Sunday, June 15, 2008

LIFE: Friends Bearing Gifts

Casey Slack dropped by a for a visit tonight. He's in town this weekend to wish his dad a Happy Father's Day (By the way, Happy Father's Day Pops!) and to attend an educational conference in the Big Smoke (Toronto). He came bearing gifts, a case of ketchup. That, gentle readers, is a case of friendship in action.

We talked about a favourite subject of mine, Bridge, and one of his, education. He's an administrator for several schools up North and a rising star in the Education establishment for the province of Ontario. Mind you, he had to spend a lot of years teaching in South America and in an Arabic country or two to get the bona fides, but I can safely say he's a 'hands-on' educator, rather than an academic. Within the constraints of the whims of the education system, the schools he's involved with are lucky to have him there.

Given the opportunity, it takes little for me to pitch my favourite ideas for education. I would like to see comic books promoted as young as kindergarten and grade one. I believe the progression to reading and enjoying books as a pleasure, starts with comic books. I'm not talking about The Punisher or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course. But Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge, Little Dot, etc. Most kids that age don't know reading is boring. Capturing them then, captures them later. All kids love a story with a narative. Pictures help them learn to read. Why can't more people see that?

I also think THAT'S the time to start teaching kids the difference between tattling (telling to get other people in trouble, wrongly) and telling (telling the truth about other people doing wrong things). We have to eliminate the stigma of telling, if we are to ever get a handle on the exploding bullying problem. By lumping tattletales together, we later learn telling the truth is tantamount to snitching, ratting and all manner of truth-telling pejoratives designed to protect the criminal element in our society. And bullies depend on it.

While I wouldn't champion teaching 10-year olds how to play Bridge, I think there's LOTS to be gained by teaching the game in high school. It's a game that teaches arithmetic and mathematics, psychology and communications. It requires co-operation and it functions as an aid to memorization as players learn to compartmentalize and then remember the playing of all the cards for each hand. These techniques serve cross-subject educational values. And, anything that creates more face-to-face time amongst kids, keeping them away from the computers in their bedrooms, can't be a bad thing.

Bridge has been very, very good to me. Despite my natural disinclination towards socializing, Bridge has created the opportunity for me to visit one end of this continent to the other. I've been offered trips across seas (which I declined). I've hobnobbed with billionaires and snot-nosed kids not yet in high school. I've partnered nonagenarians and pre-teens, hearing stories about each's childhoods. I've played with players from just about all the various religions and ethnic types. It's a game I learned in high school and which I hope will keep me mentally alert and active until the day I keel over.

And you know, cashing the deciding trick in a bridge game wouldn't be the worst way for that moment to come.

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