Friday, December 3, 2010

Yes, Virginia, You Will Make Smart Choices

In my mind the most important part of our job as a parent is to try and teach our kids how to make smart choices and direct them to the resources to help them do so.

I'm certainly not one that has made only smart choices in my life but I would like to think that I've learned something from the questionable ones I have made. I try to pass this education on to my kids whenever I can.

I think that a major factor of happiness and success is the ability to make smart choices and learn from not-so-smart ones.

We trust our educators to use their expertise and fill the minds of our children with many things that we can't teach them in their family life. Hopefully, with everything that they learn, the kids will be able to make the smartest choices that they possibly can.

In doing so, we trust that the educators have the ability to make smart choices themselves.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is always the case.

Yesterday afternoon I received a cc to an email from my wife to the vice-principal of our sons' school expressing great dissatisfaction and concern of a poem that was read to the Grade 7 English classes. These are 11 and 12 year olds.

The details that I gathered which are only one (two?) sides of actual events are as follows.

The English class temporarily has an intern working with it under the guidance of the teacher. I mention this because the teacher was present the entire time.

According to my son the intern asked the class how many believe in Santa Claus to which the great majority raised their hands stating that they do.

She proceeded to read a poem titled "The Death of Santa Claus" to the class. This made my son and other kids quite upset.

At some point a remark was apparently made by the intern or the teacher that when the kids get older they'll know more and will understand that there is no Santa.

The poem is about Santa having a heart attack and dying. It's told by an 8 year old boy to his mother who has some terrible news to tell him. I'm assuming that the boy's father has passed away. The boy's friends at school have been telling him that Santa is fake.

I'm not even going to bother pasting a copy of the poem here but if you want to read it try here . Have fun with that.

Maybe it's just me but isn't that horribly inappropriate to tell to a bunch of kids during the Christmas season? Or any time really.

If they are trying to teach the kids about poetry and metaphors and symbolism or make a statement about staying healthy or the health care system they failed.

That's not the message that my kids took away.

And if this crap must be read to them do it at another time of the year! Not during the Christmas season!

Something like this is not for kids the age of my sons. I don't give a damn if anyone disagrees with me. I know my kids.

I guess you can figure out that I was pretty angry when I found out especially upon hearing that it had upset the kids.

I'll make this part of the long story short and say that I left a message and email for the provincial Minister of Education, Superintendent of District 18 education and the school principal and vice-principal to get back to me.
In it I included the above link to the poem.

I would think that the board was a busy place this morning with various people trying to get to the bottom of it.
Eventually I called the school and ended up chatting with the principal.
As expected, he had received numerous calls and emails from parents who were as upset about this as we were.

He told me that "The Death of Santa Claus" is indeed included in the list of materials and stories for teachers to choose for their classes.
Some international expert on middle school material named Nanci Atwell had made the wise decision that this is a good thing to read to kids of this age and school boards have snapped it up because no one thought to say "Uh Nance? Excuse me? I don't mean to question your great expertise but that poem isn't a great choice and quite frankly sucks anyway."
The principal said that it isn't a poem that he would have chosen and will suggest to teachers that they skip over that page of Nanci's material list in the future.

He mentioned that another parent had suggested that they read "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" to the kids to counter the awful poem.
He asked my opinion and I told him this is a great idea. They will be doing so next week.
Later this afternoon we received the following email from the English teacher.
It turns out this was copied and pasted and emailed to the other parents who had complained as well so the personal touch isn't really there as it appears to be.
It's better than nothing.

Here it is:

Mr and Mrs Scammell
I apologize for this upsetting experience. This poem comes from an anthology by Nanci Atwell, a highly regarded and well published middle school teacher. In the past I've shared this poem with my class because it is a great example of metaphor. This year I passed it on to Mlle P------(the intern) to use because it linked to our memoir theme. The purpose was to demonstrate that memoirs convey emotion and reflect on personal experiences. The poem describes a classic childhood experience everyone can relate to; the 'quintessential moment' as described in the text. In the past I have read this poem in the spring as part of a poetry unit and although the Christmas link seemed like a good idea at the time, in hindsight perhaps it was not good timing. I am sorry. I understand your position and concerns and I will certainly take these into consideration in the future.

What "quintessential moment" is she talking about? Is she referring to a moment when a child stops believing in Santa Claus?
They had already established that most of the kids had not experienced that "quintessential moment" before they read it to them. How could the kids reflect on that personal experience?

In this case this teacher did not made a smart choice and made a bad one. This resulted in a flurry of activity as people struggled to figure out a way to undo the damage that had been done.

I'm hoping that this teacher stands by what she has written and really will take more into consideration in the future assuring smarter choices.

I didn't want to waste space with the awful poem however, I am going to tell the Virginia story.

In 1897 an 8 year old girl named Virginia O'Hanlon asked her father Dr. Philip O'Hanlon if Santa Claus really existed. She had started to doubt if there was a Santa Claus, because her friends had told her that he didn't exist.

Her father suggested that she write to the The Sun, a New York City newspaper at the time, telling her that "If you see it in The Sun, it's so."

In doing this he gave one of the editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question, address philosophical issues behind it and become immortal with his reply.

Her letter:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


Mr. Church replied to Virginia with the most famous reply ever printed.

"VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Great job Mr. Church. What a masterpiece.
Is there a Santa Claus? You're darn right there is!

Questioning his existence is not a very smart thing to do. Not a good choice.
Trying to tell a child that Santa isn't real is a very bad choice.

Every choice results in a lesson. Let's learn from them shall we?

Stay well,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blog about Blogs and other Social Media

Hello there. This isn’t actually going to be about a whole bunch of other people’s blogs, only two of note.

Coincidentally I just happen to be involved in both of them and they are recent.


The first one is this from today. Yay!! J


We are so proud of our guys and their musical talents.

They both have a natural feel for their instruments and sincerely enjoy playing them.

We never have to tell them to go and practice. They just head to the piano or drum kit whenever they want and play away.


I recall when I was in grade five I was among a handful of people in the school who took violin classes. A lady used to rotate around the local public schools and teach the violin to a few kids.

I can’t actually remember if I was asked if I wanted to take these lessons or if I was just signed up but I do have a fond memory of the class.

I don’t have a fond memory of practice time though. If memory serves I was forced (yes forced) to go to my bedroom and practice every day. At the time I wasn’t too bad but I wasn’t great.

I think if the practicing was more natural whenever I felt like it I may have been much better.



Anyway, please have a look at that link above and feel free to heap praise upon it.

I have to confess that it wasn’t by accident that Los Cabos came upon my sons’ videos.

I flog my YouTube videos  on Facebook and Twitter like it’s going out of style. How do you think some of them have over 1000, 2000 or even 5000 views?

People don’t always happen upon them by accident. Perhaps some do but I’m pretty certain that it’s primarily due to promotion through friends and connections on Social Media and by email.   


In this case I follow and am followed on Twitter by Los Cabos drumsticks who just happen to be situated nearby in Fredericton.

I’ve been tweeting them repeatedly about my lad for quite a while now.

Here is their main website .


Hmm. Now if I can get Sabian Cymbals to take an interest in him. They are also nearby. Just up the Saint John River.


In case you don’t already know (I can’t imagine how that could be the case) you can see all of my spectacular professional quality award winning (well, maybe one day) videos on my channel right here.

I have videos of the boys going back a couple of years to when they were just starting to play. It’s great to track their progress.

Hey! Perhaps one day I will be posting videos of them in concerts in stadiums and arenas!

You just never know do you?


Please be so kind and rate the videos and comment on them if you have time. We love knowing that you were there.  Thanks. J



Now SPEAKING of social media and networking, the next blog I want to mention belongs to a pal who I first met via Twitter at a Tweetup (cute, isn’t it?) a year or so ago in Fredericton. We are also Facebook pals too and he has seen all of my YouTube videos.

Coincidentally, he is also a drummer AND used to work at Los Cabos before moving back to Nova Scotia. He is a friend of B’s drum teacher.


Lonnie asked me the other day if he could mention me in his blog.

As if I would say no...  

Without having a clue what it was going to be about I said yes. I trust Lonnie. He’s a good egg. J


Here is what he blogged about.

Instead of throwing in another link to his blog I’ll just copy and paste the blog here but refer you to his blog page for you to browse when you have a chance.


“Saturday, November 27, 2010

Social networking...

I think I get it!

Social networking is good for business!

Yes, I was told that a year ago and I’ve been aware of it to a certain level since then, but today I managed to GET it!

Last year at this time, I was working for a firm in New Brunswick and we had been invited to an event known as a “Tweet Up” where users of Twitter gather and meet up. In discussion with Carter McLaughlin and Tim Scammell, I learned that such networks as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc are all about building relationships.

OK, that’s a stumper. What does that mean exactly? I have trouble with some relationships face-to-face, so what can Social Media offer me?

Well, to start with, there’s the safety of not being in a room with somebody. I know that sounds weird, but sometimes being in direct contact with others makes me feel awkward, insecure, or intimidated. (especially if it’s someone I look up to) Connecting by means of Social Networking Media keeps a level of separation in place where intimidation and awkwardness don’t (or can’t) exist. That allows me to speak (write) more freely and review what I say before I send it out to the other person.

But I discovered something else... It’s not about me! And in recognizing that, it became a benefit to me!


“How does that work,” you may ask...

OK, here’s how it happened for me. I follow people I know on Twitter, and also strangers (as in I haven’t met them) who do things I am interested in such as drumming, cycling, self-empowerment etc. In the process of that, someone I follow mentioned a podcast he had heard and included a link to it. I clicked on the link, dug the ‘cast, and subscribed. Once I became a subscriber, I downloaded other ‘casts and began listening... and learning.

This particular podcast is very diverse and covers many topics, often several per episode. Sometimes it is a short passage of only a few seconds that answers a question I’ve been asking for years. Other times, there is a secret that no one else knows, and this is where the learning begins for me. I learn something that can be used to my advantage in making me a better drummer.

True Social Networking would dictate that I would share this information and allow everyone to develop this skill and we would all have it at our disposal to use at will. There has however, been a long history of “Knowledge is power,” where knowing something others don’t is the same as having an “upper hand.”

Gone are those days of keeping information to ourselves in order to maintain power and control... Today, it’s all about sharing everything we know with the understanding that we will use that knowledge differently anyway, because we are all individuals with individual approaches to everything.

Another way it has worked to my advantage is financially. Again, because I follow someone on Twitter, I got connected with someone else who offered me a part-time PR position of sorts. This is a paid position and it’s not only in an area where I apparently have some expertise, but it’s also something I really enjoy doing!

Social networking has other advantages as well. I have several friends who no longer live here. Through the cyber-magic of social media, I can stay in touch immediately. Through them, I have met others of similar interests and together, we have great (albeit short) conversations about our favourite activities. Not only can I learn more about the things that bring me money, but also the things I do to unwind and enjoy life. I’m learning about far and distant lands I will likely never see, and my circle of “friends” is growing ever larger.

Heck, not long ago I was exchanging witticisms with Prince’s former drummer Sheila E!

~Still Wandering…. “


I’m always happy to see that others share my opinion and thoughts about Social Media and networking.

One thing I almost forgot to mention is that I also use MySpace and LinkedIn but not nearly as much as Facebook and Twitter.

Lonnie has summed up my thoughts very well regarding the benefits of these things. Thanks for that pal. J


One thing Lonnie touches on at the end which I really want to carry further is the celebrity factor of the Social Media.


As  I really love to do please allow me to drop names and tell you about a few of the pretty amazing folks that I have connected with at some point in time through Facebook and Twitter. Several  of them I actually had conversations with or more than one message.

Before I do I want to mention something.

I have often had people ask me how I knew if the person was really the real deal and not an imposter?

Twitter has this thing called a Verified Account. Twitter uses this to establish authenticity of well known accounts so users can trust that a legitimate source is authoring their Tweets.

Here is detailed information about Verified Accounts.

When we see the blue Verified badge we know they are who they say that they are. Some celebrities don’t have them but have convinced me that they are who they say.


On Facebook I have messaged with hockey great Ken Dryden, Glass Tiger singer Alan Frew and Greg Godovich of Goddo fame to name a few.


Twitter on the other hand has been wild with the stars I have messaged with.

Try this on for size. I’ll start with recent and work my way back.


Rosanne Cash – Johnny’s daughter! Yes!

Brian Travers - of the band UB40

Andrea Martin – Second City star and acting goddess. Andrea actually follows me too.

Russell Crowe – Yes THAT Russell. We’ve tweeted a few times. Do not make him angry. He’s been Robin Hood AND a Gladiator. J

Steve Martin – I don’t have to tell you who this guy is. Still funny after many years.

Sass Jordan – Canadian songstress with one of the most soulful voices I have ever heard.

Bill Zucker – Recording artist, comedian, actor, pal to Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed and co-worker of Kelsey Grammer.

Kelsey Grammer – Cheers and Frasier were his best known but his role as Stinky Pete the Prospector on Toy Story 2 are what sealed his status as an immortal legend with me. We’ve had several chats and Kelsey even wished me Happy Birthday. J

Kevin Pollack – He’s been in far too many huge movies to mention. See here

Roger Clemens – The greatest baseball pitcher to ever play the game. Bar none. We’ve tweeted many times. Roger was nice enough to autograph 2 baseballs for the boys which his sister Janet mailed to me. I actually befriended Janet first and discovered who her brother was later on.

Eddie Izzard – Incredibly funny guy and great actor. He was one of my mother’s favourite comedians.

Kathy Ireland – Model and humanitarian. Kathy was the first celebrity to follow me and I have no clue how she found me. How funny is that? Her brother Rick London and I have also become pretty good Twitter pals too.

Anne Murray – I couldn’t believe the Snowbird messaged me back. I have so much history with her in my life. My father has always been a huge fan. I was at the Boy Scout jamboree in 1977 where she filmed a television special and played a concert. She also attended UNB and our family saw her perform at an alumni reunion many years ago. Plus she was on the Johnny Cash show!

Ashton Kutcher – Geez, the guy has over 6 million followers and I actually got a reply from him.

Demi Moore – What a cool sense of humour she has. Has a heart of gold too which I was happy to discover.

Melissa Gilbert – Actress. We messaged a couple of times.  She’s come a long way from Little House on the Prairie.

Alyssa Milano – Actress and total techno geek. I had no idea that she is so intelligent.

Kirstie Alley – She’s a wingnut but a very kind soul. I don’t see too many tweets from her these days but she used to be on all of the time.  


This final mention is one of my favourite claims to fame.

After seeing several tweets in which Wil Wheaton (Star Trek- Next Generation, Stand By Me, Flubber, and appearances on Big Bang Theory) used gratuitous cursewords which I didn’t feel were really necessary I merely tweeted to him “Don’t swear so much.”

That’s all I said.

A few minutes later I wanted to follow it up with something else and discovered that he had blocked me! Really!

I still get a chuckle out of that one.


I must be off.


If I can’t see you soon in person I hope at least to meet you soon in the Social Media.


Stay well,