Yup, I’m the cynic

Kind of interesting to see me included in a column by the publisher of the competition.

Yes, I am the unnamed reporter working at the unnamed other newspaper in town in the column Tim Shoults wrote about the election forum that happened on Thursday, May 2, in Kamloops.

And yes, he missed the point entirely as did Kamloops-North Thompson incumbent Terry Lake.

And, as I write this, local Conservative Al Forseth is in a Facebook debate with former Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger about the actual essence of the point I tried to make: Will you, oh brave soul who wants to represent Kamloopsians in the legislature, really, truly, honest-to-goodness represent us or will you allow yourself to be forced into line by your party whip?

Shoults writes: “But throwing every single candidate for elected office under the bus? That sort of cynical claptrap is part of the problem, not part of the solution. It’s one of the reasons voter turnout is falling — after all, why vote if none of the candidates will do anything anyway?”

He needs to read the original column again and see it was yes, a cynic asking all candidates to simply tell us if, should they be elected, they will truly represent us and not the edict from the leader.

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Get out and vote

So finally, we’re in countdown mode to a provincial election, a time when I hope more people than ever before get out and vote for somebody.

Anybody.

Ideally, I’d like it to be for people who really care, who aren’t just fooling themselves into believing they want to make a difference, not just be another well-paid, expense-account boosted mouther of the words mandated by their leaders to be spoken. 

Most folks have pegged me for a rabid left-winger and stare in disbelief when I tell them that, for most of my life, I’ve been a Liberal — but a real Liberal, not a reconstituted Socred masquerading as someone who shares the ideals I first learned about when they were spoken by Lester Pearson.

Yes, I am that old. And that ain’t old. But it is old enough to remember when politicians weren’t afraid to deviate from the communal script. It’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed Kevin Krueger — you just never knew what was going to come out of him when the microphones were turned on.

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Been a long time

OK, I’m not that good at keeping up with the blog but I’m trying. So, here’s today’s column, brought to you by Mike Duffy and his need to stay tucked in at the trough.

While we’re at it, an update. After about 30 years as a desker, senior editor, copy editor, all-things-that-kept-me-at-my-desk (with a bit of spare time to write), I’m back to full-time reporting. Cops (yes, cops), courts, education, some entertainment, the column, any news I stumble upon, that’s my thing now.

So, if you see a strange face out and about sporting a KTW red coat, it’s no new intern learning the ropes. It’s just me and my notebook out looking for interesting stories.

Any ideas, let me know,

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Words aren’t always facts

Today’s column was difficult because it involves taking on a reality within journalism — the just-reciting-what-I-was-told style of reporting.

Some of us call in stenographical journalism, this need to just write the words down without actually wondering if the information really IS the story.

In the case of the story that sparked the column, it happened as it often does with me. I was driving my boys into town, one to work and the other to school, and listening to the news on the radio.

The newscaster intoned about the tragedy that befell Nick Guido something about it being confirmed by the coroner “he had alcohol in his system.”

OK, how much? Was he falling-down drunk? Was it just a drink or two over the evening? And was there anything to show that whatever he had drunk that night had anything to do with his death?

The simple reality is, drunk, tipsy or sober as he could be, Nick Guido would likely still be dead because he rode a Crazy carpet down a hill at Sun Peaks and hit an upright structure at great speed.

That’s what we know. Anything else is simple conjecture that spins the story and hurts an already grieving family.

We see it often in the media; this blind recitation of what’s been given to the reporter without any apparent questioning of the validity of the information and its relevance.

The one that has bothered me the longest is “common-law wife.” The point is what? Are we adding some societal judgment because someone chose to not change that adjective to “legally married?” Not that you’d ever see a news report describing a woman that way.

I hate “known to police,” too. Heck, I’m known to police in Kamloops and it has nothing to do with any bad behaviour but, rather, taking part in some of the local RCMP fundraisers. Well, that and writing some columns in the past that caused some negative response for the officers.

But, I’m still known to them.

Words have power that reporters and sometimes reporters forget that in their zeal to be the first or the best. They’ll take what they have or find and run with it, forgetting that there are people out there who will be impacted by those words.

And this was one of those times. The Guido family deserved better of us.

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A letter from former board trustee Lal Sharma

The magic of words:
War on illiteracy a worthy cause
 

On the flyleaf of Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading
(1996), appears this poetic description of learning to read:

"At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book —that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader."


How eloquent, yet sad. Not all children get to have such an epiphany. Close to a third of the nation cannot read these words. Why ? Briefly put, when it comes to the teaching of reading, the keystone for academic and life success, three things are perfectly clear:

First, we must be doing a lousy job when millions of adult Canadians have such low levels of literacy that they can not even read the headlines in a daily newspaper.

 According to Statistics Canada, nearly half of working-age Canadians have some difficulty with reading materials encountered in everyday life. Literacy happens to be “a discount ticket to everywhere”. The trouble, of course, is that four out of 10 Canadians lack that discount ticket.

 In B.C., more than 40 percent of adults struggle with low literacy skills (Literacy B.C.).Their big problem was grade school. Literacy skills are to a large extent acquired in school (OECD, 2000).

 Yet, according to former Minister of Education Shirley Bond, “one in three B.C. adults struggle to read a restaurant menu or a bus schedule.” In fact, “31 per cent of British Columbians may have difficulty reading this sentence.”

Attrition begins early. Nearly 30 per cent of our third-graders provinically are failing to read at a basic level, which means they are unable to read and understand a simple paragraph from an age-appropriate children’s book. Even amongst those who finally do finish high school, 20 per cent lack sufficient literacy skills to access post-secondary learning.

Second, today we do know what works for almost all children: Research-based, planned, linguistic/phonetic instruction delivered directly. Through the use of teaching methods “scientifically” proven to work, virtually any child can master the mechanics of reading within a year of having learned to speak the language.

Third, we also know what the problem is: The trendy whole-language philosophy with all its incarnates—“balanced” reading, reading recovery, etc. This” reading-by-the word-guessing game,”

where reading skills are expected to blossom spontaneously, is unfortunately a fad that is sweeping the country today. And because of it, untold number of adults are handicapped readers.

If truth be told, reading instruction in our schools is like a game of musical chairs where a good third of players lose their seats even before the music starts. And that is a shame. As Dr. Barbara Bateman, a well-known authority on education, puts it: “near failure-proof methods for teaching all children to read are already available. Continued failure of schools to employ these programs is at least negligent and at worst malicious.”

Remember this fact: If kids don’t learn to read well by the 3rd grade, they’re educationally dead. Fortunately, the goal of all children reading proficiently by the end of third grade is well within our grasp. But if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.                                                                               

                                                                Lal Sharma, Ph.D. *

                                                                Fomer professor,          

                                                                school trustee

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There really are good cops out there

To be honest, the column says it all. But let me add that, in addition to what it says, I’ve known killers.

I babysat a boy who, years later, assaulted and murdered a little girl in my hometown. I never saw the evil that lived in that little boy. I went to school with a guy who was always a bit off but never thought he’d turn into someone who would pick up a gun and end two lives.

When I was just a child, my mother told me years later, a wee lad playing in the schoolyard right across from my house was kidnapped, assaulted and murdered. Years later, when another young boy was taken from the streets of my hometown and killed, my mom got together with a bunch of other moms and the Block Parent program was born in our city. She spent years helping with it, doing what she could to keep kids safe.

Cops are easy targets these days because, frankly, they do some really boneheaded things and some other actions that are truly wrong. But its guys like these who we don’t hear about — and I wouldn’t do their work if they paid me.

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Kamloops muses help one of their own

I’ve liked Janet Whitehead since I first met her years ago, when her art was just a sideline. Since then, she’s become an important mentor and inspiration for so many others with creative souls like she has.

Now, as she battles a rare form of breast cancer and finds her own muse struggling some days to shine through, these wonderful artists are stepping up to help their friend.

It’s pretty cool — and the event is a great opportunity for people to see the kind of talent that exists in Kamloops.

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That cool actor on the left is my son, Sean, who, along with 24 other amazing kids, will be performing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 at Pavilion Theatre in Kamloops.

That cool actor on the left is my son, Sean, who, along with 24 other amazing kids, will be performing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 at Pavilion Theatre in Kamloops.

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Families First? Not in B.C., despite what Clark says

Today’s column is about a young couple, both living with disabilities, who plan to wed. When they do that, their incomes will be reduced by the government, since they live on disability pensions. Apparently that’s just fine with the B.C. Liberal government. It’s not fine with me. It’s simply wrong.

Now, if they lived together, they’d continue to get their full amounts but, once that piece of paper is signed and the rings exchanged, the government moves in.

I’ve had a fair amount of feedback on this column, mainly from others living on the same pensions who struggle every day to survive on it.

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