Thursday, February 27, 2014

How I Met Mrs. Skull

I haven't told you much about anything that happened in my practicum at Gordon Bell, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to tell you about how I met the principal.

It was Hallowe'en, and I had dressed up in my regular work outfit...which is to say, the work I did over the summer as a construction surveyor. Helmet, steel-toed shoes, reflective vest, tool-belt. I had just arrived in the morning and I was standing in the hallway when Mrs. Skull came up to me. "What brings you here today?" she asked. Something inside me told me to play along, and I answered, "I heard there's a heating register that isn't working."

Mrs. Skull said "follow me", and led me to the third floor...I think it was Mr. Phaneuf's class. She led me in and said, "This gentleman is here to fix the heating register." Mr Phaneuf looked at me and said, "No he's not." He was smiling. I was smiling. I turned to her and said, "I think the expression the kids say is 'you've been punk'd'". Mrs. Skull was not smiling, not one little bit.

I don't think she liked me. I'm wondering if my story rings true for Mrs. Skull's colleagues? I'm guessing there's a few teachers out there saying, "yes, that's Arlene for sure." I'm just saying...

Maybe one day I'll show you the email Mrs. Skull sent to the University three weeks later to get me kicked out of the practicum.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Marty Green's Children At Risk?

My readers may have noticed that there has been quite an upsurge of activity among the haters recently. Many of the negative comments seem to be the work of one or two very energetic correspondents. You can recognize them pretty easily. But there was an interesting post the other day from a woman who claimed to be a former Child and Family Services worker. Based on what she'd read on this blog, she was concerned that my children were in some kind of danger; or at least, that they were growing up in a psychologically abusive environment.

We all know how well the CFS protects abused children. But maybe this woman is on to something? My son actually came out last year with some pretty disturbing stories about growing up. You can listen to one of them here, on the CBC website. Michael's segment is about 21 minutes into the program if you want to skip ahead.

Michael elaborates further on the situation in this on-line essay, where he describes his father as "less than normal". I'm going to admit that I don't come off looking that good. But that's the chance you take when you put yourself out there. Check it out and judge for yourself.

And while you're at it, hears an old video showing my other two kids when they were young:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Teacher's Code of Ethics

I guess I opened a can of worms the other day when I mentioned the question of "ethics". I was saying that the University has a motion before the courts to throw out all the incriminating evidence I've collected against Bush and Metz. It's a legal maneuver, and they might get away with it...but is it ethical, I asked.

The first hater to jump into the fray was Miss Fricken. She said was the one who was unethical, because I disrupted classes that other students had paid to attend. I thought that was a bit of a stretch. Even if what she accused me of was true, is that really an ethical question? One thing led to another, and finally one of the haters chimed in, claiming that the fact I was fighting my expulsion instead of quietly accepting it and moving on with my life showed that I didn't understand the Manitoba Teacher's Code of Ethics.

It's funny because that took me back to the day the very first volley was fired in the campaingn to kick Marty Green out of school. Back in Professor Bell's class, he used to present us with little scenarios for group discussion, which often involved those types of ethical dilemmas which are familiar to philosophy students as one form or another of the "rowboat problem". In this particular scenario, we were to put ourselves in the shoes of a student teacher who was assigned to classroom observation, and was then shocked at the way the teacher was mean to one of the young kids. The student teacher remembered that before she went to class, the principal had hinted to her that she might have some concerns about what was going on in there. What should the student teacher do? I said she should tell the principal what she saw.

One of the other students in my group disagreed with me. She not only disagreed, but she told me in no uncertain terms that I was being unprofessional: that it was against the Manitoba Teachers' Code of Ethics to do what I had suggested. If I had something to say against a colleague, I was obliged to speak first to that colleague before going "up the chain" to lodge a complaint at a higher level. That student was Jennifer Babcock.

I told Jennifer I disagreed that I was being unprofessional. Jennifer retorted that I was simply wrong: people who knew more about these things than me had devised rules of conduct, and I had better follow them. I toild her I didn't think I needed to read someone's "Code of Ethics" to know what was right or wrong.

After class, I noticed Jennifer out in the hallway speaking in hushed tones to Professor Bell. Later that evening, I got a call on my cellphone. It was Professor Bell. He told me that my dominating presence in class discussion was causing a chilling presence which inhibited others from participating. I immideiately told him if he had any complaints he should put them in writing and send them to me by email. He refused, and I told him the conversation was over.

The next morning,  I sent Bell the following email:
Pursuant to your phone call of yesterday evening, if you have any complaints about my behavior in class, please convey them to me in writing so that I may respond to them.
Bell was not willing to put anything in writing. He replied:

   Sorry if my approach went over poorly.  I don't have an office and I am on campus only  around class time. This really isn't something I would want to trade emails about. If you wish to talk I always stick around after class for an hour or more.  Maybe we could meet for coffee. If you feel I am off base on this we can simple drop the topic.  I will leave it up to you.
Sincerely,   Dave Bell

But Professor bell did not "simply drop the topic", as he said in his letter. He went to the Dean. And so did Jennifer. And from that day, no one said a word about my behavior in class until the Dean's secretary contacted me. By that time they had put together a dossier on me which would ultimately get me kicked out of school, including complaints from Bell, Metz and Cantor. I've told you about Cantor's complaint, and how she admitted on the witness stand that it did not represent her own true feelings about my behavior. Bell's lie was even more blatant: in his letter, he simply says "My attempt to discuss this situation with Marty was ended abruptly and impolitely by Marty." No, Professor Bell. It was ended when you twice refused to put your complaints in writing.

Article Seven of the Manitoba Teacher's Code of Ethics reads:
"A member directs any criticism of the professional activity and related to the work of a colleague to that colleague in private. Only after informing the colleague of the intent to do so, the complainant may direct in confidence the criticism to appropriate officials through the proper channels of communication."
I already said that I don't believe much in Codes of Ethics, but Jennifer Babcock clearly does. Was she following the Code of Ethics when she went behind my back to Professor Bell, and later to the Dean, to complain about me? Was Professor Bell when he told me he would "simply let the matter drop" and then went straight to the Dean? Was Professor Cantor when she wrote her poison pen letter?

Or does the Code of Ethics not apply to people like them, whose are so pure of heart that even their shit doesn't smell?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blackboard Etiquette

The haters are having a field day over my last blogpost. It seems I betrayed another aspect of what they call my “spectrum disorder” when I went to the blackboard to draw a sketch despite being told by the Prof to stay in my seat. “This is what happens when you lose control of the class”, the prof muttered as I went to the board.

Yes, it’s a control issue alright. Professor Bell hit the nail on the head there. Interestingly enough, my habit of walking up to the blackboard was cited in two other incidents which figured prominently in me getting kicked out of university. I’m not going to give those details today…the haters are free to post that information if they like, and I won’t stop them.

It’s true that the prof (or teacher) must have the ultimate power to control the direction of class discussion. But how should that power be exercised? I believe a good teacher will use that power to promote the free exchange of ideas to the greatest extent possible. On the other hand, using his authority to stifle the expression of opinions different from his own is an abuse of that power.

Was I guilty of a breach of etiquette (or worse) by disregarding the prof’s instructions to stay put, or was the prof guilty of an abuse of his authority by refusing to let me make my point? The haters have obviously made up their mind on this, but I remind them that at least two students, at the time, spoke out to congratulate me for having stepped forward. I may have stood up to make a point about Bernoulli’s Principle, but in doing so I think I made an even more important point about when a teacher should (or shouldn’t) use his authority to silence a discussion.

Which brings me to the topic for today: blackboard etiquette. When is a student allowed to go up to the blackboard to make a point or ask a question? This question first arose for me over twenty years ago, when I was a grad student in Physics. I was taking a course in Quantum Mechanics from a prof named Byron Southern. Disclaimer: I do not like Professor Southern. This was a grad-level course; typically, students (there were about a dozen) will come from different backgrounds – mine was Engineering. Professor Southern had been on the topic of commutator relationships, and he frequently had made references to how they ultimately derive from the commutator relationships of classical (Lagrangian) mechanics as discussed in Goldstein.

I had never taken classical mechanics, after one such comment by Southern, I raised my hand to ask if he could elaborate on it. He refused, saying everyone else in the class had already taken that course and it wasn’t his fault if I hadn’t. So I said, “well, what about scheduling a special seminar period outside regular class hours, where you could do a kind of overview for whoever wanted to attend?” Professor Southern answered with the same sneer in his voice that I would hear many times in the future from Professor Bell at the U of W: “No. I’m not going to do that.”

So I didn’t like Professor Southern, and it didn’t surprise me a few days later, when I was trying to ask another question in class, that he tried to brush me off again. It wasn’t a very hard question; just something technical involving a maze of equations written on the board. It was hard for me to explain it in words (physics is like that sometimes), so I asked if I could come up to the board and draw a small sketch to show what I meant. “No,” professor Bell answered with finality, and stared me down with that now-familiar sneer. Then he went on with his lecture.

I thought about it afterwards. What right did he have to tell me I couldn’t draw on the blackboard? It’s often pretty much impossible to have any kind of discussion in math or physics without making a sketch or writing an equation. It certainly wasn’t saving anyone’s time by insisting that I laboriously frame my question in words, while waving my hands in the air to suggest vectors pointing in this direction or that direction, when everything could have been clarified in seconds with a simple sketch. No, this was about control. Professor Southern was making it clear who was in charge of the class.

I know the haters are applauding him for this, and gleefully revelling in the way he put me in my place. And yes, they’re all teachers now, and I’m pretty sure that’s how they treat students who ask “uncomfortable” questions….by using their authority to put them in their place. They ask why I wanted to be a teacher? Maybe it’s in part because I have the idea that the world doesn’t have to work that way.

During the short time I was a student teacher, I told my students that any time they had something they wanted to share with the class, they should let me know and I would turn over the chalk to them. And I’m proud to say they took advantage of that opportunity. This was a very difficult class of what they call “transition students”…two of them had full time TA’s and a third was accompanied everywhere by a parole officer. The principal of Gordon Bell kicked me out of the school after six days because (supposedly) I wasn’t “making enough progress in the curriculum”. In her complaint to the Dean, she didn’t think it necessary to mention the nature of the class to which I’d been assigned. But that’s another story.

I thought a lot about the incident with Professor Southern, and I decided that his exercise of “blackboard control” was pure and simple an abuse of his authority. I had raised my hand to ask a question and been acknowledged: how am I supposed to ask a question in a math or physics class without the opportunity to draw a sketch? My mistake was when I asked permission to use the board…I already had permission to speak, so that should automatically have included the right to use the board. If he wants to cut me off for talking to long, that’s another matter. In that case it doesn’t make any difference if I’m at my seat or at the blackboard. It’s all the same.

But as for the blackboard, as far as I’m concerned it’s there for a reason, and a student has just as much right to use it for legitimate classroom purposes as the prof or teacher. The control freaks out there may have a different opinion, but I don’t think that makes them better teachers than me.

EDIT: Since originally posting this, a couple of the haters have been ragging on me for not telling people what I actually did that got me kicked out of school. I don't see how this is my job...shouldn't the haters who were there with me in class, the ones who ran to the Dean to get me kicked out of school...shouldn't they be telling those stories? In any event, it just isn't true. I've posted seven or eight little vignettes of things that happened in class, and the haters haven't posted anything. I think it's their turn.

If you want to see the stories I already posted, you can find some of them at these link:
A Day in the Faculty of Education
About Me and Moonface 
Mrs. Cantor Comes Clean ; and, of course:
What REALLY Happened in Class

Friday, February 14, 2014

What REALLY happened in class

One of the most baffling aspects of the haters who post on my blog is their shameless admission that they can’t actually remember a single example of my misconduct in class, except to repeat that I was constantly disruptive and obnoxious. Common sense would dictate that if someone was carrying on so outrageously for a period of nine weeks running, there would be at least two or three conspicuous stories…but so far, nothing. No, that’s not exactly true: there is one very disturbing story on the record, told by Mrs. Cantor and embellished in the retelling by Martin Grainger, about how I virtually got right up in the face of the ASL translator and was screaming at her. But that story has since been debunked by no less than Mrs. Cantor, who admits that when she first witnessed the incident, she saw absolutely nothing wrong or mean-spirited in my behavior: on the contrary, she thought I was courteous and highly complimentary to the guest. She still hasn’t explained why she sent a letter to the Dean which conveyed exactly the opposite impression, and why she hasn’t since gone back to the University to apologize for her behavior and correct the damage she inflicted on me. But that’s not my topic for today.

The fact is that the haters, without realizing it, have actually hit the nail right on the head in terms of why I was kicked out of school. You can see it in the comments on my last blogpost: the most eloquent of my critics put it this way:

“YOU WERE FRICKEN DISRUPTIVE??? If you don't remember.... you have bigger problems than pending lawsuits.... You clearly couldnt gauge an audience and see that NO ONE wanted to listen to a word you had to say…The fact that you don't see HOW you were disruptive confirms the fact that you are on the spectrum....”

In case you aren’t up to date on the lingo, calling me “on the spectrum “ is the politically correct way of calling me a mental case. She then goes on:

I do not remember specific points/arguements/comments, I remember very often being frustrated that the class was not moving forward due to your lack of understanding and/or fighting what they were saying and trying to validate your point of view. No one agreed with anything you had to say and clearly you could not gauge an audience. Sometimes its best to sit there and shut up.

So Miss Fricken (let’s call her) finds the clearest evidence of my mental disorder to be that I didn’t have the sense to sit down and shut up when I anyone could clearly see that no one wanted to listen to a word I had to say. She finds no fault with what I was saying…she freely admits she wasn’t listening and can’t remember. Just the fact that I would disagree with (or even fail to understand!) the professor’s point was enough to brand me as a misfit.

I wonder if it ever occurred to her that whatever mental disorder I might be afflicted with pales in comparison with the enormous social disorder evident in a society where fifty students can sit passively in a class called “Philosophy of Education” while a professor tells them, for example, that “the purpose of education is so-and-so” and not a single voice raises a peep in objection.

I don’t care if the professor was right or wrong: that's hardly the point. But how can there be only one legitimate theory as to purpose of education? How can fifty wanna-be schoolteachers be so pliable and devoid of independent thought as to passively accept whatever the professor says? The fact is I was the only one of fifty student to propose a different theory of what I considered the “purpose of education”. I spent about 45 seconds explaining my point of view, and then yielded the floor. Professor Bell glared at me and picked up right where he had left off, completely ignoring what I had said.

Miss Fricken and her fellow haters were no-doubt clucking to themselves approvingly, having seen one more clear example of my mental condition. Couldn’t I see (and didn’t Professor Bell make it obvious) that no one was interested in anything I had to say?

Or what about the time when we watched Stand and Deliver, and afterward Professor Bell was talking about what methods Mr. Escalante used to motivate his students. “Was it internal or external motivation?”, he asked the class; and then without waiting for a response, he said: “It was internal, wasn’t it?” Of course this is the obvious answer because it’s much better if the student is internally motivated than externally motivated, and the point of the movie was that Mr. Escalante was an outstanding teacher.

But what does it mean to be internally or externally motivated? One disquieting aspect for me about the movie was its complete absence of any sense that the students loved math. It was all about the discipline of working hard to excel on the state-wide tests. I raised my hand and asked, “Wasn’t it external motivation, because he got his students pumped up over the idea of showing the anglo world what latinos were capable of?” Professor Bell shot back at me: “NO. It was internal motivation”. End of discussion. The sneer in his voice was palpable. 

And the other students, the “good” students, quickly picked up on how they were supposed to deal with Marty Green. Later in the term there was a group presentation, and one of the students was talking about how you could explain compound words by breaking them up: “Like the word meta-cognition”, he explained: “meta means “big” and cognition means understanding, so metacognition means understanding of large concepts.”

I raised my hand and said that in my opinion, meta meant something like “the next level”, so metacognition actually meant “understanding about understanding”. And the student presenter, taking his cue straight from Professor Bell, snapped back immediately: “NO. That’s not what it means”. End of discussion.

Except that after class, a few other students came up to me with their iphones, to show me that they had googled metacognition and they wanted me to know that I was right! I was gratified, but I think it’s pretty significant that none of them were brave enough (or dumb enough!) to make this observation on my behalf in class, in front of the professor and the haters. But these were young people, well acclimatized to the contemporary social expectations. They weren’t about to jeopardized their careers by sticking their necks out.

But there was one exceptional incident. It was very near the end of the term, and by now everyone knew where things stood with me.  But I still couldn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to participate openly in class discussions like any other student: just because they were always agreeing with the prof and my opinions were usually “unpopular”, what difference should that make?

So when Professor Bell said something about how you teach Bernoulli’s prinicple in grade 6 (?!?) to explain how an airplane works, I thought it was appropriate to point out something I’d learned about the traditional explanation that people ought to know: it’s simply wrong. The picture you see everywhere of those streamlines passing over the curved wing has nothing to do with how an airplane works. You’ve seen the picture: it’s everywhere:

I said, “I don’t want to interrupt, but this will take about ten seconds for me to draw,” and I rushed to the board. You could see Professor Bell rolling his eyes as he muttered under his breath “…this is what happens when you lose control of the class…”; and I drew the picture and said, “I’ve been in all kinds of physics board discussions on the internet about this, and anyone who knows anything about airplanes knows that you can’t fly a plane unless the wing is tilted.” And the pictures never show that. The plane in the picture could never fly.

When I sat down, something very unusual happened. Michelle Rosner spoke up from the back. “I just want to thank Marty for pointing that out, because if he hadn’t we’d never know that.” And Steve Whitmore added: “Yes, I’d also like to thank Marty.”

Now, normally it’s the professor who thanks a student for making a contribution. But by this time, it was so obvious that was never going to happen that Michelle took it upon herself to fill in the gap. It was a courageous and very suttle rebuke to Professor Bell and all the haters. But it wasn’t enough to stop them from getting me kicked out of school.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Axworthy Apologizes to Marty Green!

It was only a matter of time! Over the last few weeks, I have been exposing the relentless pattern of false accusations put together by the University of Winnipeg, and especially professors Bush and Metz, which resulted in me being expelled from University and even thrown in jail. The straw that broke the camel's back seems to have been the shocking admission by Professor Lauralyn Cantor, who personally called on U of W President Lloyd Axworthy last week to tell him that the very damaging accusations she made against me in her letter of Nov 2011 did not, after all, represent her own opinions; but were written up at the request of Associate Dean John Anchan for the purpose of making out a case against me for Non-Academic Misconduct.

This morning I was personally contacted by Axworthy who expressed his profound shame at the way I had been treated, and promised to move immediately to restore my reputation and punish those who had....

Well....actually, that's not what happened. It might have been nice, but it didn't.

What actually happened is this: after Professors Bush and Metz accused me of attempting to carry out a home invasion at Professor Bush's residence, I sued Bush for defamation. I actually didn't have much of a chance of winning my lawsuit, because it was only my word against his. I had no proof of what Bush actually said. But then the University went ahead and pressed criminal charges against me! That was a mistake.

At my criminal trial, I got all kinds of incriminating admissions, including explicit emails, out of the university witnesses. I promptly filed them as evidence in my civil suit for defamation. This was a huge problem for the U of W. What had started out as a very shaky case of slander (verbal defamation) was now starting to look like a rock-solid case of libel (written defamation). Mrs. Cantor's admission was an unexpected bonus...I only got the chance to examine her because security chief Martin Grainger tried unsuccessfully to blame my expulsion on an incident where I was "virtually screaming in the face" of an invited guest, an ASL translator. Mrs. Cantor not only debunked that story, she recanted her original attribution of the events in which my behavior had been characterized as extremely offensive. Now she admitted that she herself had seen nothing improper about my conduct; on the contrary, I had been highly respectful and complimentary towards the guest.

So it would have been altogether reasonable for Mr. Axworthy, in the light of all this, to step in and take action; to call for a fresh investigation into the way the proceedings against me were carried out, and to punish those who were guilty of misconduct in persecuting me. But that's not what happened...

Instead the University has now moved to strike out all the evidence I gathered at the criminal trial! They've filed a motion in the civil proceedings, asking the judge to declare all those incriminating emails inadmissible. It's basically a legal maneuver that means even if everything I've uncovered is true, I won't be allowed to use it at trial.

This may be a sound legal strategy: but what ethical justification can the University have for using it against me? The answer is plain: the ethical justification is that they think they can get away with it.

I don't think they will. But that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mrs. Cantor Comes Clean

I told you last week how Security Chief Martin Grainger testified at my criminal trial last fall how I was banned from the property as the result of an incident in class where I was virtually screaming in the face of an American Sign Language (ASL) translator who had been invited to the class as a guest.

Surely Mr. Grainger knew this was not the reason. The Trespassing Order was issued hours after the "death threat" Don Metz would later testify about. Locks were changed on his classroom doors, and security guards assigned to his class. Why would Grainger claim I the trespassing order was on account of an in-class incident that had taken place two months before?

My theory is that the University knew the "death threat" was a cock-and-bull story, they were trying to avoid relying on it in court. That's why Don Metz admitted to it only after being grilled for about twenty minutes...and why Neil Besner claimed to have never even heard of it! So instead they were claiming I was kicked out on account of a "verbal assault", as Grainger called it.

This peculiar strategy was about to backfire on them, because by introducing it as evidence, they had just given me the opportunity to cross-examine on it. And I took advantage of that opportunity by subpoenaing Lauralyn Cantor, the professor whose reporting of this incident played a huge role in my getting expelled from the Education program.

I already showed you the letter Mrs. Cantor sent the Dean. She actually spent most of it complaining about an assignment I wrote, but then finished off with the following:

"At the conclusion of one of the final presentations, Marty made an inappropriate request of an ASL interpreter. The student who had invited the interpreter was embarrassed and offended, and wrote an email, which I have enclosed, with redaction. 

"As indicated, I feel that Marty Green's behavior in class has had a detrimental effect on his fellow classmates.

That's a little vague, but there was nothing vague about email which she attached. Here it is:

"Hi Dr. Cantor,
"I just wanted to send you an email regarding our presentation today. I am really upset about how the presentation ended. I was extremely offended when Mary asked Christie to repeat certain words in sign language so that he could essentially make fun of her. She was super embarrassed and offended when he told her to make the facial expressions that go along with the signs. I am pretty sure that she is never going to do anything like this again, nor will I ask someone to do that again. Facial expressions are part of sign language (as I'm sure you know) and she was very offended that he found it entertaining to watch her make certain facial expressions. I think it was super disrespectful and if I wasn't afraid of Marty making a personal attack on myself, I would have said something to him.
"Several other students in class approached me after the presentation to say how embarrassed they were to even see that happen at a University setting.
"I apologize for my rather hasty email, but I have been upset about this for several hours now and can't seem to calm down. "

That's a pretty harsh letter. So I asked Mrs Cantor on the witness stand: just what was it I did that was so offensive and disrespectful?

Well, she said she could see the student getting very uncomfortable...

But what about you? Did you see anything mean-spirited in my question? Did you think I was making fun of that student?

She did not! Personally, she testified, she had found nothing improper or mean-spirited in my attitutde towards the ASL translator; quite the contrary. I had been respectful and complimentary...."effusive" in my praise of the job she had done translating the student presentaion, I think was the word used.

So why did you send that letter?

Because she was asked to write the letter by John Anchan, the associate dean.

And you attached the student's email, knowing how horrible it made me look. Did you share her perceptions?


Yet in your email, you mentioned my "inappropriate request" to the ASL interpreter and attached the horrifying email. "Can you see how someone reading the letter...the dean, or the registrar or the people who kicked me out of school...would read this letter and think you shared these perceptions?"

Mrs. Cantor was silent.