In the tradition of August’s book-review roundup, I’ve pulled together a collection of my favorite young adult reviews from the past decade. Hope you — and the young adults in your life — enjoy these as much as I did!
Being good to each other is so important, guys.
Well that was unexpected.
This is wonderful.
Fran Moreland Johns sought an abortion in 1956 following a workplace rape. Now the author of Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before and After Roe v. Wade, she survived a back-alley procedure in the days before legalization, and warns that with women’s rights under renewed assault, those grim days are returning.
Despite the constitutional right that folks in America with uteruses have to an abortion, it is becoming harder and harder for people, especially those with low incomes or in isolated communities to actually have one.
I hope this situation doesn’t repeat itself up here. I hope we never go back to the days of people dying due to botched back alley abortions or poisonous substances they’ve drank.
Unfortunately, our government is happy to spread those days overseas, with its refusal to support Canadian charities that provide safe, clean abortions in less fortunate parts of the world.
In just two weeks, parliament will vote on Michael Chong’s Reform Act, a bill that will give MPs more freedom to stand up for us, the people they represent. The bill is designed to challenge the growing centralization of power in the Prime Minister’s Office and party leaders’ offices, and - incredibly - it’s received support from MPs of all political stripes, but we’re going to need your help to make sure they work together across party lines to get it passed.
Nobody who runs for office wants to be bullied into voting for things they or their constituents disagree with. But the realities of party discipline, and the iron-fisted control exercised by party leaders often make MPs feel powerless to represent their own constituents without fear of reprisals. [1,2]
Now a key vote is coming up, and NDP, Liberal, Green and many Conservative MPs have all said they’re considering voting for the bill! Party insiders want to squash this bill to preserve their power, and they’ll be pressuring our MPs to vote against it, but if enough of us speak out right now, loudly and together, we can show our MPs that voters across Canada want these crucial reforms passed.
The Reform Act contains 3 important changes to “business as usual” in Ottawa:
- It gives MPs, not the party leader, final say over who sits in their caucus. This would stop party leaders from unilaterally kicking MPs out of their party if they vote in the best interests of their constituents instead of toeing the party line.
- It gives MPs from a party the power to trigger a leadership review vote to remove an abusive party leader. This would make the process for caucus to review the party leader explicit and the same across all parties instead of hidden away in each party’s by-laws.
- It removes the ability of party leaders to block candidates from running for their party. This would ensure that MPs can speak freely, without fear that the party leader will force them out before the next election, and puts the power of candidate nominations back in the hands of grassroots party members in local riding associations.
Have you ever contacted your Member of Parliament about an important issue only to find out that a whipped vote means they’ll have to vote along party lines regardless of what you and your neighbours think is best for your community.
Or maybe like me, you live in a riding where your MP has done something embarrassing, abused the public trust, or insulted law abiding citizens , but national party insiders blocked other candidates from running.
These are deeply troubling situations for our democracy, but now we have a chance to do something about it.
With a vote expected soon, we need your help to turn up the pressure, and spread the word. Over 14,000 members of the Leadnow community have already written to their MPs. Will you join them and tell your MP to support this bill?
The Reform Act was introduced nine months ago as a private member’s bill by Conservative MP Michael Chong. Interest exploded across the political spectrum, with pundits expressing hope that the bill could “change Canada’s parliament forever”.
This bill won’t fix our democracy overnight, but it will start to change the conversation. MPs have been forced to become the voice of party operatives when speaking to their constituents; this bill will give them more freedom to represent the voices of their constituents to Ottawa.
Time and again the Leadnow community has spoken out against abuses of our democracy - from proroguing parliament to election fraud and omnibus bills. Canadians support vital democratic reforms and the Reform Act is a decisive step in the right direction. It could be one of the best opportunities for real democratic improvements before the next election.
Thanks for all you do.
With hope and respect,
Kelly, Matthew, Stefan, Amara, Jolan, and the whole Leadnow team.
P.S. Thank you so much to everyone who donated to Leadnow over the summer to support our work. Thanks to you we’ll be launching our 2015 election campaign in early October — stay tuned for more on this soon.
For more information on The Reform Act, check out the Friends of The Reform Act page at http://www.reformact.ca
 MP Exit Interviews (Samara)
 For a discussion of the role of party discipline in BC’s legislature, see Whipped: The Secret World of Party Discipline by Sean Holman (CPAC)
 Revelstoke meets David Wilks Conservative MP
 Tories insult veterans by defending Rob Anders, serial buffoon.
 ‘Rules were broken’ over G8/G20 summit spending: Auditor-General
 Vic Toews draws line on lawful access: You’re with us, or the child pornographers
 Conservative party bosses reprimand Calgary West board
 Andrew Coyne: Reform Act bill would change Canada’s parliament forever
Please read, sign and share. This has a legitimate chance of making Canada’s parliament more fair.
Paloma Noyola: The Face of Mexico’s Unleashed Potential
When a report emerged in September 2012 that a girl from one of Matamoros’ poorest neighborhoods had attained the highest math score in Mexico, some doubted its veracity. It must be fake, they said.
But it wasn’t fake. Her name is Paloma Noyola, and what most reports failed to mention is that almost all of her classmates also scored very high on the national math test. 10 scored in the 99.99% percentile.
Paloma and her classmates also scored in the top percentile in language. Something special was happening at José Urbina López primary school in Matamoros, and Wired went to take a look.
The high test scores turned out to be the work of a young teacher who also came from humble beginnings. Sergio Juárez Correa was tired of the monotony of teaching out of a book and wanted to try something new to help engage his students when he came across the work of Sugata Mitra, a UK university professor who had innovated a new pedagogy he called SOLE, or self organized learning environments. The new approach paid off.
Although SOLE usually relies on unfettered Internet access for research, Juárez and his students had very limited access. Somehow, he still found a way to apply Mitra’s teachings and unleash their potential.
From the beginning, Paloma’s exceptional abilities were evident:
One day Juárez Correa went to his whiteboard and wrote “1 = 1.00.” Normally, at this point, he would start explaining the concept of fractions and decimals. Instead he just wrote “½ = ?” and “¼ = ?”
“Think about that for a second,” he said, and walked out of the room.
While the kids murmured, Juárez went to the school cafeteria, where children could buy breakfast and lunch for small change. He borrowed about 10 pesos in coins, worth about 75 cents, and walked back to his classroom, where he distributed a peso’s worth of coins to each table. He noticed that Paloma had already written .50 and .25 on a piece of paper.
As Mr. Juárez implemented more of Mitra’s teachings in his classroom, Paloma continued to stand out as an exceptionally gifted student:
Juárez Correa was impressed. But he was even more intrigued by Paloma. During these experiments, he noticed that she almost always came up with the answer immediately. Sometimes she explained things to her tablemates, other times she kept the answer to herself. Nobody had told him that she had an unusual gift. Yet even when he gave the class difficult questions, she quickly jotted down the answers. To test her limits, he challenged the class with a problem he was sure would stump her. He told the story of Carl Friedrich Gauss, the famous German mathematician, who was born in 1777.
When Gauss was a schoolboy, one of his teachers asked the class to add up every number between 1 and 100. It was supposed to take an hour, but Gauss had the answer almost instantly.
“Does anyone know how he did this?” Juárez Correa asked.
A few students started trying to add up the numbers and soon realized it would take a long time. Paloma, working with her group, carefully wrote out a few sequences and looked at them for a moment. Then she raised her hand.
“The answer is 5,050,” she said. “There are 50 pairs of 101.”
Juárez Correa felt a chill. He’d never encountered a student with so much innate ability. He squatted next to her and asked why she hadn’t expressed much interest in math in the past, since she was clearly good at it.
“Because no one made it this interesting,” she said.
Although this Wired piece focuses mostly on Sugata Mitra, it does once again highlight the story of Paloma Noyola. Unfortunately, after a brief spurt of media attention, little on Paloma was ever mentioned and, as was pointed out by Wired, nothing was ever said of Mr. Juárez.
As with most stories in the Mexican press — and those popular with the middle-class — things suddenly become very important once it’s featured in a gringo publication. Which is a very sad commentary. We hope, however, that this story pushes those in the press, state and federal government to look not to the United States for validation but to Mexicans like Sergio Juárez doing good work in places like Matamoros.
The clear message in this story is that there are thousands of Paloma Noyolas going to school in Mexico who, just like her at one time, are not being challenged and therefore aren’t very interested in school. This story can, if we want it to, raise enough awareness to shift the discussion from poverty to opportunity.
Paloma truly personifies both Mexico’s challenges and unleashed potential.
Read the entire Wired story here: How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses
Editor’s note: As an addendum, Wired provided information on helping support Sugata Mitra and his School in the Clouds project, and although they donated school supplies and equipment to José Urbina López School, we’re interested in seeing if we can help set up a similar fund for Sergio Juárez, the teacher featured in this story.
Also, $9,300 was raised to help fund Paloma’s education last year. We’re going to follow up with the economist who led the fundraising campaign to see how she’s doing. Stay tuned for the updates.
I read the article when Wired released it. I’m definitely interested in any updates that occur!
[…] Whenever the latest example of Rape Culture on campuses creates a media frenzy, I witness the great shame with which students, alumni and faculty from the particular establishment internalize the event, and I’m tempted to return to that principle. Rape Culture is everywhere around us, and no one school is immune, regardless of how much good work the Student Union executives and members have engaged in to thwart its presence.
And then there’s Carleton.
When Frosh Leaders proudly strut down the street while sporting “Fuck Safe Space” tank tops, all I can do is weep for the school’s all-too-predictable descent into the poster-child of oppressive bullshit courtesy of the well-calculated right-wing takeover of the Student Union three years ago.
First some history: in 2009, Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen and Nora Loreto of the Ryerson Free Press dropped a bombshell of investigative student journalism when they exposed Conservative Party workshops given at the University of Waterloo on how to dismantle progressive Student Unions and take-down campus Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) and decertify from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). While the leaked documents were specifically from the Waterloo workshop, it was known that similar workshops were taking place throughout Ontario, with a particular emphasis on Carleton University. The lesson here is that the powers that be know that organised student movements are forces to be reckoned with, and that obstructing progressive organising on campuses is essential to the neoliberal conservative agenda.
The next year, Carleton University illegally withheld the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) membership dues, a move that greatly hindered their ability to engage in progressive work. Which was, of course, specifically what the administration wanted. When you starve a Student Union of ressources, they are bound to stumble, which provides a perfect opening for ideological power grabs.
Fast-forward a few years and a right-leaning slate of executives led by Alexander Golovko swept the CUSA elections under the snazzily-branded name “ABC: A Better Carleton”. Once in power, Golovko’s team diligently attacked progressive forces at Carleton as if straight out of a CPC playbook.
First order of business? Demand the removal of all CFS material from the service centres and threaten to fire coordinators who fail to comply. What sort of material are we talking about here? Oh, y’know, buttons and swag with slogans like “No Means No,” “Challenge Transphobia,” and “End the Blood Ban.” Material created and distributed with the purpose of tackling sexual assault and campus discrimination.
Next? Gutting CUSA’s Campus Discrimination policy that aimed to create safer spaces on campus. Oh, and plotting to schedule the meeting when opponents to such measures could not be present.
Then in 2013, Golovko and co. took a lesson from the University Administrators that helped get them elected by withholding funding from their campus PIRG and Food Collective.
They further refused to take action when hate speech was scribbled on a “free-speech wall”, choosing rather to condemn the actions of a student who took it upon himself to tear down the wall.
Lastly, Golovko also voted in favour of increasing tuition fees.
With all of this, it’s easy to understand why many have speculated that the ABC dynasty is nothing more than puppets for Carleton University President Roseann Runte.
I mean, not that they are really tying to hide it.
So when images like those circulated over the weekend emerge, it’s more than another atrocious case of Rape Culture on campus. It’s a clear example of the culture of “dudebro” impunity that has been consciously propelled by the last three years of CUSA executives.
"Fuck Safe Space" is Alexander Golovko’s legacy. It is what happens when campus administrators interfere in student union elections to prop up non-combative representatives. It is what happens when Conservative Party workshops and guidebooks on right-wing takeovers of Student Unions ripple through our schools. And it is absolutely shameful.
But what do you expect from a University that responded to a lawsuit from a student who had been sexually assaulted on campus by arguing that she had not done enough to protect herself, and later threatened a campus activist with a potential lawsuit for denouncing their actions? It’s why campuses need combative Student Unions that raise hell, not empty shills that do nothing but the administration’s bidding.
For Carleton students reading this, a “Carleton Students United for Safe(r) Spaces" group has emerged on Facebook, and I’d encourage those of you interested in building more inclusive spaces on your campus and in your Student Union to get involved in its activities.
For a list of ABC’s transgressions through January 2013, see The Leveller’s summary of their shadiness.
Oh, and Golovko now works for Carleton University. Surprise.