Tag Archives: education

On  George W. Bush the painter, or, the importance of good teachers

Whatever you think of George W. Bush as a president, most agree he is  not bad painter. There are two reasons for the latter: one, he had good teachers, and two, he is a good student. How do I know he had good teachers? According to this, Pocket: Art critics alarmed to discover that George W. Bush is actually a pretty good painter, Bush…

… didn’t have to sign up for classes at a local art school or the museum, of course. Instead, he took private lessons from a prominent Dallas artist named Gail Norfleet. Norfleet wrought a change in Bush’s worldview. He began to see the colors even in shadows, the subtle shifts of palette in a clear blue sky. “I was getting comfortable with the concepts of values and tones,” Bush writes in the introduction to his book. Norfleet also thoughtfully introduced the once monochromatic president to her mentor, another well-known Dallas artist named Roger Winter, and it was he who gave Bush the idea to paint world leaders. Bush also consulted a landscape painter, Jim Woodson, whose visions of the vast, untouched terrain of New Mexico are nothing like the conventional bluebonnet vistas many still associate with Texas art. It was Woodson who introduced Bush to, among other things, larger canvases and thicker paint, and guided him toward a more complex view of the world about him. (Underlying by me for emphasis).


Bush took the lessons from these teachers to heart. But he was fortunate to have access to good teachers. A lesson for us all.


In Toronto and want to learn how to skate?

Then the Harbourfront Centre’s Learn to Skate program may be for you. It’s a lovely little place to skate, and you can rent everything you need. In no time you will be braving the crowds at Nathan Phillips Square and zipping around with the best of them.

If you are looking for New Year’s resolutions to make, learning to skate is a good one.

P.S. It is usually cooler down there than the rest of the city. Dress warmly.

Should you go to (film) school? Some brief thoughts on education

If you read this Open Culture post, Director Robert Rodriguez Teaches The Basics of Filmmaking in Under 10 Minutes, you’d be inclined to say “no”. As for me, I appreciate the points raised in the piece. Much of directed learning in school is less than valuable. That said, there are many ways to learn: experience, reading and watching how others do things, schools and teachers. The idea of limiting yourself to one way of learning is to deprive yourself unnecessarily. Learn any which way you can.

On class, Tim Hortons, and Starbucks

While there is alot being written about the Tim Hortons/Burger King merger from the point of view of taxes and finances, this piece in the blog Worthwhile Canadian Initiative touches on something else: class

Can’t we at least get a decent class analysis of this question? There are two sorts of people: Starbucks people; and Tim Hortons people. And this class distinction is far more important than anything based on superficial differences like income and occupation. As a Tim Hortons person, who feels deeply ill-at-ease in a Starbucks, and who does not understand the menu, I cannot stop myself asking the “barista”(?) the subversive question: “Can I have a small double-double please?”

In my experience with going there, Tim Hortons is an establishment that seems to be staffed sith and patronized by working class people. As opposed to Starbucks, which seems to be staffed and patronized by middle class people. This is not to say that one class is better than another, but there appears to be this class distinction that differentiates them. The blog post linked to above talks about cultural or educated classes, but I think there is a case to be made that this also has to do with economic classes as well as a rural / urban / suburban divide.

Economically, the lowest coffee advertised by Tim Hortons is closer to one dollar (in Canada). In Starbucks, the lowest coffee advertised is closer to two dollars. While that may seem like much to some, for working class people, it makes a big difference. (Never mind that alot of the coffee bought in Starbucks is over three dollars once you start getting it from the espresso bar versus from the coffee carafe.) Likewise, a coffee and a donut costs less than three dollars in Tim Hortons, while a coffee and a snack at Starbucks is closer in the range of four to five dollars. (Based on the many coffee / snack combos I have bought at both.)

In terms of rural / urban divide, Tim Hortons has been over time making a move into the downtown core (at least in Toronto), while Starbucks has been slowly expanding outwards (e.g., Sydney, Nova Scotia recently got a Starbucks).

Those of you who say you have good taste may say: yes, but Starbucks is better. (And there will be others that say both are terrible and only indie coffee shops have good coffee.) I believe it is better too, though I don’t think Tim Hortons’s coffee is bad. (I have drunk bad coffee, and Tim Hortons is not bad.) I think for Tim Hortons customers, coffee is a hot beverage with caffeine that is good to drink while driving and at work.  Having it cost less makes a difference. Tim Hortons advertises that their coffee is fresh: that is the quality it has. Starbucks will talk of their coffee in terms of where it comes from and with terms you often hear wine experts talk about: those are the qualities it has.  Your values will determine where you buy your coffee from.

By the way, one of the stereotypes was that only middle class people (and pretentious ones at that) drank lattes. Now Tim’s has machines that make lattes and a wide range of milk based coffees too. They may not be as good as those in other places, but they are not bad and they have two other qualities: they are fast and they are lower in cost. Those two qualities are valued by working class people. And working class people like to try things too: they are no different from people with more money and more education who live downtown in the city.

Coffee is about class. It’s about the different classes we have in our society that center around money, education, where you work and where you live. Starbucks and Tim Hortons are based upon that as well, though as each attempts to grow more, they are expanding from their class base. As someone who comes from a rural working class background but lives an urban middle class background, I am comfortable in and recognize the value in both.

In Canada, we don’t talk about class much, but it is everywhere. Including the coffee shops we patronize.

Should everyone learn to code? And should they learn it from Code.org?

I am encouraged by organizations like code.org and the work they are doing to help kids (and adults) learn how to write code using an approach that is condusive to fast learning. You can see their work here: Learn | Code.org. A somewhat differing point of view is here: Thread: Why you should learn to code.  I say “somewhat” because while Winer agrees with the notion of more people coding, he disagrees with how this is being promoted by code.org.

I think there are lots of reasons to learn to code: it’s a creative activity, it helps you understand technology better, it can help you get ahead in life, and it can be fun. I don’t think everyone has to learn to code, just like everyone doesn’t have to learn to sing or draw or other creative tasks. People may be anxious about their kids being computer illerate, but that fear has been around since the early days of personal computers and it was always an overblown fear. Learn to code for the goodness it brings, not because you fear something if you don’t learn.