Saturday, 28 May 2022

R.I.P. ONTARIO EDUCATION

Re-electing Doug Ford this week will be a disaster for public education. An absolute disaster. Not many are talking about this specifically, so here I am.

In case you were considering not bothering to vote.

Granted, part of the reason education is not being discussed more in the media is because climate change and healthcare privatization have been more front and centre. And those are important issues too. But when Ford holds up Lecce as the "best Education Minister ever" (Ontario debate, May 16), a LOT of scrutiny should follow.

It's not like Lecce's even sent out a perfunctory congratulatory tweet during Ontario education week. In fact in 2020, he sent out a hate tweet that week, saying educators were doing everything all wrong, and to get synchronous during the pandemic.

That's far from being the best.

Political Cartoon by Steve Nease, 2019

I will also point out that another part of the reason for this silence on education is because Doug Ford convened an emergency debate session of the Legislature in June 2021, to invoke the notwithstanding clause. Overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This ensured unions and workers wouldn't be able to spend much money talking about the provincial government (because only political parties with a vested interest in winning can do that).

He was the first Ontario premier to ever use the clause, and no one seems to be talking about that either.

But I digress.

ABOUT EDUCATION

For those who don't know, Ontario is heading into a negotiations year in Sept 2022 for new education contracts. Across all the various school boards. In the prior negotiation, the Ford government was at best completely apathetic towards teachers and children, and at worst openly hostile.

You might have noticed how Ford's crew only ever bargain in the media, with high ranked officials (in any walk of life) literally only finding things out at the same time as the general public.

Do you even remember the prior negotiation, in Sept 2019? With all the job action that followed? No, no, it wasn't merely about salaries, perhaps you were listening to the propaganda.

Let's quickly have a look back at how bad things have become under Ford, through that lens, and where they're likely to go. And I'm not even talking about the Covid-19 measures here, though you are welcome to check out The Covid-19 Education Timeline for more information, it's quite comprehensive.

I now present my top three reasons why Ontario Public Education is Doomed under Ford.

3) Remote Learning Continues

Ford and Lecce have made e-Learning courses a requirement for high school. They tried to have FOUR courses, presented through asynchronous learning, that were MANDATORY. (Spinning it as "we're in a digital age, you need to work with computers" or the like.)

The strike actions caused the government to walk it back to TWO courses, that parents could OPT OUT of (rather than opt into).

Here's the thing. The eLearning courses come with a funding cut, and even if all students opt out, the funding cut is baked into the requirement. So public schools get less money, and on top of that, we have no guarantee as to who is even teaching the online courses.

And yet, because of the pandemic, we've SEEN the difficulties involved with having to take courses online. Hell, big parts of the Ontario Conservative talking points have been "doing synchronous classes from home, not asynchronous" and "getting kids back into schools" which is precisely the OPPOSITE of what they're touting with their mandatory online courses.

Because all they care about are the funding cuts, and having less qualified teachers in classrooms.

On top of this, they're now shifting standardized testing to be online as well.

Hey, remember when Doug Ford made chairing the EQAO board that administers standardized testing a full-time $140,000 per year position? (As opposed to a part time position, less than $5,000 per year, under the Liberals.) That was back in 2019, after which the chairman did ZILCH for years because we couldn't run this stuff during the pandemic. And the chair is Cameron Montgomery, a failed Conservative candidate from Ottawa-Orleans.

Even RIGHT NOW, May 2022, they're trying to run the latest EQAO online for elementary students, and it's crashing. And hanging. And not saving student data. And so they're putting a pause on it to fix stuff, messing up school timetables. All for $140,000 per year (plus expenses?).

The NDP and the Liberals have pledged to overhaul this system, by the way.

Oh, as did Doug Ford in 2018, saying he would "fix the current EQAO testing regime"! Yeah, he's sure fixed it, hasn't he.

PROJECTION:

-Ford will return to his requirement of FOUR mandatory courses. Very possibly two you can opt out of, and two you cannot.

-Ford will increase the salary for the EQAO chair, because of all the difficulties involved in implementing the online testing. (Doing things online is difficult? You don't say?) Taking more money out of actual schools.

When the education sector protests, he will say that it's all complaints about the 1% wage cap, not remote learning or EQAO testing.

2) Class Sizes

In 2018, Ford and Lecce attempted to raise the average class size from 22:1 to 28:1.

Should I explain that one again, in case you forgot about 2018? "Average" class size means if a class of 30 students runs, a class of 14 can run also, balancing the average to 22. The smaller class likely being a less popular elective course, like arts or technology or special education.

By increasing the average, if a class of 30 students runs, a class of *26* is needed to balance the average, so many elective courses are GONE, because they don't have the numbers. Hell, many computer labs only have 20-25 computers in them, and you can't have 20 students all using the lathe at the same time.

The alternative is running a class of *40* students so that your class of *16* can run. Which did start happening as the school boards tried to navigate this horror show.

The strike actions and the union were able to keep that increase at 23:1.

This still increased class sizes *during a pandemic*. Part of the problem being class collapse funding, explained in this video.

Oh, Ford didn't know the pandemic was coming?

Well, NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath put forth a motion to force the Ford Government to cap class sizes at 15, in September 2020, because of Covid-19. The Ford government itself had just cut back social gathering limits to 10 people indoors (from 50 people).

Ford's majority government easily defeated it. Because... the experts at SickKids were wrong in their recommendation? Schools... aren't indoor gathering places? How dare we... care about children? I don't know.

Political Cartoon by Theo Moudakis

Wrapped up in all this, of course, is the fact that larger class sizes means fewer teachers are necessary. (Now that we're running a single class of 40 instead of two classes of 20, right?) And which teachers are most likely to lose out, in such a scheme?

It's not just teachers, either. Several HUNDRED jobs in the education section will be eliminated after the June election, because the "temporary" education funding, provided during the pandemic, will be gone. This is mostly education assistants and early childhood educators.

And on the topic of funding, Ford has also rolled the federal child care program into his budget, so that he can claim he's "spending $1.5 billion more" on education, when NONE of that money is going to K-12 education. Projections are currently on track for the education system to see a 12.3 billion dollar shortfall over the next decade.

PROJECTION:

-Ford will return to his average requirement of 28:1. Because "the pandemic is over" and "23:1 didn't cause severe damage, did it". He will then back off to 25:1 because of "how kind and generous he is" (but that's still a clusterf*ck).

-Ford will tout these larger class requirements as necessary because of the teacher shortage. (And what the hell do you think caused that, Ford? ... Never mind, he'll blame the pandemic.)

-Ford will continue to underfund education until he can say it's a failure, and privatize it, as he is already in the works to do with health care.

When the education sector protests, he will say that it's all complaints about the 1% wage cap, not class sizes or teacher/student working conditions.

1) Destreaming Horror Show

We want destreaming. But not like this. (Seriously, who wished on the monkey paw?)

The idea of "streaming" is to offer different sequences of core courses (generally being english, science and math) at different ability levels. Arguments in favour are that students with different aptitudes should take different level courses, while arguments against are that it limits the pathways too soon, usually for students already facing challenges (whether racial, economic, or otherwise).

Think that limiting wasn't happening in Ontario? Think again. Streaming in fact existed in Ontario long ago, under the levels Basic/General/Advanced. (eg. MAT1B, MAT1G, MAT1A.)

But the BGA system was overhauled in the 1990s. Bob Rae and the NDP came to power in 1990, and in June 1992 announced destreaming of Grade 9, with a "Common Curriculum", integrating special education students in the regular classroom. This destreaming had already begun by/in 1994 (I'm hazy on timelines, I was finishing high school myself then).

Mike Harris was elected in 1995. His Conservatives endorsed the NDP plans to make high school four years instead of five (Ontario used to have OAC) but cut the operating grants for all school boards (as you do when you're Conservative). They also established the EQAO and OCT, and precipitated huge teacher strikes in 1997.

Oh yeah, in 1995 the education minister (John Snobelen) was caught on tape saying they wanted to "create a crisis in education" to "gain public support for reform". Makes me wonder again about Doug Ford's mandate letters that he refuses to release. Anyway.

Then, in 1998, Mike Harris announced *re-streaming* the curriculum into Applied/Academic, for implementation in Sept 1999. This would phase up through the years to Grade 12, at which point a "double cohort" would graduate in 2003 (both Grade 12 and Grade 13), after which Grade 13 would be gone.

The Grade 9 re-streaming program was only released in mid-Summer 1999, a month before it's implementation. (Well, that sounds familiar.) The Applied/Academic system still exists today, even with the Liberals having come to power in 2003, and putting out a revised curriculum in 2005.

We all clear on the history now?

Destreaming has, in fact, been a point of discussion even in the later Liberal years in Ontario, with the notion of inequality being on the rise (rightly so).

The destreaming of Grade 9 math was announced in early July 2020, just as educators had completed three months of difficult remote learning at the start of the pandemic. Also released around the same time (June 24, 2020) was a completely new Mathematics Curriculum for Grades 1-8. "The system is broken, and we're fixing it," Ford said.

Political Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, Feb 2020

The elementary curriculum was to be implemented for that September 2020, even as some parents had chosen to stay with remote learning, an added complication. Also, concepts and examples were not part of the June 2020 unveiling, they would be added "over the summer and throughout the school year".

The new grade nine curriculum was to be implemented in September 2021, and was unveiled in June 2021. At that time, the Ministry of Education did not say whether students and parents should expect a removal of streaming in other courses or grades. They saved that announcement for March 2022, closer to the election - it's affecting science, english, geography and french.

Let me clarify the problem.

During a global pandemic. The Ford government unveils completely new curriculums. In June. For implementation in September. Repeatedly.

And I have no doubt that this was in the works from when they first came to power in 2018. The problem is twofold:

1) The complete lack of any course correction in light of the pandemic, which stressed teachers almost to the breaking point already. Not merely over health concerns and trying to teach with your own children in the other room, but the need to pivot back and forth with in person and online learning, and more.

2) The complete lack of any support for destreaming in the form of proper funding or class sizing (see my point #2 above), which is even worse than you think.

Because Applied classes, as a rule, were generally SMALLER than Academic classes. Because these were seen as the students who needed more support. More one-on-one time with the teacher. Some boards even have that in their contract agreements, actual hard class size caps based on the level of the course.

Of note, there's also Open level classes in the system, generally elective courses, which have a mix of students, and the class cap there is generally somewhere in the middle.

These new destreamed courses? Do not have this requirement for smaller sizes.

For example, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has mandated that for Grade 10 in September, no Applied Math course will be run. Grade 9 was destreamed, so everyone will go into the Grade 10 Academic course. (They can still choose a pathway in Grade 11.)

Sounds good on paper, but given the class size for Academic is even higher than that of an Open course, you're going to end up with students who CANNOT get the supports they need from the teacher. Because even assuming said teacher still has the energy to provide it, they don't have the time in a class of 32 students.

They'll also be so busy grading 32 papers (instead of 24, literally 25% less) that they won't have much time left over to actually create better materials for the new curriculum itself.

And now this same kind of scenario is going to play out in Grade 9 science, english, geography and french.

To get destreaming right, we DESPERATELY need MORE TIME and SMALLER CLASSES. And there is no way in hell that we're getting that under an Ontario Conservative Government. Only another government can fix this.

I anticipate a massive backlash in Sept/Oct of 2023, when the first Grade 9 destreamed math students hit the Grade 11 curriculum. If it doesn't happen sooner, owing to Grade 10 students unable to even achieve the necessary Grade 10 prerequisite to get to a College level course.

PROJECTION:

-Ford will declare that the failure in destreaming is in the educators, not in the lack of resources. He will use this as further proof that the system is broken, and in need of privatization.

-Ford will continue to state that he's doing everything he can for equity, conveniently forgetting he cancelled work on updating the indigenous curriculum in 2018 and removed language about racism and colonialism from his own government's new math curriculum in 2021.

I mean, at this point, we all know Ford can just make up stuff, as he did during the May 16th Leaders' Debate. Like saying nurses got a "7% salary increase through a bonus", which is not what a bonus does, was subject to qualifications, and even it if WAS true would barely above what inflation is ANYWAY (it's over 6.5% now).

Or like saying Lecce is the "best Education Minister ever".

When he's not. At all.

Except maybe to the private schools who got RAT tests when the general public was pleading for them, but I said I wasn't going to talk directly about Covid-19 and this column is already getting too long.

IN CONCLUSION

I've already written way too much about how Doug Ford is not fit to be the premier of the province (feel free to check that out), and now about the education sector in specific. So what can we do about it?

First of all, vote. VOTE. Ignore the polls, and have your voice be heard.

As Rick Mercer has said: "If your choice is a kick in the head, a punch in the head, or a slap in the head - you've still got to think about it and go, 'I'm going with a slap in the head'." Otherwise, everyone else will decide you get kicked in the head instead, and that's on you.

But second, and I honestly hate to say this, we may have to vote strategically in certain ridings. I say that because Lisa MacLeod is still leading somehow in Ottawa West/Nepean.

Lisa MacLeod, who had parents calling for her resignation in May 2019, when she was Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. Because of what was done to the autism program, which Ford and company said they would fix. Instead, as of now, the wait list has gone from 23,000 to 53,000 children.

Lisa MacLeod, who made news earlier this month when it became known that she had received an additional $44,000 dollars as an MPP allowance. On top of her regular six figure salary as a cabinet minister (now with Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries), and on top of her monthly housing allowance.

That Lisa MacLeod has 31% of the polling vote, versus 29% for Liberal and 26% for NDP in her riding. Conservatives like her are sleepwalking into victory, and they need some form of a wake-up call. Along with Ford himself, who has told PCs not to attend debates, didn't even release a platform (just a budget that hasn't yet passed) and who isn't bothering to campaign the weekend before the election.

But then, there's a reason Ford worked to revoke the power granted to Ontario municipalities to hold ranked ballot votes. (London, Ontario did ranked voting in 2018.)

Please vote this June 2 (strategically?), to provide the necessary wake-up call.

Otherwise, this post is going to serve as my sad "I told you so" in September, when Ford does everything he can to prevent fair, collective bargaining of education contracts. Again.

Political Cartoon by Theo Moudakis, April 2022

(Thank you for reading to the end, with additional thanks to my wife for spending extra time with the little one today so that I could complete my research and get this out. As always, take care out there.)

Monday, 9 May 2022

Ford is the Wrong Choice

Doug Ford is a nice enough guy, but he is a bad provincial leader.

Possibly a controversial take, as some liberals won't agree with the first part, while some conservatives won't agree with the end of that sentence. So stick around to find out why I said that.

For those who don't know, Doug Ford is currently the leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario. He was elected premier with a majority government in June 2018, after fifteen years of Liberal government (under McGuinty and Wynne).

Pictured: Doug Ford, January 2022

For those who DO know, and who have already made your decision for June 2022, I doubt I'm going to change it here. Some people are staunch conservatives, some always lean liberal, and this article isn't likely to convince you otherwise.

But for those who are undecided? Please read on.

Please, PLEASE use this summary as part of your decision making.

Heck, even if you have decided, I would encourage you to stick around too. Maybe there is something in here that you have forgotten. It may deepen your convictions, or help you to understand the dire circumstance that many believe Ontario is in as a province right now.

I now present my top three reasons why Doug Ford is a bad provincial leader.

3) FORD IS A BULLY

Being a bully is not necessarily a bad quality to have in a leadership position. True, one could argue that it's better for a leader to persuade others, rather than intimidate or coerce them into action. But if stuff has gotta get done, in particular during a pandemic, "do this or else" is a pretty solid take.

Some have accused Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada) of using similar methods.

For an example, in 2019, Ford capped the wage increases of provincial employees, including nurses and teachers, at 1% per year (below inflation). That's Bill 124. The Ontario Nurses' Association met with Ford as recently as February 2022 (considering the pandemic, staff shortages, and everything since the bill went into effect), but he's not budging.

Alternatively, in mid-April 2021, Ford closed all outdoor spaces, including playground and golf courses. While he did reverse course on playgrounds, golf courses remained closed right through May, despite criticism that outdoor activities posed a lower risk than indoor ones. Despite that, Ford was convinced this was the right call.

As long as Ford thinks something is worth doing, he'll make sure it gets done.

The problem is, Ford's motivations are often not in the best interests of the people living in the province.

For instance, part of the reason you haven't heard much from the Ontario Liberals in the last four years (other than the fact that the NDP is the official opposition) is that they are NOT OFFICIALLY A PARTY.

The 2018 election was so bad for them that they won only 7 seats; they needed 8 to have official party status. Meaning they don't get funding for staff salaries, they're excluded from debates, and basically must operate as independents.

The Liberals asked the PC government to grant them some accommodations. This is not unheard of; the NDP received some funding from the Liberals themselves back in 2003, when they failed to achieve party status.

Doug Ford's response was to not only keep funding away, but to RAISE THE SEAT THRESHOLD, so that the Liberals would need 12 seats in this next election, rather than 8. The claim was that 10% of seats was necessary after the size of the legislature increased.

Anyone can come up with a good reason for the things that they do, but the optics of the situation remain. Why is it better for Ontario to have only two official parties?

And speaking of elections, remember the 2018 Toronto mayoral election?

Registration for candidates closed at the end of July 2018. (Doug Ford, former city councillor and runner-up in the 2014 election, had planned to challenge the office but then sought the provincial leadership instead.) In August, Ford passed legislation to cut the size of Toronto's council down to 25 wards, instead of 47.

Sure. In the middle of an election, let's have almost half the wards, doubling the size of the territories, making candidates campaign in areas of the city where it hadn't previously been necessary.

A judge said that was unconstitutional. Doug Ford said the hell it is, I'll invoke the Constitution's notwithstanding clause if I have to. He called an emergency session, and the public gallery had to be cleared of spectators when he tried to revive the bill. The NDP banged on their desks to try and drown out the reading, and they were kicked out of the House.

Ford didn't care, Toronto stayed at 25 wards, and he took this one all the way to the Supreme Court. Where, to be fair, he won in a 5-4 split decision that said he did not violate the Constitution. And he didn't invoke the clause (that time).

But how was any of that in the best interests of democracy? What was so pressing, so urgent about the size of Toronto's council that a local election HAD to be disrupted?

The final decision was also close, perhaps could even have gone the other way, so let's quickly revisit a more famous judicial loss.

Under the Liberals, Ontario enacted a cap-and-trade program in January 2017, to attempt to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Doug Ford killed that as soon as he could, but Justin Trudeau (the federal Prime Minister) had said there would be a federal carbon tax for provinces without their own carbon pricing system.

That came into effect in April 2019, in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. It meant a cost increase of gasoline (and propane), but with a rebate at tax time, making this tax revenue-neutral (though some Canadians would pay more in taxes than they would gain from rebates).

Doug Ford's response? Well, you can't bully a bully. He required all gas pumps to show a sticker saying "The Federal Carbon Tax will cost you", which showed a poorly scaled graph, with no mention of the rebates. He then fined gas stations $10,000 per day if they didn't comply. (A judge would lower that penalty to $150 per day.)

This sticker is very unhelpful

An Ontario Superior Court judge ultimately struck this down as unconstitutional, saying that while a government can call out another tier of government for their actions, they cannot legislate that private retailers do the same.

The Ford government's response to this was to say the stickers could be left up or taken down, whatever. Meaning by the law of inertia, many of them stayed up. With the stickers themselves and the court challenge coming out of taxpayer dollars.

Another unnecessary fight that has not benefited the people of Ontario in any way.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled 6-3 that the federal government was in their rights to impose nationwide pricing standards, considering the great threat of climate change.

But the problems with Ford go beyond bullying those at various levels of government.

2) FORD DOESN'T LISTEN WELL

I mean, he DOES listen. To everybody. In fact, one of the great selling points of Doug Ford is that he takes calls from the common person, theoretically at all times of day. Isn't that great? To have a premier who will listen to YOU personally? Who will take the time to talk directly to YOU?

This is part of why I said that Doug Ford is a nice enough guy in my entry statement. Even if he IS a bully, well, if you had been hurt by Somebody, wouldn't you want a guy like Ford in your corner? A guy who could tell Somebody to stay the hell away from you or else?

Two major problems with Ford's "everybody" philosophy.

The first problem is that anecdotes are not data. Just because one person is doing well, doesn't mean everybody is, and conversely just because one person is doing poorly, doesn't mean the whole province needs an overhaul.

The second problem is that the opinion of experts should really carry more weight than that of Joe Somebody who lives down the block. In much the same way that we have experts build bridges, and not Joe Somebody (unless he's an engineer, I guess).

See, a leader MUST determine WHO they should be listening to and WHEN, rather than opening the floor to everyone in every case. Because that leads to picking key moments of random conversations as lynchpins for provincial policy. And then we get grade schoolers revamping the education system.

Remember that?

To start June 2021, Doug Ford trotted out a story of a kid named Arthur who dropped off a letter at his house. Ford went to visit him, where Arthur explained how he'd rather go back to class in June instead of summer camp. (Context: Ontario schools had been shifted remote since the "April Break". The 2021 mid-month week off of school, which Ford had previously shifted out of March, because... reasons.)

Doug Ford negotiated (bullied?) his way towards Arthur wanting a graduation day instead of a return to classes. A graduation for all grades, not just Grade 8 and Grade 12.

Ford then trotted this out as a policy the following day, outdoor graduation ceremonies for all students in the province. Stated at the start of June. Without any consideration for the time it would take to organize that amid a pandemic, with the variability of weather and other logistics like cohorting, crowding and expenses.

I suppose to be fair, Doug Ford has never listened to anyone in the teaching sector. (Unless you count the anecdotes he spouts of teachers who are "fed up with their union".) So this wasn't much of a change. He didn't even listen to the NDP official opposition, when they tried to cap class sizes at 15 in September 2020 on account of the pandemic.

I mean, Ford also halted the implementation of Indigenous curriculum almost as soon as he was Premier, without consultation. There was then no discussion over forcing students to do online classes (before the pandemic). No consulting about policies (like who gets RAT tests during the pandemic), or about his making the EQAO Chair a full time position (that's the agency doing standardized testing in Ontario, which subsequently did squat because testing couldn't run in the pandemic), or about closures... I could go on, but it seems I digress. Sorry.

My point was experts should dictate policy, not random conversations had by Doug Ford.

(For full transparency, there has been some question over whether Arthur actually exists. I suspect he does, because I don't think Ford has that much imagination, plus we can then give him SOME credit for changing the name of a minor. Though if Arthur doesn't exist, we are then left with the question of who is giving Ford advice that sounds like it came from a grade schooler.)

Let's now look at another time when Ford didn't consult with experts.

Ontario white licence plates have used the slogan "Yours to Discover" since 1982. In April 2019, less than a year after the June 2018 election, Ford announced new plates. The new tagline would be "A Place to Grow" (though commercial plates could use "Open for Business"), and the plates would be blue, coincidentally the same colour as used the PC Party.

Oh, right... Americans? In Canada, Liberals use red and Conservatives use blue. In fact, pretty sure that's the standard in most of the world. Just saying. Anyway.

It was stated that by February 2020, ALL new licence plates issued would use the new plate design, and Ontarians could voluntarily purchase them. I have no idea who was calling for this, but the standard joke is that Ford met someone in a Tim Hortons.

Problems began almost immediately that February. With the plates, I mean.

Political Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, Feb 2020

A police sergeant in Kingston tweeted out that the plates are virtually unreadable at night. CTV backed this up with a comparison lighting test, using a prototype they'd received in 2019. The government insisted the prototype had been improved upon.

But there's more. Canadian border officials weren't even sent a demo plate until after the rollout. The OPP and RCMP did receive plates to test, but still got complaints from their officers (for instance, handheld scanners couldn't read the new plates). The 407 ETR (toll highway around Toronto) had to adjust camera angles to catch the plates.

It was a mess, and ultimately the Ontario government discontinued the plates in May 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic. A disheartened Ford told reporters, "I'm just not ready to put any more resources towards this."

I feel like maybe more resources should have been put in place prior to the rollout. (They did earmark half a million dollars for plate consultation in the 2019 budget.) Again, assuming this is even something that needed to be done in the first place.

Part of me even wonders if Ford recently scrapped the cost on licence plate stickers, giving everyone a refund in March 2022, not because he wanted to bribe everyone with money (that could have been better spent on heath care). But rather, because he wanted a search on "ontario licence plates" to turn up THAT, and not the plate-gate from 2020. Too cynical?

One last anecdote, again to try and show that this lack of listening to the right people is a pattern of behaviour, and not simply a fluke.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table was formed in July 2020. It's been described as "a group of volunteer scientists who have provided independent advice", and was overseen by a school of public health out of the University of Toronto.

Dr. Peter Juni, the director of the table and a physician and epidemiologist, almost quit the table in April of 2021. That was over the Ford government's pandemic response.

The Advisory Table had advocated for things like paid sick days for front-line workers. Doug Ford instead gave that mid-April announcement I mentioned much earlier, shutting down golf courses, while giving police sweeping new powers to stop people at random and demand to know why they were not at home.

Oh, right. That police stuff was walked back a day later, when several police services said they would not do random stops (Waterloo, Peterborough, Guelph, London and Ottawa), plus the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said they were preparing to go to court. In case you're wondering why that never became bigger news.

Political Cartoon by Theo Moudakis, March 2021

My point again, however, is why not listen to an Advisory Table of Experts, rather than whomever wanted to chat with you that day?

Related, in March 2022, when mask mandates were lifted after March Break, there was talk of the Ontario government again not listening to the Science Advisory Table. Ford stated that he was instead following the advice of chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore... and Moore was consulting with the science table. Was he? He certainly wasn't consulting CHEO, who wanted masks to stay on in schools for at least another couple weeks.

As to Dr. Peter Juni, he stayed on through 2021, stating that leaving "would make things even worse because that would be a vacuum". He ultimately did step down as director in mid-March of 2022, to be closer to family in Europe. Having stated earlier that month that it was too soon to tell whether it was safe to end masking in Ontario after March Break.

Before the end of March 2022, Public Health Ontario assumed control of the table.

I feel like that's not a coincidence. If you don't want to listen to the experts, maybe instead you can bully the experts into listening to you? This brings me to my final point.

1) FORD BELIEVES HE IS ABOVE THE LAW

Even as a bully, if you bow to a higher authority figure, there is hope. Even if you don't listen properly, if you can use your other senses, there is hope.

We don't have that here.

Ford thinks that he is the authority. And as far as self-education goes, among other things, he unfortunately seems to be technologically incompetent.

Again, this doesn't necessarily make Ford a bad guy. Sometimes you need to buck the system in the name of the greater good... once you've learned what the greater good is.

For instance, right now, the law in Ontario says you don't need masks except in hospitals, long-term care homes and public transit. Some are saying hell with that. Hamilton-Wentworth board temporarily re-imposed masks after the Break, and Ottawa-Carleton board brought them back in April.

To venture into an even more controversial topic that's active right now, ectopic pregnancies are fatal for all involved. You need an abortion to save the mother. So again, hell with anyone who says you can't abort in such cases to save a life.

To be clear, I'm not saying the reverse - like saying hell with the law and NOT wearing a mask where you SHOULD - is something to celebrate. It's again that aspect of greater good, and listening to experts. (No, watching that one guy on YouTube does not make YOU an expert. Sorry.)

For one last abrupt tonal shift, Batman is seen as being above the law, and he's a good guy. But let's be clear, Doug Ford is no Batman.

Let's start with Ford's mandate letters. All premiers use them to lay out the orders for his/her ministers once they take office. They used to be secret, but have generally been made public since 2014, at all levels of government. Ford's government has now been fighting to keep them hidden for four years.

Some believe that there's great secrets inside them. Others believe they're embarrassingly short, given how few things Ford actually committed to in the 2018 election. I rather think Ford just doesn't like the idea of being challenged.

How DARE you want to see the orders I give my ministers. You shall not be allowed to criticize. Away with you.

Political Cartoon by Steve Nease, 2018

Ontario's former information and privacy commissioner (IPC) ordered Ford to disclose the letters. By request, the Divisional Court reviewed the case and, in September 2020, upheld the decision. Then in a 2-1 decision that took until January 2022, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the IPC's decision was reasonable.

At that, the Ford government waited the maximum length of time, 60 days, before filing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in March. Which basically assures there's no chance of us seeing these mandate letters until after the election (assuming the Supreme Court rules the same way as everyone else).

But why?

As this former Liberal MPP writes, the whole thing is strange. At this point, there's been new mandate letters anyway (as recently as Fall 2021). But maybe it's less strange when you think Ford simply doesn't like being challenged? He certainly doesn't like being criticized.

"It's like listening to nails on a chalkboard, listening to you," Doug Ford said to Andrea Horwath in February 2021. Because how dare she criticize him in her role as Opposition leader, where that's literally her job. No apology given there either, because how could Ford be wrong in any statement he makes?

To add credence to this holier-than-thou attitude, Ford's government has already lost more than a dozen court cases. From trying to get post-secondary students to opt out of paying for "non-essential" services (read: unions), to scrapping the incentive program for purchasing electric cars, the Ford government is having taxpayers foot a lot of legal bills.

Because Ford MUST be right in the end, yes?

Granted, the press secretary has said the Ontario government is involved in thousands of lawsuits each year, not just those few. But shouldn't there come a time when you stop appealing the decisions? This seems really costly.

And while we're on the subject of money, there's the fact that Ontario failed to track over 4.4 billion dollars in Covid-19 pandemic relief spending, from March to June 2020. That's $4,400,000,000 dollars. Because ministries were unable to track when front-line workers actually began to receive pandemic pay.

Fast forward to January 2021, and Ontario was sitting on more pandemic-relief funds than any other province, at 6.4 billion still unspent. That's $6,400,000,000 dollars. And a report in late 2021 found that Ontario did not spend any funds from a new $2.7 billion dollar Covid-19 response program in that first quarter of 2021, during the third wave. That's $2,700,000,000 dollars.

Is seems Doug Ford does not like spending money, even if it would save lives... unless it's on court cases? (I know, that's a false equivalence, the money for the pandemic is NOT being used in the courts. But it DOES call into question his ability to budget, doesn't it?)

Let's take a quick look at the trucker blockades too.

For three weeks in February 2022 (starting Friday, January 28th), Canadians(?) opposed to lockdowns and vaccine mandates occupied downtown Ottawa. The "Freedom Convoy" protesters set up a hot tub, a bouncy castle, put way too much propane in one place contravening fire codes, even roasted a pig. They blared truck horns at all hours in residential areas, prompting a 21-year-old to file a class action lawsuit against the occupiers.

On February 4th, Doug Ford said the Ottawa situation was "not a protest anymore, it's become an occupation", when speaking about protestors planning to arrive in Toronto. He then went snowmobiling at his cottage. (Uh, timing?) On February 11th, Ford finally called for a state of emergency in Ontario, calling Ottawa "a siege". This only after a new blockade in Windsor at the Ambassador Bridge began to impact the Canada-US border economy.

On February 15th, Ford admitted his own daughter (Krista Haynes, nee Ford) supported the Freedom Convoy. Which was a surprise to nobody. Police finally cleared Ottawa streets during a three day operation that ended on February 19th.

I'm not sure on this one. Was Doug Ford merely pleased to see others fighting against the federal government too? Or was there some family friction that contributed to his apparent "your laws don't apply to me and my friends" attitude?

Political Cartoon by Theo Moudakis, March 2021

Perhaps capitulating to the protestors, Ford then announced on March 9th that mask mandates would be lifted across Ontario. But that he would keep his mask on "for the first few days" after, in the legislature. Yet that school boards better stick to the decision to drop mandatory masks because "they aren't medical experts". But that it's okay for private schools to keep masks.

Again, rules for you, not for me.

Which finally brings me to the notwithstanding clause.

Honestly, I feel like this alone should be enough to deem Doug Ford unfit to be a leader.

The clause, aka Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, gives provincial legislatures or Parliament the ability to override certain portions of itself for a five year term. The five year term is to ensure the public has the chance to challenge a government's decision to use the clause in a general election before it can be renewed.

This is what's allowed Quebec to prohibit public sector workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.

Doug Ford is the first ever Ontario premier to invoke the clause. He did it to ensure third parties can only spend $600,000 in the 12 months before an election is called. He said it was necessary to protect elections from outside influence.

But wait, this gets stupider.

Third parties were ALREADY prohibited from spending more than $600,000 in the six months preceding an election writ. All the Ontario legislature did (in February 2021) was double the time period, to 12 months. Then an Ontario Superior Court Justice decided (in June 2021, after a court challenge) that it was unconstitutional for Ford to double the period while keeping the spending limit the same.

Doug Ford lost his cool.

The legislature had risen for their summer break on June 3rd, with a planned return of Sept 13th. Doug Ford called everyone back for an emergency weekend debate on election finance law on June 11th. They pushed through Bill 307, using the clause. It passed on June 14th, reinstating the 12 month framework, even as the NDP attempted to introduce some pandemic-related issues. Then the legislature went back on break.

Until October 4th. Because Doug Ford prorogued everyone until after the Fall federal election. Incidentally, also his first prorogation.

So in September, when health care workers were dealing with the fourth wave of the pandemic, when schools were returning and dealing with yet another new curriculum put out by the Ford government, when that report about the lack of spending for Covid-19 release in early 2021 came out... no legislature.

But when you need to extend third party spending limits from six months to twelve? All in, to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I just... WHY? Because Ford wanted to stick it to one particular judge who thought Ford was in the wrong? How was Bill 307 more urgent than, I mean, literally anything else going on in 2021?

I cannot believe more people are not talking about that.

SUMMARY

It's been said that Ontario's election "will be a referendum on Doug Ford". A lot of polls also show the Conservatives poised to take government again, possibly even with another majority. In fact there's a better than two-thirds chance of that.

That's scary. I do not think the province will survive another Doug Ford majority.

Early Polling. Find more at https://338canada.com/ontario/

I mean, I think it would be bad under Conservatives anyway, but Doug Ford?

Yes, Doug Ford is a nice guy who listens to the common man. But he is also a bully, who does not listen well, believing he knows best, even if the law tells him otherwise.

That's not good leadership.

Remember, Doug Ford himself only won the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2018 by 51% over Christine Elliot... who had actually won the popular vote. (I blogged about that previously...) How soon we forget?

I wonder if, because Ford lacked the popular vote, he is trying to leave behind some sort of legacy now. So what do we want that to be? At present, it amounts to navigating us through the pandemic, perhaps introducing destreaming to education, and activating the notwithstanding clause. That's not terrible.

After all, in ten years, many people won't remember the empty promises, the waitlist for children with autism doubling, the hidden costs of the new Highway 413, and so forth. Because one presumes the next government will fix a lot of that.

Except if Ford gets another four years? I think his legacy will be so much worse.

He may be the guy who privatized healthcare. The guy who invoked the notwithstanding clause twice, to really stick it to the unions (and keep the minimum wage low). The guy who made a trillion dollars vanish, while giving the common Ontarian money back for their latest passport photo.

I mean, if you actually DO want those legacies for your man Ford... I'm pretty sure you're not still reading.

And the thing is, as much as you might want to vote for the Conservative in your individual riding, and as much as some of them are pretty great (Michael Chong, looking at you)... that is also a vote for Doug Ford. And they cannot control him. No one can... except maybe us. The general public.

Now.

AND ONLY NOW.

Doug Ford is the wrong choice. He is the wrong leader. And yet he's not going anywhere.

I'm worried about that. And you should be too.

Please, vote accordingly in June 2022.

*

Thank you for getting all the way to the end. Additional thanks to my wife and mother-in-law for entertaining the little one for a full day, giving me the time to write this.

If you prefer some lighter fare after all that, I've been reposting math pun stories over on my other blog, like "Quantum Loop". Yay!

Please take care of yourselves, and of each other.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Summer's End 2021

 It's the 8th annual "Year End" recap post. (Started in 2013, did not run in 2016 as that's the year I wasn't teaching.) As I've said before, the end of August is the true end of the year, no matter what the Gregorian Calendar claims. That's teaching life.

Now, the fact that I'm posting this in MARCH 2022 instead of Sept 2021 is probably an indication of how next year's wrap-up is going to go. Though I did have the first part of this post done August 23rd. Anyway.

On the parenting side, daycare ran smoothly from Sept 2020 to Dec, then little one shifted to Preschool from Jan to "present"... being end of August 2021. Less some days for over half a dozen Covid tests. All negative, and all just runny noses for symptoms except in one case. (Which I still think was Roseola but we never saw a doctor in person on the rash, just CHEO during the fever stage.)

So that gave me some time. Mostly for work.

WORK RELATED

All the June schedules were retooled in Sept 2020 as students went virtual (effectively it's own separate school), changing the number of school sections. I ended up with MBF 3C, a course I hadn't taught in six years. Had to update the finance, among other things. (Wait, Canada Savings Bonds ended in 2017?)

We also had no semesters, but quadmesters of two courses (so four sets of P/T interviews), alternating weeks. This meant my prep time was full weeks in Sept to Nov and Feb to Apr. Otherwise (eg. Apr to June), NO prep time, ALL teaching.

First quadmester was all in person, second was split (fully virtual in January), third was in person but with the loss of March Break messing with scheduling, and the fourth was fully virtual in April (I thought we'd go back in June, nope). So even though I taught 3M and Data twice, it was different circumstances each time.

Learned Google Classroom. Also Google Meet. And learned about online software that could read SmartBoard files (thank you tech help). In the end, while remote, I had to upload the files from my computer, write on them using my Chromebook stylus during the Meet, download the written files in PDF, and reupload to Classroom. Still faster and easier than trying to figure out another way of teaching from home.

And of course, every day I taught remotely I had to drive to school, drop off my daughter, drive home to teach, then repeat the process at the end of the day. So I bought gas twice as often.

A bunch of otherwise normal items were retooled when things went online, including the evaluations, where I gave multiple options for some questions to catch the dishonest. (For example, choose 3% or 4% to answer this question... if strange answers match and choices too, well...) And much like last June, there was a massive such dishonesty case in June 2021. (This time it was in 4U Data, not 3U, but I guess it's the same cohort?)

Exams were nixed, of course, with classes those days instead, weirding the timelines. (Can't have anything due the last day, no time to grade it.) Did my best to pull people to credits wherever possible.

Shadowed the Virtual School's anime club (run by a teacher who shifted to virtual but of course still had to come to the building). It was often running when I was teaching, but occasionally I was there if it was prep week. That's about all I managed outside curriculum, aside from math contests. (Time factor, not an in person limitation.)

"This" month (Aug 2021), I put in for a reduction to 67% which was granted by mutual consent. Because I have a new course (MHF 4U), and 3C is back, and I already had one breakdown at the end of June over both of them existing at once. I strongly suspect I won't make it through the next few months without being part time. (Update: I was very much correct.)

I did get to a couple OAME 2021 sessions in May. I'm still the COMA secretary. My Cubic Formula song is just over 8,000 views in March 2022. I did write a new parody to end the summer that I haven't been able to put online yet. I'm sick of teaching. Let's move on.

HOBBY RELATED

As I said, there hasn't been much time for this. So I'm moving the yuri up here instead of leaving it for Miscellaneous as it's become something of a hobby. As in something I can read on my 10 or 20 minute runs.

The manga and light novels included "Adachi and Shimamura" (through book 4), "Fragtime" (in Nov 2020), "Strawberry Fields" (3 book series) and "I'm in Love with the Villainess" (started April 2021, only just started book 3 in late August). Also watched the Kase-San movie that I got back in April to end off the summer/year here.

I read some time comics too, "Life is Strange" and the BTTF/Transformers crossover. Also free comics, handed out earlier this month (in August) this past year. Bank Street had them outside, the weather was good. The only book I managed to read was "How to be an Antiracist" (Ibram X. Kendi) which was part of our book club at school. I'm so behind in webcomics and everything else.

I managed to keep up biweekly with writing "Epsilon Project" and their pandemic storyline, which had started in May 2020 and continued into April 2021. Ever since April, that blog has been about posting reruns (from old mathNEWS), many posts queued up months in advance.

Before "Epsilon" ended, I'd joined the 2021 Serial April Fools Swap in mid-March (when someone else dropped out and I was asked if I wanted to fill the gap). Somehow managed to read and write an entry for someone else, without having a March Break. And of course, now that I go to link to "Lemongrass: The Chaotic Life of Meadow Song" I find it's 404ed. (I know the author took a break later that April...)

I also not only wrote but recorded the 10th Annual Christmath Parody, "Solving for Unknowns" as a video for the school announcements (no Xmas assembly, of course). And I got my 2019 math parodies online at last, in April 2021 (the "new March Break"), with art: "Only When We Train" (Aug 2019) and "I Graph The Line" (Oct 2019).

Nothing else for personified math, except in summer 2021 I had to convert all the old Google Sites Personified Serial Entries to the new Google format. (That took time, the images were never placed right after conversion.) The new song I wrote in August 2021 is about logs, no clue when I'll get that up.

And of course, the big one in writing is "Time Untied" (my serial sequel).

Was at about 82,000 words in August 2019, about 127,000 words in August 2020, and this year saw more writing in November (for NaNo). Finally got it to the climax... the first one. With over 25,000 more words. That was after I'd done some October edits, in light of the weird "week of prep" quadmester schedule. Meaning more edits were done in February and March.

Since 150,000 words and still going means this needs to be two books, I split it after 10 parts, and later reformatted the start of the subsequent "Time Denied" book for the Ink & Insights competition at the end of June 2021. I figure feedback is good, under the circumstances. I continued the writing in July, with the last edits being August 8th to file "L". (A to J being the full "Untied" book.)

In December 2020 I finalized Alexandra's story translations and photos, in time for Christmas. I also managed to make some more videos of her, including Circle Time in March and a couple for her June birthday (in July). Also compilations for Year 3 which I hadn't been sure about doing but decided yeah.

In August 2021 I was able to post to the blog about some PD sessions, having not posted since November 2020. (Not counting the parenting summaries, which I no longer post but still do offline.)

On the role-play side, Tom started up another TORG campaign, so Ben Asim (from 2017) got dusted off and updated for some play in September/October 2020. Then came a follow-up campaign in January 2021, where a backup Avril Carroll was created, but Ben was the one used for gaming in February, March, July and August.

Through it all, I had several temporary breakdowns. My stress levels were consistently over 5. I'm not sure if that counts as a hobby, but it's what was happening in my spare time. Anyway.

UPKEEP RELATED

The garage door broke in April 2021, and the chain mechanism had to be replaced. The fridge filter broke in July 2021, and is still broken (in March 2022). I got a Pfizer shot in mid-May (a little before the presumed Roseola rash with little one) and a Moderna shot in July (earlier than originally scheduled, that being the start of September, which would have been not entirely useful).

The vaccinating meant we felt safe enough taking a trip in late July to visit my parents (and little one's cousins). Followed by a trip to the Piquard Cottage in August. The car air conditioning had failed before that, but was still under warranty from last year, so yay. The perpetually broken kitchen faucet also got replaced in late August, so yay water at more than a trickle.

The property outside is still something of a mess. I've given up on grass, never had time to clean the deck, and the driveway is starting to fracture from the roots underneath. It is what it is. The interior looks pretty good.

MISCELLANEOUS

What else goes here? Well, CBC finished their "Element of Surprise" this past month (August 2021), that was a fun thing to listen to on Tuesdays. Me and Anne-Lise actually went out for our Anniversary in the month too, since the France grandparents could mind the little one (ordered from Pelican Grill and went to park).

Other than that, phone's fine. Pedometer's fine but the online tracking ends for it when 2021 ends. Yeah, life is pretty much school, parenting, and trying to carve out time for hobbies around those.

WHERE TO NEXT

The units/lessons for the new MHF 4U course need to be put together, pretty sure this isn't the last time I'll see that course (now that Grade 9 and 10 are getting disrupted). Updating the personified math banner should happen.

I think parts A to J of "Time Untied" will just need to sit there now, until I work through "Time Denied" to the point where everything hooks back into needing to update "Untied". One hopes I have time. Publicizing any of my stuff remains pretty much a non-event.

Something exactly the same as in 2020, little one could fall ill or need a pickup at any point. Family stress is real. This pandemic is not going away, and needs to be dealt with more seriously. (But no, instead let's have a federal election during which Ford vanishes in the province, right.)

I don't know. At this point I'm half a year behind even publishing this, so let's just reiterate more from 2020 as we call it a day:

Things happened. It wasn't great, it sure could have been worse. As I said last time, if you have any particular questions about teaching or parenting, I'll see what I can do? Thanks for reading my mental rambling.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

OAME 2021 Summary

Welcome to a math teacher blogging about life in a pandemic. That's about all you'll get on this blog these days. (I still do weekly journalling, but see no point posting it.)

This is the second of two PD posts; the first was Boardwide PD of April 23, 2021. This time I will discuss the OAME Math Conference, during the week of May 17th, 2021. The current pandemic meant that both events were fully remote (in fact all teaching in Ontario was remote following the "April Break", moved from March).

Screenshot from Wednesday the 19th

Earlier in 2021 I'd hesitated on signing up at all (and see last year's OAME post for how I hadn't planned on going to 2020) but since the virtual conference hours were 4-9pm, with a session at 8pm (after the little one had gone to bed), I decided to at least take in evening sessions. Perhaps the blinders were on in late March?

For the record, OAME 2021 had sessions at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, with their virtual trade show running in between. This was every day, Monday through Friday, though I stuck with 8pm (mostly). By then I was also teaching a full course load (3U & Data) without a prep (due to quadmesters) so there was a lot going on.

OAME: MON & TUES


The sessions were: M8.08, "Changing a Math Class Culture", presented by Alice Aspinall and Cesare Cetra. And T08.07, "Blurring Lines between Math and Art", presented by Karyn Hepburn.

The changing culture aspect was largely focused on the Thinking Classroom of Peter Liljedahl and his 14 practices (which I've blogged about elsewhere). This generation of students have different types of learners, with social media and more IEPs; don't start with course information, start with a problem together. Reduces pushback for problem solving in groups later on and sets classroom norms.

Verbal instructions where possible (careful of IEPs) and avoid writing, as it's something for them to fall back on. One marker per group, break down social barriers. Noted many aspects are more difficult during the pandemic and with remote teaching. Consistency through a department is nice.

Chat mentioned the use of Jamboards during online work for collaboration, and there was talk of growth versus fixed mindset along with Peter L's new book "Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics” (2020) and Jo Boaler's "Limitless Mind" (Going beyond mathematics).

Their favourite line: "You know more than you think you do." Connect to things already known, and 3-Act math problems. Making mistakes is very important, though kids don't want to hear it (worrying about a negative sign means you lose the process). Most common question is getting students to buy in.

Interestingly the last thing they did before going home for the pandemic in March 2020 was third annual school wide pi day math celebration. Overall it was a fine session - but mostly it reiterated points I've heard a lot elsewhere.

For Math and Art, the school combined the math/art program for Grades 9 and 10, allowing for completion of electives. The math curriculum was spiralled to revisit topics from three perspectives: Art concepts/graphs, Real life phenomena, and Algebraic representations. Allowing more time to absorb concepts in both subjects, and more productivity.

Experimental Probability: Random Art Types #1-4

First assignment was parabolas & texture (not Desmos, though that's another idea), then exponentials & fractals, then lines & patterns (find slope to create good symmetry), then design & 3D printing (for surface area and trigonometry). Photography can also link with trigonometry and contrast. Of note, 10P and 11C have perspective drawing in the course.

There was also a 3C Greeting Card Survey Reflection for statistics (survey the school for things like should there be snow, how many star layers). Once the cards were made from the data, they were signed and given to volunteers. Printmaking can also link to manipulating graphs, so they seem misleading.

During quarantine last year, statistics was instead make art where something can be marked in, such as tree trunks where their location can be plotted with quartiles (also goes to composition).

Karyn then put us in random breakouts, and I was with two other teachers, one from Toronto; we talked a bit about getting administration on side (low cost startup) but I also had to check on the little one who was having more trouble falling asleep (or possibly it was some other interruption around 8:30). To conclude the session, there was a Probability Art activity.

You chose four textures, then would randomly generate numbers from 1 to 4. Creating 8 results versus 32 results leads to experimental vs theoretical, make some predictions and calculate final results. I put in a graphic above.

Rather clever on the overall, and I only realized once it started that I know the presenter themselves. Some of the individual activities (such as that last one) might be ones to take advantage of on a smaller scale.

OAME: WEDNESDAY


I (mostly) went to the 6pm Keynote on this day (rather late) because the 8pm session was a follow-up. Both sessions were "Mathematics, Social Justice & Actions" by Robert Q Berry III. (Past president of NCTM. I put one graphic at the top of the post.) Alas, there was some confusion in the household, so I missed the first half of the keynote itself.

When I arrived, Robert was talking about using data and information to provoke questions. Such as a link between cigarette smoking and income, and whether advertisers are targeting a certain group. Or the idea of gerrymandering, and weaponizing in order to advantage some while disadvantaging others.

There was a look at a Social Justice Math Lesson Framework, a seven step plan. What matters: Content (learning goals, relevant issues, analysis tools) and Context (purpose, allies, building identity/agency). Also WHEN matters (current events, contributing to a goal) and HOW matters (strategies, student/parent reactions, how to assess). The Zoom chat mentioned "Skew the Script" and "Math that Matters".

Six elements of a Social Justice Mathematics Lesson Framework were shown. Robert concluded by questioning how Social Justice could be infused in math and what work must be done to prepare. With a reminder that social justice need not always come from a trauma perspective, but can also have a celebratory point of view. Acknowledging those who are not always seen (hidden figures) or shining a light on activism.

This was continued in session W8.02, with a look at three tasks. For reference, there was his book "High School Math to Explore, Understand and Respond to Social Injustice".

Two gender/sexuality graphs were provided, and what do you notice? ("Listen to GLSEN") Data can be organized into a matrix, and can be collected from their own school based on what they've learned. That was more statistical, the second task was finance related.

Culturally relevant income inequality. Complete the following sentence, "before I read, I thought that *** but now I know that ***". Students were to research an article on their own, then do reporting. Connect to race, with the greatest change from 1967 to 2014. Noted students can represent the data, then discuss rate of change, and make sense of that (it may or may not be linear).

Questions to ask: What is the injustice here? How can I make sense of it and mathematize it? What is the action that students will take in learning from this? (Maybe understanding historical significance of how wealth is built, blacks could not own homes or access loans the same, "red line".)

Screenshot from Wednesday the 19th

The third lesson was "A False Positive" on drug testing. Robert also mentioned gerrymandering again (from the keynote), along with a plan for Creating Your Own Lessons. Noted that book chapters are broken up by content (Stats, Geometry, Numbers...)

Consider even COVID cases by County in 2020, from the NYTimes. Why more towards the east? Population density? How do we mathematize it, relative magnitude? Proportionality? Or racial disparity in major sports leagues, players to head coaches. How to mathematize? How to assess not only the math goal but the social justice goal, what will they take away?

There were a few other references, and Robert also took questions in the chat. I posed about pushback from parents or administrators, and Robert says you have to *do the work* to understand the community. How where kids live intersect with standards to teach, meaning use the community as a resource. Might be a lack of understanding and potential of resources.

The social justice should not feel like an add-on or drop-in. You might only do it once or twice every 6-9 weeks, it's a matter of being COHERENT.

OAME: THU & FRI


The sessions were R8.09, "Creating a Spiralled Course", by Natalie Robinson, and F8.07 "Gender Equity: Promoting Female Presence in STEM fields", by Atinuke Adeyemi.

Personally, I figure spiralling is worth it, my attendance was more to get a sense of how it's best/being implemented. First offered, a "spiral" definition: a combination of laying a foundation of skills/concepts, and building upon these with continuous revisiting. Her department made spiralling a priority in both pathways (academic/applied) so a student who transitions is not losing anything.

To get started, find a friend (two is great to start), prioritize goals, then use previous lessons with revisions on the fly. Look sideways as well as up and down. Seasoned teachers are better with priorities, while new teachers are better with flexibility. Nathalie and colleague started with Grade 9 Applied.

They had FOUR cycles (loops through). Every strand represented in the cycles, which ran 24, 24, 20 and 9... the last was shorter owing to it being consolidating (eg solving for dimensions). It's never perfect on the first try (assemblies, interruptions, EQAO time...) but students were not confused by "jumping around".

Science of successful learning “Making it Stick” book, read around the same time. (Chat: By the Heath Brothers? Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, and Mark A. McDaniel?) If you don't have a colleague you ARE going to find it overwhelming.

Assessment has to complement the process. Two part HW assignments, due Wed & Fri. Reinforces all concepts are “fair game” at any time. (Pre-teach and repeat options.) You might have taught algebra but the HW is geometry. Will be linking them. Evaluations occur to finish a cycle.

Wanted mobility of 1D/1P (where 1D has the extra strand), so would take framework of 1P and modify it. Analytic Geometry very blank in cycle 1; Numeracy/Algebra very blank in cycle 4. Wanted Grade 11 Mixed. FIVE cycles; cycle 1 had nothing specific to strands (properties of functions, notations, solving equations) then cycle 2 gets more technical (factoring, exponent rules) then in later cycles get transformations and finance.

11U was also accomplished (8 units became 5 cycles), where it takes LESS time to get through curriculum (even with assessments and some review, still a few leftover days). But be flexible and kind to yourself, even the second time teaching might not be quite right; there's so many moving parts.

The last cycle is always a compilation of all ideas, so you revisit everything (no new concepts just old ideas in new ways), meaning need only a day or two for exam review after.

Teachers from different schools have collaborated on Grade 10 and 11C (Natalie had to do 11C virtually due to pandemic, using those notes, and it was working). If your school has teaching pockets, that's hard on the kids; worst thing is having kids in a successful environment then get thrown into a traditional way next time, there's data on this.

Pros: Many lessons the same, students see links, confidence and understanding improve. Cons: Many other lessons useless, need to build all new tests, feels like new teaching.

You’re only *learning* when you’re a bit uncomfortable. Your brain is not growing and making connections unless it’s straining. Hence quizzes where anything comes up. Could do test and a task over two days. Progress tends to be a reverse bell. (Starts better, then they have to push through a bit, but they end the course UP. So no stress at the end.)

No textbook used, continued through COVID, only truly misplaced students struggle. “I could give you my outlines, but they’re based on our dept priorities, so they might not match your thinking.” Try to make the end of each cycle more an Application/Thinking item (rather than thinking early cycles are Knowledge and later ones are Thinking).

There were some other questions at the end which Natalie said she'd address later, and of course I never got around to revisiting the files. Something else I'd wanted to get around to was watching Friday's 6pm speaker; I only caught the last ten minutes or so of Eugenia Cheng's session. More on that below.

For Friday's 8pm session, Atinuke introduced herself and referenced life experiences influencing her research interest. Arriving in Canada, she noticed low female participation in mathematics despite government interventions. In her country it's reversed, 20 students in a class would have only 4 males.


She asked us for what words we might associate with STEM. A field where we need female contribution and innovation. Context: Concerns in the 1960s, several national publications drew national awareness in 1990s, and despite "improvement" in 2000s, it did not translate to careers in STEM fields.

34% dropped out (66% remained) from 2010 to 2015 within undergraduates. And females were twice as likely (23% vs 12%) to switch into health care/psychology fields instead. Here are some reasons for low participation:
1) Psychological factors (& math anxiety). Women may worry about impressing (or pleasing) others, and have incorrect self-perceived ability.
2) Biological factors. Researchers argue that males’ brains have neurological qualities to allow them to perform better. But female achievement scores refute this argument (2002). 
3) Attitude and Beliefs. Confidence (as from middle grades, females are less confident so they become uninterested or unmotivated). Usefulness (when girls value STEM as highly useful, it leads to career choices). Attribution style (females are more likely to attribute success to luck or effort and failure to ‘low ability’).
4) Social Factors. From parents and teachers, encouragement and support. Parents socioeconomic status and education plays in. Teachers with stereotypical remarks or who themselves possess levels of maths anxiety too. (And equality vs equity – discard the equality.) Peers and peer pressure as well, though from the outset, what do we let them play with?

She showed a video here of how dressing a baby girl as a boy and vice versa, an adult gravitated towards different toy selections. I'd recommend checking it out (from 2017) as well as this other video on gender role expectations.

There was also #5) Societal Belief and Cultural Milieu. (Media portrayal: Big Bang Theory vs Numb3rs. Girls who are “nerds” or not social in the former.) Also, employment trends, few role models. In a qualitative study on math and physics students, the major obstacles were seen as inadequate teaching methods (unappealing lectures), lack of social interaction and solitary feelings.

There had been an activity planned here but we were down to five minutes left, so she gave final recommendations: *Stimulate and increase female interest through exposure from a younger age, then ensure they're aware of some professions. *Organize more outreach programs. Talk about great women in math. *And higher education should accept more women into ranks to serve as role models.

As a general rule, be careful of assumptions. Particularly related to gender.

CONCLUSIONS


The sessions were kept online for a couple weeks after the conference concluded, along with other pre-recorded sessions. I decided I was too busy with my full time remote teaching to take advantage... I had at least seen more than I managed to in 2020. One quick shoutout to the Friday keynote here, which I'd hoped to see more of.


Eugenia Cheng was the speaker. ("Inclusion/Exclusion in mathematics", somewhat related to my other Friday session.) She noted that if you teach how to do standardized tests, then that's what students learn, which will not help them later. Need to change from ingression behaviour (to be powerful, we must put down others) to congressional (pursuit of depth and cultural awareness).

Her conclusion referenced how many different possible answers would be a wonderful way to make things more congressive at all ages (like "which one doesn't belong", shoutout to Christopher Daniels). "We don't defeat math by learning it, we make it bigger by learning it".

In the overall, like I said in my prior post about the April Subject PD, there were elements here to reaffirm some of the things I was already aware of (albeit not necessarily doing). The class culture and spiralling aspects fit there, along with a few items like gerrymandering (which fit into my Data class).

There were also things I could consider incorporating, once I have more time to think about them. That being the art aspects, and going deeper with social justice. And of course the gender issue is something to keep in mind, extending even more to my three year old daughter and not wanting to fit her into some societal norm.

If you're wondering about previous OAME conferences I went to, you can have a look at 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. (In 2017 the sessions were full before I realized registration was open.)

Alternatively, feel free to drop a comment here. Did you learn something, or have any thoughts about the mathematics? Or the teaching, or applications? Please let me and other readers know. As always, thanks for reading through to the end.

(Note: For a more frequently updated blog, go to that link, where I've started rerunning "Quantum Loop" and other math parody serials.)