Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An ode to great teachers

My son didn't have the greatest teachers last year, when he was in kindergarten. There were issues, including a mid-year replacement, and I also noticed the constant yelling at the children - particularly the boys. It became a battle in the mornings just to get my son to into the classroom.

His first days of grade one were a challenge. It quickly became clear that he couldn't really read, and in frustration he simply refused to do any work at all. My older children had never gone through anything like this, so we were at a loss.

His teacher, though, reassured us. She was concerned about the lack of work and certainly needed to address it, but didn't think that there was really anything wrong with him. She figured out that he was embarrassed about not reading well, and had chosen to give up. She arranged for the extra help that he needed, and had total confidence that he would catch up and be brilliant. Overall, she also kept the class engaged, and because of that was able to maintain discipline without getting frustrated and yelling.

It paid off. My son, who in October couldn't read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", is now reading at grade level and LOVES reading more advanced books to the class. His math is amazing, and his confidence has sky-rocketed. One of his best friends has had a similar turn-around.

What would have happened if he had a poor teacher instead - one who wouldn't have given him the attention, or had the faith in him, or simply been frustrated and seen him as a problem child? I shudder to think about it.

Thank you, Mrs. Miller!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pro-life AND pro-choice

Can someone be both?

I don't think that someone who claims to be both is necessarily confused. Life and choice are not opposites.

It's sad that so many people immediately think that this can only refer to political positions regarding laws. There is no recognition that pro-choice can also refer to giving women support and options so that they have genuine choice, and that pro-life can mean doing something practical to address the factors that cause many women to seek abortions.

As someone who is both pro-choice and pro-life, this is one organization that I'm willing to support:

I heard the founder of Efrat speak a couple of weeks ago. They don't demonstrate. They don't use scare tactics or guilt trips. They simply have social workers who process abortion referrals pass on their number to any woman who says that she wants to abortion for economic reasons. These women are offered practical assistance with baby goods, and they also have a program to provide job training with free childcare so that the mothers can lift the family out of poverty. They also have workers and volunteers to provide emotional support as well.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What can you assume about a group from the actions of its members?

This question is asked here, and it also seems to be on everyone's mind with the "Muslim Radicalization Hearing".

So...when is something just an individual action, and when does it reflect on the values of the larger group?

1. It's hard to accurately paint a very large group with the same brush. For example, you've got hundreds of millions of Christians and hundreds of millions of Muslims, they are spread all over the globe and divided into different sects which occasionally go to war against each other, so any broad generalization isn't going to be helpful.

2. It's helpful to remember that the members of a group that you may see could represent a specific small subset of the overall group. For example, the Asians that I know represent the small subset that immigrated to the Toronto area, which means that they had the money and education to do so and the willingness to live in a western culture. Even more specifically, since my husband is a doctor, the ones that we know are often doctors that he works with or that he trained with. That doesn't mean that most Asians in the world are doctors - but it does mean that there are a fair number of Asian medical students at the University of Toronto.

3. Keep in mind that some disputes between different religious groups are based on specific religious teachings, but in others, religion is no more than the "team jersey" of the group where the real issue is land, political power, etc.

4. Look at whether a particular behavior is actually linked to an explicit teaching. For example, you would likely find Quakers, Mennonites and Jehovah's Witnesses to be under-represented in armies around the world, because these religions preach that members should not fight in wars, regardless of the issues involved.

5. Look at whether someone's behavior may have been linked to the teachings of a specific sect or leader, even if contrary teachings exist within the religion as a whole. So, some groups may frown on university education even if it is common among members of the religion as a whole. You can find this with any other issue as well. For example, I happened to come across a fair number of Orthodox "crunchy moms" when I was in the process of becoming more religious, so extended breastfeeding, babywearing, gentle discipline and general attachment parenting became part of my religious identity and I had books from rabbis to back up my views. It came as a bit of a shock when I found Orthodox Jews with opposite views, and discovered that they often followed different rabbis and different teachings. You can find this with other views as well. For example, while many religions have a version of the Golden Rule or Love Thy Neighbor, they don't all define who is included the same way. Does it apply to everything in the world, or only those of the same religion, or only those of the same religion who hold all the same views and do all the right things so that they aren't heretics or sinners?

6. Look at the impact of history and culture. Ruling religions developed differently from underdog religions. Some religions are tied into a specific geography and culture, some aren't.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A case that needs to fail

Request to abdicate all responsibility

Compare and contrast with this organization. I heard the founder speak on Saturday, and his approach was simple but brilliantly effective: if you want to reduce the number of abortions, provide women with the support they need. End of story.

Now, for all those who claim "it's unfair for men"....there is no Constitutional right to unprotected sex without consequences.

It may help to actually read cases like Roe v. Wade and R. v. Mortgentaler. They are not based on any mythical right to avoid responsibility for children. Instead, they are based on Constitutional limits to the power of the state to make laws controlling what women do with their bodies.

Once a baby comes along, the rights and responsibilities of parents are fairly similar, unless the father is unknown/unidentified. Laws vary, but in most places a woman can't simply give up a child for adoption if there is a father in the picture. [Exact procedures to determine the rights of the "casual fornicator" vary.] If a father ends up with primary custody of children, the mother is obligated to pay support. I have cases now where that is happening.

The court case doesn't mention the rights of the children, of course.

Once upon a time, back in the bad ole days, only the legitimate children of legally married parents were entitled to support. Under the old English common law, a child of unmarried parents was not entitled to inherit and was legally considered to be "nobody's child". Subsequent law reforms across most western countries have made it clear that it is only fair to treat ALL children equally. Children have a right to support, period, regardless of the relationship between their parents or their parents intentions at the time of conception.

This garbage is why I closed my account on Babycenter.

A woman who chooses not to have an abortion is not "forcing" a man into anything. They both played a role in the conception, planned or not, and the natural consequence of that is a baby if the pregnancy is healthy. The fact that abortion is legal doesn't mean that it is as easy as pressing an "undo" button. It's surgery. It has potential side effects and complications. It's not easily available everywhere. There may be laws designed to make the process more difficult. Anti-abortion terrorists have been known to firebomb clinics and kill doctors. It is likely that having an abortion will mean passing by protesters holding gruesome pictures and screaming that you are a murderer. Many religions will say the same thing. It's not unreasonable for a woman to feel something for an unborn baby, even if the pregnancy wasn't planned. These feelings arent' selfish - they are normal and healthy and even necessary.

Now, pregnancy is also physically demanding and at times hazardous for women, and that's why laws which ban it are wrong. I cannot understand, though, why a women who is willing to carry to term should be in any way pressured into an abortion - even through lack of financial support.

And no, I do not see the "sorrow" in a poor boy who had unprotected intercourse having to support the child that he conceived. Yes, I have a son. Like my daughters, he will know how babies are made, and that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. He will have every bit as many rules and as much supervision as his sisters, and he'll know that some activities aren't appropriate for kids. He will know that real men act as proper fathers to their children, so that the very thought of wanting to abandon his child would be absolutely repugnant. He will also help out at my office and see enough files for himself to learn exactly what happens when people create babies with sub-optimal partners.