Timmins, Ont. girl petitions to sign up for boys-only robotics class

A nine-year-old girl who started an online petition to take part in a boys-only robotics class at a Timmins, Ont., library will now be able to take part.

Robotics for boys only advertisement

The Timmins Public Library advertisement for this “special program” was challenged by a local girl who wanted to take part in the session.

The Timmins Public Library is now offering the robotics session to all children between the ages of 9-12.


It was welcome news to Cash Cayen’s mother, who said “we need to change the way our society thinks.”

The Exile of Time

“The CEO of the library sent me a text message directing me to their Facebook page to see their official media release,” Caroline Martel said.

Rendezvous with Destiny

“The media release [said] they ‘wish to apologize to the public and Science Timmins for the misunderstanding related to the Robotics event which was designed to encourage improved literacy through reading.’ Although I disagree with the claim that this was a ‘misunderstanding,’ Cash and I are happy with their decision to open the session up to all children regardless of their gender.”

Close to 30,000 people signed the petition, and many shared stories about discrimination.


“Gendered approaches to education are extremely problematic,” Martel said in a post on change.org. .

via Timmins, Ont. girl petitions to sign up for boys-only robotics class – Sudbury – CBC News. Listen to Interview: Caroline Martel and library board chair Michael Doody spoke with CBC Sudbury’s Up North radio program on Thursday about the situation that has raised the ire of many.

Media Literacy: Personal Cultural Space & The Vampire Maman


Today I discovered Vampire Maman, a fascinating blog about   The Musings of Modern Vampire Mom by the author Juliette Kings.

Kings’s blog is full of quirky humour and insight. One post that got me thinking in tangential directions was Thank you for pissing off my teenage daughter . It was an open letter to her 14 year old daughter’s  English teacher. As a retired  teacher (English/Spe.Ed/Media Literacy), I found it delightfully refreshing in how it both expressed parental concerns and showed a depth of understanding of a teacher’s difficult role in a child/teen’s life. The ironic humour was very effective and the observations were insightful.

Of course it brought up a number of ideas that I would like to address. The first thing that jumped out at me was how her daughter was not allowed into the Honours English and that as a consequence she was in a mix of students whose life/academic goals & classroom behaviour/attitude were disappointing.


Here in Ontario ( Canada), the educational goal/challenge levels currently Academic (University & College), Applied ( College & Workplace), Open, Essential ( Locally Developed) and Life Skills. While a student and their parents are given guidance and suggested educational pathways to choose from, they are free to select their own pathway. This means if you want to take an Academic rather than Applied or the reverse there is nothing preventing you.



Applied students are motivated to succeed and have a wide range of life & educational goals, as they come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. As a consequence, it is more difficult to create a programme that satisfies and engages them all equally. There also tends to be more students within the demographic requiring Special education support, creating even more diversity in learning styles and motivation.



I am not sure of what kinds of choices in educational programme were offered in this situation (American), but from the description of  frustrations expressed, I think Vampire Daughter is more Academic oriented than many of her classroom peers. This is challenging both for her and her mother. It will also mean her teacher has a challenge as well in engaging the girl and any other students who are in similar circumstances .


One of the concerns in Juliette Kings’s post  was about how her daughter’s reading interest and attire could have been misconstrued by the teacher.

 ……She reads books about drugs, suicide, cancer and mental illness. These books are dark. These books don’t have happy endings. Nobody celebrates at the end.

Her reading list includes: Go Ask Alice, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Fault in Our Stars.  ……………. No doubt you noticed that my kid wears a lot of black and too much black eye liner as well.

Source: The Doll in The Wall – Click Image to read

Fortunately, this Maman  could see both her child’s unease and positive aspect of the teacher’s concern. She responded with a post that acknowledged both the child and the educator as partners with valid issues.  She accomplished this with humour and a balanced understanding of her child’s needs and the professional needs/duties of the child’s teacher. Very well done.

This brings me to where education, Media Literacy and Personal Cultural Regions meet – sometimes in an uneasy conversation. We all have our own Personal Cultural Space that we live in. It comes with its own idiolect that we use when expressing our Self to those around us. It includes not just our language(s), vocabulary, gender, age, race, ethnicity and personal interests, values &beliefs, but also our body language including dress, the accoutrements of our daily life ( key chains, wallets, cellphones, tablets, actual printed text, recorded music, vehicles, pets). 



As you can see, this Personal Cultural Space is heavily saturated with Mass Media ( both content and devices). We need to keep in mind the Principles of Mass Media when we encounter and interact with others and their Cultural Space. All Mass Media convey intended and unintended messages.  Mass Media always has context, but that context may be altered.  A team logo or religious symbol has specific meaning for different individuals.  In effect, each individual creates/carries context with them, as a part of their own Cultural Space.  The transmission of messages has to cross Cultural Spaces that can disrupt context.



Click link for Shakespeare’s Sonnets III & XXIX

When the English teacher became concern with her student’s choice of reading material and style of dress, the teacher’s Cultural Space was influencing how she parsed the message that her student was expressing through within the student’s own cultural Space.   This is part of the daily interaction that  educators, students and parents must negotiate.

Click Image to see source – They Say Chivalry is Dead

We can take this a step further, and consider wider generational and social communities. We then see that many conflicts within North American society  ( Canada & America) can be seen as form of Mass Media interactions. The use of Media Literacy as a means of interpreting the messages of Personal Cultural Space will go towards breaking down misunderstandings & averting potential conflict.

Nelson Mandela – “The master of classic horror” ?

So I was checking the comic & media news-site, Comic Book Resources (CBR), and noticed something odd on the right side of the screen where they feature previews of the latest comics & graphic novels. The list is set up as small icon pictures of the covers & titles of the most recent updates. There was one title and cover that just looked a bit off – Tribute: Nelson Mandela #1.

nelson mandella- Vincent Price1

The cover featured what appeared to be Vincent Price choking Peter Lorre. Curious to see just how far the web-page error went I clicked the link. 

nelson mandella- Vincent Price2

As you can see the error continues with the incorrect title accompanying the preview and correct content description. I have seen this problem occur from time to time on this site, but not with such an absurd & ironic result. Here is the cover:

Vincent Price tribute Cv

 To be fair, if the reader clicked the link, Browse for similar previews they would find the actual preview for the Nelson Mandela Tribute comic

Nelson Mandela tribute Cv

The Bluewater Comics provides an interesting range of material. The target audience  includes the family friendly, educational, entertainment, and literacy/reluctant-reader grouping. Topics range from current celebrities to iconic political & entertainment figures.

Baby Princeling George

Meredith Vierra

Note: Bat-man costume altered to prevent copyright issues.

Note: Bat-man costume altered to prevent copyright issues.

There are attempts at broad entertainment, intended to appeal to both the tween and teen demographics of both genders. There are some strange blends of audience appeal, trying to hold to family values and not upset conservative American educational systems/boards, while courting the young audience of the 21st century. While it appears that sexual orientation is avoided initially and  there were no  celebrities or political figures strongly associated with equality issues related to this issue – see Anderson Cooper bio comic and Raven HIV hero. Religious & political issues appear to emphasize Christian and conservative values for the most part. The previews suggest a moral lesson in life stories. Katy Perry started out as a Christian singer before becoming a pop-singer – ‘she’s been married, divorced, and she’s performed in front of millions”. Sam Kinison starts with “humble roots as a preacher” before becoming a Rock and Roll Comedian and ending life in tragic death.

Katy Perry

Did she kiss the girl ?

Trying to appeal to the rebellious teen without offending the parent ?

Sam Kinison

Many of the illustrations, based on the previews do not have the same style or sophisticated quality of many of the larger superhero oriented companies, such as Marvel, DC, and Image or Dark Horse. Some seem to be a bit more edgy, if the celebrity/story-line, such as Kinison, attracts a different target audience. This brings up some other confusion/conflicts in target audience. Compare covers for style & content – it seems to be all over the place, trying to serve two masters.

Katy perry cv

For girls the Katy Perry paper doll – body image ?


A classic role model from Canadian literature ?

Ane Grn-Gables Cv

For boys Vertigo / EC comics inspire art & stories………. ?


Fantasy horror & adventure


The Real adventure of America’s Armed Forces.

Navy cvTruth, Justice and the American Way ?

Al Frankin cv

Separation of Church and State.

Jesus FaithPick your hero.

Claw & Fang cv

Banished from Earth over three thousand years ago by a powerful young Celtic King, the demon Noro has had time to plot his revenge.

Mix Fantasy worlds of action, adventure & supernatural horror.

Jesus E. Lee cv

Is he Jesus? Is he Robert E. Lee? Is he both? Jesus E. Lee fights to defend Richmond, VA from the evil onslaught of Angel Eyes.

Discover classic heroes of the past from literature & cinema.

Classic Victorian hero, but what is She wearing ?

Classic Victorian hero, but what is She wearing ?

Where for art thou Juliet ?  Apparently the 21st century

Where for art thou Juliet ? Apparently the 21st century

Flyinf cv

!950’s Sci-Fi classics come back to invade young minds. Or is it invasion of nostalgia Oldies ?

Bluewater  should be commended on its effort at diversity. This is a problem faced by the comic book & graphic novel publishers. The potential target audience is very diverse, but public perception combined with marketing practices have created barriers to connecting the product with the appropriate audience. Gender and age have been the greatest problem in identify and reaching a specific demographic group. Bluewater appears to be trying to negotiate this complex market; sales through iTunes and other eBook formats may help overcome this hurdle, as may reaching out to educators and targeting reluctant readers & the tween market. Unfortunately, at times,  it feels like it is immersed in a late 1950’s world; it can not make up its mind whether it is following the EC comics tradition or trying to be Dell comics, or Illustrated Classics . Perhaps Nelson Mandela – “The master of classic horror” does accurately sum up their present situation. Their future success will tell the tale.

How Star story about genderless baby went viral

The Toronto couple that decided to attempt to raise their child as gender neutral triggered a media frenzy. The way the story grew became its own media news story.



It is fascinating to see what this reveals about media and North American culture. First off it is the power of social news media outlets such as the  Drudge Report  and Fark.com  moved this piece of news first. Most significantly is that the greatest impact was on the American audience. The Toronto Star reports that “Online traffic to the story tripled within a matter of hours with more than 80 per cent of page views coming from the United States, up from about 50 per cent the day before. This was followed by Canada at 8.3 per cent and the United Kingdom with 3.2 per cent. “The report also points to the power of Facebook to propel a news item such as this one into  viral information.

The principles of mass media constructing reality and carrying intended and unintended messages is played out with this viral news item. Social media turn this into a significant piece of news because those who reported it/shared it felt that it was significant. That is the real point is it not ? Is this really important or just entertainingly odd. How would today’s social media have responded to Skinner’s Air crib ?

Toronto Star’s stories on the Genderless Baby