Author Archives: stuberry

Re-Understanding

I know, this is probably not a real word but I am struggling to appreciate how our understanding of our world is interpreted and re-interpreted by subsequent generations. The other day in one of my classes my students were presenting material to the class as part of a 4th year seminar and in the discussion the students built an exercise whereby the class had to determine whether an individual fit into one of a number of categories. The class question dealt with corporate leaders and whether these leaders might be seen as either: icons, scoundrels, hidden gems, or silent killers. The presenting team put forward a variety of interesting individuals as part of this game and one of them was Mahatma Ghandi. As I listened to the various conversations in the class I began to realize that Ghandi was only seen as a hero: an icon who lead his people to the promised land of freedom and independence.

I am not suggesting that Ghandi should be viewed in any particular way but I challenged my students to see Ghandi in another way and I found it interesting that my alternate presentation of Ghandi was neither challenged nor appreciated. I suggested that besides being seen as an icon, Ghandi was also seen by some as a terrorist, a radical, and was at some point in his life tried, sentenced, and jailed for sedition. The British at the time for example, did not see him as either a hero or an icon so why is he so narrowly seen as one today? I wanted my students to attempt to understand just how perspective impacts how we view the world and to understand our world with as complete a historical lens as possible. It is my belief that only then can we attempt to more clearly navigate this very complex 21st century. I realized that my sidepiece about Ghandi was not part of the larger class conversation but the very simplistic and shallow view students appeared to have about the facts in front of them caused me to be challenged by what I saw as a significant void in our general understanding about our world and a similar void in pushing the boundaries of our beliefs and acceptance of what we are being fed on a daily basis through our socio-political processes.

I have just finished reading a book titled A People’s History of the Vietnam War by Jonathan Neale. I found this book enlightening and fascinating. I can understand why the book challenges some, but what really worked for me was the author’s continued attempt to connect global/historical events and attempt to put things into some form of greater perspective. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Geo-political global events are so very interconnected in so many ways and I appreciated how the author worked to show these long-term historical, political, and economic connections. Yes the author rants and wanders off at times but as a reader you either work with it and find how the rants connect to the larger story or not. I did not find the sidepieces overly distracting probably because of my personal worldview. There are so many connections that shape every corner of the globe and we cannot see our world through a simplistic and isolated lens – we have to question everything. It has always been so and our past is littered with examples of the impact of our “I see nothing” or “it does not impact me” viewpoint. I want my students to doubt, to ask questions and to know that at times that which they face is nothing more than a façade placed in front of them for many reasons and they should be sufficiently curious to ask about the man behind the curtain. If nothing else, I hope that the strength of curiosity and willingness to doubt and to challenge will help to strengthen and build engaging and open-minded leaders.

An Olfactory Serenade

We take photographs with all sorts of gadgets and we record sounds with an equal number of devices all in the hope that we can capture some moment, some special event or time that we wish to share and make available for some future time. What we cannot really capture are smells – those olfactory moments that grab our attention in both positive and at times, challenging ways.

This evening as I sit working at my siren of hope and beacon of light I am serenaded by a sweet and beautiful scent from somewhere in my neighborhood. Probably some fresh cut item in a nearby garden. The evening air is cool yet mixed with this fragrant dance from some organic source hidden in the darkness of the evening.

The day has been rich and warm and those in the neighborhood seemed to glide in a peaceful way that comes with a quietude associated with late summer. I savour the moments and the accompanying peace.

I dies at you…

“I dies at you” — Well I suppose I could have said “kjds devtvtwrv reqfrg” or something similar and then some rube’ish soul might suggest that the latter means the same as the former, but thanks to my wonderful students from another Canadian island, I have learned that these words is real.  Yes, for example I must learn to say “stay where you’re to and I’ll come where you’re at”. Hmmm.

You see, on my island in the Pacific we have been left with the vestiges of 19th century workingman’s English as well as a twinge of some form of pretentious English that has hung on for generations even though there hasn’t been an Englishman in the family for 5 generations. Yet amazingly, 97.6% of our friends from the “1/2 hour ahead” region in Canada claim their mother tongue to be something called “Newfoundland English”. This is so very cool.

I am teaching in an online program where at the start of the program students attend a 2-week on-campus residency. This past Friday evening my students had a pub night in town and I was invited. My students are from the far reaches of this country. Some teach offshore in exciting places and some speak the Queen’s English quite different from ways I understand it. But… this is the fun part. Yes there is a version of the English language (or dialect – you pick) spoken in Canada (other than 15th century French) that is unique. Check it out – there is a Wikipedia page.

Put together 14 adults on a university campus for 2 weeks and after a long academic week it was so much fun to be a part of the dialect shenanigans. It was grand fun and I only wish I could have been able to correctly adapted to the linguistic challenges that a noisy bar and energetic young, eager students seem to embrace as though it was their second nature.

Besides learning to appreciate (and have fun) with the language it was a treat to be a part of student, after-class dynamics. The energy was electric and although I do have a vague memory of such social events in my past, it helped remind me that it is events such as these that help to bind and bond us as we head on new adventures. In education we speak often about “community” and we talk about all sorts of ways of building communities both face-to-face as well as online. There are gimmicks and strained activities forced upon our students however at the end of the day it is these wonderful social affairs that serve to help us find our place.

I see a great community of learners and although I have focused on a few who have worked hard to welcome me into their linguistic world, I am very fortunate to be a part of a wonderful community of supportive and supporting learners who are getting ready to launch into a 2-year academic journey. Lessons learned and then some.

Why Blog?

Some years ago I overheard a fellow teacher state something to the effect that metaphorically the halls of our college were the place where students can and should trip and fall so that that by the time they completed their program they would have learned what was needed to stand on their own and be successful beyond the halls and walls of the institution. This is a face-to-face college and at the time the statement resonated with me although over the years I have wondered about the “trip and fall” part of this and just what shape this might take.

I believe that the process of things is very important and I wonder if the process of blogging can be a benefit in the finding of one’s voice and the honing one’s thoughts. In other words, can blogging become a form of trial and error testing or serve as a form of trip and fall? One of my excuses for not blogging very often is the time it takes. I fuss and I rewrite and rethink my words to death and in the end there is little left to post. I rationalize and I get in my own way instead of posting my thinking (complete or otherwise) and letting it fly for others to either engage with or not. Many good ideas get shelved because of this “I’m not sure it’s good enough” attitude.

Years ago my Master’s supervisor repeatedly had to tell me to stop reading and start write. I argued that I wasn’t ready and I needed to refine my thinking further. She wisely told me that I would never be ready if I believed I needed everything refined and supposedly perfect before I wrote. I finally realized that my writing barrier was that I wanted a finished, completed and correct product the first time I wrote. Yet when I finally found that part of me that permitted me to write; my successful thesis presented itself. My supervisor could finally see my ideas and could assist me in refining my thinking. I did not see this as tripping and falling but I did begin to understand the honing process.

I believe that knowledge is socially constructed and that knowledge itself is a process that we need to share yet if we wait for everything to be perfect nothing will ever be produced. Each successfully created product just becomes another process piece and the cycle repeats itself in a process of refinement. Unless we find ways to continually share both the product and the process we prevent ourselves from learning how to stand on our own and grow in our success.

OK I get it –stop rewriting and hit post.

Irreparable harm to whom? @rickmercer

Sometimes we really have to stand firm and try to move as much of the fluff and chatter aside in an attempt to see stories from different perspectives. The story in this case is the recent court decision in a British Columbia Supreme Court that ruled against the BC government on an issue to do with education and the teacher’s union. The ruling basically undid 12 years of government-imposed cuts in the K-12 education system as well as the gutting of union contracts in this time period. Both sides are jumping up and down and no matter what happens, the taxpaying public will pay dearly.

I have read and reread as much as I could find the time for and it finally hit me as I was reading this article in the Times Colonist which talks about how much this court decision will cost and just what an impact this will have on cash-strapped school boards and on everyone else in this province. Yes this will cost millions of dollars and this may entail hiring new teachers and support workers of various kinds and this may even require new real estate and internal structures to be rebuilt. (Also don’t forget that the government wants to appeal this decision — what will that cost?) The government suggests that this puts the union needs ahead of students and it even suggests that these court-ordered fixes are things the taxpayer cannot afford. They go on about the cost in pure dollars and cents and how this court decision will create “irreparable harm to the public interest”. Assuming our courts make reasonable rulings based upon the evidence before them, does anyone want to ask what irreparable harm this government did to our province by behaving the way they did and which ultimately got the government to the courtroom in the first place? Yes, scary stuff. What is the point of a court decision? Is it only of value when you win? When you lose do you seek to demonize everything inherent in a system that it was designed to protect? (silly question)

What really struck me in this article was the list of things that need to be done to put our system back to what it was 12 years ago (this article only lists a really small portion of what was taken away from the system – look closely). I am not arguing that everything removed was bad or good rather I do know how terribly challenged our K-12 system is and when we start examining the list of what was ripped out of the system over the past 12 years, I hope we can really see just how damaged our system has become. Look closely at class size and the ramifications of this on students. Look at the issue of supports for students who need assistance and the impact this has on the “ordinary” classroom where the average student cannot get help because the teacher is so busy with the students with special needs. There are many, many issues that are ignored or pushed aside and which ultimately work to the detriment of those the system is supposedly designed to help.

This list is huge and this 12-year assault on a fragile system was done under the aegis of a government that has an agenda that is philosophically driven and supported by an anti-union and a corporatized model. The real elephant in the room is an agenda so terribly whitewashed and covered by layers of spin-doctored, slick marketing that it becomes so easy to blame the teachers and their union without really understanding the issues. Sadly, the teachers and their union are not blameless in their tit-for-tat public displays of retribution but we must all stop this destructive process and find a model that is worthy of our children.

Will it cost? Yes and much more than many are prepared to pay. Unfortunately our current government appears unwilling to see value in a robust public system, especially when the Premier and many of her party colleagues proudly escort their children to private schools. Therefore what is the message of this government with respect to the public school system? We have to decide, as citizens looking to the future with children who need to be well educated, whether a solid public model is what we want or whether we are willing to allow our government to kill this system and privatize education. The US is doing this at an alarming rate (they are called charter schools) and the results are far from positive. Yes folks, this for-profit model of “training” is just sitting on our doorsteps waiting to be dropped into your neighbourhood. Do not be fooled – this is not education – read as much as you can — find about this.

Regardless of any of these issues, we must try and strip away the fluff and chatter and attempt to see what our public school system really looks like. Try and see what happened over the past 12 years and then try and see what our K-12 system could and should look like. Most parents do not have the time, energy, or sufficient information to “try and see” but unless we find the time and the inclination, we will continue to be arrogantly pushed to the side by an agenda that does not care and will not care as long as our government can continue to bully and convince the public that they know what is best for you.

In the end I must thank Rick Mercer. You do not have to agree with me in what I write above — but as Rick states in the introduction to his book A Nation Worth Ranting About, “the next time you see something you do not agree with, the next time you pick up a newspaper and you feel your blood boil, not to let it simmer. Rant and be merry. And rant about what you love.”

Speak up – this is one of the few ways we all have of being heard – governments do listen and they add up the voices and respond accordingly to both the noise and the silence.

Remembrance Day #November11

We are encouraged to remember on this special day – November 11, Remembrance Day.

But what if we have no baseline upon which to build a remembrance? What if we have never been taught or shown the relevance or significance of this day or even how it can and should touch each and everyone of us like no other day in the year? How can we ask the world, our town, the square upon which we stand, or those in the grocery store line-up to go silent for 2 minutes at 11am on November 11 when many have no concept of the meaning of this event?

The Canadian Legion has a tag line for this day that says “Lest we forget”.  Forget what? In order to go there, to have something that we can dearly hold on to and must not forget however, we need to create a world of meaning and a world from which remembrance can be built and sustained. Only then we can keep alive the flame of remembrance and not forget the sacrifice of men and women who stepped out to help keep alive the idea and the belief we have in this special country of ours.

What is this day and this time? What does it mean beyond the dead and long forgotten soldiers of wars past? Is there something more? Is this day about us as Canadians and what we have done in the past and continue to do to preserve what we care about and believe in?

Yes there are other people and countries who take time on this day to commemorate events from long ago. But in Canada, our day is about Canadians; men and women who willingly stepped out of their daily lives to go a great distance away from their families and step into great and challenging circumstances that forever changed their lives and the lives of those left behind at home. Many did not return home and many more returned home forever damaged in spirit and body. What is there to remember? Was this not long ago? Is this just history?

Oh course it is – history was yesterday and much of it is painful and we just want to move on and return to the life of “before” and the last thing Dad or Grandpa wants to hear is “Were you in the war? – Did you kill someone? – What happened to your friends?” We must find a way to respectfully understand, and honour, and appreciate, and learn, and keep alive the spirit of those who willingly stepped up and made a difference. We must learn first, and then maybe we can remember, and then share, and teach, and help to make November 11 a living memorial for us all.

I have never been to war, I have never fired a gun at another person or dropped a bomb on a city or had to run and duck for cover because bombs were being fired at me. My father and my grandfather, on the other hand were in these circumstances and their lives were changed forever because of their wars. They lost friends and family. They came home scarred and unable to talk of their experiences. Sadly I have a dear friend a year or 2 older than I who found himself in a war not that many years ago and I can only guess at the horrors he witnessed and was helpless to prevent.

Yes there are wars and horrors happening right now in too many places around the world but this must never stop us from taking 2 minutes, one day a year at 11 am on November 11 to think about those men and women who helped to shape our country by willingly going away to places and events that most of us cannot imagine. We are who we are today because of these people (family, friends, and many others) and the various events in our history that have shaped what we have today. We owe it to our fellow Canadians current and past to learn and to never forget and to take 2 minutes once a year to show our respect for their actions, their efforts and their lives.

The following was written in the Manchester Guardian on 12 November 1919.

Know your history – recognize the dates – read it and just imagine how terribly painful yet powerful this memorial event must have been.

The First Two Minute Silence in London (11 November 1919)

The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.

The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.

Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of ‘attention’. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still … The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain … And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.

 

Damn it – We just don’t seem to get it! (#teachasyoulive)

I always wonder where bigotry and intolerance begins.

We are so quick to point out what is happening elsewhere in the world and/or pick on others such that we fail to see how our behaviours and actions everyday create the potential for hatred and bigotry in our world. It is too easy to poke fun at or laugh at someone else’s situation than to stop for a moment and see the implications of our language or behaviours. I recently read a Facebook comment about the use of the word “hippie” and how a young boy suggested he did not want to be seen as a hippie because he didn’t want to be seen to be lazy. His mother happily posted this and her “friends” laughed at the suggestion and continued to foster their stereotypical dislike of this class of person. It was seen to be funny and like every other jab in our society the funny acceptance of this behaviour only serves to reinforce an “Us-and-Them” approach to our world: yes, intolerance and narrow minded bigotry. One individual did ask if anyone cared to understand the meaning of the term taken from Wikipedia “Personality traits and values that hippies tend to be associated with are “altruism and mysticism, honesty, joy and nonviolence”, but I sensed that this was lost on most in the conversation.

Many in our North American society profess to have a form of spiritual or faith world that they work with and within and they use this as a public (and not so public) crutch to explain their behaviours and their worlds. What is missing in many of these conversations is a depth of understanding and a breadth of appreciation of their supposed religious/spiritual attachments and its impact on their greater world. Do we not live who we are and thus what we reflect to the world? We talk about teaching our children but this teaching too often comes in the form of a list placed on the fridge: do this and don’t do that. Why not just skip the list and live the life we too often profess only in words.

I don’t think it is funny that a little boy would suggest that he didn’t want to be like a hippie because he didn’t want to be seen to be lazy. I think it is sad that he would have such a view at his young age and I think it is sad that a parent would think that the whole conversation was worthy of placing on Facebook in the hope that friends would join in on the apparent fun of it. Come on girl – don’t ya get it! It’s not funny; it’s sad that your child would think that way and it is even sadder that you would think to make this a public conversation.

 

A teacher’s marking paradigm shift (#learningallthetime)

I just finished a weeklong marking marathon that has caused me to re-examine my marking processes: what is important and how best to assess the work of my students given the changes in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in today’s classroom. I teach face-to-face at the undergraduate level and I teach fully online at the graduate level. More and more I deal with many of my students asynchronously, using a variety of ICT’s. Regardless of my teaching medium, I am attempting to do away with hardcopy and try to make available viewable and/or downloadable softcopy documents for my students and, in return ask for softcopy documents to be handed in for all assignments. Based upon the types of work I assign, most responses come to me in the form of a Word document.

I have found that marking softcopy Word files takes longer than hardcopy but I also believe I can provide richer commentary in the process. With Word documents I use various review features such as “Track Changes” and the “Comments” feature plus I use the text highlight feature to emphasize words as I read. I use all of these features as a means of “talking” to my students during my review and marking process. I think that in many cases this is becoming the norm today. Additionally I have experimented with converting documents to PDF files and added audio comments. (Adding audio comments in Word is a real pain). This process is picky, as you need to make sure that you set the sampling rate low so that your audio files do not become too large although I have found that I can have a fair bit of audio in an assignment and still keep the file size to less than 10mb. I believe however that audio comments will remain less used as long as file size and bandwidth concerns are an issue.

Marking up Word files as described above remains my number one reliable means of addressing student work and this past week I found myself floundering. The course I had been teaching was a graduate online course and for the final assignment students were offered an opportunity to present their work in any creative way they chose as long as it covered all of the points asked for in the assignment. I had no idea what kind of a process I was to be faced with when it came time to marking. Up to this point in the course students handed in “papers” where I demanded certain academic standards such as APA formatting of the document as well as proper citing of sources and a correctly formatted reference list. I pushed them in this way with the belief that they were heading towards their thesis after my course was finished and academic writing would be something they would need to remain familiar with. Great, you might ask – so then why give an assignment where students could present their work using whatever medium they felt was appropriate? There were many reasons for this and my co-facilitator Lisa deserves much of the credit for encouraging this altered view of an assignment but suffice it to say I received an amazing array of Prezi’s, Wiki’s, Google Docs, a YouTube, an MP3 audio file, several blogs, and a few academic papers, some in Word and some as PDF’s. These ran the full gamut from rich and thick full of ideas to thin and in much need of work. But how do I mark these – how can I read, listen, and watch without having track changes and comments available to annotate and discuss and “talk” to my students in this process? Now I know that some might just shake their heads and suggest that my supposed challenge is an easy fix yet this is a big challenge for a guy who no longer had access to his tried and true method for providing feedback.

Yes I found ways to make the marking work and yes it took a lot longer than it might have if I were just marking nicely formatted Word documents; however the richness and diversity of products was amazing. The different ways my students found to articulate their thinking was a great eye-opener for me. Some students indicated that they only wanted to hand in a traditional academic paper for the practice while others felt that they could express themselves more appropriately using a medium within which they felt more comfortable. I still got to see correctly formatted reference lists and in most cases I saw (or heard) citations in support of the literature being used. I had to find a way to make side-notes as I listened or watched and I created and annotated a checklist of questions I wanted answered. I stopped worrying about word counts and began to see different ways that today’s technologies offer rich and innovative opportunities for students to express themselves. As with any assignment and with the use of any tool, some individuals have a finer hand than others and some have a keener sense of what is needed to get the job done given the parameters and the depth of their commitment. Regardless, as I have always attempted to get my students to understand – education is all about the process and process is just another word for refinement. If I intend to keep pace with the evolution of the use of technologies in education then I need to continue to allow my students to push themselves as I was witness to this past week. Maybe we can all begin to see that learning is about learning and the environments within which learning can occur, and should be supported, are for and about learning regardless of the medium. I am a learner as are my students and dissonance is not necessarily a bad thing.

Remembrance for the disposable veteran (#remembranceday)

I grew up in a military family. There was never any question or doubt about the impact of war on the lives of my father, his brothers or their father (my grandfather). They all served during one of two significant global wars and my father continued to serve in the air force after WW2. That was my reality and this served to shape my contextual view of the annual event we call Remembrance Day.

Rain or shine I grew up knowing that there was an absolute obligation to attend a public Remembrance ceremony and solemnly observe silence in memory of those who gave their lives for our country. Over the years the ceremonies took on different tones based upon the global or local sentiment. At some point in the 1980’s attendance waned and those in attendance lamented the loss of appreciation of the acts taken by those for whom we were there to commemorate. It also seemed, at the time like the world was not interested in stopping to remember but the crass commercialization of so much of our lives seemed to be bulldozing Remembrance Day into oblivion. However world events altered that sentiment and focus returned to the events we stop to consider on November 11. It is a different generation and a different sentiment now yet I think we need to help everyone appreciate and understand the larger view of Remembrance Day.

I always take time from my classes (the last one before November 11) to talk to my students about the reasons for Remembrance Day. I try to help them to see far back into a history many can barely imagine. I want them to try and appreciate the world of my grandparents and what WW1 was and what it meant to the many Canadians who blithely went off to a hell none could have ever imagined and what it did to those who remained behind. I want my students to know how, on July 1, 1916 nearly 58,000 men became casualties on a single day in a senseless battle, how the entire male community of Walhachin BC went off to war and none returned causing the community to fade away as a result of this tragic loss, and how scores and scores of men returned from this war so scarred and damaged that for so many communities, an entire generation was lost and lives were forever changed. I want my students to have a better appreciation of what took place between 1939 and 1945 and what impact this war also had on the people directly involved as well as those at home in Canada. How do you console a mother who receives a letter from her son dated after the war is over saying “I survived and I will see you soon Mom” only to find out a week later that her son’s tank ran over a mine and all in the tank were lost. How do you reintegrate an airman back into life after the war when his job was to take photos of the other planes on his various missions when over half of the photos contain images of his friends being blown up or of airplanes spiralling down out of control knowing none of your friends can escape because of the ensuing fire. How does anyone reconcile this and how do these events shape our world?

My students need to reflect and understand what went into making their worlds today and how their communities have become what they are today, and as a result of this reflection to then take this one November day, or an hour of this day, or even just 2 minutes to try and think about their place in relation to a much larger world and the sacrifices that many have made before them. My students need to know that this ancient history sits at their doorstep as a constant reminder of who and what they are today and what shapes their world. All of this is not just fluff in a textbook or Wikipedia to be dismissed or ignored because it does not fit neatly into their 21st century, networked, social world. Canadians still join up and go to distant lands and get killed or get maimed and then struggle to come back to this fairy tale-like world and struggle to reintegrate into today’s society in the same way my grandmother could never understand my grandfather and the thing he called “shell shock”. Grandpa was never right after his time spent in a damp and poisoned trench in 1916.

The greatest tragedy today however is that although we have learned to talk a good line with respect to our current military and we know how to put on a good show when the press is watching; we are treating our soldiers today as disposable characters that are never talked about after we have used their services and destroyed their world and the worlds of their families. We protest pipelines and make a huge show of stupid government decisions on prisons or health care but little is really known or talked about with respect to too many damaged service men and women who return from some far-away place doing a job no one at home really wants to talk about.

John McCrae got it right in his poem “In Flanders Fields”. However what we need to do is re-read this poem and hear it with a fresh understanding of our responsibilities. He states,

Take up our quarrel with the foe

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

I can’t stop the Taliban from fomenting terrible events affecting people elsewhere in the world and my influence with the United Nations is somewhat miniscule. But what I can do is to speak up in my country about the most disgusting treatment afforded Canadian military veterans such as Maj. Mark Douglas Campbell, 47, a 32-year veteran of the Canadian Forces who served in Cyprus, Bosnia and Afghanistan and after being severely wounded in Afghanistan in 2008 was given a paltry financial sum for his efforts and impending life challenges and then shipped off home to fend for himself. Maj. Campbell’s story is just one of many today regarding the men and women who return home damaged from their time spent engaged in wars Canada commits its troops to.

We have broken faith and sadly it appears that “the foe is us”. The enemy is not the Taliban bomb builder (this is another conversation), the enemy is a government who prances around the globe throwing its soldiers into whatever fray happens to serve whatever public policy is the current flavor of the month then ignores and attempts to hide the after effects of the lives of those who willingly stepped forward to participate.

McCrae talked about the pain of breaking faith with those who died. Let us move the meaning of these words slightly further and include the wounded, the shell shocked, the men and women whose lives have been permanently altered as a result of their willingness to step up for this country. How dare we break faith? Remembrance Day is and should be a powerful time for all of us to think about the sacrifices of all who stepped up to do what our country asked of them however November 11 cannot be a solitary day just remembering events from dusty history books. It must be a call to challenge our society to change what is clearly wrong. We must never forget my grandfather and my father and his friends. We must never forget all who laboured to keep and to shape my country into what it is BUT we must be vigilant, we must “take up the quarrel with our foe” otherwise all of this is in vain. Somehow Remembrance Day must help to become a catalyst for change. Bad guys will always surface somewhere in the world and Canada will always find a way to attempt to reach out and help our global neighbours but when all is said and done, how dare we callously dispose of this precious asset, our veterans, those who freely and willingly stepped up to help? Please speak up and let us make the care of returning veterans a priority we never forget. If not, “We (the dead) shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.”

#Kony2012 is trying to get our attention again…

#Kony2012 is trying again. You’ve got to be kidding – didn’t they learn anything the first time round? Well apparently they did but sadly I believe that their intended audiences got beaten up along the way and so this time it will be a bit of an uphill climb in order to get the required traction needed.

Let’s take a little side trip for a moment and talk about the concept of failure. I think that failure is only failure when there is no learning. We can trip and fall on our faces and make a large or small mess but if we learn something and evolve and became better at what it was we were trying to do in the first place then this is NOT failure. Failure is when one cannot, one will not, or one is unable to see what has transpired and thus there is no change and no learning. Vision plays a huge part in this process. Failure is mostly a conscious act although I do wonder at times if there are some circumstances where it is just plain impossible to learn and to change but I don’t think I want to go there at the moment. #Kony2012 was not and is not a failure. To suggest otherwise might create the impression that one lacks a level of personal vision or at least an inability to have seen the original vision.

I do not pretend to be an illuminated visionary but I am a baby-boomer whose passion and wonderful naivety about the potential for my world has never been lost. I may have allowed aspects of it to go to sleep, I may have wandered off and become a suit and did things that my society desired of me as useful and meaningful for the time, but my passionate DNA that came alive as a late 60’s teenager and young adult was excitedly reignited again when I first saw the March 5, 2012 #Kony2012 YouTube. I was entranced by the whole idea presented, not just the “Get Kony” aspect of the campaign but I felt I saw a phenomenal idea and an innovative concept for global communication and participation and I got excited and I shared my feelings with friends and others (Blog postings 1, 2, 3, 4).

There was no way anyone could have imagined what happened as a result of the airing of the #Kony2012, March 5 video: the excitement, the attention, and then the amazingly ugly backlash. I am still so very saddened by the nasty cynicism expressed by so many and the way that this cynicism was threaded into our daily diet of crap pabulum fed to the masses by a crass corporate agenda. Unfortunately no one could have foreseen the effects of this video. It was so unique and so publicly and glaringly personal on a global scale.

Why couldn’t we have allowed this somewhat naïve but fresh, innovative, and passionate group of individuals an opportunity to try out their global experiment? Why did we have to go out of our way to trash something so delicate and fabulously innocent? Of course there are real conspiracies and public projects that have rich and sinister undertones and hidden agendas but why couldn’t we globally believe that there was a group of individuals who really had no other agenda than to do what they claim in their brilliantly crafted set of videos? Why do we rather destroy and trash rather than support or at least stand aside and allow things to play out? The attempt to create a global public conversation about something that should have spoken to the rich part of all of our hearts got lost. It got lost in many ways because the #Kony2012 organization did not and could not have had any way to have prepared to handle the global response to their message and thus they appeared to be everything their detractors claimed they were. The #Kony2012 organization and their precious message became fodder in blood infested shark waters and for a long time all anyone could see was an ugly train wreck.

I live in a world where I believe in the goodness of humankind. I am not so naïve as to ignore the existence of bad and evil intent but I move forward every day with a sensory barometer and a good-first attitude about those I encounter and the ideas I am presented with. #Kony2012 is an idea worth keeping alive and worth supporting. I know that we may have to try and see past the residual damage and find a way to know that this detritus is only an artifact of misunderstanding and misdirection and an artifact we must just walk past. Are there lessons to be learned? Of course there are and one of the biggest lessons is that in this day of ubiquitous, global communication no one can really know the real effect of any of our utterances. All we can really hope for is that we can use this same global ubiquity to observe the impact of the waves we create and know that our message is changing and evolving at every stop along its way. In doing so we have to continue to be creative and innovative and evolve with the shaping of the outcome of our ever-changing message. The matrix of our world today shapes every aspect of our intention and we have to know that intention and reception are shaped by where the receiver sits in the matrix. Can we afford to be everywhere our message is received in order to help ensure it is heard as we intend? Of course not, but we had better have some sense of the receiver’s place or we risk a train wreck the likes of which we saw earlier this year.

I will continue to support #Kony2012 for many reasons not the least of which is that I still believe it is an amazing experiment in global communication and cooperation. Their latest video, albeit a little on the long side, really does show the heart and soul of their intent, and their beliefs, and their vision. This is a global experiment we should embrace and in doing so we must check our cynicism and our crass commercial corporate agendas at the door and join in with our hearts and minds wide open. Maybe then we could allow ourselves to be a part of an amazing global movement that truly changed and enriched all our lives.

Is there not a lot to lose if we do otherwise?