Wednesday, January 19, 2005


It is a snow day here in my part of Ontario, Canada. Schools are closed. My wife, who teaches French in a local public school, has the day off. My son, who is in a French immersion program in a different public school, will have time to catch up on his homework.


When told that my son attends a French immersion public school, a cousin of my wife exclaimed: "Oh... a poor man's private school."

Hmmm. I haven't thought of myself as 'poor' for a long time, but the cousin does have a point. I can't speak for every French immersion school everywhere, so I will limit my comments to the one attended by my son. What does it have to offer?

Well, first of all, smaller classes. Even in officially bilingual Canada, most people outside of Quebec don't give a flying fig about French. Fewer students, smaller class size. Better teacher/student ratio.

But what about the increased likelihood that there will be split classes, like the grade 7/8 split class my son attends this year?

Why would that be a problem? I loved split classes when I was in school. It made it possible to learn both grades in one year. Next!

What else? Most parents with children in the program actually give a damn about things like academic performance, keeping class disruptions by hooligans to a minimum, etc. Since at least some of the parents have no French background themselves, they know that it is going to be a grind for everyone concerned and are therefore committed to doing whatever necessary to get their kids through the program.

I have no particularly fond memories of learning French myself. I got kicked out of Mr. Doucette's grade ten French class at Port Colborne High School when I berated him for picking on a cute little gal named Janet Sherk. I hear that he never picked on her again. Unfortunately, I couldn't observe that fact firsthand because I was never allowed to return to the class. My days as a French student were over. So, no, it's not the French language. I like the immersion program because it challenges the kids and (hopefully) will keep them mentally engaged with no spare moments to get bored or become troublesome.

On days like this, I ask myself why my parents chose Canada to emigrate to from Germany in 1949. Why not, say, move to Brazil, where we had relatives and where it can get reasonably warm and there are some great beaches. Or so I hear. I've never actually been there, but hope to visit someday. Of course, looking at the economic history of Brazil, I think my parents made a wise choice after all by moving to Canada.

It could be worse. We originally settled in Barrhead, Alberta, where it gets really cold. Ontario's weather is strictly sissy stuff by comparison. So, I guess, a snowy day now and again is alright, after all.

A promotional ditty about Ontario a few years ago says it all:


Give us a place to stand
And a place to grow,
And call this land Ontario.
A place to live
For you and me,
With hopes as high
As the tallest tree.

Give us a land of lakes
And a land of snow,
And we will build Ontario,
A place to stand,
A place to grow,

Commercial over. Fade to black. That'll be $10,000 dollars, please. Cash.

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