The case of Chester

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A couple of inflammatory issues to address this morning.

It was brought to my attention recently that some parents and students think the education kids are receiving in our community is sub-par. I’ve had my differences with the board of education, but I’ve had little to say about what children are being taught. Whether it’s because the board or school administrators have successfully excluded media from campus life, or because there’s genuinely nothing wrong with our education system, I have been unaware of widespread, systemic problems with our schools.

The stories shared by these individuals are troubling, however.

Now, it needs to be said: everyone likes to have a story to tell, and casual conversation is often a poor basis on which to form an opinion. So while the claims made by these people were of interest, I am in no way endorsing them or claiming they’re true. But here’s the picture they painted.

Some schools in this community have done away with deadlines for assignments. As long as work is completed by the end of term, it’s acceptable. Teaching spelling has fallen by the wayside. No spelling bees. And memorizing times tables is dead and buried.

Those are some of the alleged “facts” – but the tone of the conversation was equally negative. One person said a good teacher was fired because she gave too much homework. The opinion was voiced that discipline has gone out the window. Overall, the collective view seemed to be that the education kids are getting in this community is sub-par, and that at least one school ranks near the bottom of the province (For quality? Test scores? I’m not sure).

None of this has been verified by me, nor should readers assume the truth is accurately reflected by this one-sided perspective. I am not a professional educator. Perhaps new, better ways of teaching math and spelling have been developed. Perhaps there is solid verifiable research indicating deadlines are counter-productive, or perhaps these allegations are simply incorrect.


IF the allegations are true, and IF they accurately capture the state of education in this community, we’ve got a problem.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Issue two is the case of Chester the dog.

I wrote this story for the paper (sorry, you'll have to copy and paste):

The comments are unanimous in their condemnation of the shelter. I’m chiming in now to provide a little more colour, and a little more of my personal thoughts, than would have been appropriate in a news article.

It’s my understanding there has been some upheaval at the shelter. I’m also aware the shelter has come under fire for its strict adoption guidelines. I don’t know enough about the former to comment. I know enough about the latter, though, to say that while I may not agree with all of their rules, there is a real conversation to be had here about the goals of the shelter and where their principle responsibility lies. In short, I am sympathetic to the view that their first priority is the animals in their care, not the people of Cumberland County.

Failure to provide a puppy with its initial batch of vaccinations is irresponsible, in my opinion (full disclosure, I have a financial interest in a veterinary business). So is owning a large number of pets when you do not have the financial means to provide emergency care for them should one or more fall seriously ill.

I don’t believe the shelter profits from the “sale” of animals. It may be justified criticizing the shelter on certain grounds, but them profiting from taking animals is likely a fiction. Also, animals don’t just become their property after 72 hours, they become the shelter’s responsibility. In other words, what happens to that animal after 72 hours is on them – it’s on their conscience to create the best future possible for that dog...

…none of which changes the fact I am very sympathetic to the plight of Chester’s owner. I cannot imagine the anger and sadness I would feel under similar circumstances. And like her, I would fight tooth and nail to get my dog back. In my opinion, there is an argument to be made that the shelter needs to factor humans higher in the equation - still guarding the animal’s interests, of course, but giving an application from a former owner a bonus in whatever formula they’re using to determine who gets to adopt.

There are no cartoon villains in this story, however. Based on cursory knowledge of them, the shelter’s adoption guidelines seem well-intentioned, if a little too zealous. 

UPDATE: Re. school ranking, I logged onto and checked out their most recent annual report card of high schools. Not all schools in Nova Scotia were ranked, but of the ones that were - 54 of them - Cumberland County did very badly: Springhill was 48, Pugwash was 53 and Oxford was dead last, at 54. The welcome suprise, though, was ARHS, which came 24th - a decent result and, relative to its neighbours, impressive.


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