What Shakespeare was talking about in the famous soliloquy from “Hamlet” was not all about whether it’s better to end your life or to continue to endure pain and heartbreak. It was not an extended existential whinge. It was, rather, a contemplation on whether or not to use the plural or the singular third person verb form of the infinitive “to be”. It’s a difficult question, with a relatively simple answer.
“To be” is one of the weirdest verbs in the English language. It does all kinds of fancy footwork, like a set of twins conjoined at the hip dancing salsa. It’s the sort of verb that makes high school students weep. Grade two kids just get it without questioning, but grade two kids are usually smarter than teenagers.
Anyway, here’s the rough rule of thumb:
If the subject of your sentence (the person, place, or thing that you are talking about) is *singular* in nature, then use “is”. If the subject of your sentence is plural, then use “are”.
F’rinstance: “There are many solutions to this problem.”
I can parse that sentence for you completely if you’d like, but suffice it to say for now that ‘solutions’ is the subject of the sentence and ‘problem’ is the object of the sentence. “There are” is the form of the verb in question.
F’rinstance: “There is one solution to this problem.”
Again, using the same subject/object (solutions-solution/problem), it is evident that because ‘solution’ is singular, we use “is”.
I mention this because I saw an entire article in the newspaper this morning in which not only the interviewee used the verb wrong, but the *reporter* used the incorrect tense. Regina Leader-Post, where are your editors? This is a very simple solution that any copy editor would catch immediately. Call me.
Also, as an unrelated note, I dreamed that Carl, Brennan, and Viper Pilot showed up to a nightclub at which I was dancing like nobody was watching (nobody was; the place had just opened). I burst into tears when I saw Viper Pilot. I do hope he comes for a visit soon. I miss him like all kinds of crazy.
The Nipper is learning punctuation. They were studying periods, exclamation points, and question marks in class. He told us they have hand signals for each one (they clap for an exclamation point, raise their eyebrows and touch their chins for a question mark, and they hold their hands out in front of them, palms facing away, for a full stop (and they say “errrrrch”)). But he was a little confused why they’re all considered terminal punctuation.
I told him its because a period, otherwise known as a full stop, is just that. It’s a full stop. It stops the words from tumbling all over the page pell-mell, coming to a big heap at the bottom where no one can suss them out. Because words, you know, have energy, and when nobody’s watching, they’ll just skitter across a page if there’s nothing at the end of a sentence to keep them in their own yards. He didn’t believe me, so I showed him a book of poetry with left-justified pages in some places and right-justified pages in others, and some weird shape poetry.
“So,” I told him, “punctuation that ends sentences always has to have a full stop. An exclamation point is a full stop that’s really excited. It jumps up and down and leaves this weird line above it. You can always tell when words are meant to be excited or exciting if there’s a jumping full stop at the end.”
“Ohhhhhh,” he said. “That makes sense. But what about a question mark?”
“Ah. Sometimes, full stops get confused, and they wander around a bit looking for the answer. The sentences in front of them ask the questions for them.”
“*I* get it!” He cried, then commenced walking in vaguely question-mark shaped patterns around the bedroom. “With a question mark, the period kind of walks around wondering where he’s left his shoes!”
“Yes, that’s it precisely,” I said.
And that is why question marks always go barefoot.
It seems like the only time we really have is time that’s under pressure from five different directions. We were at the rink Thursday, Friday, twice on Saturday, and yesterday. We’ll be at the rink again tonight, tomorrow night, Friday, and Sunday nights. It’s the nearing-the-end-of-the-regular-season crunch to get all our games in. And then playoffs start. It’s been a good year for our team; they’ve played well, they’re in the top third of the standings, and they get along well as a team. In addition to the games, we have a kid who’s a ref, so when we’re not watching him play, we watch him make calls. It’s an interesting game, when you’re watching the officials instead of the play. Not better; not worse. Different, though. And you really notice the douchebubble parents an awful lot more when it’s your kid they’re jeering at. I’m not…supposed to go to The Captain’s reffing too much…
The point here is that when we weren’t at a rink, we were at the kitchen table (I am loathe to think about what my beautiful oak table is going to look like when we take the newspaper off it; I suspect it will have glue or water or – gods forbid – paint thinner stains on it), trying to put the finishing touches on the Nieuport 17. The Captain has more or less given up on the Sopwith. I hope he completes it on his own when he’s not under so much pressure. I’d finished putting together the individual parts of the aeroplane Thursday or Friday. The Captain helped me glue the tissue paper to the frame.
From there, we sprayed the covered parts with water – this was the coolest part of the whole thing – and as it dried, the tissue paper shrunk and kind of sucked itself on to the stringers. That was wicked. Having learned that Canada has outlawed the distribution of the substance one needs for the next bit (I swear to Christ, it’s called dope. I went to a shop and asked for dope and they told me it’s illegal to distribute it in Canada, and I said, I know, but this isn’t dope-dope; it’s for covering a balsa airplane with tissue paper, and the guy blinked and said, I know, that’s what I was talking about, and I said oh, well, we’re on the same page then.), so I had to jury-rig something. The purpose of covering the tissue paper with dope (snigger) is to seal the pores in the paper and to harden it up a bit. Because tissue paper tears like…well, it tears like tissue paper, really. And it’s delicate like a delicate thing.
So I was dopeless. But I happened to have a can of Games Workshop “Purity Seal”, which is crap for the purpose for which it was invented (sealing your hand-painted miniatures – it leaves a horrid crust on your paint. Seriously, never use it). So I took the smallest section of the aeroplane and sprayed it with the purity seal.* It worked, as my aunt would say, slicker than snot on a doorknob.
The Captain and I assembled the aeroplane. Much Swearing was had when it came time to attach the top wing, because it had warped, but after I left it overnight and came back to it, and weighed the wing down on each side with glass bowl while the gluick dried, it seemed just fine. The Captain painted the aeroplane – and here’s where karma must have caught up to us – he ran out of the alumnium colour with about 2 square inches of the fuselage left to go. And the hobby shop wasn’t open yesterday. So we finished the rest of the painting (I showed him some drybrushing techniques before he went off to the rink), and as the paint dried, we watched copious amounts of Doctor Who.
I had to hand-letter the insignias, because the decals that came with the model were for a French plane, and I’ve discovered that Cs are VERY DIFFICULT. But I fucking ROCK at 5s. When The Captain went off to bed, I strung the wires between the wings and mounted (poorly) the machine gun on the top wing. I think the ‘motor’ won’t work (the elastic is too long and I’m not sure I can anchor it properly inside the fuselage, but we’ll see. I put some modelling clay in the bottom of the fuselage at the pivot point. This morning, The Captain put the wheels on and put Plastic Billy Bishop in the cockpit. He coloured the instrument panel and glued it in place.
All that’s left is to finish the bit of the fuselage that needs paint, install the motor, and gluick the prop to the engine block. And then the Nieuport 17 will be complete.
*NB – when it says “use in a well-ventilated area” on Games Workshop Purity Seal, they mean, like, a park or an abandoned street, or possibly a missile test site. I shit you not. I took the pieces outside to spray them, but couldn’t leave them in the cold to dry because they’d warp, so I brought them inside. I had both doors and several windows open for several hours. Even still, I had to close The Nipper away in the computer room so that I didn’t intoxicate my child.
I have been peeling glue from my fingers for a week. This, too, is strangely cathartic. Insert long-winded, slightly purple prose about shedding the old skin and leaving troubles behind, blah-blah-blah. In reality, there are little fingerprint flakes all over my favourite spot on the chesterfield. Don’t tell His Nibs.
The Captain and I cut out the plastic bits last night after his hockey game (which his team won by a resounding 10-2), and this morning, before I was even out of bed, The Captain had glued together the wheels, the machine gun, the engine, and The Man Himself…the one we’ve all been waiting for… MISTER BILLY BISHOP! WWI Flying Ace! Dogfight Champion! The only British Air Force pilot to ever successfully complete a solo strafing run on a German aerodrome! (He was awarded the Victoria Cross for that one.) Sure, at the moment he’s all pasty white and looks just like every OTHER WWI Pilot, but this weekend is for covering the frames with tissue paper and painting the insignias and the miniatures. I’m sure we can get this little plastic pilot to look at least a *little* like Billy Bishop.
As we sat together last night working on the aeroplanes, I said something to him about how David would have been an awesome person to have helping us with the project. The Captain glanced over at me and said, “I’m not sure it’s healthy for you to dwell so much on things, Mum.”
I said, “of course, you’re right. But there is a time for grief, and for expressing your sorrow that you won’t be able to create new memories with your friend. I think building this plane has helped me not be so sad about things. And thinking about David isn’t a bad thing, I don’t think.”
He sighed and said, “I think I just cut my finger on this plastic.”
Once I had all of the component parts complete, I laid them out on the table in order of where they’d go on the finished product. I thought how amazing it is that just a week ago, this object taking shape before me had been a series of numbered, weirdly shaped flat pieces of balsa wood in die-cut lots at the bottom of a cardboard box. I remembered opening the box and thinking, this is going to be a hell of a ride, because all the models I’d done to that point had been cast or molded plastic. I’d never actually had to build a fuselage or a wing before. I’d never seen these parts take shape before my eyes.
Billy Bishop barely graduated from high school. He went to the Royal Military College and was asked to leave, but WWI broke out before they had the chance to actually give him the boot, and he signed up. He was not…good…at academics. He was ill when his unit got shipped overseas. As it ended up, he wasn’t even particularly good at flying. But he was very good at taking photographs and telling stories. And he was very, very good at shooting. He had a patron in Great Britain who got him audiences with all of the Most Important People. Not that he wanted that. But it was wanted on his behalf because it was felt that the troops needed a hero. Billy Bishop was that hero. And, incidentally, the day he did the strafing run on the German aerodrome solo was because his mates were too hung over and/or still too drunk to fly. When he returned, his plane was full of holes and was trailing bits behind it. But he returned. Time and time again, he returned. At a time when most pilots died within ten days, he claimed more than 72 “victories” (enemy aircraft shot down). For a time, he was the third most successful flying ace in the WORLD, behind a French aviator who was second to the Red Baron himself (Baron von Richthoven). By the end of the war, Bishop had outdone Rene Fonck (the French aviator) by a score of three, and the Red Baron had been shot down by Arthur Brown, another Canadian in the RAF.
I can’t think of another more testosterone-fuelled, absolutely ludicrous and insane thing to do than to get into vehicles made of chopsticks and burlap with unreliable motors that would then trundle down a field and maybe – MAYBE – lift off before smashing into the trees (Billy Bishop did that, btw)…only to then fly around in an open cockpit with a gun MOUNTED TO THE TOP WING and shoot at other people in chopstick-and-burlap planes while trying to dodge their bullets. Like, if I wrote a book about this, NOBODY WOULD BUY IT. They would tell me, “that’s ridiculous. That would never happen. It just doesn’t even make sense.”
In addition to fusing balsa wood like it’s going out of style, it turns out that model plane cement is also good for fixing shoes. At David’s wake, I threw a heel on my favourite boots. As Pete the Shoemaker from my mum’s hometown would say, “gluick. Gluick will fix. Pete will gluick.” Pete’s long gone, but whenever I have to repair something, I always say “Pete will gluick.” And, as you can see here, Pete, as it were, has gluicked.
It occurred to me that in putting together this aeroplane methodically, piece by piece, painstakingly gluing one tiny piece of balsa wood to the next, that this has become my therapy. It wasn’t a huge revelation. I didn’t fly through the streets of the greater metropolitan valley centre area shouting that I’d discovered the next great heal-all, chicken-soup-for-the-soul-of-the-friend-whose-good-friend-committed-suicide. Rather, it was a quiet thought. Something that slipped in while I was laying out the pieces of the fuselage frame.
I won’t lie to you; I’ve thought of David every step of the way so far. At his wake, the Saskatchewan Architects’ Association awarded him his professional architectural certification, something he’d been working toward since he got back from UBC. I can’t see a blueprint for anything and not think of David. I never could. Well, I suppose I could before I met David, but I hadn’t seen many blueprints back then. I’ve thought how it would have been really cool to make models with him. I’m sure he’d have changed the plans and modified the pieces and critiqued the design. I’m positive he’d have studied up on the model we were making and would have some grand scheme we could then use the model for. Honestly, I’m just happy to have these quiet thoughts to myself when I’m building this amazing piece of equipment.
When the instructions said “crack the wing frame at this point if you’re building dihedrals”, I thought, I know dihedral angles do something or other in mathematics, and I suspect in aeronautics, it probably stablilizes something, but I don’t actually know what that means. And since I find it Bothersome when I don’t know what something means, I looked it up. in case you had forgotten, the dihedral in a fixed-wing aircraft is the angle above the horizontal that an aeroplane’s wing…um…is at. ANHEDRAL angle is when the fixed wing angles down below the horizontal. The dihedral angle of the wing controls an aircraft’s roll. I considered all the times this aeroplane might possibly actually fly, and then decided, ‘fuck the dihedrals’, which is probably something that ALL aeronautics engineers say at SOME point in their lives.
Not that I am by any means an aeronautics engineer. Nor an engineer of any sort. Except perhaps for a soup engineer. I’m good at soup.
But here’s the thing. In this quiet, step-by-step assembly of an historic aeroplane flown by one of Canada’s greatest “war heroes” (if there is such a thing), I have found a quiet place. I’ve been at the centre of this quiet place before, and it’s not something I chagrin I’ll never find again…instead, this is a sort of soft meditation I wasn’t expecting. I can sit at the table and glue my fingers to the pieces and smile as I carefully and slowly peel the pieces away again. I lay out the pieces on the table, beside the frame that’s pinned to the blueprints, and I can think about David and everything else without being overwhelmed. I suppose this is also part of the regular passage of time and what they call ‘moving on’.
This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with sadness and loss and grief and death and suicide and sorrow. Not by far. But there’s something different about this time, and I don’t really know what it is. But when I’m finished this aeroplane, I’ll hang it in the window, and every time I look at it, I’ll think this is the plane I built with David, even though that sounds silly. But in this one thing, moreso than anything I’ve worked on, I am finding myself needing to be more meticulous. More careful. More precise. More exacting.
You know these words are antithetical to me. I am the opposite of those things. Except in terms of language, I suspect. But still, when I knit a sweater or a sock, I don’t much care if I slip a stitch or bugger up one of the pattern repeats…generally, I figure if I can hold the thing up and ask if anyone sees anything wrong with it, and they don’t, it’s fine. So please, inspect the socks and/or other gifts I’ve made for you because I guarantee there is at least one error in each one. But I’m being very careful with this model. Partly because I want to get it right. Partly because it just won’t go together right if I don’t do it right. Partly because it’s like I have someone to answer to. Someone who understands how to look at a blueprint and see the thing in three dimensions (note: that’s not me). Someone who understands how things fit together…watching me.
I know it’s just my own mind. But it’s a reassuring part of my own mind. And you may continue to see updates as the model continues to take form. You may not. I’m still on shaky legs here, when it comes to putting my words out there right now. But for today, I have a completed fuselage and a half-complete wing frame. I’ll be adding the rest of the spars and the shapers tonight and tomorrow. I hope to get to the bottom wing and tail section by the weekend. As an aside, the Nieuport 17 only had ailerons on the upper wing. It wasn’t until the Nieuport 28 design that ailerons were added to the bottom wing instead of to the top wing. At the same time, the wing spars were changed from a V design to a twin spar design that provided greater stability and manoeuvrability.
This is a balsa and tissue paper model of the Nieuport 17 aeroplane flown by Billy Bishop during WWI. Well. Technically, this is the completed fuselage of said aeroplane. In the top left corner of this photograph are the parts for a Sopwith Camel, which Bishop also flew, although only a handful of times. The Sopwith is a smaller plastic model, which, in theory, ought to be a bit less finicky to assemble. The Nieuport is proving to be challenging, but not so challenging that one must needs walk away from it or perish in a flaming ball of rage. On the other hand, the Sopwith requires more string.
When my granddad told me that the planes his brother flew in in WWI were held together with burlap sacking and binder twine, he wasn’t joking. One of the most interesting parts of working on the Nieuport is really getting a feel for how it would have gone together, and also for just how flimsy the beast must have been. In fact, one of the drawbacks of the Nieuport 17 was that it had a disconcerting tendency to just disintegrate and come completely apart in high speed dives. Which, when you’re involved in trying outmanoeuvre enemy forces, would seem to be one of the classic moves. This is coming from someone who learned everything she knows about aerial dogfights from watching Star Trek. Anyway. The Nieuport 17 was made of sheet metal, I believe (if I’m mistaken, please correct me). Unlike the WWII de Havilland Mosquito, which was actually made out of balsa wood. Which, in my uninformed opinion, is bloody crazy.
Granted, the Mosquito was probably constructed out of sturdier balsa than 1/16″ spars. Which one can snap by thinking about them wrong. But still. Balsa wood. I mean, I know it’s really really light…(incidentally, the Nieuport 17 weighed less than 1000 pounds when it was empty. It also sported a TINY engine. I mean, 110 horsepower. Boats with 110HP motors are only useful for trolling for fish. I’m being facetious. Seriously, though, I am beginning to understand more about why so many pilots died in the first world war. Because their planes came in packets of chewing gum).
The Captain is doing a Heritage Fair project that focusses on Billy Bishop. He asked if I’d pick up some model aeroplanes. The Nieuport was only available in balsa and tissue paper (also, when complete, it will fly. In theory. Which is to say, it is a flying model. A model which is supposed to fly. Currently, I am a titch concerned that there is so much gluick on the plane that it will be more of a plummeting model), so I elected to try my hand at it. It has been years since I did model aeroplanes, but it was a hobby I enjoyed. This past week, it has been a welcome distraction. In addition to the other distractions (I have been reading a novel a day, finishing a pair of socks, taking many baths, and watching Dr. Who with The Captain and The Nipper, my two newfound Whovian buddies), I have managed to do some thinking while keeping my mind and my heart off of the most tender, newest scars. The fumes from the glue may have helped; they may have hindered.
Apparently, the news that I assemble model aeroplanes is a surprise to many, so I thought I’d post some photos as proof. Below is an image from this past weekend. Saturday, I believe. Or possibly Friday. It was a miserable day, anyway, and I had enjoyed just sitting at the table, pinning the frame of the fuselage to the plans. By the by, when the instructions *recommend* (but do not *insist*) that you cover them with wax paper before cementing pieces together, that’s a REALLY good suggestion. We survived. As did the blueprints.
“I really really wish that it wasn’t just expected that boys are supposed to ask girls out on a date. Because all of the guys I know are super shy and are terrified of asking girls out on a date. I mean, girls are pretty comfortable telling people that they like someone.
“Most of the guys really like someone, but they don’t want to say anything because they’re scared the girls aren’t going to like them back. You know,I find that every guy I know is so shy; even when it comes to asking girls to help with homework assignments. They think the girl will think that the boy likes them, and 1) if it’s the girl they have a big crush on, she’ll just get grossed out over it, or 2) if it’s not the girl they have a big crush on, they don’t want to disappoint them by having so say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have a big crush on you’.
“We just don’t have the guts to ask a girl out.
“With everything I’ve heard so far, they all say that the girls expect the guys to ask them out and it won’t be the other way around. The girls think it’ll be like those romantic movies, and they just tell you that the guys have to ask girls out. And the only guy who’s going to ask a girl out in our grade is the dude who’s a total showoff, and none of the girls like him.”
Sage advice from a twelve-year-old.
Please note the following passage from the Girls’ Secret Handbook:
If you like a boy, you must never reveal to him that you like him, because then he will either assume you are a creature of loose morals, and therefore he will not want to pursue a relationship with you (for who wants a partner of ill repute?), or he will assume you are teasing him, and will be offended at your attempt to manipulate his emotions. No, it is best to remain taciturn and allow yourself to be pursued. Males prefer to take a more active role in the courtship ritual, and therefore, we can assume this is their preference.
Now I know that entire swaths of the Secret Girl Handbook are somewhat, shall we say, out of date…however, this passage has been retained in the new editions of the Handbook. And, according to the Secret Boy Handbook, this information is bogus. Therefore, young women, please do not be afraid to express yourselves with the young men. Chances are good they are just trying to make you happy.
Young men, there is a good chance that the advice you are getting is based on outdated information.
I don’t want to engage in a discussion about the worth of unions, because I suspect once we do, we’ll just have to agree that we don’t see eye-to-eye on the issue. But I do want to talk about what’s happening. What’s important here is this:
“The goal of the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee is to return to the bargaining table to negotiate an agreement that affirms the worth of teachers, not to take sanctions,” said Gwen Dueck, chief spokesperson for the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee.
And the important bit in there is the clause an agreement that affirms the worth of teachers. So let’s look at that. I’d like to look at it in a couple of ways. And before I do, I’d like to point out that a teacher at the beginning of their career (right out of University, with a four year degree) can probably expect to make around $45,000 a year. Teachers can make as much as $75,000 a year, with at least a decade of experience. Those aren’t particularly impressive salaries for professionals, but let’s just leave that aside for a moment.
You don’t pay teachers directly to educate your children. We all of us in the province contribute, through our taxes, to educate your children. You’re more than welcome to choose to send your children to private school and pay out of pocket for the privilege. I have no idea how you can get out of paying the school portion of your property taxes, though. I guess you could just quit paying them.
Teachers are not childminders. If you want a childminder, send your children to a babysitter instead of sending them to school. They won’t get an education, but you won’t have to deal with having to know your child’s school schedule, either. You’ll be able to go to work every day.
As an alternative to #1 and #2, you can home-school your children. There are plenty of resources available for home-schoolers. Just remember that there’s a *reason* schools have extracurricular activities for students – as a home-schooler, you should make sure your children have ample opportunity to participate in team sports, arts and cultural activities, and other activities with their peers. Socialising is important.
Teachers work more than 8 hours a day. They are usually at school before 8am and they usually leave school after 4pm. And that’s assuming they are not on any committees, are not involved in intramurals or in extracurricular activities, or are not on supervision duty. That also assumes they do not stay late or come early to help students who need some extra study time. That also assumes they do not participate in away-from-school trips for sports, band, or academic fairs/competitions. I challenge you to find a teacher who does not do at least one of the above.
Teachers do not “get the summers off”. They do not get paid for the summer break. If you’d like to take two months off without pay, go right ahead. Many teachers will have their salaries pro-rated so that they receive less each cheque, so that they will receive *some* income over the summers. But it’s not paid vacation.
Teachers do not take “vacation days” whenever they want. Professional Development days and Teacher Inservice Days are work days. Teachers are at work, usually at school or at a conference. Do you know what they do at those things? They learn how to better educate your children. If you think you can do a better job, see #3.
If you feel your child is being treated unfairly or that your child’s teacher is not doing a good job of educating your child, you have options. According to the Education Act, you first talk to the teacher about the problem, and try to solve it that way. If that doesn’t work, you should approach the Principal. If that doesn’t work, you can go to the school board. I think you can even talk to someone at the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation as a last resort, although I’m not positive on that last one. If you don’t like what’s happening in your child’s classroom but you’re not proactive about it, you only have yourself to blame.
through 10. Teachers educate your children. If you’re not prepared to teach your children how to read, how to write, how to do arithmetic, comprehension, music, art, physical education, how to write essays, how the Canadian political system works, why history is important and what our history is, chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, literature, grammar, spelling, heath, family life, sex ed, psychology, law, wood shop, mech shop, home economics, and a MULTITUDE of other things, then, really, shut the fuck up and sit down.
Sure, you have to work. You have to earn a living to put a roof over your head and to put food in your children’s mouths. I get that. We ALL get that. It’s *inconvenient for you* when teachers strike because you have to take time off of your own work. And some people might even lose their jobs over that. WE ALL GET THAT. Go back to point #2. Teachers are NOT childminders.
Go ahead and hate unions all you want. Go on. I’ll wait.
Got that out of your system? Good. Forget about the goddamned union, okay? It outlines their rights and their *responsibilities*. It includes a professional code of conduct. Teachers have a union because it wasn’t uncommon, not so very long ago, for teachers to be paid less than hotel kitchen staff. And it wasn’t uncommon for school boards to just decide not to pay teachers at all. Even now, teachers volunteer for FAR more than for which they are paid. Do you know why they do that?
BECAUSE THEY CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN.
So before you go off the rails and bitch about how teachers have ‘no right to just walk off their jobs and leave my kids with nowhere to go’, and before you start mouthing off about how it ‘must be nice to have the summers off and only have to work 200 days a year’, go and do their job for a year. Hell. Do it for a *month*. You go in and wrangle twenty or thirty children, five days a week, ten months a year. Go in and come up with a way to keep those kids engaged and interested, day after day. Deal with their fights with each other. Deal with their parents who seem to think their own children are the only children attending the school; the ones who think their kids deserve an A because they “tried hard”.
Go in and try to teach children how to be respectful and accepting without talking about racism, because racism is not politically correct. Try to teach children how not to get pregnant or how not to contract social diseases without talking about sex, because sex is DANGEROUS. Get your own butt in gear and try to teach polynomial algebra to a bunch of kids who can’t bloody add because their teachers weren’t allowed to hold them back from grade six. Deal with the bureaucracy that can sometimes be wonderful but can also ruin your life and your passion. Deal with 30 tweenagers, or better yet, deal with 20 fifteen year old boys who think they are better than you, and their 15 female classmates who think they’re smarter than you.
You might not agree with *how much* of a rise in pay teachers are asking for, and that’s fair. I don’t agree with you (I think we should pay them far more than 12% over 1 year), but that’s okay. But don’t sit there and tell me teachers don’t DESERVE to be paid, and paid VERY WELL for their services.
Do you realise it’s been fewer than twenty years since Apartheid was officially abolished in South Africa?
For a social studies project in elementary school in the 80s, I did a report about Apartheid. No one in my class had heard of it. I talked about what it was, its historical roots in colonialism, its connexions to Canada, and I talked about the imprisonment of people like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
One girl in my class did her report on Duran Duran. The boy who sat in front of me (on whom I had an ENORMOUS crush) did his report on Van Halen. Someone else did Ukrainian immigration (this was the kid who puked in his desk one Friday and didn’t tell anyone about it)…needless to say, some kids were more socially aware than others. I mean, it’s pretty easy to pass judgement NOW and say “while I was doing a report on Apartheid, most of the girls in my class did reports on pop bands and lipstick” (actually, it was eyeshadow) “and that made me a better/smarter/more evolved person than they were”.
We were TWELVE.
Needless to say, I remember working extremely hard on my report, and getting a little worked up during the oral presentation. I may have even got a bit shouty when someone asked, “so what does this have to do with us? We don’t live in South Africa”. I remember talking about Canada’s colonial policies in the 1800s and the rumour that the South African government had called up the Canadian administration to ask how “[we] controlled our Natives”. I remember going a little off-topic and talking about the internment camps Canada shipped people off to during the war (Japanese internment camps, German internment camps, Ukrainian internment camps). I remember saying, “this is important stuff to know, because some day, we will be able to help change the world.”
So what does all this have to do with “now”?
Well, the other day, I heard The Captain singing a popular television commercial jingle. For yoghurt. The tune is a ripoff of an anti-apartheid song from the 80s by Eddy Grant (the song is called “Gimme Hope Jo’anna”, and it’s about Johannesburg and the race riots that happened there. It mentions the Suweto riots as well). It was my favourite song for about five years. Oh hell, I’ll just post it here:
Anyway, I heard The Captain singing this jingle, and I said, “you know, it kind of pisses me off that that song is being used to market yoghurt to children.” He asked why. We started talking about Apartheid. I gave him a copy of a graphic novel I have about Nelson Mandela. As I was telling him some of the history that I have forgotten more of, shamefully, than I remember, he said,
“You know what I hear as you talk about the black people and the white people and the Indian people and the coloured people?”
“What’s that, dude?”
“I hear you talking about people, Mum. Just people.”
I wish I’d have used that line in my presentation in 1982.