a Global Partnership for Education that supports education in developing countries. Various world leaders will be invited to fund this development and make a commitment to this cause.

Prime Minister Trudeau is, however, expected to make a few appearance in Washington D.C on Oct. 10 where he will attend the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and Gala as well as participate in the Women One Roundtable discussion on Oct 11. It is hopeful that in the near future, more developed countries can make all issues of girls’ education more transparent because empowered girls make for powerful women.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

School names aren’t the problem — it’s the education

Remembering our past is the only way to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario passed a motion last week calling for school districts to rename schools and buildings named after Sir John A. Macdonald. The reasoning behind this motion is that Canada’s first prime minister played a key role in developing residential schools.

It seems that after centuries of honouring former politicians, inventors, and explorers, society is suddenly realizing their faults — and determining they should not be celebrated. Confederate statues across the United States are being torn down and/or removed after protests and political activists pointed out they are associated with white supremacy and European colonization.

As a history major, I’m well aware there are parts of Canada’s past that are unsavoury. America’s history as a whole is bloody. Our ancestors, as much as we would like to deny it, did some truly horrible things. But, can we acknowledge this past without erasing or ignoring the many accomplishments that helped shape our country? I guess that is the big question nowadays.

For example: John A Macdonald may not have been the ideal role model, but he was integral to the creation of Canada and its first government. Is that not something that should be honoured and recognized?

Residential schools are a part of Canada’s past that is embarrassing, tragic, and simply horrifying, but changing the name of a school won’t erase the pain and suffering they caused. The teacher’s union has said they want this motion to create a conversation — but as teachers, can this be done in a more effective way? It’s a teachers job to make sure children learn their history, science, art, and math. Wouldn’t it be better to incorporate these omissions into a curriculum rather than change the name of a sign in front of a building? As someone with friends who went to a school called Étienne Brûlé, I can attest to the fact that very few knew, or cared, who he was.

I am sure there are many qualified and deserving people in Canada’s history who should be honoured with their name on a school. I agree there should be statues of women, people of colour, and Indigenous leaders in front of schools, hospitals, and government buildings. But, I don’t agree that history can be changed just because we are ashamed of it.

Ultimately, a school name is just a name. If the teacher’s union really wants to make an impact — maybe they should focus on education and not media grabs like this one.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Ontario implements new condo board laws

The Ontario government will implement new condo laws in the fall that is said to “ better protect condo owners and residents by increasing consumer protections in Ontario’s condo communities.”

The media has reported on a number of issues involving condo boards, including conflicts of interest and possible corruption. These new laws will provide more education to those that sit on these boards and ensure more transparency as to the process.

One of the biggest changes will be to improve corporation governance and introduce disclosure requirements for directors. This means that all condo directors must indicate whether or not they occupy units in the condo or if they have interests in contracts involving the corporations. Condo directors will also be given mandatory training to improve management and operations.

New voting and quorum rules will be implemented to make it easier for owners to participate. The board must also update the condo corporation regularly to help improve communications.

To aide in this transition, the government will be creating two new administrative authorities — the Condominium Authority of Ontario and the Condominium, which will educate and promote awareness of condo owner rights, and the Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario, which will help regulate and licence managers and providers.

“Creating new consumer protections will help to build more sustainable condo communities so residents moving into condos today and in the future will be able to look forward to healthy condo communities and peace of mind in the place they call home,” said Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, in a statement.

These new rules will be implemented on Sept. 1 and phased in throughout the year.

Is the government scared of an informed youth?

*UPDATE: Since the publication of this piece, Women’s Post has been contacted by Paris Semansky, Senior policy advisor to Premier Kathleen Wynne, via Twitter. She insists the provincial government is not considering cancelling civics classes and will be keeping it as a distinct mandatory course in high school. Women’s Post will be keeping this piece online as it does represent an important discussion about youth involvement in politics, but note this update as you read.

 

“Today’s youth are too apathetic and lazy. They don’t care about politics. They don’t understand how their own government works.”

I’m a millennial, and despite my intense interest in the news, my teachers and political leaders often told me that I was not doing enough. My generation, they said, was too apathetic. They didn’t vote, they didn’t get involved, and they simply didn’t care. And whose fault is that, they would ask? Entirely yours, they would say.

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated high school, and those statements are still thrown in the face of young people across the country. It’s not a politician’s fault they can’t engage with youth, right? These kids spend too much time on Snapchat and not enough time reading the newspaper, ect. ect.

But then, after all of the nagging and the finger pointing, the Ontario government has the gall to consider cancelling civic classes.

Civic class represent a mandatory half credit in Ontario high schools, and is paired with a half-credit “careers” course. It teaches the basics — how our government works, how to vote, and what people’s rights are as a Canadian citizen. The careers course, on the other hand, essentially teaches kids to write a resume and not to chew gum during a job interview.

These are two integral and important classes, classes that should not under any circumstance be dismissed. In fact, I would argue that each course should be a full credit. Kids should be taught how to budget, file their taxes, and negotiate a sale. They should be taught how to submit a deposition to city council, hold a legal protest, and where to find information on the bills being discussed in question period. They should be taken to see question period!

And yet media sources report that the provincial government is considering removing these critical classes from the high school curriculum. How much do you want to bed that they will still blame kids for not understanding how their own government works?

The province has a right to be scared. Civics is breeding a new generation of informed citizens, kids who understand that they don’t vote for a leader of a party, despite what every political campaign tells them. These kids understand that most promises are smoke screens for hidden agendas. They get it! They ask questions. They are skeptical!

And that’s a scary thought. All of a sudden, MPPs have to focus their political capital on a generation they previously ignored. They have to pretend to care. Their career could depend on the vote of a single 18-year-old entering university for the first time.

No wonder the province doesn’t want to invest in informed citizens. An informed citizen is dangerous to the entire political system. An informed citizen will vote, take part in the discussion, and advocate for change!

It’s much better to just knick that pesky habit before it even develops.

 

civics

Ontario Throne Speech promises childcare and electricity rebates

The vacation is over and it’s back to the daily grind for provincial government officials. Parliament officially kicked off Thursday, with a throne speech given by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

The throne speech was meant to help reset the Liberal government agenda and help ministers focus on new legislation. Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised Ontarians last week when she decided to prorogue the government so that the ceremony could take place. The speech outlined a lot of the Liberal government’s successes and achievements, and presented some of the new legislation that will be introduced later this year. However, it also means that all government legislation that was on the order paper prior to the prorogation will have to be reintroduced. Our Members of Provincial Parliament are in for a busy session, that’s for sure.

The liberal government has promised to re-introduce all pieces of legislation as they were, with amendments attached only to election finance reform. This week, the government will move to prohibit MPPs from all parties to attend fundraising events.

Here are a few highlights from the throne speech:

  • Over the next five years, the Ontario government wants to create another 100,000 childcare spaces for kids up to the age of four.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2017, residential homeowners will see an eight per cent rebate on their electricity bills, equalling the provincial HST. This equals about $130 in savings for a typical Ontario household. Small businesses may be eligible for the benefit.
  • The Cap and Trade and Climate Change legislation will be introduced to the House in January.
  • Ontario will continue to invest in road infrastructure and transit via the $160 billion commitment over the next 12 years.
  • The next provincial budget will be balanced.

The rest of the 30-minute speech reinforced the Liberal’s commitment to growing the economy, reducing the province’s carbon footprint, and investing in healthcare.

With an election set for Spring 2018, this is the perfect opportunity to the Liberals to remind the public of what the government has been up to these last three years. Public support for a politician can waver after a few years — when people realize that their promises are taking longer to fulfill than originally expected. A throne speech and a new session of Parliament may be exactly what this government needs to refocus and get on track.

Either way, everyone is watching now. Premier Wynne made the bold choice to make this new vision known to the scrutinizing eye of both the public and the media. It’s a brave and democratic choice — let’s just hope they are able to hold on to that vision without faltering.