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James Urquhart

The Search for Punctuation and Grammar

Do u no how to right good? Me to. Can you spot the problems with the first two sentences of this paragraph? If you can, you are one of the few. Good grammar is a skill that seems to elude most people, students or otherwise. Speaking from personal experience (as a teacher’s assistant for five years), I find the state of grammar to be appalling. I have marked many papers that look like they were written at the bar after about twelve too many beers, or where the spell check feature seems to have been turned off. The issue that worries me most is not why this happens in individual cases, whether it is due to laziness or something else, because frankly that is none of my business. Rather, I am concerned with how bad grammar has become such a wide spread epidemic.I am no expert on the root of the problem; however, with scholastic budgets being cut regularly across the country, the school system seems to be a good place to start. If you look at the school curriculum in any province, although it will vary from one province to another, children are not being taught enough about the basics of grammar. This is not to say that the teachers are to blame; to the contrary, teachers have no choice but to teach what is in their curriculum and simply have no time to deviate too far from what is in their assigned curriculum. Children are given the tools to succeed at mathematics, the sciences, and to a certain extent arts-related pursuits. However, their ability to conjugate verbs correctly and construct well-formed sentences seems to have taken a backseat. I understand the importance of math and science, but without good grammar, even the greatest mathematicians and scientists will flounder.Another… Read More

Killer snow globes

This year is symbolic for various reasons. It’s 11 years after the change of the millennium, where—if you remember—all technology was supposed to fail, the world was supposed to come to a standstill, and we were all to perish. In reality, all that happened was that grocery stores established record sales leading up to the “day of impending doom.” It’s also been 13 years since Princess Diana was killed in a tragic car accident and almost 10 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.It’s the last event I want to focus on in this article. In the wake of September 11, we’ve witnessed a needless war, a rise in racism and bigotry, and increases in airport security. Although many of us who like to travel have been mildly inconvenienced by the new security measures enacted since September 11, they’ve been generally necessary to ensure the safety of the general public.Whether or not terrorist attacks had taken place, the security measures in major airports were lacking, and 9/11 merely acted as a huge wake up call. However, my concern isn’t with the reasonable strides made in the realm of airport security—rather, I’d like to discuss some of the stupid and unnecessary regulations that make life difficult for no apparent reason.In a recent email, I received the picture included with this article. As you can see, it reads, “please be advised that snow globes are not allowed through security checkpoint.” Of course, my immediate reaction was to ask myself, “what the hell possible risk could a snow globe pose to national security?” Then I got to thinking, what if terrorists are using snow globes to smuggle explosives onto planes?Now, hear me out: it is completely plausible to imagine a group of men, huddled around a table, carefully and meticulously loading… Read More

Is multi-tiered health care the solution?

One of the things that we feel a great deal of pride about, as Canadians, is our ability to access health services without having to pay at the “point of sale.” While we often take this for granted, when we stop to think about it we soon come to realize that we have it better than most when it comes to health care. Yet, like any other service, someone has to eventually pick up the bill.Traditionally, health care has been financially supported by federal funds, with our contribution coming from a percentage of the taxes we pay. The problem is that health care is expensive, and drastically affects the federal budget tabled by the government each year. Last year, the Conservative government gave 129 billion dollars to the various provinces in transfer payments for health care, and ran a 56 billion dollar deficit.It has been clear for at least a decade that the health care situation is pretty grave in Canada—as costs continue to soar—and it’s also clear that we need a new solution to this problem. Many have offered possible answers, but the problem continues to worsen. One proposed solution—a multi-tiered health care system—is not a novel idea (in fact it is currently practiced to some extent in BC and Alberta), but I think that it is an idea worth revisiting as a possible solution to the growing cost of health care.Of course, this is not a grand solution to the problem; I certainly realize that it would have to be part of a group of ideas working as a unit to solve our health care dilemma. This being said, if we did have tiered health care in this country, in conjunction with other measures, it is reasonable to think that we might be able to fix the holes… Read More