Pot Luck May 2016

Whopper schools for Hub City

    May 7 we’re heading down to Halifax for dinner with writer David Boehm at the Atlantic Journalism Awards dinner and gala. David has been nominated for best “Enterprise Reporting, Print” for his “Lobster on a roll” feature in the Oct. 2015 issue of Rural Delivery. Congratulations to David who has written a number of outstanding stories for RD over the years, including a fisheries-related follow-up titled “Keeping independent fishermen afloat” (Jan-Feb 2016).
    Another good story close to home is about Bertie and Bill Nickerson, Canada’s longest-married couple, 80 years this past December, whose grandson Stephen Nickerson is our longstanding production and graphic design person, one of their closest relatives by blood, and their closest by geography. When Stephen, whose parents died several years ago, is not laying out a magazine or creating an ad, you may well find him across town shopping for his grampies or checking in to see how they’re getting on. Bertie and Bill, age 98 and 101 respectively, are still in their own home, fixing their own breakfast, and getting on with life. Stephen’s devotion to his grandparents’ well-being is inspiring.

    If we can begin planning to send a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star, surely we can plan building a couple of super-schools in Moncton for Maritime school children – all of them. This business of piece-meal closure of small, generally rural, schools followed by amalgamation, endlessly repeated as we move to ever larger schools, is way too disruptive. Why not get it over with by constructing two centrally-located whopper elementary and high schools?
    There is an added potential benefit. The sooner we move to one or two institutions for all pre-school through grade 12 students, the simpler “lock down” will be.
    There was a time of innocence when “lock down” was about quelling prison riots. Schools are becoming more like prisons, so maybe it’s just terminology catching up with the times. “Lock downs” and SWAT team invasions would become well-practiced daily routine at impersonal whopper schools. Tens of thousands of students in one place would attract a lineup of malcontents armed with semi-automatic slingshots lurking behind the one tree left standing by biomass-starved energy giants.
    Seriously, over-reaction to a troubling circumstance can be more traumatic to children than the circumstance itself. We should keep that in mind before sending soldiers in camo, armor, and brandishing all manner of weaponry into our schools – as happened last week in Halifax, blurring the line between civilian keepers of the peace and Kandahar contractors.
    April showers are one thing. April under one deluge after another is quite another and bothersome story for farmers anxious to get machinery on the land and livestock out to pasture. My own paddock has become a quagmire around every new parking place for a round bale of hay enclosed in an old steel cage. Feeding yesterday had me thinking of front line soldiers in World War I and how incredibly awful it must have been for them to be ordered “over the top,” to try desperately to run forward into a hail of bullets while deep mud sucked them back.
    The winter pasture’s become a paddy without the rice. I wonder how Ian Curry and Nicki Clark are making out with their Japanese rice-cultivation experiments in Granville Ferry, N.S. Must check it out. Maybe they’ve seed to sell from a crop acclimatized to this part of the world.

    Loblaws has announced plans to build new and upgrade older sooperstores across the country. Fewer new jobs may result than one might anticipate as the grocery giant keeps pace with automation. You can check out your own groceries in one nearby store. More jobs consumed by technology. I suppose auto-check is old hat to shoppers in Montreal and Toronto. CBC was all agog reporting on robo-farming recently: robot milkers, driverless tractors; computers behind every engine, chips under every second ear. 
    We would need a third more people in our office if we were doing things as they were done as little as 40 years ago. Who knew we were on the verge of a revolution in printing? I did not. Forty years was before faxes, copiers, computers, printers, the internet. Ye gods!
    Technology and mechanization fuel and enable amalgamation in most every enterprise, schools included. This is not new. But is there a tipping point when too many people feel useless? That, or terribly bored having been left with nothing to do short of mindless repetitive jobs? People want to feel needed. Obviously, from the popularity of distressed jeans, we know there are legions who would like others to think they have been busting their butts at hard physical labor. 
    As work becomes foreign, foreign workers step up to fill the void. What good fortune. Like Saudi sheiks we can lie back letting others carry the mind-numbing load.

    Rural Delivery turns 40 next month. Strange how that can be what with its founder going on 39.