wRanter.com

Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, left-leaning, Canadian, pro-Israel, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.

wRanter.com - Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, left-leaning, Canadian, pro-Israel, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.
Featured wRants
He was burned by this very issue.

The Jewish community should fund its own schools

The fallout from the recent controversy over the creation of gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in Ontario's publicly funded Catholic school system should give pause to those seeking funding – in the name of fairness – ...

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The next occupants of 24 Sussex?

Why Thomas Mulcair gets it when it comes to Israel

Not surprisingly, Thomas Mulcair won the NDP leadership last month, replacing Saint Jack Layton as the man social democrats hope can rally left-of-centre voters to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Here's hoping he's successful, but ...

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Jewish issues at centre of partisan sniping

Jewish issues and candidates made headlines last week and became the subject of some distasteful political rhetoric on the campaign trail. In Alberta, a 21-year-old hijab-wearing university student resigned Aug. 18 as the Liberal candidate in ...

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Thursday the rabbi walked out, or was he pushed?

Being a pulpit rabbi can be a cutthroat business

When Toronto Jews awoke last Saturday morning and collected their Globe and Mail newspapers from their doorsteps (those who still subscribe, that is), they discovered a front-page story detailing how Holy Blossom Temple, the city's ...

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Israel shouldn't be a political football or litmus test

Despite public and private appeals to call off the event, the Jewish Defence League (JDL) went ahead with its unfortunate decision to picket a Liberal fundraiser at the Toronto home of pharmaceutical magnate and Jewish ...

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Who will be the next big-name Jewish MP?

Last week, we examined four “Jewish” battleground ridings, including two – York Centre in Toronto and Mount Royal in Montreal – where, one way or another, a Jewish candidate is likely to win. This week, ...

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Being mislabelled by educators can make school a misery.

Your December-born kid may not have ADHD. He might just be immature.

A new Canadian study is bolstering an argument I've been making to my kids' teachers and principals for years: children born later in a calendar year are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit ...

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The Jewish community should fund its own schools

The fallout from the recent controversy over the creation of gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic school system should give pause to those seeking funding – in the name of fairness – for their own faith-based schools.

It should, but it probably won’t.

Cardinal Tom Collins at wRanter.com

He stuck out his neck, and his schools could suffer.

The so-called anti-bullying bill, which seeks to end bullying in publicly funded schools, passed in the legislature earlier this week. Catholic leaders – including the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins – had opposed it because it allows students to set up GSAs in schools and requires the schools to permit them, and for them to be named as such if students prefer it.

The whole idea was to provide safe spaces for gay students in schools, in order to prevent bullying and the kind of high-profile suicides that prompted the legislation in the first place. But Catholic leaders said the move amounted to an attack on freedom of religion.

The Liberal government denied Tory opposition charges that it has been using the issue of GSAs to try to open a debate about the $7 billion in annual public funding for Ontario’s Catholic schools.

The claim seems to be borne out by the fact the recent Drummond Report –which went over government operations in minute detail with an eye to finding as many budgetary savings as possible – passed over some rather low-hanging fruit in the form of Catholic schools and their parallel public educational bureaucracy. Some estimates put the annual savings from folding the Catholic system into the public one at a whopping $1 billion annually.

But regardless of whether or not the government intended to pick a fight over Catholic school funding, the war may already have begun: a new poll taken June 4 found that 48 per cent of Ontarians  oppose Catholic school funding, while 43 per cent favour it (eight per cent were unsure). Continue reading


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Give kids and parents a break: don’t kill summer vacation

It’s a good thing the B.C. Liberals are likely going to lose the next provincial election, because aside from being from the wrong side of the ideological pond on most issues, they’ve just resurrected a really bad idea: year-round schooling.

Kids in school at wRanter.com

Maybe they can live here.

Instead of having a 10-month school year with eight to 10 weeks off in the summer, the government has introduced legislation that would eliminate mandatory academic years, which would allow school to run through the summer. In many versions of similar proposals, there would still be about 180 to 200 days of instruction, but with shorter vacation periods spaced throughout the calendar.

As you might imagine, teachers hate the idea, and their unions have reacted badly to it, even though the number of teaching days wouldn’t necessarily be increased and teachers’ overall vacation time would be more or less the same.

Teachers want and look forward to the 10-week summer break, and frankly, so do I. It’s good for kids, good for parents, and it can be good for families (which is why it’s somewhat hypocritical that a supposedly family-friendly right-wing government proposed it).

The main argument for year-round schooling is that it it’s supposed to help kids retain what they learn, instead of forgetting stuff over the two-month summer break, thus cutting down on review time and improving test scores.

But there is empirical evidence that contradicts this. As well, it’s hardly the worst problem that teachers grumble about. At most, you might hear a bit of complaining at the beginning of each school year, but by October (at the latest in non-semester schools), once review is largely done and new material is being introduced in earnest, this ceases to be a huge issue. Continue reading


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Things that make me go arghhhh! Part 1

I figure that this wouldn’t be a true blog without random kvetching about nothing in particular.

Fine whine at wRanter.com

Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch…

So in that spirit, I present semi-aimless carping about disconnected aspects of modern life, or, with apologies to Arsenio Hall, what I like to call “Things that make me go arghhhh!”:

• When a store’s website inventory checker says something is in stock and you plan a special trip to a particular outlet based on that information, only to find out that the item you want isn’t there. This happens to me so often that you’d think I’d learn not to bang my head against the wall again and again. (Here’s looking at you, Canadian Tire!) Note to self: remember to use the telephone next time. Continue reading


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Competitive basketball saved our son

I never thought I’d hear myself say this, or see myself write it, but team sports have truly saved my kid’s life.

Really. Without team sports, he’d probably be an insecure, angry mess who might have been kicked out of his Jewish day school, a result of his interactions with an educational system that from a very early age did not know how to handle this bright, friendly, energetic, lovable boy. (You can read a bit more about his story here.)

But the quasi-redemptive kind of team sports I’m talking about isn’t the house league, everybody-makes-the-team and everyone-gets-a-trophy variety.

Atom boys basketballers at wRanter.com

It's all about teamwork and effort.

I’m referring to rep sports, which require you to work on your game (whatever it may be), risk rejection through a series of gruelling tryouts, and then earn your playing time (and your coach’s respect) with ongoing effort and hard work.

Before my wife and I had kids, and before we had two boys, we thought rep sports were too expensive and required too much of a commitment from both parents and kids at the expense of more important pursuits, like school. We considered rep sports and their high number of practice hours to be a drain on both time and money – two of our most precious family commodities. Continue reading


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Your December-born kid may not have ADHD. He might just be immature.

A new Canadian study is bolstering an argument I’ve been making to my kids’ teachers and principals for years: children born later in a calendar year are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, than their older peers. (You can read more about the study here and here.)

The conclusion seems pretty obvious to me, but apparently extensive research was needed to confirm – or at least strongly support – what many of us already know from painful experience to be true.

Dancing up a storm at wRanter.com

ADHD or normal childhood exuberance?

The 11-year study by researchers at the University of British Columbia looked at 938,000 six- to 12-year-olds from December 1997 to November 2008  in B.C. schools where the calendar year demarcates school-admission cutoffs. They found that kids born in December are 39 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and 48 per cent more likely to be treated with medication for it than children born in January.

The concern is that children who are immature relative to their classmates are being singled out based on distracted, “impulsive” or “hyperactive” behaviour in class, and that they’re being referred by educators to a psycho-educational industry that may be too quick to prescribe medications (mostly stimulants) whose long-term effects are still largely unknown. Continue reading


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