Thursday, March 28, 2013

Outliers and Anglophones

Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl taught at Royal Arthur in Little Burgundy in 1908-1912. Later she taught at Herbert Symonds in N.D.G., a school named after the Anglican Minister of Christ Church Cathedral  who was so active in social causes in the 1910's, many of them not so progressive, but hey.

The CBC hosted a panel discussion on the future of the Anglophone Community in Quebec, and it looked lively but predictable and it was likely a big waste of time. (My opinion.)

But I'm not that much interested even thought I write about the History of Anglos in Quebec, real Anglos and Francophones. My relations and my husband's relations.

Some panelists at this event claimed Anglo Quebeckers carry too much baggage, passed down from their parents and grandparents, but hey, I think the issue is the FUTURE.  That's because I'm older.

We're afraid for our future, our pensions, or retirement, our healthcare. Whether our homes will be worth anything when it comes time to sell.

(I am expert in Edwardian times. I know all about The Poor House:) And even though we no longer throw unproductive elders into a ersatz jail we do other thing just as horrible.

I've seen for myself how elderly anglophones get treated in the medical system, sometimes. (My father in law, who had suffered a stroke at 90, was told my his nurse at a non-city hospital, 'You are 90. You should speak French by now." (So my father in law said, but other incidents we did witness first-hand suggested he wasn't hallucinating.)

 I've written about all this right here. But then no one gets treated well in the Health system, right?English or French.

Anyway, yesterday my son passed me a book he'd just read, a book he said young people he'd met all over the world were talking about. (He's been travelling a lot.)

Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian.

He said I would be interested in the book as I am interested in Education issues.

My son is a Physics graduate and he was telling me about why Gladwell thinks the Chinese are better at Math. It has to do with their language. Young Chinese can count to 40 by 4 years old, and young Canadians only by age 5.

This apparently gives them a head-start - which carries on because HEAD STARTS are what matter with respect to SUCCESS in a field. (I'm going to read the book now.)

My son just returned from Australia where he tutored young Chinese children in math and English. These students were advanced in both subjects, he said.

That's another reason Chinese children are advanced, their parents insist on it, putting their children in tutoring after school, regardless of their relative success.

 (My son says the Chinese parents refuse to acknowledge when a child is learning-disabled, which is a problem.)

This language issue in Quebec is such a diversion. In Quebec our kids don't get any head starts, they are disadvantaged from the start (my opinion).

In my day, there were no textbooks for Anglo children in French immersion - and most all kids were in French Immersion from grade 3 back then.

For Earth Sciences I remember, my sons used a French text, but the vocabulary was too complex (marecage, etc) so it was left to their teacher to dumb it down for them. And dumbing down science to young students does not lead to earth-shattering success in the field.

My son's interest and success at math, he says, is due to the luck of the draw; he got 2 fantastic teachers in CEGEP. One man a Chinese and one woman an Iranian. But by that time, it is too late, according to Outliers.

This is Royal Vale, where I went to school in the sixties. Mostly Jewish kids in my class. High achievers.

Even in those days, my teachers in the early grades were young and inexperienced (and very pretty women) who got married, got pregnant and left the profession (for a while?) and the Old MAID teachers made for the only continuity. (That's why in 1910 in the Protestant School system male teachers made more money than female. They got 800. a year out of Macdonald Teachers College, women got 550.)

Miss Dobie was my first grade teacher. A classic spinster, tall thin and stern.  I can still see her words on the black board using coloured crayons to teach us phonics.  It stuck... We first learned French in third grade, and I recall the teacher was a Scot and certainly not bilingual. I knew because my mom was French Canadian.

And to think that in the 1960's the Protestant School Board of Great Montreal was the highest performing board in North America, which is why so many graduates left Quebec and went on to make their mark BIG TIME in Toronto and elsewhere. (I like to think that Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl, who rose to the The Union President during WWII and who fought for higher salaries for teachers, had a part in this.)

Marion Nicholson, in 1910 era, feisty, not demure.

 Maybe there are bigger fish to fry for the future of Quebec than Language Laws.

Of course, democracy (and equality)  is still of interest to most Canadians, even if only of passing interest, judging by what we let their politicians at ALL levels of government get away with.