Monday, September 25, 2017

Fleeing to our "liitle towns for moments of fellowship"

For such a time as this, Canadians surely did not ask or seek.

Let us please reject the poitics of fear and hate, as well as situations like the one that took place in Lethbridge, Alberta, involving a person from Cranbrook where I live.
 In 2014, I travelled  from Cranbrook to Toronto, (and back) where one of my oldest and dearest friends the late Harry "Butch" Pellow hosted a marvellous party attended by some folks I had not seen since high school days, more than 50 years ago. What a joyous occasion it was.
 As I flew across this vast and magnificent land, over the mountains, across the prairies to the forests of Ontario, into Toronto, which has been so much the central place in my life, I once again recalled the words of Bruce Hutchison in The Unknown Country.

Mr. Hutchison, who has Cranbrook roots, wrote in 1942, that "No one knows my country ...Who can know our loneliness on the immensity of prairie, in the dark forest and on the windy sea rock? A few lights, a faint glow in our largest city, the vast breast of the night and all around blackness and emptiness and silence. We flee to little towns for moments of fellowship."
2014 party attendees

In 2015, I made essentially the same trip across Canada but to Chapleau for the launch of 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' which I co-authored with my cousin Michael McMullen.

Little did I think during my travels that I would be putting Mr. Hutchison's words into the context of 2018 in our country and beyond.
 He also posed the question: "Who but us can feel our fears and hopes and passions?"
 Indeed, who but us? And given our very troubled world, for a myriad of reasons, Canadians from coast to coast to coast vent their fears and hopes and passions as they try to understand, to make sense of it all.
 I won't pretend to have the answers, but I do know one thing for sure: Be not afraid.
 As Canadians, let us focus on the positive aspects of living in this still largely unknown country and strive to fulfill our hopes and passions.
 I often think of my mother's family who arrived in Canada in 1913 to make a new life for themselves. Not here long before my grandfather was badly burned in a fire but he survived. Then it was World War I, then the Great Depression, then World War II, and my father Flying Officer Jim Morris, was killed on active service in the RCAF in 1943.
 Through it all, my family and I know that yours faced its challenges too, and, never, ever let fear and hate rule their lives.
 Let me leave you with two quotes to think about:
 "Fear is the only true enemy, born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate."  Edward Albert
 "The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear." Gandhi
 As difficult as it may be, let us focus on those things bringing us together rather than dividing us. Let us certainly not be intimidated, but lead the way to the "promised land" where our greatest hopes and passions will be fulfilled -- Canada!
 We are all children of the village in Canada and if need be, it is OK, even today to "flee" for a moment to the little towns for fellowship as Mr. Hutchison suggested in 1942.

I  did, even though the little town was a home in Toronto, and then Chapleau, the town where I was raised.  And as many readers know, my other safe place is Orlando, Florida My email is

Updated May 2018


Sunday, September 24, 2017

School Days changing as cursive writing courses may disappear from core curriculum

Just as I was digesting a list of nine things that will disappear in my lifetime sent to me by an old friend, I stumbled across a story on Yahoo News that the end of teaching cursive writing in elementary schools is on the horizon.

Ever since, one of the verses from that old song "School Days" has been running through my mind. Remember?

"School days, school days,
Good old golden rule days.
Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.
You were my bashful, barefoot beau
and I wrote on your slate.
'I love you Joe'
When we were a couple of kids."

Back in the day, so to speak. "reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic" were the Three R's, the core of the elementary school curriculum.

And above the blackboard in almost ever elementary school classroom was the alphabet in capital and small letters.

But first, here briefly is the list of nine things my friend sent me. Set to disappear are the post office, the cheque, the newspaper, the physical book and newspaper, the land line telephone, music listened to on devices as  as we have known it, television and generally many  "things" we own as they will all be on a "cloud". Actually I tend to agree, but they are a story for another day.

Back to cursive writing. It never entered my mind that was disappearing as core part of elementary school curriculum in over 40 states in the United States and several Canadian provinces. Although I can't remember the last time I sent anyone a handwritten letter, and only scribble notes as needed, and keep a journal, I never assumed kids would not be required to take cursive writing. 

Tori Floyd, writing in The Right Click a Yahoo News blog on June 16, 2013. writes,   "In the not so distant past, it was a rite of passage for student in elementary school to sit through lessons on cursive writing, slowly learning how to shape connected-up letters in the hope of one day having legible penmanship.
"But with the increased presence of keyboards everywhere, the days of cursive writing may be numbered and schools are seeing the writing on the wall.
"As the end of cursive writing appears to be nigh, many parents and educators probably find themselves wondering: should we still be teaching cursive writing?"
I wonder too. Those who argue it suggest it is "one more thing teachers have to help students with in light of the pervasiveness of electronic communication."
But, occupational therapist Suzanne Asherson  said on Mashable  “In today’s world children need to know how to both use keyboarding to type, as well as being able to pick up a pencil or a pen and be able to write.  Both skills are necessary and should be taught to our children in order to have functional adults who are efficient in their jobs and in the real world.”
Maybe, but it begs the question -- in the 21st Century is excellence in cursive writing needed to be a "functional" adult who is "efficient in their jobs and in the real world".
This debate over cursive writing takes me back to when I started high school in 1955. Because the powers that be determined I was university bound, I was enrolled in an academic program and took Latin instead of Typing. In fact, I took Latin until the end of my first year at university, and I haven't spoken or written it much in the last 50 years. I still don't know how to type properly using my own "hunt and peck" system, and I think I typed something every day of my working and retired life.
However,  as Mr. G.A. Hill, one of my outstanding Latin teachers told me, studying the subject made me better in English. 
And, he was right. Perhaps the same argument can be made for the continuation of cursive writing as part of the core curriculum. Simply put, it's good for students.
Nonetheless, no doubt I should have taken Typing too.
In 2011 in a piece for ABC World News, Brian Braiker wrote, "Antiquated or no, cursive is viewed by some parents and educators as essential to an education -- especially as text-happy teens become ever more thumb-centric."
Try as I might, I was unable to compose new words for "School Days". Somehow, "texting, tweeting and thumbing" and writing on a "tablet" just didn't do it, although tablet may be digital version of slate!
What are your thoughts? I look forward to hearing from you. You may comment here or my email is


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