Entries Tagged 'Books' ↓

Learning Java Script – Kicking in old school.

JavaScriptWhat an embarrassment! My online learning project is a shambles and I have resorted to a book. A real honest to god paper book on learning Java Script. Oh the shame, oh the horror, oh the heresy… Will I , can I ever live this one down? Meh… Who cares. This project is about learning isn’t it and I wanted to use a book so be it.

I have a little secret however, this book comes with a companion website www.javascriptworld.com that gives me the files and scripts, which I can use as I go through the book chapter by chapter.

What find useful about this format, is that I can (as I have in the past) use the information in this book to help me build a course of my own.  This is a common trait in teachers I find. You can give them a Course in a Can, all ready to go and they end up tweaking it suit their needs or teaching style.

This is the problem with all packaged curriculum whether in be online or hard copy. Teachers will always dissect it, modify it and repackage for delivery in their classroom and it will not look anything like it did when it came out of the government approved curriculum factory.

I think this trait of compulsive re jigging of curriculum comes from a teacher’s preservice days, when doing a B.Ed., you would swap unit plans amongst the members of your cohort and adapt them to suit your student teaching assignment. This ultimately saved an immense amount of time and energy because you didn’t have to hunt down resources, write out the curriculum word for word and then present it. More time could be spent on the craft of teaching, coming up with creative ways of presenting the materials. With the odd tweak here and there to make the unit plan your own, you were ready to go in a day or two instead of weeks.

Today, I still find hard copy materials useful in planning my units or lessons but with the use of the internet there is a plethora of digital resources I can call on to add to the framework that hard copy materials give you. This book is actually just one of a number of resources I have been gathering to learn Java Script and will use to cobble together my own course.

So far these resources include:

What this means, is that my learning project has moved on from trying to learn Java Script for the sake of learning Java Script to learning Java Script for the purpose of having a serviceable course to deliver to my students. Don’t worry, I have no delusions about becoming a Java Script Guru through this process. What I suspect or perhaps I should say hope, is that by going through the process of building this course, I will acquire the skills needed to support my students through a beginning level course rather than leaving their learning up to Khan Academy.





Teaching Children to Be Good People – A chat with Annie Fox

teachingKidsHiResCoverI had the opportunity the other week, to have a chat with Annie Fox; educator, novelist and radio host, about her new book Teaching Children to be Good PeopleAdmittedly, her book has absolutely nothing to do with iPads in the classroom but I figured I would try to mix things up a little. Bring some humanity back into my digital domain as it were, because when it comes right down to it… School is still about creating good people, good citizens and good learners. Isn’t it?

The following is the good stuff from our conversation and if the truth be known, it actually has a lot to do with going digital. I hope you enjoy it.

Me: When you say “good people” what are we talking about?

Annie: When I say, “S/he’s a good person,” I’m usually referring to a generosity of spirit. Someone who consciously looks out for the wellbeing of others. Someone who turns toward a person or situation that needs help rather than turning away.

Me: In your book you talk a lot about communication with your child and how this is the key to raising a “good person” In your introduction you say, “We parent-educators are gardeners. We plant seeds and offer nurturing lessons that our kids can internalize.”

Is it possible to communicate effectively or nurture another human being, through a digital device?

Annie: Of course you can communicate effectively through a digital device, but because we are social critters who have managed to survive throughout the millennia by “reading” each other’s subtle facial expressions and body language, And observing each other in the context of our relationships, I don’t think we can fully nurture another person without being right there with them… at least a good part of the time. So when tweens and teens tell me about some guy or girl they met online with whom they’re “in love” it gives me pause. I don’t doubt for a moment that their digital connection is important to each of them. And I don’t invalidate the support and encouragement they may be providing for each other. However, this isn’t the way teens truly learn the fundamentals of creating and maintaining healthy relationships. The digital connections can certainly support “real world” relationships, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for them. Same with parents and kids. Texting is not a substitution for parent-child conversations.

Me: There is a HUGE push education to make kids more digitally literate. They say it is a crucial skill for the future but it seems to me that the digital device can be extremely dehumanizing. Is it possible that the digitization of our schools is compounding the difficulties we seem to be encountering in raising, teaching and nurturing our children to become “good people”

Annie: I agree. Increasing reliance on digital communication reduces (in the minds of many kids) the need to actually have real conversations. And they seem to have lost confidence in their ability to have real conversations. Hey I understand if you’re having a conflict with a friend or a bf/gf, you’re going to feel uncomfortable, worried, confused, stressed, etc. When we’re uncomfortable we tend to want to avoid the source of that discomfort. I understand, if you’re really hurt or angry that it might seem easier to text your friend or your bf/gf: “I can’t believe you did that! You’re such a  #$%#@!!” rather than sit down, face to face and discuss what’s going on. But a face-to-face conversation (without technology), where I talk and you listen and then you talk and I listen is more likely to lead to greater understanding. And that’s going to lead to healthier relationships.

Kids need to understand how to manage their destructive emotions. That’s the biggest challenge in growing up. But the availability of the digital connection to peers discourages kids from taking the time they need to calm down and step back from the precipice before they respond. The result is a culture where the go-to place is anger and we’re all in the habit of adding to the “social garbage” that has become the air we breathe.

Schools embracing technology aren’t to “blame” for any of this. Nor are parents who provide their kids with access to tech toys. But it’s a question of balance, isn’t it? And I don’t see a lot of adults modeling and teaching that kind of balance within their family. When we fail to set limits on social media and web use, we fail to expose our kids to other ways to nurture our intellect, our creativity, and our relationships. Follow that path and it’s harder to teach kids to be good people.

Me: The next question I suppose has to be, is it possible to teach appropriate use of a digital device at school, if the same message is not being delivered at home?

Annie: If by, digital device you mean a cell phone, many schools wisely restrict their use during class or during school hours. That’s not to say though that schools shouldn’t teach their students to be responsible digital citizens. They should be part of the solution in that way! If the same message isn’t being reinforced at home, yeah, that’s a missed opportunity on the part of parents. And yes, it makes the school’s job that much harder. Better if parents, educators and students come together to discuss the use and abuse of technology in an open community forum. And together, as fellow stakeholders, come up with policy and guidelines for home and school.

Me: You mention in your book about the pressures kids feel to be someone else or something else in order to fit in. We see examples of how the digital world can facilitate the façade and sometimes ending with tragic results.

Annie: Like I said before, it’s a matter of balance. Technology’s not going away and that’s a good thing! We need it to solve many of our current problems on the local, regional, national and international levels. Technology makes a powerful servant. But it’s a lousy master. But we have to recognize that there is an addictive quality to using technology. Changes in the brain have been observed after a relatively short amount of time surfing the net! Our brains are adapting to the new ways of searching for and processing information. What has also been observed is a change in the part of the brain that is associated with empathy. Which may explain why teens aren’t always responding with their “higher angels” when they’re online with peers. Combine the “connection addiction” with changes in the “empathy sector” of the brain” and add in the fact that most tweens and teens suffer from peer approval addiction (doing and saying whatever it takes to fit in) and we’re faced with the perfect storm.

Me: Can you suggest any possible ways that a digital device and the digital world could be used to help kids become secure in their identity and ultimately the kind of “good person” you are talking about?

Annie: There are plenty of game and story apps that use the technology as a way to get kids thinking about themselves and others in respectful and compassionate ways. My own Middle School Confidential graphic novel apps do that. And there are thousands of wonderful websites that promote just causes that appeal to the hearts and minds of young people. Remember the Save the Rainforest campaigns that got elementary school kids raising money in the ‘80’s? Well I just googled “Save the rainforest” and got to an incredible site by the Nature Conservancy! What an awesome example of technology teaching kids about philanthropy and social responsibility and environmental activism.

Bottom line, we’ve got to insert balance in our kids’ lives. There’s great stuff to be had through digital connections and there’s also great stuff to be learned from unplugging, talking to each other and stepping outside and looking around at the natural world.


So there you have it folks, human connections are still required to raise a functional, caring human being… Hooda thunk it?

When Will There Be An Ed Tech Tipping Point

The-Tipping-Point-Malcolm-GladwellWell, as usual… I am light years behind the curve. I always seem to be a little slow to arrive at the party and when i finally do, all the cool people have already left but I never no mind, it’s all good. Better late then never my dear old pappy use to say.

My most recent late arrival, was a book called The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. I found it sitting on the old and irrelevant table at Indigo while doing some Christmas shopping. Normally, I would have never even noticed the unassuming title but since I spent most of 2012 listening to educators yammer on about the “Ed Tech Tipping Point…” When I saw a book with “Tipping Point” in the title, it caught my eye.

Now that I have finally arrived at the party, long over though it may be, I can finally put my two bits worth into the Ed Tech Tipping Point discussion.

First of all, I have to say, I enjoyed the book. Gladwell brings up some very interesting points about social epidemics and I certainly understand why some educators are looking for just such an epidemic to occur with Education Technology. However, after hours of careful consideration, my conclusion is that there wont be a Gladwellian Tipping Point in Ed Tech. Instead, advances in Educational Technology will to continue to be (as it has always been) more of a slow submersion into the digital domain. A dipping point as it were.

Coincidentally, not a week after having come to this conclusion, I stumbled upon a Blogpost from Mind Share Learning, talking about the Ed Tech Tipping Point in their Top Ten EdTech Predictions for 2013. They seem to think that 2013 WILL be the year the Ed Tech tipping point occurs but I am holding my ground…. There will be no tipping point in 2013 or any other year and here is why.

I will try best I can, to relate Education Technology to Gladwell’s book. If you haven’t read the book, give the original article (on which the book is based) a quick read The Tipping Point – June 3, 1996 (New Yorker Magazine).


From a purely hardware perspective, the tipping point has already happened. If you don’t believe me, just look in your nearest high school classroom. There is a digital device in the hand of 90% of the kids and based on the degree of digital distraction going on at staff meetings, one in the hand of 90% of the staff as well. If I ask kids if they have a digital device to use for any given lesson, the majority of the class reaches in their bag or pocket and pull out more computing power then put a man on the moon. Now I realize that this situation is not the same for every school community but at my school, we long since tipped and are swimming in the digital deep end. The hardware is here and in the hands of many if not most but still we have not seen an Ed Tech tipping point.

Just as Gladwell tells us in his book, in order for an epidemic to occur we need “it” to stick and technology stuck to education long ago. The jump from scroll to bound books is an example of technological change. A little more recently, I remember how people thought VHS was going to revolutionize education; then desktop computers came along and were suppose to change everything; then the internet came along and distributed leaning systems were born, which promised to change the way we learn. Now mobile devices are being held on high and trumpeted by proponents as the most revolutionary thing education has ever seen… Adoption of new technology has always been a part of education but there is still no tipping point as Gladwell describes it.

In my mind this can only mean one thing, although technology itself is sticky, hardware is not. We find ourselves chasing the hardware, not unlike a heroin addict chases the dragon. The last hit is never enough and this is one of the reasons we have not seen an Ed Tech tipping point. When we focus on hardware acquisition, what we end up doing is moving the tipping point further and further away. If this continues, a Gladwellian tipping point will never occur.

Law of the Few

This is the idea that there is a small group of people who start, champion and spread a social epidemic to the masses. Gladwell refers to these people as Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople. Any one of these types of people can act as a tipping point but these types of people frequently act in more than just one of these roles. For example, many well-connected people are also good sales people, like Chris Kennedy (my superintendent). He has taken on the role of consummate Ed Tech ambassador. Myself, I am more of a grunt or as Gladwell calls it, “a Maven”. I don’t do a very good job of connecting with others or selling the idea of Ed Tech but if anyone asks for information or help with Ed Tech, I am your man.

Believe it or not, Gladwell’s law of the few is alive and well in education. These types of people are littered about the education profession and they have done a very good job selling the idea of Education Technology to their colleagues. New converts are joining the Ed Tech epidemic daily but just like the social epidemics Gladwell uses in the Tipping Point, it doesn’t infect everyone. Not everyone in Gladwell’s social epidemics bought Hush Puppies, got syphilis or committed suicide and just like a Gladwellian epidemic, not everyone in the teaching profession has bought into the epidemic of Education Technology.

Championing, Connecting and convincing others to join or become a part of a social epidemic is a difficult task and there is no reason to expect that everyone in the teaching profession will buy into the Ed Tech Revolution. Does this mean these are bad teachers? No… By Gladwell’s measure, it simply means they didn’t need, connect or were sold on the value of Education Technology.


The third element of a Gladwellian epidemic is context, or the place where the would-be epidemic lives. This element can involve social, geographic, economic and other factors both big and small. It is here, I believe, that the most significant Ed Tech’s tipping point is hiding. The two most significant being, access too and pedagogical value of, Educational Technology.

Access to Educational Technology comes in many forms. As I described in the stickiness section, the school I work in is not starved for hardware. It is readily available but we still struggle with access to what we need to run a technology rich classroom environment. We have become victims of our own success and as such, we have significant difficulties assessing resources on the web because we frequently exceed the bandwidth capabilities of our network. (insert eye roll here and say… “Rich people problems!”) As ridiculous as it sounds however, if our digital tools don’t work, there isn’t much point in using them and teachers tend not to use things that don’t work.

If we want teachers to use all the latest gadgets, we need to give them access to not just the gadgets but the information sources they are built to use. I have done workshops where staff want to use iPads in the classroom but they have no wifi. This immediately relegates the iPad to nothing more than a high-tech paper weight. There are other school districts in this world that can’t afford to maintain their existing hardwired networks, never mind creating a learning environment that delivers ubiquitous access to all staff and students.

Without dependable and equitable access to the digital landscape for all stakeholders, we will not be seeing an Ed Tech Tipping point anytime soon, never mind in 2013.

As for the value of Educational Technology, It has to be said… The jury is still out. Proponents see wonderful things just waiting to be unleashed on our children’s learning spaces, yet the stalwart traditionalists have yet to be sold on its value. Kids who function well in the absence digital tools or perhaps I should say are not dependant on digital tools, still seem to out perform those who are immersed in the digital world. My own children are a case in point, they excel because they have strong reading, writing and numeracy skills, learned the old-fashioned way. In my household, digital skills are an adjunct to these old school skills not the means by which these skills are acquired.

The fear amongst many however, is that we are trying to replace the tried and true with the flashy and new. In doing so we are moving in a direction that puts engagement before good old-school foundational skills. A colleague said to me the other day.

“Our push to adopt digital learning environments seems to be an effort to engage the academically weak kids at the expense of the academically strong kids”

It is this kind of thinking on which Educational Technology has become hung up. Does technology really improve learning outcomes and who are we sacrificing in the process? Some feel the solution is to simply “unload the dinosaurs” then you will be rid of this kind of fear mongering but it has been my experience that this question resonates within the teaching profession, from newbie to retiree.

It is here that I believe the most significant Ed Tech tipping point lies. Prove to the world that technology improves learning outcomes for everyone. Make people understand that Ed Tech is not a replacement but an addition to a child’s foundational skills. Show people that old-school and new-school can coexist, that a learner who uses technology to amplify their foundational skills, will out perform those who don’t. If we do this, you might have a Gladwellian epidemic on our hands.

To conclude

As I said early on in this post, in some respects, the Education Technology Tipping point has already happened. Thousands of teachers have bought in and are using technology in their classroom on a daily basis but people like me, seem to look at EdTech integration as an all or nothing proposition. It is almost like we are in a bad episode of Star Trek – The next Generation and the Ed Techies have taken on the roll of the Borg and Old-School Teachers must be assimilated into the continuum but this is not how Gladwell’s epidemics work.

Not everyone is a part of a social epidemic. Technology has its place in education and it is becoming more significant as the years go by but an en masse adoption of technology in the classroom will not happen because epidemics don’t infect everyone, nor should they. As with any population that is exposed to an infectious agent, you don’t want everyone to get the plague. You need a portion of the population to survive and carry on.

I am glad there are people in our education system that stop and say “What the hell are we doing?” “Is this right?” and “Is this what is best for everyone?” Our education system doesn’t need lemmings, it needs thoughtful practitioners who challenge social or technological epidemics.

My final word… There will be no Ed Tech Tipping Point in 2013.

NAILED IT! – A day without digital

I tried something a little different this week, just to change things up and get away from all that silly prescribed curriculum nonsense. Just for fun and a little curiosity, I resurrected a problem solving activity I learned back when I was a kid and introduced it to the modern digital classroom. The good old, “balance 12 nails on the head of one” activity.

What inspired me to bring out the old hammer and nails, was that I recently became the last person on earth to read “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. In the Outliers, Gladwell makes reference to a math experiment that Berkley math professor, Alan Schoenfeld, does. It is pretty simple, nothing fancy. Schoenfeld gives the subject a math problem to figure out and then times how long it takes for them to find the solution or give up. In the book, Gladwell uses the example of a nurse named “Rene” who takes 22 minutes to figure out Schoenfeld’s math problem, then Gladwell goes on to explain in great detail why this is significant.

The long and the short of Gladwell’s well taken point, is this… (I paraphrase and take some poetic liberties here) In math, we tend to condition kids to try and figure things out quickly. We view those kids who can come up with the answer quickly, as the ones who are good at math. The ones who are left plodding along and take longer to figure out the problems, are the dullards and relegated to the numeracy dung heap. (1 guess which group I was a part of) In other words, our system rewards speed at the expense of thoughtful processing of the problem at hand.

This got me thinking about how the digital device might be furthering this fast is right conditioning we instill in our children. Just Googling it (as handy as it may be) might be compounding the problem of not taking the time to think things through. Why bother trying to figure out anything if you can just find the answer using your handy-dandy digital device?

But back to the nails… What I wanted to see was just how long it would take for kids to get frustrated with the task and either reach for their digital device for the answer, or give up.

The task is simple. Balance 12 nails on the head of a single nail, I had hammered into a block of wood.

  • I distributed 9 sets of nails to the class, so the kids would have to work in small groups. The idea being, that the problem solving process would be a collaborative.
  • I told the kids NO DIGITAL DEVICES to look for the answer on.
  • The first class I just let work straight on through, the second class, I promised a hint at the 20 minute mark.
  • Within 5 minutes some groups were looking for their device, which I quickly quashed.
  • At the 10 minute mark about 1/4 of the groups had given up but started back up again, at about 20 minutes whether I gave a hint or not.
  • In my first class, one student figured it out at the 45 minute mark and in the second class a pair of students figured it out at the 40 minute mark (with a hint).

The sad thing is, this was probably the best class I had all year. Fortunately I can put a curricularly relevant spin on the whole thing, so when the kids go home and say “Mr. Rispin is the best because we played with nails all class!” I will be able to justify it.

What this whole exercise has proven to me is that, we need to give kids the opportunity and the time to work on problems, whether they be academic or just silly nail hanging like activities, sans digital device. We spend so much time trying to cram curriculum down kids throats, that we forsake the value of thoughtfulness.

What is even more interesting, is that I was asked five times in less than 36 hours after that activity, if we could do that sort of thing again! So I think I am going to make it a Bi Weekly activity. Problem is coming up with the challenges.

The Digital Divide – Two Sides – One Digital Dilemma

Digital free learning, novel idea isn’t it? This topic has been cropping up in the staff room quite frequently the past few months and it isn’t just your garden variety bellyaching you use to hear about kids and cellphones in class. It is what can only be described as collective concern about what seems to be happening to the traditional processes by which students have been learning for generations. There is an unsettling feeling that with the digitization of our learning environments, we are throwing the baby out with the bath water and what is more, many teachers are feeling a bit over run by the Digital Hoard.

This is not to say that teachers feel that everything digital is bad, just that there is a huge risk in embracing a medium which we know very little about when it comes to learning and cognition. There is a genuine concern that a wholesale digitization of the classroom, will destroy the very learning environments that have brought us to this point in our human evolution.

As I was perusing the literature for some supporting evidence for the notion of academic subversion by digitization, I stumbled upon a collection of essays in a book called The Digital Divide. Each of the essays looks at the effects of the digital revolution on our world and the changes it has made to the social and intellectual fabric of our society. All of these essays marvel at the changes driven by the digitization of our world but many of them also have concerns about how this will play out in the long term. When I finished the book, I came back to one essay Learning to think in a digital world by Maryanne Wolf where she concluded with a quote from Technological visionary Edward Tennent . It would be a shame if the very intellect that produced the digital revolution could be destroyed by it.”

This one quote brought me right back to the discussions around the staff room lunch table. Are we unwittingly dismantling the very thing that got us here? Many teachers feel that students are quickly losing critical cognitive skills because of their ever growing digital dependence and it is hard to find a teacher who will disagree. Common laments include:

  • Inability deduce or infer meaning from a text.
  • Inability to draw relationships between like or unlike things
  • Lack of original thought (pulling something out of nothing)
  • little or no patience for working things out without digital assistance.
  • Taking things at face value or believing that there is a single web searchable answer

I even encounter some of these with my own children. Although my wife and I have gone to great lengths to restricted their access to the NET for entertainment or academic purposes, they have been conditioned to defer to a search engine whenever they can’t figure anything out under their own brain power. I can only assume this comes from school because at home, we do our best to be inhumane and make them turn pages of books and actually think about the questions they are working on. There is very little “Let’s just Google it!” In our household.

What this suggests to me is that some valuable thinking skills which once were part and parcel of our education system have already been lost to the great search engine in the sky.

So what do we do?

Well… like it or not, the digital horse is out of the barn and we are not going to get it back in anytime soon. As a über digi-geek myself, I certainly don’t want to go back but I recognize that there is a need for some serious thought about the how and when we should be exposing kids to digital media and the devices that deliver it.

In the same Maryanne Wolf essay mentioned above, she opens her concluding paragraph with “Children need to have both time to think and the motivation to think for themselvs, to develop and expert reading brain before the digital mode dominates their reading.” Sven Birkerts referred to this as Deep Reading. It is the kind of reading where the individual is able to to infer meaning from a text, or extend their thinking beyond what is literary expressed in that text. We know that having this type of reading and thinking skill is crucial to ones academic success, yet there is mounting evidence that digital delivery derails it.

We are faced with a growing academic conundrum. On one hand, maybe old school learning and thinking is simply passé and we need to just let go of the old and move on with the new. On the other, if we acquiesce and let the tried and true become consumed by digitization, we may lose more then anyone can possibly imagine. Even I, a über digi-geek, think it prudent to preserve at least some vestige of what got us here but where do we start.

Currently it would seem the approach that is being taken is like that of the small river side community during spring run off. The digital river just keeps on coming and the towns people are sand bagging like crazy trying to hold back the rising waters. The problem is that the flow of digital media will not stop and so we need to find a way to save the most important structures in our little river side education community. Time for resistance is long past, coexistence is what we need to be working toward.

Were it up to me, I would start with five common sense things, which would act as a foundation on which coexistence could be built. Some of it is under way but none of it seems to be part of any “real” plan.

  1. We need to get both the pro digital and the anti digital sides to agree that there is value in both the new and the old.
  2. We need to identify what we cannot afford to loose from old school education and ensure it is a part of a quality new age education.
  3. We need to take a serious look at the effects of digital media on the immature brain and establish guidelines for age appropriate access to digital delivery.
  4. Lets start building a school culture that recognizes that digital tools are not always necessary or beneficial to learning certain things.
  5. Lets make sure there are digital free spaces, where the brain is the only advanced electronic in the room.

Lets be clear, I LOVE digital technology. I am even one of those rotten people who are cramming it down other educators throats whether they want me to or not. I recognize however, that we cannot allow the digitization of our schools to wipe out the education system we are all a product of. As a parent, I don’t want my children to be digitally dependent and I sincerely think there is far too much to be lost if we were to allow this to happen. We need to start bridging the digital divide and working to create an education system that values where we came from and where we are going. This can only be accomplished if we are working together.

The first step is to accept that the digital age is here but we also need to recognize that it would have never arrived where it not for good old fashioned schooling.

History texts should engage us

Here is an oldie but a goodie, written long before the days of blogging.


As a student of Canadian History, I have been exposed ad-nauseum to countless mind-numbing texts on Canada’s illustrious history. Now that I am a teacher of Canadian history, I find myself subjecting my students to the same mind-numbing texts. Try as I might to supplement my curriculum with interesting and entertaining anecdotes from our past, the simple utterance of the words “history text” elicit a collective groan that could wake John A. himself. The carefully edited puff-ball versions of Canadian history in classroom texts have all the moxie of Melba toast; about all they inspire is sleep. We Canadians have been lulled into a complacent contempt for our history. We have engineered this indifference through the textual history we provide in the classroom.

Last night I turned the final page of Will Ferguson’s book, Bastards and Boneheads, and could not help but feel that Ferguson could be the answer to Melba-toast texts in our schools. Ferguson , “Pierre Berton with attitude,” delivers Canadian history in a factual but witty style. He would be a shot of Jack Daniels in a world of watered-down rhetoric. Ferguson pulls no punches in his version of Canadian history; he clearly defines the negative as well as the positive in the people and events that shaped Canada.

A text by Ferguson would certainly be a shift from the feel-good versions of Canadian History available to us today. No longer would Mackenzie King be venerated as one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers. Instead students would learn of his anti-Semitic policies, and that his indifference to the plight of European Jews contributed to the deaths of thousands of people–an act, some would say, worthy of a seat at the Nuremberg trials next to Goering and Hess. No longer would battles on Canadian soil be boring and limited to the Plains of Abraham, New Brunswick, and the Red River Valley. Students would learn of the contribution and sacrifice of First Nations and that they were not simply noble savages or pawns in the struggle for nationhood but an active, vital force in the birth of our nation. Students would learn that the cast of characters who built Canada was diverse and not limited to a select few, whose stories were edited into a version that was fit to print.

Canadian history is engaging and interesting if we take it for what it truly is, a ruthless immoral battle in a pit of historical vipers. At the end of Bastards and Boneheads, Ferguson states, “History is a verdict and we are all on the jury.” Let’s give our children the facts in an engaging and honest way and let them judge for themselves.

Calling Will Ferguson! Write us a textbook kids will take home and read.


Narcissists Amoung Us

It doesn’t seem to matter who you are or what cultural, religious or professional group you associate with, there seems to be an overwhelming, Love Yourself At The Expense Of Others sort of attitude running rampant in our society. You can call this relatively new social phenomena what you will and attribute it to any number of things but it can all be summed up with a single word… Narcissism

Now anyone who has been following me for any length of time on my parenting blog, knows by now that I am not big on self serving behavior especially as it pertains to my children. I feel that it is one of the reasons our world is going to hell in a hand basket in rapid fashion and it is all centered around how we have been raising our children for the past 25 years.

To support my rather curmudgeonly and sometimes archaic parenting views, I am always on the look out for publications that reinforce my opinion. To this end, my most recent acquisition is an excellent book called “The Narcissism Epidemic” and I have to say it is fantastic, painting a scary picture of our future if we continue down the self serving road we are on.

Criticized by many, the book hitches it’s thesis on data collected from College Students between 1976 and 2008 and couples it with anecdotal observations about the state of society today.  Although it is a tad dry in the beginning, once you hit the Parenting chapter this book starts to  strike some chords. It is a smart and well reasoned condemnation of  a prevailing notion that we are entitled to feel good about ourselves above all else.

I would recommend that anyone with a pulse and a grade 8 reading level give this book a read. The irony is that, the message within this book, will be lost on those who need to hear it the most.

Other publications with similar themes:

Pampered Child Syndrome: How to Recognize It, How to Manage It, and How to Avoid It

Your Kids Are Your Own Fault

Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids

Kids Guns & The Truth

A friend of mine just released a new important book  that I think all parents should be reading. Check out his promo information below. If you want more information, feel free to visit his site. Kids Guns And The Truth


Thank you for investing the time to learn more about my new book, Kids Guns & the Truth. I have often been asked what inspired me to write it, with one of the most common questions being whether the book developed from a personal tragedy; thankfully it did not. I have not lost a child to firearm violence nor, as the father of two young daughters, do I claim to know all that there is to know in the parenting realm. The impetus to write in fact came from the recognition that gun safety and education resources, as they related to children, simply weren’t available. I sought to develop a book that would provide that missing material. In the end, Kids, Guns & the Truth was born; a book with the ultimate goal of informing and reminding, in a respectful way, what is important when it comes to kids and guns.

In our society there seems to be very little middle ground on the subject of guns. Every person I interviewed for this book from child behaviorists and police officers to, perhaps most importantly, parents, was passionate in his or her opinions about firearms and youth. Some told stories about how firearm violence had changed their lives forever. Others had never seen a real gun and dismissed the fact that a tragedy could ever happen to their family. Despite their backgrounds, all had one common bond: every single person felt that firearm education was critical for the children in their lives.

This book was written for adults on both sides of the debate, with no judgment, in the hope that the subject of guns – love them or hate them – will have a part in conversations with children and youth. Continue reading →