24 September 2010

Jessica Dunkley: exceptional achiever and champion for women, Métis and the deaf, or a misuse of funds?

Jessical Dunkley is a high achiever, a role model, and a champion for more than one social group. But is there a limit to how much money should be given to support her high career aspirations?

Jessica is an example to the deaf everywhere, and to Métis, having shown how well these groups can do in the educational system, and in the workplace, with the necessary support to help deal with their physical limitations. Within the category 'women,' many role models, champions and achievers over the years have made their way into the public sphere and are considered role models for their achievements and/or contributions to society. The deaf community and aboriginals, however, are fairly new in their quest for recognition within society, and acknowledgment that they, too, have the ability not just to succeed but to surpass achievements made by most Canadians.

A recent article on this topic appeared in the Globe and Mail (Skilled-interpreter shortage, Sept 22, 2010), followed by a discussion which is also available online. Since then, I have come across three websites online (see list following), which refer to Jessica's struggles and achievements as a deaf person and an aboriginal.

According to the Globe and Mail article, Jessica wants to be able to pursue her ambition to become a dermatologist, and is seeking funding to do so. What it fails to mention, however, is that Jessica is a physiotherapist (see 2008 Recipients). She has already trained and found herself a career, so what would be the advantages and disadvantages of her continuing.

As the article from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine informs us, "there are six Aboriginal students in this year’s graduating class, the second cohort since the inception of the program, whose goal is to graduate 100 Aboriginal students by 2020." If each of these students require funding, and are seeking careers, will any of them be disadvantaged by Jessica's need for training for a second career? It looks as though NAAF only provides the Métis award one time only (see Special One-time Métis Health), so all students get an opportunity to have one, and perhaps that is why the Globe and Mail article was written, to take the matter to the wider public and try and get support for it.

Read the comments at the link provided at the end of the G&M article to see what others think about the issue as it was presented.

I can't help but wonder if this is a matter for the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF), rather than other groups such as the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) or members of society in general. There are so many students seeking funding who don't get it despite their ability and need, and in fact, so many deaf people, probably, who never receive educational assistance, that it creates a real dilemma as to whether or not granting Jessica the money for a specialized signing interpreter throughout her dermatology program is a wise decision.

Certainly, having persons who can be looked up to, in the deaf community to in the Métis or aboriginal community, is a worthwhile cause, but at whose expense, and how many others? Jessica uses two sign languages, Quebec and American (see A glimpse at the class of 2010), and can speak English (see 2008 Recipients). The cost of having signing interpreters for her program could be as much as $250,000 a year (Skilled-Interpreter shortage). And what happens after that, when she is working with the public, we don't know. How much financial assistance a deaf person could receive due to her disability while working as a dermatologist is another issue.

On the other hand, would it be worthwhile for the deaf and for aboriginals to have this role model who will have exceeded even her own original aspirations when she has completed the degree, being qualified then not for just one, but two careers. If it would help bring down barriers to people with disabilities and to aboriginals, would it be worth the cost? Or would it better to finance more students, so more of them can achieve their goals, even if they are lesser? What does our country value more - helping one go as far as she can, or helping many so that they can work and earn a living?

Added April 13, 2012:

How is Jessica doing? According to the now 2-year-old article in the Globe and Mail, “As a student, her disability would have been accommodated by UBC, which provided interpreters for her at no charge when she pursued an undergraduate degree in physical therapy. Similarly, the University of Ottawa supplied sign-language interpreters during her studies for a medical degree. . . But as a medical resident in B.C., she’s an employee of Vancouver Coastal Health, a provincial health authority” (Skilled-interpreter shortage, Sept 22, 2010).

The costs of supporting her would be enormous, as the same article suggests. “Because she would require the services of more than one interpreter, and because those interpreters would themselves require extensive training, it could cost as much as $250,000 a year to provide her with the help she needs to complete the program” (Skilled-interpreter shortage, Sept 22, 2010).

I’m sure no one would not want her to achieve fulfillment, and to be able to contribute, but as a physiotherapist she would have a lot to offer, particularly in the area of aboriginal health, perhaps more so than being a dermatologist, at far less cost. As one commenter wrote, on Sept 22, 2010:

"Just because we are a relatively rich country does that mean it is OK to be stupid and wasteful of public resources? Just because we can do something does that mean that we should? The reluctance of individuals in the medical ‘establishment’ to say one word about whether this experiment makes any sense or not demonstrates their lack of common sense and most certainly their lack of integrity and courage. Enough of this PC nonsense! This is the country, after all, that somehow thinks that a long gun registry would prevent a murderous rampage by a demented citizen, so I don't hold out much hope. No doubt there are many opportunities for this intelligent woman to shine in modern society, just let's be sensible about it."

Stacey Levitt Women And Sport Memorial Scholarship Recipients
Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS)
accessed Sept 24, 2010

Faculty of Medicine celebrates 147 graduating doctors
University of Ottawa News Releases & Announcements
May 19, 2010
accessed Sept 24, 2010

Special One-time Métis Health Careers Award recipients
National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF)
http://www.naaf.ca/node/211 accessed Sept 24, 2010  Link no longer available

Skilled-interpreter shortage presents hurdle in deaf MD’s quest to become dermatologist
By Wendy Stueck in Vancouver
Globe and Mail
Sep. 22, 2010
This is no longer a direct link to article, although it is available through Globe & Mail

Links updated April 13, 2012

12 September 2010

Mature Students: getting a degree, or a lifetime of 'continuing education'

A recent article in the Globe and Mail (Kickin' it old-school, Sept 3, 2010), about mature students going to university to get their degree, brought forth discussion about two kinds of education later on in life. Students are permitted to go to university after they have been out of school for a number of years, their life experience counting towards their acceptance into the undergraduate programs at many universities. The other kind of education for older, or mature students, would be for night courses and other types of 'continuing education' courses, often held at high schools or perhaps colleges as well as universities.

The 'mature students' you might run into at university, taking regular classes along with the younger students, might not always be mature, within themselves. Most of us at Western were not, as I recall, when I went there in the late 80s and early 90s. But we were older than most. Some of us might have had the proper qualifications, the high school graduation certificate, but it seems to me we were all lumped together, regardless.

The idea of 'continung education' encompasses all kinds of education that adults get into later on. It is, in fact, a concept that encompasses the cultural norm in Canada of being involved in education practically from birth to death. It is encouraged by one and all in our society to value education and to partake of it at every opportunity, especially as one grows older and has time on one's hands. To negate it seems to oppose all that we have been brought up to appreciate and believe in. But the reality is, don't expect that it will automatically improve your life. Mature students who return to get their higher education after years away from education may find it tough going trying to make use of their credentials afterwards.

Another recent newspaper article focuses on the new full-day kindergarten programs that are starting up in Canada, another aspect of the idea of 'continuing education,' this time, the decision being made by our government to introduce full-time education (or baby-sitting as some commenters wrote) for 5 year olds. Really, does anyone think our children need this? (See All-day kindergarten, National Post, Sept 8, 2010).

All right, so one more article is required at this point - on home-schooling, or 'unschooling' as some call it! (See More families are deciding, Globe and Mail, Sept 10, 2010). Viewpoints in the article and the comments section on both sides of the issue - worth a read, considering the cultural norm on education that currently presides in Canada. This article rounds out the discussion on education per se, as being of great value according to most people, though what the proponents of unschooling think of mature returners or continuing education classes I wouldn't know.

Finally, this article (The new girl power, Sept 9, 2010) from a British newspaper, The Independent, brings in gender, and youth. In these matters, there couldn't be that much difference between Canada and Britain. I agree - it is a young woman's world. That doesn't mean it's good for our world, and it may not even be good for women. If the women aren't working at what they're good at and enjoy, and if they're constantly struggling for something that's not going to happen - pay parity with men - will they ever be content with what they have achieved?

The baby boomers had better have something more substantial to tell the younger generation, other than the value of 'continuing education.' What have we achieved. What is our legacy? And what happens next?

All-day kindergarten is a waste of money
By Marni Soupcoff
National Post
Sept 8, 2010

Kickin' it old-school: The rise of the mature student
By Natalie Stechyson
Globe and Mail
Sept 03, 2010

More families are deciding that school’s out – forever
By Kate Hammer
Globe and Mail
Sept 10, 2010

The new girl power: Why we're living in a young woman's world
By Alice-Azania Jarvis
The Independent
September 9, 2010

See, also, this article added Sept 15, 2010.

Not everyone needs a debt-financed university degree to be complete
By Matt Gurney
National Post Full Comment
Sept 14, 2010

links updated April 12, 2012