Ellen Page is gay, and I’m left-handed.

Page from left-handed websiteFor those who slept through yesterday, actress Ellen Page came out as gay, speaking to a conference of people who work with Lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) youth. This is good! Society needs to see that people’s sexual and gender preferences don’t make them wrong, broken, sick or evil. It doesn’t make them different people than they were before they came out.

I’d like to live in a world where coming out as gay doesn’t mean mustering up all your courage, potentially harming your career, being ostracized by people you love,  and living on the fringes of society.  We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years, but  aren’t there yet.  We could be someday, though.

As a a bit of a thought exercise, I took a look at one of the things about me that I had no choice in, that makes me a minority in our culture, and that used to be such a problem that people were burned at the stake for it.  I’m left handed.  My Grade Two teacher tried to make me switch, people make fun of my goofy arm-turned-back-on-itself writing style, binders are a pain in the butt, as is the whole latin writing system, and my mom still thinks I look awkward doing things like ironing, but really – it doesn’t make a difference to anyone but me.  OK – me and good product designers. :-) One day, I would like for discrimination against LGBTQ people to sound as ridiculous as discrimination against left-handed people.

Just for fun, I re-wrote this page on the history of left-handedness and stigma – in the hopes that someday discrimination against LGBTQ people will seem just as quaint.

History of Left Handed Queer People – sounds sinister – umm, gay?

It is fairly safe to assume that those interested in the history of left handed LBGTQ people, will indeed be left handed LBGTQ people themselves. Right-handed Straight people basically take their dominance for granted. However, it is a fascinating subject for all, because almost everybody knows a “leftie” gay or lesbian or bi-sexual or transgendered person, be it family member, close friend, work colleague, school pal, whoever.

Looking into the history of left handed LGBTQ people will shock today’s generation when they learn that in previous centuries not many years ago, and in some places still today, they would be spanked bullied and ostracized in school and chastised rejected at home for being different. Their left hands would be tied behind their backs They would have to go to sexual reassignment therapy, in an effort to force them to write with their “correct” hand love the correct people .

There used to be extreme and severe suspicions of anything left not “heteronormative”. In the history of left handed LBGTQ people, the Latin term for left is sinister, which in modern English can be interpreted as meaning “evil”; “menacing”; or “threatening”. By contrast, “dexter” is the Latin word for right, which is used in a complimentary way when talking of someone well skilled in the hands, i.e. “dexterous” the terms “gay”. “homo”, “lezzie”, “faggot” are terms of abuse. “That’s so gay” has become a phrase of derision, specifically because it is identified with homosexuality.

Throughout the history of left handed LBGTQ people, there has been many only too willing to cast disparaging remarks. One such person was a 19th-century Italian criminologist 21st century Amaerican politician named Cesare Lombroso [pick your person], who famously spoke of “Left-handedness homosexuality being a stigma of degeneracy”. Such statements have thankfully long since disappeared from the views of the world [We're not there yet], and it is worth remembering that, if ever on the receiving end of any derogatory comments from a “rightie” straight person; the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body, and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body; so only left handed people are in their right mind left-handed people used to be treated with ignorance and prejudice too, and now it’s just one of those things that makes a person different!

What living in poverty is like in BC, and why it matters

1 in 5 BC children live below the poverty line

… you don’t want to go there

Jacqueline McAdam, a smart woman whom I really should get to know better, posted the following question on Facebook today: “Did you know?  B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line. Why do you think this is?”

The cynical answer is that the low income cut-off is relative, and kids in poverty in Canada would be considered wealthy in the world’s poorer nations. But that is a red herring – I know because I have raised three kids for several years, well below the poverty line.

Sure, we usually had enough food on the table (with a visit to the Food Bank now and then) and they had coats and shoes (thanks, Value Village and St. Vinnie’s). We even have a bunch of computers (thanks, grandparents, uncles and aunties). But in reality, it means that my kids missed out on the opportunities I had growing up. And they are potentially missing out on a promising future. All of them have tested “highly superior” in their intellect, but other disabilities have kept them back and I can’t afford tutoring. IEPs don’t get implemented and I can’t afford DragonSpeak software. I have no money put aside for their higher education. No money for my own retirement, so I guess I’ll be living in their basement.

The WHY is that Canadians don’t really believe in equality of opportunity or of access. We give lip service to it and make the poor jump through all kinds of hoops in order to access what others take for granted.

Am I resilient? You bet your ass I am. I have worked very hard to make my kids feel like they don’t miss out. But I know the truth: they DO miss out, they HAVE missed out, and I’m doing all I can to make sure that they WON’T miss out for much longer.

I’ve just surprised myself by “coming out” as a person who has lived below the poverty line for significant portions of my kids’ lives.  We look and act so darn middle class.  But don’t be fooled: we are the 1 in 5.  I think it’s time for former-middle-class Canadians like me to speak out and say WE ARE CHEATING OUR KIDS by allowing systemic poverty to continue. Not everyone is as lucky as me to have the background to experience *temporary* poverty and then get out of it again. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have it as a life-long experience. Thanks,Jacqueline (quietly steps off soapbox)

Recording a lecture does not equal flipping a classroom

Does a lecture move us up the arrow any? Didn't think so.

Does a lecture move us up the arrow any? Didn’t think so.

I have cross-posted this article from my other, more academic blog, rrucatherinenovak.wordpress.com

According to researchers’s very preliminary work at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA,“Flipped Classrooms” may not make any difference to students’ learning outcomes. This article has my knickers in a twist.

I don’t know what makes me more angry

a) that the researchers are right at the beginning of their grant and either they or the media who have picked up their *preliminary* work are prejudging the outcome, or

b) that someone has the bright idea that learners have to sit through a lecture at all, whether it is before or during scheduled class time.

Maybe educators should try something different than lecturing.  How about getting the students to dig around for the information, both inside and outside of class.  How about making them active participants in their own learning?  An educator’s best asset is his or her repository of knowledge, which includes knowing where to find things, how to make connections, and who else is doing excellent research in the field.

In my ideal “flipped classroom”, the educator would develop a “treasure hunt” of sorts for great information about the topic at hand.  Then the learners would come into the classroom ready to discuss, analyze, synthesize, apply and all those other higher orders of learning that Bloom talks about.  Why on earth would anyone assume that learners would do well with an hour of talking head on a learning management system when there is the whole Internet at their disposal?

I guess the corollary of this “preliminary” research is that a flipped classroom does not necessarily equal great pedagogy.