Thursday, November 27, 2008

Students scramble with applications (less than 2 months to go!)

High school students and others have until January 14th, 2009 to have their applications received to attend Nipissing University next year. Students apply through an online application system and, like all great websites, it can be found on the World Wide Internet! I put myself through this online process again this year but this time to apply to Teachers' College. Apparently it is now known as the Faculty of Education and yesterday I had my hand slapped (figuratively) by an Education Professor (literally) for using the old Teachers' College term.

So, if you are one of those students like me who waits last minute for everything (really, why do something today when you can put it off and do it tomorrow?) and are still considering Nipissing as an option, here's a list of 6 reasons that might convince you to apply.

1) NU is located in North Bay, not Thunder Bay. That is 4 hrs, not 14 hrs your home depending on where you live in southern Ontario (most students who attend Nip come from S. Ontario). It is far enough away to escape those pesky adults you call your parents but not too far that you can't visit them if you miss them (read: to do your laundry, eat an actual meal, and get more money for "textbooks").

2) You actually know who your professor is by name. They are open to seeing you in office hours and actually acknowledge you outside of class. And the main difference from high school? Some will even take part in academic discussion with you while sipping on beverages at the local watering hole.

3) All your classes will likely be in one building. This means that you won't have to struggle with a 20 minute walk across campus to get from one class to another. High school students with a certain average are guaranteed a spot in residence (rated # 1 in Canada according to the Globe and Mail) and unlike shared dorms at other universities, you won't have to share your single room with some grime-covered stranger.

4) The landscape of the campus will change while you are here. With a new research wing half-complete and a new library and student centre on the way, you will witness a transforming campus that will see more buildings and better services.

5) There are endless opportunities to get involved in student life outside of the lecture room. Look ahead to a future blog entry about this subject and important aspect of the "NU Experience."

6) You will actually know some of your fellow classmates. NU is one of the smallest universities in Ontario, and unlike the behemoth U of T's, Yorks, and Westerns, you won't feel left out when you attend class. The folks who you meet on Day 1 might also be in your Intro English class. Now you have 2 things in common!

For even more information about NU, click here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ontario Cracks Down on Carpooling

Drinking and driving is bad.

That is what the province of Ontario would have you think when it introduced new legislation last week to tighten the rules for young drivers in an effort to better improve the safety of our roads and highways. You can read about the story in various newspapers such as The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Before I dive into my take on this issue, I must be clear that I am against drinking and driving for ALL ages and also believe that government should be active in drawing up social policy such as this. Essentially, the new legislation, Bill 126, as proposed would require that every novice driver and young driver (under age 22) not have any alcohol in his/her blood while driving. If these rules are broken, a heafty minimum fine of $60 will be imposed and a 30 day licence suspension as well.

But, is the government really interested in decreasing drinking and driving on our roads? I would argue that the government is not doing enough and should impose a rule requiring that no alcohol be in ANY driver's blood, regardless of age. By not doing this, the government is simply picking on young drivers and not addressing drunk driving in all age groups. As it stands, any G licensed driver can have a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. According to the SmartServe alcoholic beverage service training program, I could consume 5 drinks in an hour and still be under the legal limit. Would I do this and then drive? Absolutely not.

I would argue that the provincial government is trying to make political hay out of a tragedy that occurred this past summer and to save money. How is this plausible? I read comments made by Minister of Transport Jim Bradley. After introducing the bill in the Ontario Legislature, he states that "motor vehicle collisions in Ontario still add up to about $18 billion annually in health care and social costs." So forget about saving lives and making Ontario a better place to live; passing this bill will save money!! Before these statements, the Minister said that Ontario has the safest roads in Canada.

So, is the government going too far? I think the comments made by fellow MPPs regarding Bradley's comments have some substance. John O'Toole of the Progressive Conservatives calls McGuinty out on making political hay by saying, "I would say that this seems like a bit of a photo op in some respects." Gilles Bisson, MPP for the New Democratic Party says what people need to hear: "we can't legislate everything. There comes a point where individuals have to take responsibility."

If the government can't legislate everything, then what should be done?
Two things that can be done better:

1) putting more police officers on patrol is a great idea. It will create jobs and catch more drunk drivers and those driving while suspended under strong legislation that we currently have.

2) update the driver training curriculum. I remember when I took driver training we used this old textbook entitled Road Worthy published in 1985. The tests that we wrote were photocopies of old multiple choice tests that were written with a typewriter. Folks of Ontario will likely recall the Annual Report (2007) of the Auditor General of Ontario pointing out the lackadaisical approach to regulating beginner driver education in Ontario.

What implications will this new law have for students at Nipissing University and elsewhere? If you have a G2 licence, you would not be able to carry more than one passenger under the age of 19 in your vehicle all day and all night. This means that you would not be able to carpool with teenaged friends to and from school, sports events, the movies, or even on trips home during study weeks and other holidays. The licensing period would also be increased; it will take you 3 years to get a G licence instead of 20 months. Students can enter university as young as 17 upon graduation from high school (one of my first year roommates was 17) and this legislation will affect them.

The Ontario government can be doing a good job only if it focuses on fixing things that aren't broken.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Remembrance Day

Yesterday marked the annual celebration of Remembrance Day. This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the end of World War I (at the time known as the Great War) when the guns fell silent at 11:00am on November 11, 1918.

But what exactly is Remembrance Day?

If you were to ask the Canadian government, Remembrance Day (now proceded by Veteran's Week) is a time for Canadians to develop "a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served and continue to serve our country." However, this language does not explicity state that we remember the war dead but rather individuals who have and continue to "serve." Is this a glossing over of the reality of war (soldiers shooting each other and dying) or some higher sacrifice of service to a nation?

Commemoration is a modern celebration. Historian George Robb argues that celebrating the heroism and sacrifice of soldiers predominated commemoration of soldiers through monuments. But, later on in the inter-war period a more cynical view of the First World War emerged that challenged the patriotic view of dying for one's country.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Britain was a controversial site during the Peace Day parade in July 1919. The British press was outraged that there was a lack of consideration given to the parents of soldiers who had died. Quite quickly British Members of Parliament and Lords gave up their front row seats during the ceremony for the mothers of dead soldiers.

Yesterday I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at Memorial Gardens (the local arena) in North Bay, ON. This idea of respect for mothers of dead soldiers held some value and continuity at the wreath laying ceremony. The first individual to lay a wreath at the (portable) monument of a white cross was the daughter of a Silver Cross Mother. The Silver Cross, an award instituted by the Canadian government, was presented to all Canadian mothers who lost a son or daughter during World War II as well as to women who lost their husbands. In North Bay, the Silver Cross Mother was Mrs. Ida Beattie and saw three sons enlist and only one, Fred Beattie, returned. She lost two sons within six months. Ida's daughter, Mrs. Margaret Barker, was the first to lay the wreath today, even before government and other military and community dignitaries.

So what place does a higher institution like Nipissing University have amongst Remembrance Day? A wreath was laid on our institution's behalf at the ceremony mentioned earlier, but should it stop there? The world of academia and critical inquiry should seek to study remembrance and commemoration. As a part of this, I look forward to researching and writing a thesis paper on commemoration and remembrance ceremonies and the reporting of it in British newspapers during the inter-war period. This paper is for a fourth year seminar class in History and I look forward to presenting it at the Second Annual Undergraduate Research Conference, should it be permitted after submission.

I'll wrap up by asking you about the poppy. Did you wear one this year? If so, how come? There must be a reason for doing so. Perhaps you have a reason for not wearing one if you didn't. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to Fourth Year

Welcome to the ritual; the rite of passage. After labouring through what seemed at the time like three long and unmanageable years of undergraduate study at Nipissing University, I have come to the point where the rubber meets the road. To be a adult male chauvinist: this separates the men from the boys. This is fourth year. This is university.

It was just three years ago, in June of 2005, that I left high school with my diploma in hand while simultaneously greeting the prospect of post-secondary education with open arms. I quickly accepted my offer from NU and tried to imagine what studying history at such an advanced level would be like. It wasn't quite what is expected. There was no determined memorization of facts or dates; although, these do come in handy during the History Club's trivia nights. The doom and gloom of taking 4th year seminar classes didn't occur to me at the time, but it is here now. And I love it.

Hopefully I can give you a sense of what 4th year seminar is like. I think I can sum up its activities in the following list:
1) Read books until your eyes fall out.
2) Research until your brain explodes.
3) Write a paper until your fingers seize up.
4) Repeat steps 1-3 for your other seminar (in all likelihood you'll have 2 to complete, and if you entered school before I did, 3).

Despite the trauma I have just put you through and that you may one day experience, I think that these seminars are the best academic experience I have had. It is not just preparation for graduate school. Fourth year seminar is the immersion into the world of academics. Reading and then debating the relevance of a document is what scholars do. There are no lectures but approximately 15 enthusiastic students who discuss some aspect of the topic at hand for three hours straight (with a break for coffee, of course). And with any luck, you'll be able to present your own original research at the Undergraduate Research Conference during the end of the Winter term each year. The second annual conference will be held this coming March. See you there!