Don't blame the students
We are a group of concerned inner-city teachers who have come together to respond to the article I'm Your Teacher, Got A Problem With That? (NOW, April 19-25). On behalf of Nigel Lezama's 10-to-13-year-old students, we do. Here is the problem.
Our experiences are similar to Lezama's in many respects. Yes, it is difficult to be a new teacher and we all have had experiences with students who "test." Yes, Toronto's inner-city neighbourhoods can be a shock when first venturing from a place of privilege in the "North." Yes, the students vary significantly in their learning abilities. Yes, homophobic expressions are not to be tolerated. Yes, the inner city is increasingly becoming an immigrant, non-white, religiously and culturally diverse community.
The problem with Lezama's article is that he inextricably lays all his issues at the feet of inner-city students. As an emergency "temp" teacher, he's had no training in class management. His experience only serves to underscore the need for qualified, trained and committed teachers for any school environment.
Our students are the victims of their neighbourhoods, not the perpetrators. Daily, from home to school, they run the gauntlet of drug deals and other street scenes. That takes its emotional toll. As public school teachers, we believe in educating all students, not only the "bright" ones. Indeed, overcoming the effects of adversity on our students is a challenge.
Historically, teachers' advocacy has played an essential role in the life successes of kids from poverty. Children of the inner city know only too well the face of all forms of oppression -- poverty, racism, classism and religious and ethnocultural bias. We have chosen to teach inner-city students. We are committed to challenging and supporting them in fighting oppression toward themselves and others.
Over time, through the development of trust, we gain their respect and loyalty. We cannot presume to fully speak for them. Our reward is when they assume their own voice to challenge and respond to viewpoints held by writers such as Lezama.
S. Colleran, C. Beserve, D. Biggs, M. Binder, H. Bryce, D. Fowler, S. Katz, A. Lacey, S. Robertson
Cyclist vs. General Motors
Thank god for wayne scott (NOW, May 3-9), who is trying to deep-six car ads that show speed as the appropriate state of being for the product. And it's not just speed -- it's exclusivity. The BMW, Lexus or Honda ads I've seen invariably show the car speeding and alone, usually on a slightly damp highway so a thrilling spray accompanies the nonetheless miraculously clean vehicle.
Another favourite site is the desert where, too, a rising plume of sand pays homage to the hurtling, unstoppable metal object. If the odd snake or lizard gets flattened, who cares? Even in cityscapes, these cars are shown alone.
GM spokesperson Stew Low says, "GM is selling excitement, not speed." The disingenuousness is blatant. It's excitement through speed and exclusivity -- there is no other way to get there.
Geoff Rytell, Toronto
She protested by herself
"If you want to reach the world, start from your corner." So I went to Vancouver and protested outside Manhattan Minerals. (See article on the "death" of Godofredo Garcia, NOW, April 19-25).
I protested, but I protested alone. I walked around with my signs and made sure I was heard. Unfortunately, I was alone. I guess the trendy place to be was Quebec.
Tobi Adamolekun, Vancouver
Activists in it for the glory
After reading your articles on the Quebec City protests and protestors (NOW, April 26-May 2), I've come to the conclusion that you've missed a vital component of why everyone is protesting in the first place: vanity. Like the politicians within the fence, what led the activists was not a compelling call to fight injustice, but a hypocritical need for self-fulfillment.
All the activists in Quebec fought the enemy in different ways -- peaceful protesting, rock throwing, cursing the cops for their inability to see that they were brainwashed by the spurious rhetoric of the powerful.
But as different as all the protesting was, in essence a common goal could be discerned. The rights of peoples, the environment and all that other stuff eventually dissipated into a collective consciousness that helped people see themselves as something more than just protestors. This was the only thing that kept me from running in sheer pain from tear gas. Well, that and the great story it would help me write.
Ryan Long, Toronto
Can Fantino say sorry?
In the april 23 edition of the Toronto Sun, police chief Julian Fantino labels the demonstrators in Quebec City the "forces of evil" and accomplices in "domestic terrorism." In doing so, he has insulted me as a democratic citizen, belittled the horrendous experiences of myself and thousands of others who democratically expressed our opposition to the FTAA.
His comments do not bode well for the treatment of any citizens who might choose to express their democratic right within the city of Toronto. I am truly fearful for anyone who would exercise their rights to demonstrate in any jurisdiction where the police would be under his direction. Fantino should apologize.
If he is unable to recognize that he went too far in his comments regarding Summit demonstrators, he cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of balancing the interests of security with respect for human rights, and he should then resign.
Tim Maguire, Beamsville
Price of protest can be jail
i'm surprised that max wallace (NOW, May 3-9), as director of a centre for human rights and diversity, felt the need to wonder why people of colour were so under-represented at the Quebec City festivities. The arrest of Jaggi Singh, which prompted his cri de coeur, answers his question. Singh was arrested by plainclothes people in a scene from Soviet Russia according to Hollywood on charges lifted from an unpublished Kafka manuscript. It didn't happen to any of the "mostly white, middle-class crowd" who were at the barricades with Singh.
People of colour are magnets for police forces around the world. Many are here in Canada to escape just such state-sponsored terrorism in their countries of birth. With the kind of official police brutalism that is increasingly being sanctioned, indeed encouraged across Canada -- APEC (Mr. Singh again!), Queen's Park and now Quebec City -- we are not about to offer ourselves as sacrifices.
Martin Mordecai, Toronto
Special law for minorities
re post-quebec blues. democracy, eh!? So it's finally dawning on everyone crying police brutality that what happened in Quebec wasn't democratic, that peaceful demonstrators aren't supposed to get beaten in a democracy. When the fuck was it ever a democracy for the native, the African Canadian, the "coloured" immigrant and the poor? Do you know why so few non-whites were at the demo? Because they would still be in jail, like Singh. Wake the fuck up.
Bogos Kalemkiar, Toronto