Jon Cozart breaks down what happens after the Disney movie ends.

Disclosure alert: I was never one of those Moms who encouraged my daughter to watch Disney Princess movies. Truthfully I was glad that she never really seemed to get into the whole Disney Princess thing with even a fraction of the enthusiasm she has shown for, say, Harry Potter for example. Now I know that she just was allergic to the very idea of being obedient to anyone, most especially her mother, for any reason at any time. But I digress. To make a long story short, I found Jon Crozart’s alternate ending for four of the Disney Princess movies to be priceless. I think my daughter would too, since Disney Princesses totally are for “babies”. Especially Pochahontas, which was a movie my daughter actually enjoyed. He left out the part though, where Pochahontas’ descendants are herded onto reservations and into residential schools….

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The Dale Askey Effect

On February 6th 2013, librarians all over the world learned that Dale Askey, a librarian from McMaster University thinks that the quality of the the books published by Edwin Mellen Press leave something to be desired. And, oh, Edwin Mellen Press is suing Dale Askey and his employer for a combined 4.5 million. For giving the opinion that EMP often publishes second hand scholarship. Since then EMP has told CBC Hamilton that they have dropped the case leaving out the key piece of information that of two cases suing Mr. Askey for a combined total of 4.5 million dollars, they have only dropped the case with Mr. Askey and McMaster University for 3.5 million and not the one for Mr. Askey alone for 1 million. Yay. Because all the pressure from social media to drop the cases was about the case against McMaster. Which was so strong given that Mr. Askey wrote the blog before he was ever employed there. Word of caution: I am not a lawyer, but I would think that dropping that case is a pretty empty gesture given that that particular case didn’t really stand up. Also since McMaster undoubtably has more money than Mr. Askey personally does ( I’m going on a limb here….) I’m going to guess that he actually isn’t all that relieved to find out that his case still stands.

One phrase keeps jumping out at me about this case. That phrase is “biting the hand that feeds you”, because a small academic press suing an academic librarian seems like, well, biting the hand that feeds you. Because academic monographs are often as not bought by …libraries. Also I keep hearing about the Streisand effect, which might well be named the “Askey effect” since now EMP is mostly known as the publisher who sued Dale Askey for saying that some of their publications are second rate scholarship even though their own website that their only criterion for publication is that a work of research make a contribution to scholarship. Huh? Full disclosure: My father is a published writer (it’s true!), and a former faculty member at McMaster. (the coincidences are amazing!). But he is published by an academic press, which is to say he is not living high on the hog on the royalties that are pouring in from Amazon.com (or .ca for that matter). But over one hundred libraries across Canada and the U.S have his book, which no doubt counts for close to one hundred percent of his royalties, because scholarly monographs on the Gospel of St. Thomas are hot seller let me tell you. (But not McMaster University! What’s wrong with you? He’s a former faculty member. And a graduate. Twice!)

But of course the worst part of this case is not the effect that the case might have on the reputation of Edwin Mellen Press, though its probably safe to say that they aren’t exactly winning this public relations war. See this provocatively titled post if you don’t believe me. The worst part of this case is the chilling effect that this case will have on academic freedom, not to mention the cowardly way in which EMP is taking advantage of Canada’s slightly less robust understanding of freedom of speech. It’s interesting to note that Mr. Askey wrote this blog post in 2010 when he worked at Kansas State University but EMP only brought the case forward after Mr. Askey started working at McMaster University. Interesting. Can we say “forum shopping”? For the record I don’t think that either of the two cases are particularly strong, but having a publisher suing a librarian for being critical of the books they publish is sure to have a chilling effect on the willingness of librarians being critical of potential library material even though librarian are expected to demonstrate professional judgment on potential library materials, especially, as Mr. Askey noted in his “controversial” posting in times of decreasing budget. And this is why we need to keep pressure on Edwin Mellen Press to drop both cases. Because publishers cannot be allowed to threaten librarians with nonsense law suits just for doing their jobs.

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Why I can’t get over Seth Macfarlane’s Crude Joke about Quvenshane Wallis

True story about raising a girl in this day and age. My daughter is somewhat on the slim side. Therefore I was overjoyed that some stores started offering pants with adjustable waistbands. Because now I could buy pants for her without having the pants fall off her rear end. When she was three, I took her to Old Navy to buy pants but was dismayed to find that while the pants at Old Navy did have adjustable waist bands, they also had the low slung waists that somewhat older girls sometimes like to pair at the time with thongs that might have peaked out of the tops of their jeans. Because toddlers might want to flash a hint of diaper. This was my introduction to a style of dressing that my Mom friends and I euphemistically referred to as “miniature pole dancer”.

My fantasy story about Seth McFarlane theoretically hosting the Oscars in 2003 when Daniel Radcliffe (still in my fantasy world here) wins the best actor award for the first Harry Potter movie: Harry ( I mean Daniel) goes up to get his award and Seth simply says “Wow, you’re twelve and you won the best actor award. What an accomplishment!” Which is the appropriate response when a pre teen wins a best actor award. Of course this is pure fantasy because Mr. Radcliffe did not win a best actor award for any of the eight times he made a Harry Potter movie. Which makes me sad. Because I liked the movies. Which is good because I’ve watched all of them many many many times. (Did I mention I have an eight and ten year old?)

True story about raising a ten year old and an eight year old. We were on a city bus the other day and my daughter loudly asked why a teenaged boy was wearing his pants so low that everyone could see his underpants! From my eight year old son: ” Underpants. Snicker snicker snicker snicker snicker.” Because when you’re eight to ten underpants are shocking! And funny! What does this have to do with Quvenshane? Nothing. It’s just a story which illustrates just how young nine actually is. Nine is not about thinking about dating older actors years in the future. It’s about snickering about undergarments and wearing puppy purses to the academy awards, in the unlikely event that you are nominated for best actress when you are nine, that is.

In short little girls are sexualised in a way little boys never are. Little boys’ childhoods are kept sacred and little boys are treated like little boys. The reason not every one was outraged by Seth MacFarlane’s comments about Quvenshane is that we are far too blasé about the sexualization of little girls, especially little black girls apparently since Ms. Wallis was the butt of way more than her fair share of “humour” ( calling her a c*** the Onion?! Really?! Thank goodness the Onion apologised but come ON! Sooo innappropriate!) If you are a mother of a little girl you see it all the time in the clothes for little girls that look like they really were designed for teenagers who want to dress inappropriately, or in doll designed to look like miniature prostitutes. Don’t believe me? Think back to my story about Mr. Radcliffe, and imagine Seth made a quip about him having sixteen years before he was to old to date some unnamed older Hollywood actress. Still “funny”? Nope, didn’t think so.

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When my daughter stopped being an extrovert (briefly)….

As I wrote earlier, last month I went to the Ontario Library Association conference in Toronto. One thing I really enjoyed was the plenary session by Susan Cain who wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Now the fun part of hearing her speak is that she often starts with an anecdote where she is at camp and her counsellor teachers her group a chant along the lines of “R-O-W-D-I-E that’s the way we spell Rowdie!! Rowdie! Rowdie! let’s get Rowdie! And being an introvert she wondered why they had to be so rowdie! and why they had to spell that word wrong. Now I always find that story funny, not because I’m an introvert (though I am) but because my my son is an introvert and my daughter is an extrovert and my daughter is R-O-W-D-I-E! (and no, she doesn’t care whether or not it’s spelled correctly) and my son would be the first kid to 1. wonder why everyone has to be so rowdie! and 2. why rowdy had to be spelled incorrectly. You see, when I was a kid, and even to this day, spelling has never been a particular talent of mine. But on the other hand neither has rowdiness.

The reason my kids stick out to me as particularly strong examples of extroversion and introversion ( besides the fact that my daughter is really really extroverted and my son is every bit as introverted) is that having been their mother since the day they were born, I can attest to the fact that this aspect of their personality is completely in born. How I found out my daughter was an extrovert: When she was two months old we took her to get her picture taken and she hammed it up for the photographer. That’s right. She first learned to work the room as early as two months old. Before having my daughter I was not aware that babies develop skills based on what is important to them not necessarily in order that the baby books say babies should develop skills. For example my daughter mastered holding her head up at a relatively early age because she enjoyed looking around to see how her subjects were reacting to her. She also did not say a single word until she was nineteen months old and that word was “wow wee”. That is because instead of learning words she first concentrated on learning how to have conversations. For example she would say “Ba ba ba ba ba? Ba ba ba ba. BA BA BA BA! My son also didn’t say a single word until he was nineteen months old. Because he didn’t want to talk. At all. But when we brought in a speech therapist he apparently thought “whatever”, and finally came out with his first word (or words), which in his case were “fwuit sawad, nummy nummy. fwuit sawad, nummy nummy. fwuit sawad, nummy nummy. nummy nummy nummy nummy fwuit sawaaaa-a-a-ad.” (did I mention that my son has a good memory? Not to mention a good ear?And a bit of a lisp?) but he did learn how to climb onto chairs when he was sixteen months old so he could do puzzles at the library because why not. I knew my son was an introvert when he wanted Mommy (and only Mommy) to hold him when he was a baby, facing in ( I have a great picture of him with my uncle at his first birthday “making strange” aka bawling his eyes out while my uncle makes an equally delightful face) and when he showed very little interest in vocalising at all. In any way. We worried that he might be deaf, though we had to wonder how he could hear a box of teddy grahams (his favourite snack at the time) being opened several rooms away. We knew that spelling was one of his superpowers when two months into kindergarten he wrote the following note to his bus driver ” Dear bus 123: plaeseplease drop me off at ***** avenue and not the YMCA. A few months later he was tutoring his (older) sister in spelling. At her request. Weird, right? This is all to say that Extroversion/ introversion seemed pretty hard wired in my kids from the very beginning which is why when my daughter starting showing signs of being introverted or shy when she was in kindergarten it surprised me. And it suprised me even more when her teacher commented that her friend was “really bringing her out of her shell” (Is this the same girl who put on a show for the little old ladies at the CVS when she was getting her passport photos done at five months old? Is this the same girl who when she was a baby would grab the arms of complete strangers so she could “talk” to them?)

Needless to say something was up. More directly, when she walked out of school alone with her head hanging down, I could tell something was up. We moved her to a new school for grade 1 and again she had her head hanging down. Hmmm. The second school was the school her best friend went to so we thought that surely she would have a friend to stand up for her. Think again. Her “friend” ignored her at school, just like all the rest of the popular kids, leaving only the arty kids who no one else wanted to play with either, who “understood” her to be her friends. Nice girls to be sure but not enough friends to make up for the fact that other wise she was ignored.

I’m not 100% sure what went on at those schools. I think that mostly she was the kid no one was allowed to play with and not the kid who was beat up, but I know this. Standardised testing has been blamed for a lot of ills in American schools, but here’s one you probably haven’t heard: A culture which encourages bullying even in early grades. (Stay with me here….) My daughter went to a parochial school which was highly regarded in the city and the State for having very high standardised test scores. Needless to say this was a point of enormous pride. When we managed to get her into the school, we were told we very lucky. Lucky? It was a grade school not Snooty McSnootytington College! At any rate the atmosphere at the school was pretty intense. And one interesting thing about my kids is that they bothhave ADD. My daughter struggled to keep up despite being a smart little girl. And no wonder. The amount of homework and the level of homework was far too much for six to eight year olds. Being a high performing school also meant that parents sometimes were “encouraged” to “redshirt” their kids, a practice where parents kept their kids back so that they would be able to handle academics more easily. And this practice was rampant. But this is a practice that requires more money than we ever had. In short, a high pressure environment which didn’t tolerate students who had a struggle because of attention issues, a curriculum which seemed difficult for the given ages, hideous uniforms which made my chronically slender daughter look like an inmate in a concentration camp, a class full of kids who were older and more mature meant bad news for my sensitive, distracted, arty, quirky and slightly immature daughter. (Look! Grade 2 is the new Grade 3! or 4! Maybe 5!)

Where does standardised testing fit in? By making school a pressure cooker of academics at an age when kids should be learning how to enjoy learning and by making my seven year old daughter stand out by having her qualify for “special” reading help for reading like, well, a second grader when she was in second grade. By the end of grade two I was too dismayed by the educational system to allow either of my kids to participate in it any more. To be frank, many kids in my daughters school were held back at the end of grade two or worse, sent to grade three only to be sent back to grade two when they couldn’t make the grade, grade three of course being the all important year that standardised testing begins, and I was afraid this would happen to my daughter for no other reason than that she performed at grade level and that this would be the nail in the coffin of her dwindling self esteem.

But as it was we were moving to Canada and while I thought how different could the two systems in the two countries be, we decided to send our kids to the neighbourhood Catholic school. One more kick at the educational system can before homeschooling, right? Well there is a difference right there. Neighbourhood schools? Not in American inner cities. My son went to the neighbourhood public school for Kindergarten but he was the only kid in our neighbourhood who went to the neighbourhood school. Which may have had to do with the fact that the passing rate in standardised testing at the school was a dismal 57%, more because of the general quality of life issues for children who ended up at a regular public school in the downtown of a typical American city. Because of course the parents (like us! ) who really care about their kids either try to live in suburban areas with better schools, or send their kids to private schools, or tried to get their kids into magnet schools. So the better served kids get siphoned off. Truthfully we tried to enrol our son in parochial schools to but he has Asperger’s Syndrome and all special education services were provided through public schools. So instead we sent balls to the wall to get him into a magnet school which reputedly taught at an accelerated level, something that theoretically given the fact that he was reading chapter books in Kindergarten should have been easy, but since his teacher at the neighbourhood school was so distracted by the many kids in her class who had real reading problems, she had no idea the level at which my son read placing him on his recommendation forms at a reading level too low to qualify for the magnet school, regardless of how well he actually tested.( I know that according to the Fountas Pinell leveled book list that in kindergarten my son was reading at a level K. Heck I know there is something called a Fountas Pinell list. Note: I’m not a teacher. Thanks American Educational System!)

At any rate how different can her experience be? Two months after she started school we invited all the girls in her class to her birthday party and a strange thing happened. They all came. And they all brought her gifts having to do with fashion because they all knew that she loved fashion. Oh and did I mention no more uniforms? So she can dress in a way that expresses her personality. I also learned that she was ” the most popular girl in school” ( though naturally we stress that she must be nice despite her power). I don’t think she really is the most popular girl in school, but she’s happy and has lots of friends and her best friend gives her a big hug when she see’s her because they’re so happy to see each other after fourteen some odd hours separated and because at her present school her best friend is not embarrassed to be her best friend. Plus she’s doing reasonably well in school. Maybe because grade four is grade four. Most importantly, her personality is back and she actually likes reading. Even with ADD. I am the first person to say that introverts are under valued in our society, after all I’m an introvert and so is my sweet son. But my sweet daughter is and extrovert and when that goes away, something is very very wrong.

Posted in Attention Deficit Disorder, Education, Extroversion, Introversion, Relational Agression, standardized testing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Pretty Girl

Is she not beautiful?

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My Sweet Pea

My sweet pea, or as I like to refer to him, the cutest little boy ever born. Is he not delightful?

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Autism in Libraries

Like one in 88 people alive today, my son has an autism spectrum disorder. One thing I have learned over the four years since receiving his diagnosis is that autism spectrum disorders are still little understood despite being so prevalent. This was especially apparent after the tragedy at Sandy Hook where it has been speculated that the killer may have been on the autism spectrum. Please watch these videos for more information. At any rate, this news story confirmed that there were and continue to be misconceptions about these disorders. That is why I was excited to here about the website Libraries and Autism. This is a great resource to help library staff learn to understand library users with autism with links to a lot of great resources. With autism rates rising it’s a safe bet that understanding individuals on the spectrum will become more and more crucial as time goes on.

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