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The Arbourist:

Forced Birthers Lying (again) for Jesus – How shocking.

Originally posted on Everysaturdaymorning's Blog:

The escorts and clients hear lies coming from the anti’s all the time. The breast cancer link that doesn’t exist, the “fact” that 20% of all women who have abortions attempt suicide, the curious item about how the equipment the clinic uses is 27 times more powerful than your home vacuum cleaner (although the anti recently upped that to 29 times, I guess people weren’t being properly scared at the lower number). The list goes on and on. These are all attempts to scare and unnerve the clients but are easily dispelled with a little Google-fu. Lately though there have been a couple of examples of the antis lying to their own flock.

In a recent article by Matt Damico in the Southern Seminary Magazine he said “There are a number of Catholics and other individuals who also do sidewalk counseling – although the number of escorts usually outnumbers the…

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Tragic accidents happen.

“A multimillion-dollar lawsuit has been launched by the parents of a student who almost died after being strangled by a lanyard at his school in Bearspaw just west of Calgary.”

You don’t sue people for not thinking of every possibility that might happen.  If this isn’t the case , I look forward to our children being encased in foam for their protection and certainly not using potential hazardous materials such as pencils or pens.



How-to-inflence-People1Working in behavioural education means that much of this stuff is old hat for me, but sometimes isn’t as common knowledge as I think it is for others, so lets review some the tricksy-hobbit ways P-sychologists work their magic.  We’ll pick up midway though the article:

I asked Dahl what he does with his children when he wants to influence them.

His answer? He uses techniques from a clinical method called “motivational interviewing.” Motivational interviewing has proven effective in motivating behavior change in teens in difficult arenas, like drug and alcohol abuse, disordered eating, and risky sexual behavior. Dahl’s advice was to learn to use it as a parent for the more mundane areas where we’d like to see growth in our children, so that if we need it for a bigger problem we know what we are doing. Here are five motivational interviewing techniques that decrease kids’ resistance to our influence:

(1) Express empathy. Kids and teens are much more likely to listen to us if they feel understood. Resist the urge to give advice or to “finger-wag”—two things that tend to create defensiveness and resistance to our great ideas. Instead, reflect back to adolescents their position on things.

This is hard, you need to practice to make it sound like you are actually meaning what you say and listening to their point of view, even if the other person is most decidedly full of shit.  The neat thing is that sometimes through careful listening and empathy you determine that you’re the one full of it, and can change your position.

(2) Ask open-ended questions to understand their position. We want to encourage our teens to share with us their innermost motivations. To do this, we can phrase our questions non-judgmentally in ways that will prompt the adolescent to elaborate. Even if we are giving kids a choice about what to talk about (“Do you want to talk about what it is like when you lose your temper at school, or do you want to talk about what makes it difficult for you to eat a healthy lunch?”) Dahl recommends that we always also throw in a super-open-ended question like, “…or maybe there is something else you would rather discuss? What do you think?”

Roundabout and redundant?  I’d like you to reflect on your thinking processes when you get angry or defensive – is going straight for the problem always the best solution?

(3) Reflect what they are saying, not what we wish they were saying. This can be a simple restatement:

Adolescent: You say that I have to do all these things to make the team, but I think I’ll make the team even if I don’t jump through those hoops.
Parent: You’re not sure all this work is necessary.

Or, you can reflect what they mean but use different words:

Adolescent: I’m not an alcoholic!
Parent: That label really doesn’t fit you.

Or, try reflecting what they are feeling:

Adolescent: I’m not an alcoholic!
Parent: It really makes you angry when you think you are being labeled in that way.

Finally, try amplifying or exaggerating—without sarcasm!—what they are saying if the adolescent clearly expresses some ambivalence about their resistance to your influence:

Adolescent: I’m really not sure that I need help or treatment to deal with this.
Parent: Your life is really fine right now, just the way it is.

Let’s face the facts gentle readers, communication is hard and often inaccurate even at the best of times.  Throw in a hot button issue or three and you have the recipe for a bevy of misunderstanding and usually a shouting match.  Reflecting, paraphrasing and mirroring provide the time and brainspace for both parties to understand what they are actually saying and the motivations behind them.

(4) Show them their inconsistencies—gently. One thing that we can reflect back to our teens, using the above strategies, are their conflicting motivations—the inconsistencies between what they say their goals or beliefs are, and their current behavior.

What to say, then, to that teen who wants to join the garage band, but has not been practicing regularly or learning the music? First, ask her permission to tell her what you see.

If she says she’s willing to listen to your perspective, gently point out the discrepancy between what she says she wants and what she’s doing to make that happen in a non-judgemental, factual way: “You really want to join Jack’s band, but before they’ll let you audition, you need to learn all the songs on their playlist. You haven’t started learning those songs yet. It seems like the play is taking up a lot of the time that you might spend practicing, and that when you get home from play practice, you just want to chill out in your room instead of practicing more or starting your homework.”

Do you like playing with hand grenades? Then this is the step for you.  What counts most is your relationship with the person in question, you know how they are, how they will react – “ish” – so go slow and careful for the best results.

(5) Support their autonomy and emphasize their personal choice and control. Teens are most likely to change when they recognize the problem themselves, and when they are optimistic about their ability to solve the problem. We can help by expressing our confidence in their abilities, and by emphasizing that we can’t change them—that the choice about whether or not to change is the adolescent’s alone. Dahl recommends saying something like this: “Whether or not you make any changes in your activities or your behavior is entirely up to you. I definitely would not want you to feel pressured to do anything against your will.”

All of these techniques take practice.

Not always applicable, but setting yourself up on their team, supporting their goals and aspirations as oppossed to telling them they are the express train to WrongVille, can sometimes win the day for both of you.



Not owning a television is one of the best decisions TIO and I made.  Well, we do have a TV but no cable so we can watch the occasional DVD if we so desire.  What the media focuses on and what is important is often two very different sets of ideas.   There are multiple cases of human suffering and abuse going on in the world at any given time; but often we are inundated with the very important happenings of celebrities and the random piffle they do as a substitute for what is actually happening in the world.  As pointed out by Christian Christensen in his opinion piece on Al Jazeera “More Guantanamo and Global Warming and Less Knox and Justin Bieber.

Amanda Knox has, with her second “guilty” verdict for the murder of Meredith Kercher, re-entered our media landscape. There is nothing inherently wrong with some coverage of the Knox case, but the level of exposure afforded the story since it first broke in late 2007/early 2008 has undoubtedly been magnified by a heady mixture of sex, drugs, violence and a lead character with an image and nickname many editors seem unable to resist. The murder of Kercher is tragic, and it appears that the Knox conviction is highly suspect. Yet, as with Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, the volume of coverage afforded vacuous, salacious and/or sexed-up stories should lead us to consider what would happen – at the very least politically – if equivalent levels of journalistic time and energy were devoted to other issues.

    Consider where Christensen thinks we ought to be spending our time rather than the current (ongoing)Bieber/Cyrus/Knox dramas.

Iraq: Since 2008, over 37,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq. That’s just over twelve 9/11 attacks, or the equivalent of 370,000 civilians dying in the US (Iraq’s population is 10 times smaller of that of the US). In other words, like wiping out a city the size of Tampa, Florida. Since the bulk of the US media were more than willing to cheerlead a war based on a blatant falsehood, a recalibration of the coverage of the aftermath of this debacle is perhaps in order.

Global warming/climate change: The US remains the home of more political climate change sceptics than any other country in the so-called “developed world”. Despite the near-unanimous position of scientists around the world, US politicians continue to display mind-boggling scientific ignorance (wilful or otherwise). Not surprising, in retrospect, from a country where 50 percent of Republicans believe that humans have existed in their present form since the dawn of time (which would be about 7,000 years ago), and politicians claim with seriousness that women’s bodies are able to miraculously prevent pregnancy in cases of rape.

Death Penalty: Between January 1, 2008 and February 2, 2014, there have been 266 executions in the US. In 2012, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US were the top 5 global executioners. Disturbingly, earlier studies have shown that US prosecutors were twice as likely to request the death penalty for a black defendant who is charged with killing a non-black victim versus a black victim; and, white defendants were twice as likely as non-white to be offered a plea agreement to reduce their sentence from execution to life imprisonment. The death penalty gets coverage, but far too many of the “What-did-he-have-for-his-last-meal?” variety.

Sexual assault: At an average of 240,000 per year, according to a study by the US Department of Justice, there have been 1.5 million rapes and sexual assaults in the US since the start of 2008. Those are big numbers. However, this study has been challenged by a study administered by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which it is suggested that the correct number of rapes and attempted rapes alone may be an astounding 1.27 million over 2013. If this is taken as an average per year, then that would be 7 million rapes since 2008. If the vast majority of victims of these assaults were men and not women, would we perhaps see more coverage? That’s a rhetorical question.

Guantanamo: Many inmates, in violation of the US Constitution, remain incarcerated without charge, denied of their basic right of habeas corpus. A lengthy hunger-strike in 2013 to protest this legal limbo was afforded a low level of media coverage. Guantanamo is a national and legal disgrace.

Everyday gun deaths: Since the start of 2008 there have been just short of 200,000 gun-related deaths in the US. While tragic mass shootings such as Columbine and Sandy Hook generate the headlines, the fact remains that gun-related deaths in general, and homicides using firearms in particular, have become a banal part of everyday life in the US. To get some sense of the relentless and often invisible flow of gun violence in the US, follow @GunDeaths on Twitter. It’s sobering.

Chelsea Manning: The person who provided the material for thousands of newspaper articles was arrested in 2010, placed in solitary confinement and subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison. Coverage of Manning before and during her trial by the US news media was abysmal: a particularly damning indictment of journalism given the importance of the case for the future of whistle-blowing and, hence, freedom of the press.

Military spending: In 2011, of the 14 leading countries in the world when it came to spending on national defence, the US was, of course, first with an offensive $711bn budget. Even more offensive? The fact that the 13 countries underneath the US spent $695bn on national defence…combined. And, this US budget does not include the estimated $6tn (that’s $6,000,000,000,000) the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will likely wind up costing the US taxpayers. And Manning is the one who gets 35 years in prison.

Watch the news.  How much do you see of the later versus the former.  Consider that without some serious media triangulation what you are ingesting is the equivalent of the Roman bread and circuses put on to keep the population stupid, obedient and passive.

Tell me again about those so called charitable rich people…?  Onwards brothers and sisters to the class war.  This vid is pretty much everything I’ve said on the blog and what I rail against a on regular basis.  Go Ted Talks Go.

Nice to have a handy reference poster to deal with our anti-choice, forced birth friends.


cinnamon-roll-oatmeal1Go read The Bowl, the Ram and the Folded Map:Navigating the Complicated world by Elodie Under Glass.  It is fine narrative post with plenty of interesting bits and sheep!  It is wool worth your while.  However, these paragraphs in particular, caught my educational eye as they articulate not only what happened to me, but what I see happening to those I teach.

“Science is traditionally taught by blowing the minds of students who struggle to understand the workings of pepper grinders, and leaving them to pick up the pieces for themselves. The students then reassemble the fragments of their minds incorrectly, retaining the sexy and surprising bit, and filling in the rest of the gaps with porridge before going out into the world and smugly misunderstanding everything they see in it. Naturally, what they observe in the world does not match the porridge in their heads. Sometimes the students reassess their minds and realize that the world is infinitely more complicated than porridge and that most of their education was a series of easy lies, in which case they are usually doomed to be writers or scientists. Conversely, if they insist that the world actually matches the composition of their porridge, such that the observable world is wrong, then they will go on to be successful and influential.

This is why people still insist that evolutionary biology underlies gender theory, and why they genuinely and honestly think that seasons are caused by the Earth’s elliptical orbit moving it closer to the Sun.

(it seems that there is a certain type of historical accuracy that only makes sense if it matches a historically inaccurate picture of the world.)”

My university days were long, dark, and cold.  Socially meh, but then again social has always been on the “meh” side for me.  Let’s use the term  “methodical” to describe my educational experience, as in, I need “x” coursed to get “x” educational degree so I can get teach students stuff they are not interested in learning.  I graduated in 1999 taking the seven year approach to a 4 year program, coming out the other side with bright shiny knollege!!! coupled with important educational ideas and lofty notions of helping children reach their collective potentials.

All of which came crashing down around my head with my very first desk being tossed in my general direction by an angry student one day. Backstory first. Ever the romantic, I took the subjects that I was interested in during my University tenure: Philosophy, History and Psychology and some English because I needed a minor.

My first teaching gig? In areas where I knew stuff?  Hardly.   It was a week at a school/ranch in rural Alberta specializing in troubled boys who, let me assure you, are not one bit interested in learning what I had to offer.  I learned very quickly that the primary attribute required for teaching was patience, coupled with a side of patience then with some patience sprinkled on top, finishing with a delightful dollop of patience for dessert.  Behavioural education is a bit of a different beast than the regular educational stream.  Less focus on the traditional curriculum but much more focus on character and routine building and other humanizing activities.

I’m disgusted with what people do to their children.  The experiences of frustration, anger, and pain whipsaws these kids into cold reactive silence.  Their emotional scar tissue protects them and, at the same time, holds them back because progress and maturation requires taking risks which doesn’t happen when you have been playing defense all of your life.  Cue all the anti-social destructive habits that make the pain go away, but land you in such lovely institutions as the ranch where I began my teaching career.

I’ve made it into the urban school board now as a supply teacher once again (woo) and stare at the long slog of building relationships and contacts that might get me hired somewhere.  I’ve been there and done that once before, and I’m not sure that I want to do it again.  I’m not sure is up with all the anecdata, but it was needed to get to this point to answer what the quote from Elodie was getting at – education doesn’t happen unless you undertake it yourself.

The University of Alberta offers off-season courses, amenably called the Spring/Summer semesters in which you can take 12 week courses squashed into a 6 week period.  The learning is intense and the requires dedication and perseverance inside and outside of the lectures.   Unlike my undergraduate days, I simply loved going to these classes, engaging fully into the learning process and tackling problems that ideas that broke my brain.

Loved it!   The stress, the deadlines, the editing, polishing and reediting of essays and position papers, countless hours of review etc,  it was great.  I excelled in almost every class I took and now look back with a some pride.  I did well now, as opposed to my degree studies because of the traits and knowledge learned outside of the ‘formal’ learning.  I had no idea how the world worked until I read Chomsky and Zinn.  I knew little of the struggles of women until I read BrownMiller (and am currently working through important works in the feminism canon), I knew little about the middle east until I read Tariq Ali and Robert Fisk.

These authors and many more fed my curiosity and growing sense of disgust and unease with the world.  None of the knowledge that broke me into the world was ever found in the dim halls of my high school or the too warm/too cold lecture theatres of the University.   It was a voyage sponsored alone, until I met and began to interact with my future partner, whose knowledge and scientific prowess/rigor far surpassed my own (still does, I’ve learned not to argue with awesome), goaded me into upping my intellectual game and going further than I thought possible.  I owe a great debt to her for helping me build my intellect and foster the rational-academic aspects of my personality.

So how do you square being a teacher with the fact that you are stuffing a hodge-podge of oatmeal into your students heads and then with hoping that somehow they manage to find the path *despite* what you’ve taught them.  Past bandying a few phrases about winnowing out the chaff or some sort of survival of the fittest bunk, I’m not seeing much sunshine in this particular situation.


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