Cancel culture; before its time

We all live in modern world, a world that has changed so much since I was a teenager. For parents in my parent’s generation, they saw massive strides in communication, electronic, and digital evolutions not only in technology but also in behaviour. Until the turn of the 2000’s these changes were not really a huge concern, but with the emergence of a stronger reliance on digital or online existence, there have been massive shifts in humans behaviours. Namely and more specifically in this blog post, I’d like to discuss something more specific: cancel culture.

Image courtesy of Bmoi/Flickr

Dare to take a wrong turn in how you communicate or present yourself online or in person these days? Think twice before you act, because someone is always watching. This also permeates the old internet, that is to say tweets from 10 years ago, websites posted 15 years ago, or photos taken in pre-internet days that are otherwise folded away out of active memory.

Cancel culture is a rather interesting and troubling phenomenon. People being cancelled, or effectively attempted to be removed from positions, due to damning evidence (or receipts as they are colloquially referred) has become widespread. The public goes into lynch mode and effectively tries to kill the identity and suppress, and sending these people to the proverbial guillotine results in their careers being tanked.

Kim Davies, cited from NBC News

The first such example that I can retroactively remember is a non-famous person being cancelled. Back in 2015 the United States Supreme Court legalised same-sex-marriage and it became law of the land. The former clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davies, actively refused to enforce the law and it got a lot of media attention. She hooped and hollered about her civic rights and blah blah blah, but effectively she faced widespread criticism for not respecting the law and doing her job. Back then we called it “discredit” or “condemnation,” but in the 2020s it’s certainly called being cancelled. She was effectively pushed out of her job, and was not reelected due to public backlash. While I don’t necessarily condone being cancelled, I am happy that someone else can be given the chance to fulfil their job duties.

J.K. Rowling, cancllled by Harry Potter. Cited from The Daily Wire

While Kim Davies might not be a household name, J.K. Rowling certainly is. While she has been regarded as a very successful author, most notably for the Harry Potter series, in 2019 she angered followers and the widespread public by making disparaging comments about transgendered women. She was labelled anti-trans and called out by a large amount of actors that participated in the Harry Potter franchise. While she fought back by trying to defend her honour and right of belief and free speech, she ultimately lost a significant amount of klout and ended up returning human rights awards for which she was a recipient due to public pressure. Since 2019 she has published a new book under another pseudonym, and it was received well by readers, but again drew criticism for anti-trans characters which critics only highlight as her own beliefs and tendencies transcending her writing.

Dr. Seuss books taken out of publication, cited from CBC

The next example of recent cancelled culture I’d like to bring up is six titles of Dr. Seuss, a childhood classic spanning back generations. I remember as a child reading some of these books, and really every child had a library on their bookshelf of Dr. Seuss titles. Although no longer alive, the author seems to be receiving a retroactive cancel and the books have been taken out of publication and sale for racist imagery. Race an equality is touchy topic when it comes to the world, particularly in the Americas. Racism has a torrid history and it is regrettably prevalent in daily life even three quarters of a century after the civil rights movement. What strikes me as the most strange thing, is these are historic publications and frankly reflected culture of the time. Do we condemn these authors and desecrate their families and memories?

Personally, I think that historical documents exist as examples as snapshots into their culture of the time. We can not fault them retroactively, or delete them from the record books only because culture has changed and evolved over time. They exist, at least, as relics from an old time and can be excellent examples for use in education against stereotypes or judgements. Does it really benefit all if now the name of a well loved author is tarnished and a dark cloud existing over all of the other publications upon which nobody has (yet) raised issue? All I can say is: overboard.

International Day for Tolerance, cited from Happy Days 365

Critics of cancel culture highlight the widespread emergence of a lack of tolerance for opposing views and beliefs. I agree with this, and it’s rather strange to think that generations raised in the age of internet and knowledge have become so ignorant in so many ways. The proliferation of social media has led to widespread witch-hunts which grow quickly and snowball out of control. People’s lives are ruined, and even if they are rather suspect or not high quality characters, it’s not really right for them to suffer. Everyone does have rights of belief, but what everyone also should have is a tolerance to allow for people to express themselves and engage in conversations to widen the debate to understand each sides.

Whether it be your favourite author, favourite actor or actress, a widespread respected person, head of state, or frankly anyone for that matter, use your brain. Pick up a book, engage in conversation, or better yet do so and keep an open mind and discuss rather than fight or condemn. After all, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” as it is said. Or am I going to get cancelled for using “him” instead of a more neutral pronoun “they.” No matter, but you can see how even the simplest mistake can turn the tides.

As a parting thought, let another famous person express my views. While I don’t consider him to be the greatest of qualities, I echo his words:

Ontario gets a new sex-ed curriculum

The Ontario Curriculum Grade 1-8: Health and Physical Education (2015)

New Ontario sex-ed curriculum ready for September, CBC News, Feb 23, 2015

Ontario has updated its sexual-education curriculum for the first time in nearly two decades and it will be rolled out across the province this fall.

Education Minister Liz Sandals unveiled the new curriculum at a news conference Monday, saying the government won’t back down in the face of criticism as it did in 2010 when religious groups complained about proposed revisions.

Sandals said she anticipates some criticism, but the new lessons are key to keeping children safe.

Out of the dark ages, Ontario emerges with a new “touchy” subject that’s like a hot potato that teaches don’t want to touch. It’s an uncomfortable topic for a lot of Canadians and when they start talking about it they feel a shame and a guilt about it. Originating from a Puritanical society can be damaging to progressive values, because by definition puritan is conservative in it’s progress.

While I may not be a sexual person in nature I don’t really have much problem talking about that, especially with my students (although it can be quite awkward). Why would I be comfortable teaching this health and sexual education curriculum? Well because holding a veil of obscurity in front of children for “conservative values” doesn’t benefit them in the long run. Where knowing something might make them more curious, it’s not any more curious than they are already. Proper education on the subject just removes the shame or the guilt associated with it.

For instance, on this same interview a sexual education assistant educator talked about poignant issues like masterbation and consent on national televisions and to be completely honest it made me jump a little. I mean, did they just say that on national television? It made me think, well it’s not wrong and they are having a mature conversation about it in a public forum without being grotesque or inappropriate. It’s a model of what future societies should be.

A funny moment came when they were discussing to “too much too soon” approach which I don’t think is true. I really do think that children are bombarded with conflicting messages about sexuality and need to learn about them and the options later in life. If nothing else the knowledge can empower them to make more valued decisions about their own actions and beliefs. “Why don’t we wait for them to ask us?” one parent poignantly asks. Well for starters they might never ask and therefore not ever get the conversation going.

In my experience as an educator, a large number of parents aren’t filling the appropriate role that they are put into: a parent. They might provide shelter, and love, and nourishment, but lack a unity with teacher about learning. Too often the parents are pitted against teachers which is confusing for children and doesn’t benefit them in the long run. Too much responsibility has been transferred from parenting to teaching and now parents are upset about it because they haven’t empowered themselves to retain a stronger role.

As someone that grew up not having any sort of conversation with my parents about that, I can see the negative results. I’m lucky in that I’m a bright human being that is curious and informs myself by doing a lot of research on topics , but other children don’t have the access or the know-how of doing the same as me. I believe that if conversations about positive and healthy relationships and sexuality happened growing up, I think I might have had a much more positive outlook on it and have been better prepared for things that came.

But here I sit as a bitter, pre-30 spinster that doesn’t have positive experiences with sex education or experience with positive relationships regardless of their type. I guess that’s what happens when you’re raised by conservative parents that keep the veil over the eyes of their child. 😐

Educational investments

Educational Investment

Education, for the most part, is a respected institution. In some countries of the world it is the pillar of the society and nothing else comes close to touching it’s godliness. In some other regions it’s less important and more of “the motions” and not taken as seriously. Well needless to say, working in academia and in education, I am a firm believer that it it at the top of priorities.

Having said that, when it comes to translating education into careers and/or employment, in the past few years it’s been kind of dicy for me. I left my job that I was very unhappy with a few years ago, subsequently had a major physical sports injury that hampered my happiness and health, and then went back to school for further education. What does this all mean?

Well, for starters my previous job was an irritating position that I carved out for myself and protected in many ways. Essentially when I shockingly left, three people were needed to be hired to do the work that I did. Did my company do anything to retain me? No – and for this reason the corporate culture was very negative and it wasn’t what I was looking for professionally. Where was I able to grow? Where was I able to move up? The answers to these questions was nowhere; so I opened a new chapter in my life.

And for the first time in my life I was in debt due to student loans. How I felt about this was anxious at best, but there is something that I have learned that is very important. I essentially went into debt for 61% of my yearly income at my previous job (by the way, the salary for that job was below the poverty line despite being full time). I was nervous, stressed and discouraged.

After going in debt for that amount, and being freshly hired in my new career profession (yes I’m not a professional), my salary has increased 261% of the previous. The debt accrued amounts to a roughly 23% of my new starting salary. Starting out at this salary means that my student debt will be reduced to a potential 0% in the first year, with minimal interest paid, and everything thereafter is banked. This extra year of education has paid dividends in comparison to my previous employment.

Needless to say the message of this post is clear: education is extremely important.

My political two cents

After watching the two official language leadership debates I have become a little more political than I normally have, and would like to share some thoughts. I share no political affiliation with any Canadian Political Party (or otherwise), and solicit no donations to political organizations on the basis of neutrality. I believe what I believe and I don’t need a label to identify myself. I’ve often considered myself socially leftist, and fiscally conservative. So here are the issues that concern me:

1) Proportional Representation and Voting Reform
Too long has my voice been silenced by the Westminister model and first past the post system. I currently live in a democracy, so why can’t my voice be heard? Why would the country be so against voting reform when everyone is screaming that nobody cares, and voting apathy takes over? The rest of the non-English speaking world has found effective methods of representing their constituents: why can’t Canada? Further to this, the young vote has never ever really been addressed, and it frankly feels like being a young person means that I don’t have any opportunity to do anything or make a difference. It’s sad that I don’t trust anyone to vote for them, and play with the idea of being a politician myself. At least then I could be honest to the people I talk to, though maybe not be elected.

2) Education and Professional Training Programmes
It’s no secret that I did a great deal of my education abroad. Although I’ve garnered three university degrees, and two professional certificates I still am unable to participate in the career path that I wanted to. I did the majority of my education abroad, specifically in France. Why you ask? Because it was the only place that I could afford it. University in France is public and affordable. They promote education and allow people to get to where they want to be. When I moved to Canada, my professional degrees and certificates were denied by the acting organisations in charge. I was told to go back to school in Canada to redo the degrees that I already spent five years obtaining. As if I had the money to do that: education in this country is not affordable. Why treat doctors from other countries so poorly and regale them to working in coffee shops and being street sweepers? They have professional credentials that need 1 to 2 year transitions to the host country system, at affordable rates. End of story.

3) Health and Long Term Care
It’s no secret that the health system covers all, but is often ineffective. With five million citizens not having a family doctor, how can anyone end up getting service without going to the emergency room at hospitals? People default to going to emerg because they can’t get health care otherwise. Lack of services, or long term waiting for critical issues isn’t acceptable. Why is it that the health associations that protect Canadians often fail them? It’s no surprise that people are getting less and less healthy, but why can’t we address the cause rather than fix the present? It’s ineffective usage of public money for services that are essential. Especially with the baby boom generation getting older, a huge strain will be put on the health care system where everyone isn’t protected. This also extends for privatised health insurance. I don’t have company benefits, and I can’t afford private health insurance, so if I were to fall ill tomorrow I could suffer great financial loss just to get better, and risk my income being lost due to poor health. That’s sad.

4) National Debt
With economic strains hitting the world, why do countries continue to have huge deficits and racking up national debt? Can we not readjust spending from say, fighter jets (jab jab), to paying down the majority of debt to ensure that the country doesn’t need bailouts like other countries? It’s a longshot I know, but debt in general makes me nervous beyond words.

5) Parliamentary Responsibilities and Transparent Governments
I’m sick of hearing of scandals by one ministry or other governmental organisations or parliamentarians. Why aren’t things transparent? Why are there needs for bureaucracy for request for information requests? Why do we even need things like that? Why has the people lost faith in governments? We are tax-payers, so the people that work should be accountable to us, not anyone else.

6) Taxes
Personal taxes? Corporate taxes? Sales taxes? I don’t mind a tax, if I’m getting something for it. Over the last five years the Government Sales Tax (GST) has dropped by 2%. Why was it necessary and why hasn’t it changed? Why do corporations who have huge incomes and executives get tax breaks while the everyday person gets hit with much more negative factors to their well being. I’m a low income youngster, hourly, no benefits, no job security, and I feel squeezed by everything. The whole situation just makes me want to leave.

So there you have it. As you can see my concerns are widespread and can’t really be identified for any particular affiliation. So this is why I’m so conflicted with the upcoming federal election on May 2, 2011. I feel like I don’t even want to participate, because no matter what I do or say, nothing will be done.

It also doesn’t help that I have 5 candidates in my riding that are raging idiots.

And for the record, yes I’m a legal voter, and retain my right to vote in two federal elections when they arise.

Revamping sex ed pits McGuinty against family groups

Revamping sex ed pits McGuinty against family groups
The Canadian Press, 04/21/2010
TORONTO – A revamped sex education curriculum that will see Ontario students learn about masturbation in Grade 6 and oral sex at age 12 this fall is a responsible way to teach children about a touchy subject, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.

Conservatives groups who are mounting a campaign to get rid of the revised program, which will see lessons taught as early as Grade 1, are accusing the government of corrupting young minds with sexually explicit material.

Kids will learn about such topics anyway, whether it’s from their friends or the Internet, McGuinty countered.

By making it part of the curriculum, children will get the information in a venue “over which we have some control,” he argued.

“Why wouldn’t we recognize that we live in an information age and why wouldn’t we try to present this information in a thoughtful and responsible and open way?”

But Brian Rushfeldt of the self-described “family focused” group Canada family Action says the material is “bordering on criminal.”

Sixth graders would be taught about masturbation and vaginal lubrication and 12 year olds will get lessons on oral and anal sex, charged Dr. Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College.

Teachers will also instruct eight year olds about gender identity, sexual orientation and same-sex marriage, he said.

“Now, most adults do not question their gender identity. But we’re now going to teach little Johnny to say, ‘Well, I’m male on the outside, but maybe I’m a girl on the inside,”‘ McVety said.

“This is unconscionable to confuse an eight-year-old’s mind with this type of indoctrination of a special-interest agenda.”

McVety said he doesn’t object to sex education per se and believes that schools should teach about the “perils of promiscuity” and sexually transmitted diseases. But it should be parents who decide how they want to deal with sexually explicit topics, he said.

“Somehow the parent is left out of the equation,” he said. “We are set aside as if we are irrelevant and the mighty state knows all.”

If parents object to the material, they can have their children sit out the class, said Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“I’m not a teacher, but we have worked together very hard with experts to understand best what age-appropriate language and topics are,” she added.

But it’s impossible for kids to avoid sex ed topics that have been woven into Ontario’s 200-page curriculum, McVety countered.

“Did she teach her eight year olds to question their sexual identity in Grade 3?” he said.

“I don’t think so, but she wants to do it to my children and other children across this province.”

The groups, which claim to comprise more than 100,000 active members, are planning a rally May 10 – right after Mother’s Day – to protest the curriculum.

Under the revised curriculum released in January, Grade 1 kids will be taught to identify genitalia – among other body parts – using the correct word, such as penis, vagina and testicle. The 1998 curriculum made no mention of genitalia.

Grade 3 lessons about the differences that make each person unique will now also include discussion about same-sex families and students with special needs to “reflect the government commitment to equity and inclusive education,” according to provincial officials.

In Grade 5, kids will be taught to identify parts of the reproductive system and describe how the body changes during puberty. In Grade 7, they’re taught how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

I read this article on the way into work today, via Metro-Toronto News on my Android Phone; and I couldn’t help but think it was utterly pathetic of the Ontario Government and Conservative groups around the country to react in such a way.

Through education, all ‘problems’ can be fixed. Educating people about drugs will lessen the stigma, and make them less likely to use them. The same goes about smoking; the archaic method of making something taboo only makes humans want it more. So what does it mean when Canadians teachers or parents want to completely avoid the topic of sex with their adolescents?

Lets face it, in the last few years, I know girls and boys who go through puberty before the age of 10. They don’t understand it was going on, nor are they exposed to anything that may be a helpful resource. This is all in the sake of prudeness and protecting the innocent. Humans aren’t innocent, so why be so naïve?

I’m as prudish and awkward about sexual topics as any Conservative, yet my extremely socialist views on the subject would go along with McGuinty and his thoughts. Education at such an age is pivotal to helping the development of children and to open their eyes to a range of topics that takes away from stigma, does not mislead, and educates them in a positive and professional manner.