Archive | September 2012

Off the Record. 29 September 2012.

Afternoon readers (3:52pm PST),

Well this is a rather interesting situation. I am completely exhausted and cannot bring myself to finish the opinion piece I initially had in mind for today. I just don’t feel that it is ready and if I publish it today, it will be a pile of tripe and proceed to embarrass me publicly. Nevertheless, I have this Off the Record to offer to you for today. Again I am sorry, it’s just I do not feel the piece is ready and it will be a great shame to me if I was to produce something of substandard quality.

So where do I begin with this week’s Off the Record. Ah yes, student depression. I was at the office of my dentist the other day to get a teeth cleaned and I read an article in Maclean’s Magazine in regards to the rising number of depression cases amongst our university students. Now this is a bit of an interesting story as I sort of can relate to this on a personal level. Long story short I have experienced ups and downs, I believe everyone has. However the article continued to elaborate on just how serious the situation has become. When a university in Ontario has to ask the municipal government of the town to install anti-suicide nets, that is when the situation becomes grim.

Indeed there are pressures, many pressures that have a negative influence on our students. Family, school, peer, social, are but a few that exist on a rather long list of pressures that our youth must endure in this day and age. Maclean’s points to a small demographic that were, back in their elementary and secondary school days, high achievers. Top marks and the best in athletics, and then all of a sudden they become the “new kids on base” so to speak and have to adjust to not being the top shot anymore. While Maclean’s touched on a fairly important portion of the student population, I must add that this depression cycle does extend to the entire student population and not just former ‘top guns’. Even if the students were not high achievers in their earlier days, the grim reality of the job market, intense competition in some cases for graduate studies or professional schools, and pressure from within tends to resonate with all students and not just those with an over-inflated ego.

I remember having to go into the counselors’ office to speak to someone with regards to personal issues, and I am certain others have as well. This is not uncommon, as seeking help is seen as a positive thing (and rightfully so), thus students are more likely to seek help. This may assist in easing the pain, but there are moments when even counseling fails and we have cases of suicide. This is why a university located near my geographic location shuts down their bell tower during exam period, so to prevent overly stressed students from jumping off the highest ledge they could reach.

There is no shame in seeking help, and while domestic students may understand that, overseas students might not. It is important to inform them that help is available, and that suicide is not the option when faced with pressures within and without. No one will think any less of you, as you are simply taking care of your mental health much like seeking a doctor for physical pains. However, overseas students come from very different societies that may demand different things from them as opposed to ours. Thus it is more complex when dealing with overseas students as their background might be entirely different from those who have grown up in countries like the US and Canada.
This issue of student depression is not likely to go away anytime soon. Universities and colleges that can, should conduct annual surveys to be better informed of the current status of their student body. While not every student is going to answer, hopefully the sample group is large enough for them to draw data so that they can better their counseling services and prevent further suicides. It is an interesting time to be growing up. The world around us changes and moves ever so quickly and sometimes all we need is just time to ourselves, to reflect, meditate, and forget about our worldly troubles for a good solid five hours or so. That way when we re-enter reality we are refreshed and energized, ready to tackle the challenges life throws at us.

I hope you enjoyed this Off the Record. Please, if you are a student and are suffering from depression (temporary or medical), seek help. Those counselors are there to assist you, and there is absolutely no shame in going to their offices and just talking to them about all your worldly troubles. It is safe and confidential, and most importantly you will walk away feeling better. Speak to friends, and or family as well about this. If they truly care for you, they will listen.

Okay this is me done for today. Check back Wednesday for another addition to this blog. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Off the Record. 26 September 2012.

Good morning readers,

I thought I might do an Off the Record just to relax my nerves for a bit. Really I do get nervous when the Opinions pieces are not completely finished, and while I do not draw a fire arm to my head because of it (relax, I don’t do that anyways….), it is quite frustrating not having a fully flushed out topic to write on.

Nevertheless, I have this to write about. Annoying immature university ‘children’. Why do I term them children, well it is simple. If you act like a bloody eighth grader in a university class, your a child. I don’t care if you can drive, do your own laundry, hell even go as far as to organize a party. If your attitude in a classroom setting is not up to snuff, you are a child.
You can do your little ‘giggle-fest’ when you are out of the classroom and just enjoying a stroll through downtown on your way to a club. However when you are in a classroom setting, please refrain from such ‘high school’-like behaviour! Good lord, and the two of them want to enter the nursing program at my school. When the teacher is talking about how to deal with arterial bleeding, they giggle away in the back. Then when it comes time to review and do the practical exam, they fail the exam hands down then complain to the dean citing unfairness and discrimination.
Ladies, unless you were paying attention to the front and coming to the exam well prepared, you will fail. You are training to become a nurse, lives depend on you and your knowledge. IF you cannot meet the highest standards in nursing, you should consider something else for a career. I would far rather have ten nurses that I know that made the cut, than fifty nurses that make a sub-standard. The reason for this bold statement is because a sub-standard, costs lives. They may lack a particular skill that could prevent someone who just so happens to have the condition in question, from passing into the hands of god so to speak. Sub-standards should not exist in my country, for we train our medical professionals to be competent in their fields and expect only the best from them. Leave this sub-standard attitude to your household chores, but do not bring this attitude to my nursing program in any of my country’s universities or colleges.

I just find this type of behaviour to be annoying when in a classroom environment. It is disruptive to the teacher, and to their fellow classmates. Outside of the classroom environment, I couldn’t care less. I could not, care less! They could fool around, giggle, laugh, do pretty much whatever they want to do, and I would not care. They are outside of a professional setting and are simply letting off some steam. This is natural, and I have no issue with them doing so.

It is strange though, out of all my classes I have taken up to this point, none of the students in those previous classes have ever displayed such a lack of respect and self-restraint. If this is the new wave and the next generation, god help us all.

Right, well this concludes the Off the Record topic for the day. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

The Opinions. Section 8: The dream and the reality.

“Follow your dreams, and there is nothing you can’t do”, was the phrase often told to me by my peers mostly. The teachers themselves were forever silent when I spoke of this, that or they simply nodded their head in agreement before moving on with their work. This was the experience I had when dealing with an ambition (though I suppose I talk a lot and I can be fairly annoying). I’ve never really had a concrete approach to things. More often than not my dreams and “plans” were mere clay roads, fortified with a poorly made concrete layer. When it came time to pursue this ambitious road, the pavement cracked and I had to re-think my route. Thus this week’s topic will be on the fantasy and the reality of a future career ambition.

Doris Lessing was an author of an article I had responded to earlier this semester in a class of mine. Suffice it to say, her suggestion was not only ambitious but also at moments unrealistic. To summarize, she suggested something to the reader that in theory would have been perfect, but in reality is harder to implement (a greater degree of critical thought regarding social laws. While good as a theory and an idea, is difficult to implement due to certain restraints). Now why did I bring this up you ask? The answer is quite simple; it is much easier to dream than it is to actually act upon these ideas. When I was in high school, I was overly optimistic (looking back now). I saw myself with a chest heavy with medals and ribbons as I became the chief of defence staff (General), and I would walk into the light as a shining example of glory, loyalty, unity, and a symbol of strength for Canada. However as the years passed, simply becoming an officer in the Canadian Forces became an uphill challenge for myself. The degree program I am currently engaged in, at times felt as though it was too painful to carry on, and in all honesty I was looking for an alternative rather than to become an officer.

I understand that we as humans change our “game plan” from time to time and more often than not in a lifetime, we wear different “uniforms” and masks. Still, it was disappointing when I was knocked off my feet by a single stroke of the pen. It was devastating, and I can still remember those days when I would spend a good few hours in the councillors’ office (personal councillors available on campus). In the end I learned to accept that not all of our plans work out in the end (though I still have a few moments where it is hard to digest this truth).

Though I concede to some in regards to making a dream a reality, I must point out that they are part of the fortunate few. Perhaps it was their socioeconomic status that permitted them to do so, or that they were so well connected that it was not difficult to find the position of their desire. For the rest of us “common folk”, the world is a different place and we see it through a different lens. We must approach things with a sober and sound mind, so that we will suffer less from disappointment when things do not exactly work out as planned.

Now I may be walking the same route as Lessing when I say we require a sober, collected pattern of thought, and some might even be quick to point out that my suggestion is too ambitious, that I am not seeing the reality of human emotion and the passion of the moment (legal definition: striking within the moment where passions are high). I will retort their statement by explaining that while I would desire a sober thought, I will stress sober “second” thought. I am no stranger to being trapped within the passion of the moment, and this is why we must have a sober “second”, thought. Far from second guessing (which is often a certain degree of doubt), sober second thoughts occur when you have time to sit down and analyze the situation from a critical point of view. Whether limited by socioeconomic limitations or just the lack of endurance, we must look at career choices with a sound mind when we think over our proposed directions in life. It can be very dangerous should we invest resources and time, only to find our venture had collapsed and our ambitions buried in the snow and dirt.

Various careers face unpredictable job market projections, and unless the individual in question is well connected, it can be devastating to find that there are no positions available in your field of expertise (particularly if you went to school for seven years). It is one thing to dream about a career in a particular field, dealing with the realities of the day to day life is a whole different beast altogether. Now I write with a degree of realism in my works as I am quite fed up with certain persons having their heads “up in the clouds” (overly dreaming, or aiming too high if you prefer this phrase). However I will respond to a possible comment some might fire at my direction. “Your just making an excuse for yourself”, some might say. Well I follow the legal definition of “excuse”, and in that my reasons are that reality is a different beast and that not all of your worldly ambitions will come true. I will also add the legal term of “justification” and state that I am justified my “actions” so to speak because as a young adult in his twenties I am beginning to see the world from a much grounded viewpoint. Thus I have no “excuses”, rather I am merely being careful when deciding the future of my life. So you naysayers, you can take your little quotes and statements and remove yourself from the public view as you are a cancer to this society. Blind motivation and over-zealousness is often dangerous and can lead to disappointment and despair. Do not forget that.

Ultimately my readers, we all have our choices to make in life. What you do in life, is completely your choice. If you do not take the student loans, and go to university because you dislike debt, that’s your choice. If you do take on the debt but believe the cost is justified, do so because you believe it to be the right decision. All I can do is merely offer a word of advice, but like slogans, propaganda, advertisements, and laws, I can be ignored. I will hold no grudge, nor lose any sleep over your decisions in life. You dictate what happens, my readers, as you have control of your lives now (at least the ones I am referring to, that being the age group of 19+). Thank you all for reading, and I will see you next time.

Update. 19 September 2012

Hey readers,

Just a quick update for you all before I head off to class. So right now I’m stuck on what to write for today’s article. Therefore if there is nothing that is released later on tonight, I am sorry. I have some concepts, but at the moment there is nothing ready for publishing. I just don’t know what to write on right now so bear with me.

I will have something out for Saturday, so expect an article then. Right now however, I seriously doubt that there will be a piece published this evening. Again I’m sorry about this guys.

 

Aside from that, the viewer count seems to be steady (a solid core of readers appear on the statistics chart on this blog) and I am thankful for your continued support. I write to get ideas out there but also to have fun, and it gives me great joy to see that my works are somewhat entertaining (for a lack of a better word).

Anyways, I’m going to finish off this update here. I need to prepare for a class now. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Off the Record. 15 September 2012

Hey readers,

Here is another Off the Record for your personal enjoyment, happy reading.

So I was watching Kung Fu panda earlier today (yes, I still enjoy cartoons.) and one thing took me by surprise. This surprise came in the form of a character by the name of Tigrus, one of the furious five who, grew up as an orphan in the monastery. While Tigrus is a skilled martial artist and a capable fighter, she lacks patience when dealing with little children, namely a character introduced for today’s episode named Xann (pronounced ‘Zan’). I suppose that, well how do I go about expressing this, it sort of re-educated me on the topic of patience. There was one line by another character that says it all: “It does not matter that you do not get it the first time, or the second time, or the fiftieth time. All that matters is when you need it, it will be there”. Thus today’s topic will be on patience, something I have not explored in recent memory (recent meaning roughly 2 years).

Patience is useless if the operator does not understand how to manipulate it to their advantage. Often at times, we seek a quick resolution, and I can speak from experience as I have often sought out a more rapid solution. Now before I go on, a rapid response is useful in various situations where it is deemed necessary. Like patience, it has to be manipulated, and cannot be applied to every situation. Sometimes patience can become our own undoing as we waited too long to act, and the window of opportunity then closes on us by the time we decide to take action. Patience is not applicable to all situations, rather what is more applicable to all situations is a calm, and steady mind. Patience is merely a tool, another device on the belt of the user.

Now that this small section is cleared up, allow me to return to patience. Yes when a situation is best solved with a carefully thought out plan and patience, we tend to rush to a conclusion. In these situations, mistakes often follow, and in some cases lives are lost. We often overlook patience and rush to our objectives because we are used to having instant gratification. Sometimes it is a simple fact of genetics, as we humans are never perfect and we do not always walk patiently. This is fine, and we must know that of ourselves because if we know ourselves, we can begin to be comfortable with ourselves. This in turn spins into confidence (somewhat), of which will enable us to live out our lives. I know that statement was broad and unspecific but for this Opinions piece, I invite my readers to interpret the work for themselves. Patience is a difficult topic for me to have a concrete thought on, as most of my examples are broad and open-ended.

I guess that is in itself a test of patience, having the mindset to calmly decode someone’s work and find the message amongst the text, takes time and effort. Effort is something we all have but, time on the other hand is a valuable currency these days and for many, there isn’t enough it seems. Hell maybe I’ve missed the point entirely, again this particular opinions piece is open to interpretation by the readers as I really do not have a ‘black and white’ opinion on this matter. For me however, it was important to write about it because in a way, it helps me further solidify my thoughts on this topic.

So, in conclusion, patience is something we all have. Whether we choose to use it and when we use it, is entirely up to us as individuals. Whatever we do with it, we must be prepared to accept both credit and criticism as a result of our actions. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

The Opinions. Section 7: In the name of the Polytechnic University.

Hey Readers,

Over the past few days, I was given a suggestion by a professor over a topic that I’ve been going on about for the past few semesters. This topic is: “What should a Polytechnic University”, look like. Therefore this week’s Opinions article will focus on what I think a Polytechnic University should look like, offer in terms of programs, and how they should differ from regular Universities who’s main goal is to provide Graduates and researchers (at least that is how I see it). Let us begin shall we.

So the University I attend was recently granted its’ University status over four years ago. In this short time, only a few programs (aside from the ones that existed already) came out as a result of its’ polytechnic title. Since then there have been rumors as to whether or not the title of polytechnic should be dropped from the name. Let me say that firstly, this institution was granted its’ charter because it was going to receive the mandate of being a polytechnic university. It was charged with providing technical education to students which upon graduation they would be able to immediately enter the field and start working. They never produced ground-breaking research, and even then this is not their mandate. Their soul priority is to provide technical education (trades to bachelor of arts in technology), and while they are permitted to have a small section available for liberal arts and sciences, this is not their primary task. It is in a sense “heresy” to think that they could drop the polytechnic term from their university name after it was clearly stated that they were granted their charter because they were to receive this status and provide the services associated with the status. Some effort has been made to improve upon the name (despite the rumors of a possible attempt to drop the polytechnic title), of which has culminated into the following programs: Bachelor of Technology: Information Technology, Bachelor of Applied Science in Sustainable Agriculture, Bachelor of Interior Design, and the Public Safety Communications Certificate. Now these are the newest programs added to the list of studies available to students wishing to pursue such programs. However this list is still limited, and while trades education is also available, the university is not living up to its’ name entirely.

What programs should be offered, one might ask? Are you suggesting that we demolish the current list of programs and start from scratch? The answer to the last one is immediately no. It is ‘no’, because while the university is a polytechnic, the name does not forbid them from offering programs within the liberal arts category. On the contrary, diversity is key with a polytechnic (though there should be a core focus at the university). Now back to the question of “what programs” will be offered in this, polytechnic university.

According to the definition, a polytechnic university is a university that has a somewhat of a focus on vocational education, engineering, and technology. While the university status enables them to offer programs in the liberal arts section such as criminology, sociology, and psychology, the core focus should be on technology and vocational education. Now before I go on, I had forgotten up to this point about the faculty of business. Long story short, they need to be there as well. In a sense it is a type of vocational education that prepares students for life within the world of finance, plain and simple. Now back to the main course.

We already have trades and some technology programs offered at the university. Yet the engineering program seems to be lacking as there is only a certificate of engineering offered at the institution, and that in order to reach its’ full potential a full engineering degree must exist at the institution. The types of engineering programs that should be offered would be the following: Mechanical, and civil engineering. These two programs are perhaps the prime element in which a polytechnic should focus on in regards to training. Infrastructure is all around us, and if the polytechnic university can produce graduates capable of working in infrastructure development and maintenance, then the institution will have fulfilled its’ duty hands down. This alongside technology education (especially information technology and nursing), alongside vocational education can make the polytechnic university an attractive place to be (especially if it is within a city where there is a high concentration of students and prospective students). Thus far this article has gone on to discuss the various bachelor degree programs that should be offered at a polytechnic. However, little attention has been given to diplomas and certificates in their respective programs and subjects. Some attention will now be diverted to address this topic.

It is important for a polytechnic university to also have available one to two year programmes available for students who do not wish to pursue a degree. I once read on a plaque at the entrance of my university: “this institution has been granted university status on the basis that it provide education to those who would otherwise not have the opportunity to study past the secondary school level”. While this small quote is not word for word, it is an important statement. In a country like Canada, the economy is slowly shifting to a knowledge-based economy. While industry is still a primary employer and will not disappear, its’ numbers are now less than 30% (approximately). Thus the task is present before us; train the next generation and prepare them for this knowledge-based economy that is about to emerge as a major employer of over 50% of the workforce. This is all speculation by the way and does not, in any way. Shape or form, reflect actual data produced by recognized think tanks and government agencies.

Yet my point remains, the polytechnic exists to produce undergraduates who can (and most likely will) enter the workforce shortly after graduation, with an opportunity to pursue graduate studies if they so desire. To this end, more emphasis should be placed on developing attractive and dare I say “useful” undergraduate degrees, diplomas and certificates that prepare our youth for this knowledge-based economy. These programs also need to be accessible, with evening classes available as well as online courses to help bridge any missing grades or classes that they may have not taken either in their early years at the university, or when they were in high school.

Now I know there will be a few people out there that might be tempted to say; “but a university should also do research and produce think-tanks”. While I concede to these people that yes a university should engage in research and produce think-tanks of which we can draw beneficial opinions from, that would be a duty for a university in which it was established specifically for research and thought. A polytechnic university is a training ground, and I am sorry that this does not make you happy but the truth is that a polytechnic university is established to provide education which more or less doubles as training courses (this is especially true for the trades programs offered and other similar programs). If the student wants to focus entirely on the type of research done by sociologists, psychologists and criminologists (to name a few), they should pursue a degree at a university renowned for its’ groundbreaking research and not waste their time at a polytechnic university who’s mandate is never to conduct research (at least the type of research that is irrelevant to providing better programmes and educational experiences to students). Yet before I go on, I will say this once more, diversity is key. So long as the polytechnic university does not forget its’ primary mandate (that of training skilled undergraduates), having a small cadre for the purposes of offering undergraduate programs that will enable them to go to grad school and conduct research is equally as important. As the country and our world evolves, more than ever the polytechnic university must provide a sort of flexibility not offered by ‘pure’ research universities.

“Polytechnic University”, when I see this name, I think of students entering a sort of “academy”. Where the knowledge taught to them, will help them find meaningful work after graduation and allow them to operate in this technology/knowledge-based economy and where their skills are applicable to their future career choices. A polytechnic is unique from any other university in that its’ mandate is to provide undergraduates who can improvise, adapt, and overcome the obstacles that life throws at them career-wise. Undergraduates who can immediately hop off the boat so to speak, and swim strongly to shore without ever doubting their abilities in the field, and that my friends, is a polytechnic university. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

The Opinions. Section 6: Letting go.

Dear readers,

So over the past week or two I’ve had this nagging little element. Putting it bluntly, it’s my mind dwelling on the fact that not all of your friends will always be in the same geographic location as you forever. It’s something that has to be accepted and for the most part I understand that, and yet despite my ability to understand, I cannot seem to embrace the truth one hundred percent. Therefore this week’s article will be on learning how to let go and coping with change.

Not every person on this planet likes change, and who can blame them. Sometimes change is terrible, for example a stable country falls into anarchy and disarray. While other types of change could be for the better, some examples being improved technology, a new vibrant and lively city, and the list goes on. I will focus on the good kind of change that may not seem like a good type of change initially and from a specific viewpoint. You would think that after ten years of having to ‘let go’ constantly, that I would be accustomed to such a practice. However this does not seem to be the case, which should not be a surprise considering, that after ten years I had hoped that I would never have to go through this process ever again. It was a mistake of mine to dismiss the fact of reality, that not everyone will be around the same geographical locations as myself.

Working on past experience, I find that I just need time to adjust. I found that the first month of returning to the province in which I reside in, there was a bit of gloom and sorrow. Over time that passed and after a few months I was back to my regular, booming voice, motivated, self once more. Time is the main ingredient in which I must work with in order to cope with this change. Yet despite knowing all of this, I cannot master the art itself. Thereby I will repeat this process of ‘slight depression’ as I like to term it, followed shortly after with a return to normality. It is strange, and even after ten years of operational experience, I still feel the effects of suddenly letting go.

Looks like the phrase from Warhammer 40,000 says it all; “Heresy grows from Idleness”. Toss out the fanatical element in that phrase and we are left with; “In idleness, trouble can stir”. Therefore this is the reason (among a host of others) as to why we must all have a hobby of some sort. Finding something to occupy the mind and keep the hands busy so that we do not make mistakes, or in my case, enter a mental state of shock (if that is even a useable term).

Despite my best efforts, in the end these thoughts return to haunt me. It is natural for someone to grow a bond with friends. Friendship is what makes life worth living and, without it we would all be alone. The people would drown in their sorrow and eventually, self-terminate. This is perhaps the reality of things, that no matter how much time you spend on learning how to let go, you can never learn to fully let go. The reason why you can never fully let go is that the people in your life actually matter to you. Otherwise you would never think about them, speak to them, and spend time with them. I guess there is much for me to learn in regards to human attachment and emotions, for I myself am still young and inexperienced with such a practice. Then again, fully grown adults break down when a loved one or close friend passes away into the hands of god. Thus I suppose I have grasped the concept enough to understand it, but will never fully develop upon it because I am human. That after all the talk and the cheerfulness on the surface, there will always be that circle of friends that you can never truly let go, or have removed from your thoughts. Even after twenty years (in a scenario where they have passed away), we are still reminded of who they were, and that we would wish for one last chance to hear their voice before they depart forever. I know my friends are not dead and that with the help of technology, I can communicate with them with relative ease. Still the truth remains, I will have a difficult time not seeing them around the area in which I live, and that is something that will take some getting used to.

Anyways this has been my thoughts on letting go. In short, letting go, while necessary, will always be a difficult thing to do because we are human beings. Part of our nature is that we care for those close to us, and no matter what we will care for them for eternity.

Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time.