first day of school? You were probably scared and unsure about being
so far away from your mom, your house and your stuffed bear. But
as the days wore on, and you realized that crying in the cloakroom
wasn’t going to bring your mom back, you got used to the other
children. You made friends. The teachers weren’t that bad;
in fact, they were nice. You always felt as safe and secure as if
you were at home. You never had to worry about the outside world,
the strangers who offered you candy and the cars that turned without
using their signal lights that your parents were so afraid of. You
knew that you were safe at school. Or at least you thought you knew.
In an exclusive contract with the Toronto District School Board
and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, Coca-Cola has the
exclusive rights to install their vending machines in schools, in
exchange for a payment made to each school board.
The contract ends this June, and both boards are considering renewal.
Besides the fact that readily-available carbonated beverages in
schools may be increasing the obesity problem in adolescents, school
is supposed to be a haven from advertising. School, as boring and
as tedious as certain aspects of it can be, is still a place where
we should be safe and secluded from the outside world, where we
can’t be corrupted by advertisements and the messages corporations
use to persuade us to buy what they’re selling, messages that
do us more harm than good.
Blame it on the government. Certain trustees who support the Coke
deal say that it’s a good way to create an income the government
doesn’t give them. And if the schools don’t supply it,
we’ll still buy Coke, from convenience stores and restaurants,
so why not use it as a way to bring in much-needed revenue for our
Most of us have gotten used to the ‘Coke’ symbol popping
up everywhere we turn in the basement, and to seeing Coke employees
filling up the machines. The posters in the cafeteria have become
just another part of the school’s décor.
This is aggressive marketing, hitting us right where we least expect
it. It encourages us to buy caffeinated drinks instead of healthier
ones. It wastes our money and our minds.
School is supposed to be a place where we don’t have to worry
about advertising, where we can keep our minds open and ready to
absorb knowledge, instead of the guarded and wary attitude we must
use outside of school. But maybe that’s why schools are such
a good place for advertisers to target; we accept what we hear at
school as true and right. Which is why I find it especially sad
that the school board considers our corruption worth revenue. Our
government should be supplying schools with the money it needs for
repairs, textbooks, teachers, and programs in the arts such as music
and drama, not leaving us to get it from corporations.
It’s convenient to have vending machines in the basement,
especially in the winter. But we walk around oblivious to the fact
that every time we put a loonie in the slot, we are paying a corporation
to corrupt us, turning a blind eye to its deceit and aggression.
How far are we willing to allow convenience to take us?
Do Kids Hate School?
beep. That dreaded sound. You hammer the snooze button. Ten more
minutes of sleep, you say to yourself, that’s all I need,
than I’ll get up. Beep, beep, beep. Hammer the snooze button
again. Ten more minutes. I’ll skip breakfast and run to school.
I’ll still make it on time. Beep, beep, beep. Snooze button
seems so far away, but you stretch out and press it. Ten more minutes.
I’ll be a little late, the teacher won’t care that much.
“GET UP!” Your mom hollers from below. You slowly roll
out of the warm cocoon of your bed and stand up in the cold unwelcoming
air of the morning. You sit there for a moment and think, “God,
I hate school.”
These are the thoughts of most students these mornings. We are now
entering the most difficult time of the year. The excitement and
freshness of returning to school is over. Homework has begun to
pile on; textbooks are handed out already, ISU outlines are on our
desks at home. That’s right, school has officially started.
Unfortunately, we haven’t got into the flow where days pass
by in the blink of an eye. The days are moving painfully slowly,
and weekends pass before we can even settle in. It’s this
time of year when I hear the most complaints about school.
How can one thing that does nothing but give to us be hated so much?
Santa Claus does the same thing and that jerk wants milk and cookies,
while school just needs you to show up and pay attention. Is that
too much to ask? Apparently so. One student from Central Technical
Institute told me “I hate school because it’s stupid
and boring.” He makes an interesting point that is difficult
to argue, but I asked him to elaborate. “Because it’s
a waste of time. I could be spending that time sleeping.”
Ah, yes. The sleep factor comes into play.
When we were younger, waking up at 7am was a normal thing, especially
on weekends. I mean, that’s when the best cartoons are on.
Nowadays, we have to have four different alarms going off in various
parts of the room just to get our butts out by 8:30. What happened
to our bodies? Nothing. We’re just going to sleep later. Remember
when 10pm was a ridiculous hour to be up at? Now it’s when
you catch your favourite T.V. shows or when most of your friends
are on MSN. We have to save our recreation for the evenings because
of the ridiculous amount of work we’re doing. Not just schoolwork
either (even though there’s still a lot of that) but most
of us have part-time jobs in order to have enough money to survive
in University. We’re looking at almost $15 000 for University
per year and we have to raise enough money for that, while at the
same time keeping our marks up to get into the programs we want.
I talked to a Harbord student about why he disliked school. “It’s
the homework. Homework sucks.” Another good point by one of
the fine students of Toronto. It is a proven fact that homework
does indeed suck but is that enough to hate it? Yes, yes it is.
We are committed to attending school eight hours a day, five days
a week, but must our extra time be taken up by school as well? If
you have a light week and only have an hour of homework a night,
that adds up to another 6-hour school day. The recommended amount
of homework for our age is three hours a day. That’s 21 hours
a week. An extra three days of school. That’s right, people;
we’re doing school work almost eight days a week! 61 hours
a week spent on school. That’s one third of our week, at school.
A little excessive maybe? Considering the average work week is 40
hours that does seem like a little much.
Teenagers and people under the age of twenty in general have short
attention spans, so if you have them doing the same thing 60 hours
a week for twelve straight years, it might get a little tedious.
That’s why people enjoy university so much. It’s such
a change of pace and style that they can enjoy learning again, as
well as getting plastered out of their minds. If high school was
something other than going to school, sitting in a cramped desk,
and listening to a teacher for 50 minutes before moving on to the
next class, then maybe we wouldn’t hate it so much.
We’re all aware that school is essential and that it’s
impossible to live a decent life without spending your youth locked
in an institution for at least 14 years. If only things could freshen
up every year or so. The only major transition I remember was going
from cubbies to lockers in grade seven. Other than that, it’s
been the same thing year after year. The only difference would be
more work, which doesn’t exactly get people more excited about
The bottom line is that kids are always going to hate school as
long as it continues to cut into their free time and offers nothing
new and exciting for them to do. Classes like English Media and
Writer’s Craft are popular because they take a different approach
to school, and we enjoy it. Until something drastic happens no one
can expect us to enjoy our time there, but I ask the students to
make an attempt. In classes like Design and Technology where students
have fun in a relaxed atmosphere, you get hardly any complaints.
Relaxed and laid back is what everyone in school should have in
mind, because life is stressful enough.
When Helen Gurley
Brown reinvented a struggling cosmopolitan magazine in 1965, her
intention was not to remake society-her goal was to make money.
Now, 38 years later, Miss Brown’s magazine is still around,
still making money, and its role in modern society is still being
debated. Some think of Cosmopolitan as a corporate sellout that
has done nothing but perpetuate the maltreatment of women. Others
see it as a liberating force that has done more for women than many
of the other publications that have held themselves out as the champions
Among the countless (and many would say mindless) women’s
magazines that are now on the newsstands, Cosmo is one of the most
popular. It is described as the magazine for “ fun, fearless
females.” With its racy headlines, makeup and hair tips galore,
and the trendiest in fashion, it’s a “must-have”
for women in modern society.
At the same time, many people find the marketing that goes along
with Cosmo disturbing. They believe it sells a shallow, Barbie-girl
culture to vulnerable young women. This brings us to the question;
do these magazines simply provide us with entertainment, or do they
With the eating disorders and depression that are faced by many
young women today, it’s easy to point our fingers at magazines
like Cosmopolitan. With headlines such as, “Be your SEXIEST!”
and “15 Brand-New Ways to Meet a Guy!” the magazine
would appear to be an example of brainwashing commercialism. But
does Cosmo have the power to shape women’s beliefs? Or is
it simply a harmless, neutral distraction?
Some believe that Cosmo’s power is all too real. In Singapore,
it was only recently returned to magazine racks after being banned
for 21 years because of its “unhealthy values.” The
Capital City’s censorship committee claimed that by outlawing
Cosmopolitan they were “protecting the young from unsuitable
content and respecting racial and religious sensitivities.”
Cosmopolitan has never been accused of being overly intellectual.
The issues it deals with are generally limited to the likes of “Date
Him or Dump Him?” and its whopping page count (a typical issue
is about 350 pages) is heavily weighted toward advertising. These
advertisements are geared directly towards the magazines’
target demographic – young women.
The most heavily-advertised products are makeup, clothing and dieting
pills. The magazine steers clear of serious issues like politics
or international relations. It also seems to avoid a subject that
would seem like a natural for its audience - colleges and universities.
Cosmo’s coverage of the field is generally limited to articles
that stick to its proven formula – like how to deal with “Freshman
15” weight gain, and how to look bright-eyed after pulling
So is this a bad thing? For women living hectic, stress-filled lives
in which they’re forced to deal with significant issues on
a regular basis, a little mindless fun can be a good thing. In this
sense, Cosmo can be considered in the same light as movies or pro
sports, which typically offer nothing more than a few hours of escape.
Who can be condemned for that?
People don’t always want to be challenged. We spend our days
at school writing, reading, and being preached to about the importance
of our work and how important it is to our future. For some, mindless
reading is the perfect end to a busy day.
Everything provided by our ever-present media must be taken with
a grain of salt. So next time you pick up an issue of Cosmopolitan,
have fun reading, but keep in mind that following the rules in their
Dating Diary probably won’t, like, totally, like, guarantee
you a date.
for the Davenport riding visited Oakwood and told us a bit about
their parties’ policies and platforms. Present were the mainstream
Progressive Conservative, New Democratic, and Liberal candidates,
as well as the Green Party and Freedom Party aspirants. In the comfort
of their own school Oakwoodites were exposed, many for the first
time, to potential MPP’s.
For many, the highlight of the assembly was the question period,
when students were allowed to subject the candidates to any questions
they were bold enough to ask. Humorous as it was, the question period
was a valuable and rare opportunity. In fact, it may well have been
the last opportunity for students to interrogate their possible
provincial parliamentary representatives. Selected questions were
answered, albeit indirectly, at the end of the presentation, at
which point the Candidates had two minutes to give a brief overview
of their platforms.
One presentation in particular caught my attention: that of the
Freedom Party. The Davenport candidate, Franz Cauchi, gave a very
informative speech on his party and the apparent ‘freedom’
it offers. The Freedom Party’s agenda calls for the immediate
and total privatization of every social service in the province.
Cauchi explained the benefits of this system in his 120 second speech
with seriousness and utter belief. He elucidated that people paying
only for wanted services in the province made significantly more
sense than public funding by the government. He stated that if families
were able to keep more of their money, and not have to pay exorbitant
taxes, they could afford to live the kind of life they would like
to live. On the surface, all seems well and good with their seemingly
Here are some facts: in the United States, which has privatized
healthcare, the number- one cause of personal and family bankruptcy
is medical expenses. Families lose their houses from paying hospital
bills. That’s privatized healthcare for you. In Canada, we
never pay a dime for even the most convoluted medical procedures;
healthcare is free. Obviously, our system is better, but in the
event that the Freedom Party should be put into power, we could
all start expecting medical bills to arrive in the mail.
Our education system, which is currently circling the proverbial
drain, would be decimated by privatization. The only people who
would pay for the education system are the parents of children who
go to school, and even they would only give money to the school
their child or children attended. This would account for a huge
drop in funding for the schools, and would leave us, the students,
in a highly neglected learning environment, even more so than we
are in today.
The truth is that total privatization would allow the rich to prosper
at the expense of the non-rich. With minimal taxes, as offered by
the Freedom Party, the wealthy would be allowed to keep most of
their money, and still afford the same services they have always
received. The non-wealthy would be faced with mountains of bills
and modest salaries to pay them. It would be enough to send a large
percentage of the middle class into bankruptcy.
Sure, an Ontario governed by the Freedom Party would be very attractive
to businesses, but what is commerce without a large consumer market?
Employees would be living from pay cheque to paycheque, concerned
about a child’s four thousand dollar tonsillectomy bill, and
how to pay for that same child’s third grade education. Essentially,
total privatization would destroy our province economically and
The ‘Freedom’ Party is simply a euphemism for ‘Ultra-Conservative’
Party, without the stigma associated with the word ‘ultra-conservative.’
I won’t, but history can teach you a few lessons about this
form of government, and also why this party, for the good of the
Province, should never come into power.
- Kevin O’Mahony
itself on being a multiculturally diverse school that sets an example
for peaceful relations between people of different ethnicities.
With no hate crimes or visible tension to report, it would appear
that this accepted truth is a reality. Once the surface is scratched,
however, a very different set of circumstances appears. With a Unesco
year already underway, it’s time for Oakwood students to take
an honest look at their school and ask: are we united?
With a school as diverse as Oakwood, it is understandable that people
from similar backgrounds find common ground and stick together.
Preserving different cultures in this way is very important, but
when does celebrating diversity become segregation?
When asked if Oakwood had a problem with racial segregation, one
student of mixed heritage replied, “I’d say that we’re
diverse in a way, but we are separated. There are main cliques [but]
there are places you can go where there aren’t.” She
was referring to the fact that there are many diverse groups of
friends at Oakwood that don’t really take race into account
when building friendships.
The fact that there are such connections at Oakwood should not be
overlooked. As it is, there are quite a few opportunities for Oakwood
students from different ethnicities and walks of life to reach common
Breaking Down the Barriers aimed to create such an opportunity.
Breaking Down The Barriers used to be an annual educational event
held at Oakwood that involved a week of workshops on a variety of
topics. Originally the organizers of the event, Students and Teachers
of Oakwood for Peace (S.T.O.P.), focused on issues such as homophobia
and racism. Open dialogue among students was encouraged and Ms.
Lemberg, the chief organizer, had much to say about the results.
“For many years, students have complained, in various forms,
about the various cliques that seem to be based on cultural groups,”
she stated. “The issue of the different doors representing
different groups has been problematic for a long time. In fact,
at several sessions of Breaking Down the Barriers, it has been cited
as the number one school problem, ”she continued. “However,
I think that we have seen students from a number of backgrounds
brought together in a very unique way on a number of occasions such
as Unesco, Theatre ’55, in athletics , and even [during group
work] in the classroom.” Ms. Lemberg believes that students
and teachers should work together to better the situation.
>>Continued from pg. 8
One grade twelve female student disagrees. “I think the teachers
and staff can’t do anything,” she said. “It’s
something the students have to encourage [and they have to be] equally
accepting of each other. I definitelys think there’s a problem.”
After speaking about her relationship with someone from a different
background, she admitted that “some of his friends were weird
The Student Council forms the bridge between the students and teachers
of Oakwood. One Caput representative said, “No matter where
you go, there will be people with prejudices they’ve learned
their entire lives, but I don’t think we as a whole [at Oakwood]
have a problem. There’s voluntary segregation. People stick
to their own. I don’t know if that should be addressed, if
that’s how people feel comfortable. I think Caput has a responsibilty
to [ensure] school unity and school spirit, but we can’t fix
the entire world with a big Caput ‘band-aid’”.
Unesco has been hailed as a wonderful opportunity to unite people
by celebrating the differences between people of different cultures.
It is a bi-annual concert that Oakwood students organize to showcase
different cultural dances and traditions, as well as individual
talents of people from different ethnic communities. The main participants
in the performances are members of Oakwood’s numerous cultural
clubs. Whether or not it brings the school community together as
it claims to, this seems to be the hope of Stephanie Scardellato,
the student in charge of organizing Unesco this year. “We’re
a really segregated school, but we have so much potential,”
she began. “So if we could get together, [it would be] amazing,
[as we have] so much to learn from each other, ” she continued.
“Unesco’s all about sharing culture. There’s nothing
better than coming in and seeing people from the East Indian Club
teaching people from the Greek Club, or vice versa. The mesh of
cultures is unbelievable and you don’t see it anywhere else
in our school.” Stephanie’s main goal is to see “people
branching out of their usual social circles and not looking at faces,
but looking at what they can learn [from each other] instead”.
Having strong cultural groups at Oakwood calls their exclusive nature
into question. Afro-Can, for example, is one of Oakwood’s
most prominent cultural groups and one of its strongest traditions.
It has been criticized by some students who are not of African-Canadian
descent, most of whom have graduated, as being exclusive. Many felt
that there was a token invitation extended to people from all backgrounds,
even though they were not truly welcome, as they could not share
in the same history. Whether or not this wide-spread perception
was based on reality is difficult to determine.
When asked about this perception, Revolon Allen, a member of Afro-Can’s
executive said, “I don’t think it’s true because
anybody can join if they like to.” Many students agreed that
this year’s Afro-Can executive, consisting of mostly younger
members, seems to be changing the idea that all are not welcome.
Ms.Agard, one of Oakwood’s vice principals, thinks that the
teachers’ strikes three years ago contributed to this idea.
The students who are currently in twelfth grade started ninth grade
with no extra-curricular activities. She said that it was difficult
to get students involved in school activities after ninth grade,
if they hadn’t already started taking the initiative. The
result of this was that students from different backgrounds in that
grade didn’t get a chance to connect based on common interests
other than culture. When asked whether Oakwood has a problem with
segregation, she said that she didn’t believe so, but if any
of the students thought so, it should certainly be addressed. She
had a series of questions she thought Oakwood students should ask
themselves, such as: Is it a problem that people spend time with
people from their own culture? She said that who you decide to spend
time with depends on who you are as an individual. “Is there
pressure to form groups based on culture? Is that an issue? Is segregation
happening in the classroom?” she asked. “I’d be
concerned if people felt excluded or intimidated because they’re
from a different background.”
The fact of the matter is that whether or not Oakwood is inclusive
and united, it is up to the students to decide whether there is
an issue at hand that needs to be dealt with and if so, how that
is to happen. It seems that with the younger students of Oakwood
getting involved, the school’s extra-curricular environment
is picking up once again with full force. This may be the best way
to ensure unity within the school, but it is important to know where
we stand today. With a UNESCO year focused on multiculturalism,
it would seem that the timing is right to reassess. Perhaps having
a celebration of music from around the world will allow us to dance
to the same rhythm, once again. -Inês Ribeiro
in School: Good or Bad?
Do Kids Hate School?
Women's Mags Hurt Self Image?