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McGill Reporter
January 10, 2002 - Volume 34 Number 08
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On campus

Of course

Ryan on Roman Catholicism

Photo Claude Ryan

Put together a list of the most influential Quebecers of the last 75 years and you would find Claude Ryan's name near the top.

As the editor and publisher of Le Devoir, Ryan cemented the publication's reputation as Quebec's most literate newspaper - it became the one paper that decision-makers had to keep up with.

Later, he made his mark in politics, as the president of the Quebec Liberal Party, the leader of the No forces during the 1980 referendum on sovereignty-association and Quebec's minister of education.

Now Ryan is eyeing another challenge - teaching McGill undergraduates.

He is the instructor for "Catholic Social Thought," offered this semester through the Catholic Studies Program.

He isn't approaching the task lightly.

He spent much of the summer boning up on his own reading for the course. "It was interesting to come across documents that I thought I understood and see them in a different light when I re-read them," Ryan says. He then spent a good chunk of the fall writing 450 pages worth of text for the class.

"I owe it to the students and to myself to do this seriously," says Ryan.

Ryan has been a familiar presence at McGill's Newman Centre in recent years, making presentations on Catholic themes and holding informal chats with students. Before making his mark in journalism and politics, Ryan was the general secretary of Catholic Action for French-speaking Canada and a leading intellectual in Church circles.

The course will feature encyclicals by a variety of popes as well as other writings by leading Catholic thinkers. It will cover four broad areas - economic life, social and cultural life, political life and international affairs. Each of these themes will be broken down into more specific topics. Social and cultural life, for instance, will entail discussions about families, education, the media and science and technology.

Ryan is a devout Catholic but he is not out to proselytize. "It's my hope that non-Catholics take this course, as well as Catholics."

Ryan predicts that the current pope, John Paul II, will go down in history as a seminal figure in the Church's approach to social thought, especially on the subject of human rights.

Church leaders have often been hesitant to trumpet their views on human rights too loudly in the political arena, Ryan notes. In contrast, John Paul II's steely commitment to human rights helped bring down the Soviet Union.

The pope has even taken positions that "would have been considered heresy a few generations ago," stating that people should be free to change their religions even when Roman Catholicism might lose out in the proposition. "His view is that what Catholics ask for on their own behalf, they must also ask for on behalf of other [religions]."

The course marks the first time that Ryan has taken a stab at university teaching. "I've always been busy elsewhere," he laughs. "I'm glad to finish my public career on this note. Working with young people is an extraordinary privilege."

Campus cuties

The playful space with brightly coloured walls invites young and old alike to let their hair down and romp. Sadly for undergraduates, this is no classroom, but the new Students' Society of McGill University daycare.

Photo PHOTO: Owen Egan

Little happy toddlers run around. The combination of one munchkin's birthday and a Christmas party was almost too much excitement for the wee bodies to hold.

Raoul Gebert, SSMU's vice president, operations, oversees this merry mayhem. He's from Hamburg, Germany, where young men fresh out of high school are required to do either nine months of army or social service. He chose to work at a daycare for underprivileged kids, where he saw what a difference support could make in the lives of parents and children.

Currently, the daycare operates as a nursery school, and by law can offer no more than three and a half hours of care, per child, between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, for $10.

Open to the public for now, the facility's staff care for about 10 kids, far fewer than their capacity.

By mid-January the government should be sending out letters saying whether or not the centre is eligible for full-time daycare licensing. Fingers are crossed -- that they're a not-for-profit organiziation, and already up and running, is in their favour. If things go well, starting in September, they'll offer full daycare for five dollars a day.

Marivel Manimtim, coordinator, discovered her love for kids during a year working in a Guatemala orphanage. She then attended Concordia's early childhood education program. "We took such care to make it a friendly environment, and we have such great educators, that it's frustrating that we don't have more kids to take advantage of this." Although, that there are few kids now means "we can spend so much time one-on-one.

"It was nice for us to get eased into it, we got to know each kids' strengths and weaknesses, and we've seen them blossom in the last few months which is rewarding."

Everyday they go outside so the bairns get fresh air and work off energy. They go on walks to museums, and in December, to Place Montreal Trust to see a huge Christmas tree with a railway train ("The kids could have gone there every day!" Manimtim says.) and of course, Ogilvy's Christmas window display.

The staff includes educators Cynthia Dezso and Maria Georgakopoulos who are trained in the realm of play. They firmly believe play is of the essence to learning about the world, and lots of it at an early age leads to academic success later in life. Today's tots could very well be tops in tomorrow's classrooms.

For more information, contact the day care at 398-8590.

So you want to be a Spielberg...

The Faculty of Education has always been media savvy, promoting the use of multi-media in the classroom for decades.

Photo Jim Harris, manager of the Faculty of Education's Media Services
PHOTO: Claudio Calligaris

For a year and a half now, the faculty's media services unit has offered digital video and audio technology for budding teachers to use for projects. Even cooler, it's open to the McGill community.

The lab is restricted to education students at peak times, but during breaks and at the beginning of term it can be used for any McGill-related work. Research groups, kinestheologists, and management folk take advantage of this to create non-textual demonstration tools and the like. It's easier to film the perfect swim stroke than write about it.

Jim Harris, the unit's manager, says there are four digital video cameras available. They're fragile as they have no cushioning air pockets. Of the 10 minutes he takes to show students the camera, one is spent explaining how to use it and nine are spent saying "Don't break it, don't break it."

Once you've captured that special McGill-related moment on digital video, you can edit it, fuss with the colour (sepia tone anyone? negative imaging?), stretch out or slim down the image (Hmm, easy way to lose post-holiday poundage). Then you can flip it onto VHS or web-ready files for mass consumption. As soon as DVD creating becomes affordable, media services will have that too.

"It's more cost-effective than analog," Harris says. For the price of the analog video editing equipment the lab had before, they can provide four iMacs loaded with 512 megabites of RAM, iMovie 2 software, plus a DV to VHS transferring station.

But would-be commercial CD burners beware. Not only does the lab staff strictly prohibit copying your personal Bobby Sherman collection for the benefit of evil, but the computers have anti-pirating software.

Harris can introduce the machines and get a Cecil B De Mille wannabe started on a tutorial for iMovie 2, and "within a couple of hours, people are making movies."

For more information, contact media services at 398-6950.

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