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Why the Toronto Raptors Mean Much More Than You Think

12 June 2019 at 18:49
By: Bhavik

Can you feel it?

The excitement of the Toronto Raptors being in the NBA finals is overpowering the city. Actually, not just the city, the entire nation. They are bringing basketball to the front pages of every national, provincial, and municipal newspaper.

By just stepping into a coffee store, turning on a radio station, or switching on the TV, you will hear the word, “Raptor.” The basketball team has transformed everybody into Raptors fans. Those that never watch a basketball game in their life, are watching the entire 2-hour spectacle every three nights. They are learning every team member, on the starting lineup, and on the bench. Wearing red, black, or white, screaming at their TVs, projectors, or anything they are consuming the game on. You have around 100,000 people outside, viewing on the big screens at their respective communities, in rain or shine conditions. You have people camping outside, not to get into the arena, but to just watch the game on TV. During the games, they pan across all the viewing parties around the Greater Toronto Area and then after showing the 20,000+ people in Mississauga, 10,000 or so in Brampton, and others in Scarborough, the screen shows Halifax N.S, and Regina SK. This is not just Toronto’s or Ontario’s team, this is the nation’s team.

Article Featured Image
Jurassic Park, Toronto | Image: Narcity

Rarely, large occasions bring the entire city to a standstill. Rarely, at 9PM at night, 6.4 million people tune in to watch a sports game. That is 2 million more people than this year’s super bowl. It even surpasses the Blue Jay’s highest number of viewers when they made the playoffs in 2016, by 1 million. And that is with the fact that almost 100,000 people are watching on 1-10 screens, outdoors.

Game by game, the Raptors are taking over the city. It went from winning the first round routinely, as most people thought, to winning games against the double defending champions. Not only are they representing the hard-work and determination that goes into pursuing the championship, but they are also inspiring everyone, at the same time.

1-ohcanada
Scotiabank Arena | Image: The Hamilton Spectator

The Raptors are bringing Toronto closer. Just look at any picture of Jurassic park. You will spot different nationalities, cultures, races, and more. Commentators from the United States are coming to city and praising the diversity, spirit, and determination the fans have for the Raptors.

If you take a picture of 19,000 people, there will be 19,000 different cultures in that picture.

Yohan Roche

When the Raptors were born 24 years ago, people thought it was a joke for Toronto to have a basketball team. It took years for Vince Carter to put the team on the map and for people to recognize us in the NBA. With the Vancouver Grizzlies moving to Memphis in 2001, there was only one NBA team up north. All of Canada’s weight fell onto the Raptors. It took 24 years for Canadians to finally come together to support the playoff run this season. It took 24 years for Raptors fans that went to every home game since the creation of the team, to witness the NBA finals being held in Toronto. It took 73 years for Canada to hold its first NBA finals. This city has been waiting for a major championship for years.

Image result for vince carter toronto
Vince Carter | Sportskeeda

The players are desperate for the championship. The coaching staff are desperate for the championship. But above all, the fans are desperate for the championship.

As we go into game 6, the “Six” readies itself for a history making night.

This will be huge.

We the North

Image result for we the north

Read More: The problem with the post-secondary school system in Ontario.

RaptorsPlayoffs_Game3_Slide-0c97d03f6d

bobb288

Article Featured Image

1-ohcanada

Image result for vince carter toronto

Image result for we the north

Why the Toronto Raptors Mean Much More Than You Think

12 June 2019 at 18:49
By: Bhavik

Can you feel it?

The excitement of the Toronto Raptors being in the NBA finals is overpowering the city. Actually, not just the city, the entire nation. They are bringing basketball to the front pages of every national, provincial, and municipal newspaper.

By just stepping into a coffee store, turning on a radio station, or switching on the TV, you will hear the word, “Raptor.” The basketball team has transformed everybody into Raptors fans. Those that never watch a basketball game in their life, are watching the entire 2-hour spectacle every three nights. They are learning every team member, on the starting lineup, and on the bench. Wearing red, black, or white, screaming at their TVs, projectors, or anything they are consuming the game on. You have around 100,000 people outside, viewing on the big screens at their respective communities, in rain or shine conditions. You have people camping outside, not to get into the arena, but to just watch the game on TV. During the games, they pan across all the viewing parties around the Greater Toronto Area and then after showing the 20,000+ people in Mississauga, 10,000 or so in Brampton, and others in Scarborough, the screen shows Halifax N.S, and Regina SK. This is not just Toronto’s or Ontario’s team, this is the nation’s team.

Article Featured Image
Jurassic Park, Toronto | Image: Narcity

Rarely, large occasions bring the entire city to a standstill. Rarely, at 9PM at night, 6.4 million people tune in to watch a sports game. That is 2 million more people than this year’s super bowl. It even surpasses the Blue Jay’s highest number of viewers when they made the playoffs in 2016, by 1 million. And that is with the fact that almost 100,000 people are watching on 1-10 screens, outdoors.

Game by game, the Raptors are taking over the city. It went from winning the first round routinely, as most people thought, to winning games against the double defending champions. Not only are they representing the hard-work and determination that goes into pursuing the championship, but they are also inspiring everyone, at the same time.

1-ohcanada
Scotiabank Arena | Image: The Hamilton Spectator

The Raptors are bringing Toronto closer. Just look at any picture of Jurassic park. You will spot different nationalities, cultures, races, and more. Commentators from the United States are coming to city and praising the diversity, spirit, and determination the fans have for the Raptors.

If you take a picture of 19,000 people, there will be 19,000 different cultures in that picture.

Yohan Roche

When the Raptors were born 24 years ago, people thought it was a joke for Toronto to have a basketball team. It took years for Vince Carter to put the team on the map and for people to recognize us in the NBA. With the Vancouver Grizzlies moving to Memphis in 2001, there was only one NBA team up north. All of Canada’s weight fell onto the Raptors. It took 24 years for Canadians to finally come together to support the playoff run this season. It took 24 years for Raptors fans that went to every home game since the creation of the team, to witness the NBA finals being held in Toronto. It took 73 years for Canada to hold its first NBA finals. This city has been waiting for a major championship for years.

Image result for vince carter toronto
Vince Carter | Sportskeeda

The players are desperate for the championship. The coaching staff are desperate for the championship. But above all, the fans are desperate for the championship.

As we go into game 6, the “Six” readies itself for a history making night.

This will be huge.

We the North

Image result for we the north

Read More: The problem with the post-secondary school system in Ontario.

How Global Warming is Strengthening Natural Disasters | Editorial

30 December 2018 at 17:56
By: Bhavik

Welcome back to the series on how global warming is impacting Earth! In the last post, I went into the effects it has on the animal world. How global warming is destroying both habitats and the food chain. I explained that either you believe in global warming, somewhat believe in it, or disbelieve it. I hope that the statistics from the WWF educated you on how devastating it can be to wildlife.

In this part, I’ll be focusing on the impacts that global warming has on Earth’s natural disasters. How temperature changes cause flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, and other storms that can impact millions on lives. Sudden, life-threatening disasters which can ruin homes, separate communities, and cause nationwide panic. Instead of looking at threats coming from other humans, these dangerous storms will cause mass destruction to a vast area.

If Earth increases 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, storm surges from a category 4 or 5 hurricane will increase 8 to 21 times.

It is hard to determine if extreme weather incidents are due to global warming. There are many natural cycles that can cause natural disasters such as El Nino. This cycle brings warm water to the central Pacific Ocean which, in turns brings flooding to some regions and droughts to others.1 Conserve Energy Future discusses the impacts and causes of El Nino. There are many reports outlining the impacts that humans have on natural disasters and how global warming is detrimental to the future. Out of the 190 extreme weather events between 2004 to mid 2018, two out of the three events were made more severe by human-induced global warming.2 Three natural disasters out of the 190 would have not formed without global warming.3 This means, not only is global warming increasing the severity of storms, it’s forming new ones for us to deal with. Compared to the 2015 European heat waves, global warming made it four times more likely to happen again to some cities and doubled the chances of having another heat wave across the continent.4 

Why does global warming fuel stronger storms?

It is due to some chemistry. If the air is hotter, there is more water vapour in the air. Warmer air also stores more energy.5 These two factors can impact the Earth’s atmospheric cycles and raise the possibility of having large-scale systems such as an El Nino. Furthermore, temperature increases are leading regions such as the Arctic to warm up. This decreases the difference between the temperature at the poles and at the equator. Air and water around the most populated places on Earth will see more hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones. Moreover, water vapour causes humidity. The more humid the air, the more chance of rain.6 This is why thunderstorms and tornadoes only happen in the summer. Warmer air and humidity increase chances of having downpours and crashes of thunder. Warmer weather also raises the chance of floods in a region. Areas that are experiencing drought conditions do not have the water vapour in the air to create clouds and thus, are suffering from the lack of rainfall.

Global warming is not a far-fetched problem that will be solvable in an instant. It is slow moving storm that is gaining traction on the warm waters we fed it.

These are the following natural disasters are strengthened due to climate change.

Droughts

Droughts are formed when there isn’t much precipitation in an area during a long period, leading to the reduction of moisture in the soil.7 As the moisture evaporates out the soil, plants and other agriculture dries up, contributing to the reduction of food and other living species. Droughts can take months or even years to form, meaning that humans will not see the effects of global warming until it is too late. Droughts are impacted by global warming because increasing temperatures leads to more moisture evaporating.8 Even if the total precipitation stays stagnant in a space, the raising temperatures will evaporate water quicker. However, it is difficult to blame global warming to the escalation of droughts.

Hurricanes/Typhoons/Cyclones

The strongest forms of storms on Earth are hurricanes.9 These spiralling, devastating tempests are disastrous to populated lands. Hurricanes form over warm oceans that have hot, moist air. The air rises upwards, leaving little to no air near the ground, known as a low pressure region.10 Based on how they develop, you can see what global warming can do. Warmer conditions lead to stronger storms. It also leads to more Arctic and Antarctic melting. With sea level rising, storm surges, which are floods that make landfall, are more threatening. The risk of a Hurricane Katrina-level storm surge rose two to seven times for every degree Celsius.11 If Earth increases 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, storm surges from a category 4 or 5 hurricane will increase 8 to 21 times. Global warming also decreases the number of small storms such as a category one or two but it raises the likeliness of a category three to five storm.12

Wildfires

Wildfires are becoming a trend around the world. California is burning, so is Russia. With the reduction of moisture in soils, stuff burns more easily.13 A small spark or flame might destroy tons of hectares of land. Global warming is leading to hotter, drier weather in some regions, which are perfect conditions for a wildfire to spread. Wildfires need tinder for it to continuously burn. With warmer temperatures, the Pine Beetles are more likely to kill trees in the Pacific northwest.14 Colder conditions during the winter prevented beetles from feasting on the trees, but with warmer temperatures, there are more dead trees for fires to burn on.15

Global warming is causing havoc to Earth. In the last editorial, you saw the impact it can have on wildlife. But in this post, warmer climates contribute to more powerful storms and flooding which causes destruction to our lives. Global warming is not a far-fetched problem that will be solvable in an instant. It is slow moving storm that is gaining traction on the warm waters we fed it.


Hi! Thanks for reading this post!

What are your thoughts on global warming? Comment below!

LIKE, SHARE and FOLLOW!

Thanks, Bhavik

Find out what is plaguing the Ontario post-secondary School System in this 4-part series, and how to combat it!


References

  1. Conserve Energy Future
  2. Nature
  3. Nature
  4. Nature
  5. Nature
  6. AGWeek
  7. BBC
  8. LA Times
  9. NASA
  10. NASA
  11. LA Times
  12. LA Times
  13. LA Times
  14. LA Times
  15. LA Times

Featured Image: Wikimedia

Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISS

bobb288

hurricane featured in the documentary built to last

Dried-up oasis

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The Boundary wildfire on Aug. 25, 2018.

Why Global Warming is Impacting Animals | EDITORIAL

21 December 2018 at 18:49
By: Bhavik

Global warming or climate change, is becoming a threat facing humanity. Now, you might have 3 outlooks on it.

  1. Global warming is real, and you believe the reports that scientists are creating to outline the impacts of climate change. By knowing this, you try your best to save the world, no matter how small the activity is.
  2. Global warming is not the greatest threat to you. You believe scientists in some areas and disagree on others. There is a possibility that climate change is real but it way too soon to be thinking so far into the future. You trust that others can fix it and you couldn’t care less what gets recycled.
  3. And finally, you outright disagree with the scientists. Climate change is fictitious, and experts are trying to waste money on resources to combat it.
A polar bear in Repulse Bay, Nunavut Territory, Canada.
Paul Souders | Getty Images | CNBC

I will not criticize you on your beliefs on global warming. But, in these couple of posts on global warming, I’ll be stating facts on the impacts this vast threat has on our environment today. My job in this series is to make you think twice before carelessly throwing away your batteries in the garbage. Perhaps you’ll to dispose of them safely instead, to help combat humanity’s greatest threat.

Before I begin, a massive shutout to Sam for her help with the editing process and providing her knowledge in this subject matter!

In this first part of the series, I will focus on the threats on the animal world. The severe consequences that global warming is having in the world’s most diverse ecosystems. With slight increases to temperatures, animals will go extinct in a few centuries. Since 1970, there has been a 60% decline of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibian populations.1 60%! That is huge. That squirrel you saw at the park, it lost 60% of its worldwide family in 48 years. It is hard to comprehend these types of statistics. You cannot picture a world where there are barely any animals around.

Most of the information in this report comes from WWF and their research into this matter. They classified regions in the world that will have the worst extinction as “Priority Places”. There will be only a few regions I will cover in this report as these are the most impacted.

So what makes global warming a threat to the 8.7 million known species living on earth?

It causes habitat destruction. That is the number one reason why animals are suffering.2 With minor changes in temperature, droughts and other natural disasters occur more commonly. Water and vegetation are the two largest contributors to maintaining a strong food chain, and without these resources, an entire region can collapse. The food chain is the hierarchical model that outlines the involvement of every animal in an ecosystem. Starting from the bottom, the primary producers (plants) are important to the primary consumers (insects, herbivores). As you move up the model, you get the secondary consumers (frogs, mice), tertiary consumers (snakes), and finally, at the top of the chain lives the quaternary consumers (birds and larger creatures). As you can see, four levels rely on vegetation. Without it, there will be nothing to continue the cycle.

Image of the food chain
The food chain | cK-12

The animals’ ability to disperse from their habitat is one of the major prevention techniques. The percentage of survival drastically changes based on this key ingredient.3  Dispersal is important and animals will need to adapt to the changing environment. Animals that cannot flee from their home range will have to face the consequences of climate change which, in turn, increases their likelihood of extinction. At a 2°C increase to the average global temperature, extinction rates will rise 20-25% in Priority Places.4  But if the average temperature rises 4.5°C, we are talking about a 40-50% extinction rate.5  Dispersal is a good thing, but it is not guaranteed that a population adapts and finds a better region that allows them to strive.

Since 1970, there has been a 60% decline of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibian populations

But dispersal leads to side effects. Let’s assume that an animal population can disperse. The plants they ate before have to be present in the new area they migrated to. But plants do not have the luxury to travel across the continent. When global warming hits these regions, the initial food that starts of the food chain is gone and animals will not have enough to eat, impacting the entire model. In fact, around 50% of plants in Priority Places will disappear.6  Migrating to other areas sounds better but the long-term effects will damage the rest of the animal world.

Introduction to the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest | USA Today

Now to focus onto specific regions that are classified as Priority Places. Starting off with the Amazon and Guianas. Located in northern South America, the Amazon rainforest houses about 10% of all known species.7  It is one of the most vulnerable climates of global warming. Even at a 2°C increase in temperature, there is a greater than 30% extinction rate in the region among  plants. birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.8  The largest extinction rates occur at a 4.5°C increase by 2080. There is a 60% chance of localized extinction in all groups, with the amphibians losing about 74% of the species. Even with dispersal, the mammals will still lose about 30% to extinction.9  Global warming will hit this region hard and cause mass extinction to a place we call the most diverse animal region in the world.

Read More: My picture with stories series!

Coastal east Africa is the most diverse region in Africa, but global warming threatens it. Located in Mozambique and Tanzania, a 2°C increase will phase out 25% of its biodiversity.10 Global warming will impact the amphibians the most as they will lose less than 70% of the population due to local extinction.11  The comparison between a 2°C increase and a 4.5°C is alarming for the amphibians. At 2°C, 40% of the population will vanish compared to a whopping 69%.12  Most animal groups will lose over 60% of the population at a 4.5°C increase. The eastern coast of Africa is severely impacted with global warming and even with small changes, the population is slowly going extinct.

Finally, the Miombo Woodlands. This large region is located in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and northern Namibia and Botswana. A lot of wildlife is located in this area including majestic animals such as the Elephant, Rhino, and Giraffe. Even with the recent increases in temperature, the animal population has slowly been decreasing. Droughts are the leading cause of extinction in this region. The Hwange National Park is already running out of water for its 45,000 Elephants.13 

THe Miombo Woodlands future expectations. Taken from the WWF

All animals have a greater than 80% chance for local extinction, if the planet was to warm 4.5°C by 2080.14  Amphibians will lose 90% of their population. The effects are catastrophic for the animals in Africa. Even with a temperature increase of 2°C, almost 50% of the animal population in this sector will fight for their lives. Both east Africa and the Miombo Woodlands are the most bio-diverse regions in Africa. Global warming is coming at an alarming rate to these regions and the threat of droughts cast a large shadow on the region’s ability to survive the temperature increases.

Earth will see the second largest mass extinction, right after the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, if nothing is done.

Global warming is a severe threat to the biodiversity on Earth. The 3 regions I talked about are only a handful of places that require more water, food, and energy to sustain itself. Climate change impacts nearly every species on Earth. The more severe we let it happen, the greater the extinction percentages. The factor between 1-2 degrees will impact all forms of life. If we do not prevent ourselves from emitting more waste into the fragile ecosystems, Earth will see the second largest mass extinction, right after the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.


Hi! Thanks for reading the this editorial!

I know it has been a long time since I posted, but I should be able to write 2-3 long essays/editorials in the next couple of weeks.

What are your thoughts on global warming? Comment below!

LIKE, SHARE and FOLLOW!

Thanks, Bhavik

Find out what is plaguing the Ontario post-secondary School System in this 4 part series, and how to combat it!


References

  1. World Wildlife Fund
  2. ThoughtCo
  3. Wildlife in a Warming World
  4. Wildlife in a Warming World
  5. Wildlife in a Warming World
  6. Wildlife in a Warming World
  7. Wildlife in a Warming World
  8. Wildlife in a Warming World
  9. Wildlife in a Warming World
  10. Wildlife in a Warming World
  11. Wildlife in a Warming World
  12. Wildlife in a Warming World
  13. Wildlife in a Warming World
  14. Wildlife in a Warming World

Featured Image: amazingpict

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A polar bear in Repulse Bay, Nunavut Territory, Canada.

Image of the food chain

Introduction to the Amazon Rainforest

Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 4

29 August 2018 at 21:29
By: Bhavik

Welcome to part 4 of the four-part series, the last section! The first two parts went into detail about the issues plaguing students. Part 1 focused more on the external issues such as the high price for education, increasing acceptance averages, and the recurring issue of striking staff members. In part 2, mental health was the discussion as statistics proved that anxiety, depression, and stress impact students more than it did in the past. Then in part 3, I discussed solutions to three problems which included a radical plan to decrease the average needed to get into post-secondary school. Finally, in this part, I focus on providing solutions to the increasing pressure coming from home, the need to increase student support, and preventing strikes at Ontario’s universities and colleges. 

Releasing Pressures from Grades and Home

In part 2, 72% of the 72 people who voted in my Instagram poll were pressured to graduate within 2-4 years.1 This information illustrates how society and friends place a great deal of stress on students. They expect students to maintain a high CGPA and graduate within the duration of their program while taking five courses per semester. There is no room to move with this pressure. With these societal pressures, any mistakes are failures and a debt to the student’s reputation. Reducing the pressures fixes the problem above. Students must be stronger to withstand the downfalls within their education.

Image result for home pressure on students

Pressures from home is another factor that impacts a lot of students’ choices on what and where to study. Parents, relatives and extended family pile the stress of wanting their sons or daughters to do well at school. But in 2018, there are many ways to achieve success. There are ways on the internet to achieve that by uploading YouTube videos and using social media. Monetizing has become a trend. Ad revenue can come from any site you create and it is important to understand and know how to use these tools to achieve the goals. It is easier now than ever before to create money. A university or college degree is not the only way to enter a job market. With many online courses, tutorials, and more, the internet is the best way to learn something you are passionate in. Many students are entering university or college to get a piece of paper which they will never need in their lives. It ends up being a way to show family members that they completed undergraduate studies.

Read More: Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 3

To build on this topic, a bachelor degree in any field does not guarantee a job after the student graduates. In 2016, 61.3% of graduates aged 25 to 34 were working in occupations related to their field of study.2 Only 47.6% of students in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program were working in a job related to their studies.3 This shows that despite spending 4 years at a university or 2-3 years at a college, that degree will be useless if the student can’t find a job in the field.

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Overqualification¹ rate among men aged 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education completed, by selected fields of study, Canada, 2016

Overqualification percentages are high in some sectors after receiving a bachelor’s degree. Humanities have the biggest overqualification rate at 31%.4 This might not sound as high but out the 9,820 who graduated with a humanities degree in Ontario alone, 3,044 of them will be over-qualified at work.5  The bachelor degree in this day of age does not guarantee a job in any field despite it being extremely valuable to friends and family.

Increasing Student Support

More needs to be done to support students in a university or college. More than a majority of the 78 voters said there was a shortage of student support at their school.6 One way to fix this is by exposing students to new clubs and activities to further enhance their student life. But with assignments, midterms, and work, many students do not find time to stay at school to take part in these teams. Despite the large number of clubs, turnout during high-stress times is poor. And they will remain poor with the stress of having five courses per semester.

Image result for student support

Students need better mentors and guidance counsellors who can assist them on their journey towards receiving their degree. Due to lack of resources and help offered at leading Canadian universities and colleges, students turn to their friends to find answers to their problems. But this means that at least one student has to suffer from the system to figure out a plan to combat the issue at hand. And with the pressures coming from the 5 courses and work, valuable time disappears as students wait in lines to receive help from professors, TAs, and other staff that might assist students with their studies.

Student support is needed in a time when stress and anxiety are impacting students every day. With wait times being long, students accomplish their work without help and that leads to poor grades which creates more stress. The solution is to provide more opportunities for students to come in to receive help. Longer office hours for professors and TAs is a start. Going to college or university alone does not end well and the more help that is provided, the more likely that the student will benefit.

Striking Staff Members

To reduce the number of strikes by unions, we have to understand why universities and colleges go on strike. In the 2017 college strike, the main reasons for the strike were to demand better job security and academic freedom.7 Colleges wanted more full-time positions. While in 168 day York University strike that just ended, job security was at the forefront of the discussion. In fact, many universities avoided strikes at the beginning of the year. The University of Toronto avoided a strike in November and settled on a deal in February.8 In Ottawa, both the University of Ottawa9 and Carleton University10 reached agreements to prevent strikes. But instead of having a large protest seen by the Ontario colleges, the universities in Ontario all have different unions representing their workers. If one university goes on strike, the rest of them will not. The college system has only one union leading to larger and more devastating strikes.Image result for college strike 2017

Most part-time professors do not have job security and they do not know how many courses they will teach in the semester and therefore how much they will get paid. Also, part-time professors do not have the coverage such as medical insurance and a pension when compared to full-time professors.11 Contracts either only last a year or three years. But after a decade of working as a part-time professor, full-time positions are not being handed out. To fix this issue, universities and colleges will need to create more permanent and well-paid jobs for professors that work there part-time. Otherwise, strikes will continue happening and no progress will be made to reduce the time wasted.

Read More: Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 1

To read more about this issue, The Student Life Network spoke to staff at York University to determine the reasons for the strikes.

Conclusion

Every student who goes to college to university wants to be successful. Every student wants to graduate with a high CGPA, within the duration of their program, impress their family and friends and get a job in their field. But there are obstacles, difficulties, challenges and more that dent that path. Perseverance, grit, and the desire to obtain that degree or diploma is needed to achieve that goal. Through these four parts, statistics showed that there are major issues with the post-secondary system in Ontario. Most of the solutions are funded by money which makes it harder to achieve. Governments might help reduce the cost of tuition and decrease the number of striking staff members, but the brunt of the issues are put on universities and colleges to fix such as the mental health challenge. With jobs increasingly requiring post-secondary education, this generation of students face the biggest financial, mental, and emotional struggle ever witnessed by graduating classes. More needs to be done to provide an education that is appropriate based on the cheques being paid by debt-ridden students in Ontario.


Thank you so much for reading the final instalment of the series. Those who read all the parts, I can’t thank you enough!

I hope you learnt something about the post-secondary system in Ontario. I know I learnt a lot. As a student in the system, I thought that most of these problems only impacted a handful of students but after doing research and looking at statistics, these problems are impacting everyone.

I will definitely be writing more editorials and doing more research on topics. If you have a topic that you want me to write about, please comment below! Now with school starting back, posts will be sparse but I will continue writing.

Likes, comments and follows are always greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reading,

Bhavik

References:

  1. Instagram
  2. Statistics Canada
  3. Statistics Canada
  4. Statistics Canada
  5. CUDO
  6. Instagram
  7. Student Life Network
  8. CBC
  9. CBC
  10. CBC
  11. Ottawa Citizen
  12. Student Life Network

Feature Image is of Ryerson University

Images: Ryerson, Global NewsBrain HQ. Worcester University

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bobb288

Image result for home pressure on students

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Image result for student support

Image result for college strike 2017

Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 3

12 August 2018 at 18:44
By: Bhavik

Welcome to part 3 of the series! In the last two parts, I outlined 6 problems that Ontario has with the post-secondary system. In part 1, I focused on the external issues which included staff strikes, high tuition costs and the steep admission cutoffs. While in part 2, I looked at how anxiety and stress impact students in school. In this part, SOLUTIONS! Yes, solutions to the problems I outlined. I will look at each problem and outline a strategy to solve the dilemma. These are the most realistic ideas I could come up with to solve the issues but they might be not the best solutions. Radical plans and subtle changes need to be done to the system. I will focus on universities more but colleges will also be able to benefit from these changes.

High Tuition Costs

The simplest way to solve this problem is for the government to step in and regulate the costs of the programs. Ontario has contributed to resolving this problem by setting maximum percentage increases to tuition costs. In 2013, the government announced that within the next four years, undergraduate tuition costs can only rise 3% each year.1 But there is more to this problem. Not only are domestic tuition costs rising, but international costs are skyrocketing. In 2014, the total revenue from international students’ fees was 620 million, but that doubled to 1.28 billion, four years later.2 Also, universities and colleges are seeing this as their primary market as the number of foreign students attending a university in Ontario grew 88.5% since 2010.3

The number of foreign students attending a university in Ontario grew 88.5% since 2010

Ontario does not regulate international fees which leads universities to use this market to gain more money. International students are paying $21,559 more annually when compared to a domestic student.4 With universities exploiting this tactic, less space opens up for domestic students as their spots are being filled. So, let Queen’s Park step in to cap increases and stabilise the tuition costs. More regulation for international students is needed. This is the best way to offer a budget-friendly way to receive a degree or diploma. With only certain universities and colleges being private, the government can step in to prevent students from graduating in debt.=

Increasing Averages to Obtain Entry

With averages to receive admission into Ontario’s universities and colleges increasing every year, Ontario needs a plan to make it simple to get in but, competitive enough so that students will survive first year. In part 1, statistics showed that despite the increase in students applying to universities and colleges, the number of enrollments went up a small margin. In 2007, the averages were reasonable to get an acceptance letter. This applies that universities and colleges should increase their amount of students they accept each year to react to the increase in students applying. But this yields a much bigger problem. Campuses have to grow to adhere to the demand. Universities have to install more rooms, lecture halls and seating to withstand the influx of students. This a major downside of this solution as it will be hard to expand campuses.Picture of How to Get Good Grades

Another solution to this problem is by distributing the resources among the universities and colleges in Ontario to make a more diverse landscape for students. This yields a more balanced playing field. The reason top universities and colleges attract more students is due to the state-of-the-art resources and professors they hired. Instead of the best professors working at the top two or three universities, make them work at multiple schools to offer high-quality education at any location. Universities could disperse resources to the remaining schools in Ontario to give a great learning experience. Some universities have certain programs that are exceptional due the resources, faculties, professors and connections it has to the location it is in. Companies favour universities due to the level of education that students receive there. This will allow students to apply to any university and still receive high-quality education when compared to the top schools. This drives down the averages needed to get in as fewer students are targeting one university for one specific program. More students will end up going to their local campus which leads to a drop in applications.

With more students applying to other universities, money flows into these institutions and this leads them to improve their resources and facilities. More companies will be interested in these lower ranked universities and choose graduates from there instead of the top 1% of schools. With more students, resources and better professors, their reputation will rise and they will be able to fund research which puts them on the international map. This will take time, money and a plan to hire professors to teach there. But if this plan can be created and educators can split the influx of students to the 22 universities, then averages needed to get in will decrease and even out at a grade which will be far less than what the system has currently.

Fighting Depression and Anxiety Among Students

In the last post, it was clear that mental health is important in today’s stressful lives. Statistics proved that more students are having to deal with these issues and universities and colleges are not keeping up with the standard to help resolve the problems. They have also spent sparsely in the past few years to help students who are suffering. More needs to be done to combat this issue.Image result for depression

The most important advancement is for schools to educate students on how to deal with depression, anxiety, and stress so they can withstand the impacts that university or college can have on them. Coping techniques are important as it helps reduce the symptoms, and it provides a way to concentrate on other thoughts. Each student is different and have unique ways to resolve the mental obstacles they face.

Next, more needs to done to provide time for each student regardless of their needs. With universities and colleges not increasing their counsellors for listening and helping students, other ways are needed. As mentioned in the last part, there was a 334% increase of phone calls to the helplines among people under 25 since 2010.5 Students are outsourcing their treatment to other places because their schools are not providing tools to help. Most students are paying for counselling in their tuition but they are not aware of the service. The problem is that despite paying for these helpful methods of coping, the students who seek help are waiting too long before they can sit down with a specialist. This is unacceptable when mental health accounts for most of the accommodations at top universities.

Depression, anxiety and other mental health illnesses are important and are a major factor that determines if a student graduates from a post-secondary school. If more help is provided to students, the less they have to suffer alone as they battle through the symptoms.

Students who seek help are waiting too long before they can sit down with a specialist

Conclusion

There are easy ways to fix the post-secondary system and there are hard ways too. Some problems involve a lot of research and planning to make sure that the money is being well spent. While some require a simple plan to prevent those issues from happening again. In this part, I discussed solutions for high tuition costs, escalating grades, and the fight for depression. The escalating entrance marks problem has the most ambitious solution with a goal to distribute resources among institutions. That plan solves many problems but might start more. The depression solution involves money to combat the diseases as it needs more social workers, teachers, and other helpful people to calm students down who are feeling the full force of the mental struggle. Decreasing tuition costs uses the government’s power to standardize the costs to prevent students from graduating with debt. Not all problems are completely solvable and some take time, money, and other ways to impact the system. But the goal is to reduce these problems and prevent them from plaguing Ontario students again.

Again, if you are a student or know someone who is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, anxiety, or any other mental illness, please (please) dial 1-866-925-5454 (Good2Talk) to talk confidentiality to a counselor. For anyone else, dial 1-800-273-9255. International calling lines can be found here.


Thank you so much for reading the newest post in this series. I know it has been a while since I posted but I will be posting the final part in this series next week for sure!

If you have other solutions to these three problems that we face, please drop a comment! It will be nice to see other perspectives on these issues.

Likes, comments and follows are always greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reading,

Bhavik

References:

1 The Globe and Mail

2 CBC

3 CBC

4 Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario

5 The Toronto Star

Featured image is of Queen’s University.

Pictures: Queen’s, Instructables, Diabetes Care Community

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bobb288

Picture of How to Get Good Grades

Image result for depression

Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 2

3 July 2018 at 18:27
By: Bhavik

Welcome to part 2 of the 4-part series. In the last post, I talked about 3 external issues with the post-secondary system in Ontario. That post is here. I focused on the escalating entrance grades, striking staff and increasing tuition costs. In this part, I will focus on 3 internal issues, all pertaining to the pressure-filled environment that university or college is to most students. Like last time, I will include all my resources at the bottom of the post.

Before I begin, I want to thank Alanis Picardo for giving me these three ideas to write about! There would be only 3 parts to this series without her suggestions!

To remind you of the universities and colleges I will be focusing on:

  • The University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Western University, Queen’s University and York University
  • Centennial College, Humber College, George Brown College, Seneca College and Sheridan College

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY AMONG STUDENTS

Depression and anxiety are not unusual in the education field, but rising rates are worrying many thousands of professionals. These are the two most used words when defining a mental disorder and most readers will mix them up. Depression is defined by, “Feelings of severe despondency and dejection.1 The feeling of having no hope, courage and in low spirits. Whereas anxiety is, “A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.2” The fear of the future. Both relating to mental health but two completely different symptoms.

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In 2016, 1 in 5 teens aged 13-18 had considered suicide and 44% of them had a specific plan on how to commit the act3. These teenagers are coming into the pressure-filled environment that university or college is with these suicidal thoughts and actions. As they face new problems such as falling grades, deadlines and more, these teenagers are ‘putting themselves down’ and adding insult to injury. Without having any coping mechanisms which work, the college environment can turn sour quickly. In a 2016 survey that questioned 25,000 Ontario students in college and university, students blamed stress 42.9% of the time for lower grades4. That was the number one reason for poor academic results. The number two most blamed topic was anxiety at 33.9%. Sleep difficulties (28.8%) and depression (21.9%) were the third and fourth factors5. Students blamed a mental concern 98% of the time when receiving poor grades. Prevention of these factors will lead to a higher academic performance. Continuing with the survey, 61% of students felt ‘hopeless’ and 46% was depressed6. Anxiety impacted 65.4% of the 25,000 students or 16,000 students.

As the statistics keep flowing, the more severe this issue becomes. With OUCHA survey being two years ago, the numbers would have gone up. From 2013 to 2016, the number of students being overwhelmed with anxiety rose 8% from 57% to 65%7. Extrapolating that data to 2019 yields that 3 out of 4 students in Ontario will have severe anxiety. A large ratio that does not seem correct. No matter where you look, students are becoming more uneasy about going to school.

1 in 5 teens consider suicide

In part 1, statistics showed that the number of students entering university or college grew in the last 10 years. With these escalating numbers of enrollments, more students are experiencing these symptoms. More parents, teachers, professors and even peers are pressured to help in any way they can to boost the positive energy within each student. With the Ontario health care system not covering the costs of a counsellor, a psychologist or a therapist, parents must spend money on the well being of their children. These costs, on top of tuition, creates a much bigger problem among students. Thousands of students are feeling the full force of these mental syndromes and it is a major issue that is impacting the post-secondary life not only in Ontario.

PRESSURE FROM GRADES, GRADUATING AND HOME

Another factor that is adding the issues with the post-secondary system in Ontario is students are feeling more pressured than ever to maintain a high CGPA and graduate within the length specified by their program. There was a 33% increase among students in two types of perfectionism8. ‘Self-oriented’ (high expectations of yourself) and ‘other-orientated’ (high expectations for others). More students are feeling more conscious about themselves among their family and friends. Social media is a major factor to this increase as more students compare themselves to others online. This creates stress and anxiety.

16% of teenagers will not talk about suicidal thoughts because they are worried about how their parents will react

Graduating within the time specified on your program adds to the pressures that come with school. In the Instagram poll which I conducted, 72% of the 72 people who voted are pressured to graduate within 2-4 years9. This ties back to the perfectionism increase. Undergraduate students expect more from themselves and graduating within the length of their program builds confidence in themselves. But with that comes five courses per semester, with no time to waste. With the stress of endless deadlines and tests, students buckle underneath the weight of graduating within the dates stated. In fact, 89% of students in Ontario’s post-secondary system are feeling overwhelmed at the amount of work is being handed to them10. On top of those deadlines, grades impact the confidence of the student. One poor grade in a midterm or exam will dent the goals that the student put out. Strong academic results come from being confident11. The more family and friends focus on the weaknesses of the student, the lower the performance will be.

Another pressure that is placed on students comes from home. Students want to prevail at the tasks given to them by their parents. But this harms students in ways not known to parents. 16% of teenagers will not talk about suicidal thoughts because they are worried about how their parents will react12. They do not want their family to interfere with mental health. “Are parents being too hard on their kids.” No, they are not. But parents are focused on making their children succeed without knowing about different pathways to achieve that success. The more parents push their teenagers on a path they think will make them succeed, the more pressure the kids face. This yields teenagers to be perfect in whatever they do so they can avoid failure and disappointment at home.

Calls from students under 25 to a mental health hotline rose 334% since 2010

Ontario students are not the only students who have to deal with being perfect. This is an underlying problem that targets students at the core. With the stress from home, friends, school and work, students are seeking medical help to deal with the pressure and stress that comes from receiving an education.

THE LACK OF STUDENT SUPPORT AND RESOURCES

Student support is becoming important as more students feel more stressed, pressured and anxious than ever before. In 2017, 10% of 17,000 students in Canada rated their school’s mental health services as poor or horrible13. Since then, schools invested more in councillors and other specialists to help students. But it is not enough. Within the past 5 years, only one college increased their mental health budget out of 15 universities and colleges14. Phone calls from students under 25 to the mental health hotline rose 334% since 201015. As more students face the problems, the more they need support from their schools.

With these added students needing support from their school, universities and colleges try to expand their therapy times to accommodate everyone. The number of appointments made for counselling increased by 35% with the biggest jump happening at Georgian College where it rose 211% in three years16. But at Canada’s number one ranked university (U of T), wait times to see specialists are long. Mental illness conditions now account for 56% of all accommodations at the University of Toronto17. Many students instead look outside of their school to receive the health they need. But as mentioned above, the Ontario health care services does not cover the cost of treatment. This often leads students into a difficult choice to either reduce the coursework until the illness is treated or pay more money to get treated quickly.

A student tries to make sense of the immense amount of studying ahead of her. Increased workloads and higher expectations will lead to intolerable amounts of academic pressure at Sunset and schools all over the world.

In the Instagram poll, 64% of the 78 voters responded by saying that there is a shortage at their school for financial, educational, mental, and physical problems. Furthermore, 58% of the 76 voters said there was a lack of student support18. Not only is mental health issues escalating, but original problems such as financial support is not being fixed. Student support is needed in a time when mental health is the top talking point at Ontario’s post-secondary schools.

CONCLUSION

Stress, anxiety and depression are increasing not only with students but within our society. Students are feeling most of these forces as they battle through receiving their degrees or diplomas. With universities realizing this threat late, many students are dropping out of school or reducing their workload to handle the symptoms. But by doing so, they are disappointing their parents and families. In the world of social media, perfection is on the rise and the younger generation are not coping with poor academic averages. As this trend continues, the burden of any failures leaves a dent in the goals that the student wished to achieve. This leads to anxiety and depression and maybe the worst outcome, suicide. This not an Ontario only problem but something that is impacting the entire world. Without the student support and counselling, this threat can multiply.

Before I leave, if you are a student or know someone who is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, anxiety, or any other mental illness, please (please) dial 1-866-925-5454 (Good2Talk) to talk confidentially to a counsolor. For anybody else, dial 1-800-273-9255 (National Suicidal Prevention).


Thank you so much for reading part 2 of the 4 part series! This one focused more on the mental side of the students. I know I learnt a lot from the research.

Part 3 will be out next week and it will focus on what these issues mean for Ontario as a whole.

Please follow, like and share!

Bhavik

REFERENCES

  1. Google Dictionary
  2. Google Dictionary
  3. Kid’s Help Phone
  4. OUCHA
  5. OUCHA
  6. OUCHA
  7. CBC
  8. Global News
  9. Instagram Story
  10. OUCHA
  11. American Society for Horticultural Science
  12. Kid’s Help Phone
  13. MacLean’s
  14. The Toronto Star
  15. The Toronto Star
  16. The Toronto Star
  17. The Toronto Star
  18. Instagram Story

The featured picture is of Western University

Images: Western University, Invil, The Scroll

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bobb288

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A student tries to make sense of the immense amount of studying ahead of her. Increased workloads and higher expectations will lead to intolerable amounts of academic pressure at Sunset and schools all over the world.

Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System Is Broken, Part 1

6 June 2018 at 14:03
By: Bhavik

The Canadian university system is a mess. Grades are ballooning out of control. Staff are striking and students are feeling more pressured than ever before to achieve heights they never thought they’ll need. The system is flawed and at the center, the students are feeling the full force. In this four-part editorial, I will break down 6 problems students face in Ontario. Three in part 1 and three in part 2. In part 3, I will outline what this means for the population and Ontario as a whole. Then in part 4, I will give solutions to all the problems I listed. These posts will be filled with research to outline the negatives with the system. References are at the bottom of the post. Also, this will be more focused on the universities rather than the colleges but I will include college statistics as well. Before I begin, notice I said Ontario and not Canada as Ontario students pay $2,000 more for tuition when compared to the Canadian average1.

In these posts, I will be focusing on Ontario’s top 5 colleges and universities. The top 5 universities are:

  • The University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Western University, Queen’s University and York University

The top 5 colleges are:

  • Centennial College, Humber College, George Brown College, Seneca College and Sheridan College.

Acceptance Marks are Increasing

The entrance marks to be accepted into a college is ridiculous. The percentages required to get accepted into your program are increasing and more elite universities such as the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and other prestigious institutions have minimum cutoffs in the high 90s. Students in grade 11 and 12 need close to 100% averages in the final two years of high school to be admitted.

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With the course requirements different for each program, challenging courses might dent the average that the student was hoping for. Not only are the students affected by these escalating grades but teachers are being more pressured to maintain a high standing within the classroom and deliver quality education regardless of the pressure of the students. It is a common theme now for the students to ask their teachers for a slight increase in their grade for a specific course as it may be the deciding factor when getting admitted. In 2013, the average percentage to get into a university in Canada was an 85%2. Since then, the average kept increasing as it reaches the 90% mark. When applying to the top 5 universities, 41% of all students who applied to the science field in 2016 had a 90+ average3. 30% of students got an 85% to 89% average4. So, 71% of all students received an 85+ average in 2016. When compared to 2006 data, only 35% of students possessed a 90+ average and 31% of students had an 85-89 average, with York University having no data6. That is 66% of students with 85+ averages. Students are getting smarter but also working harder to keep the high averages that are needed to obtain entry into their program.

But why are the averages getting harder? After looking at the data of the number of applicants applying the various fields, there has been an increase in students applying to university. Comparing 2007 to 2017 data, there was an increase of 12,439 students applying to the science field and an increase of 9,059 students applying to the engineering faculties7. Business and commerce also increased by 2,672 students8. The only few areas where the number of applicants decreased was in arts, education, journalism and environmental studies with arts losing the most at 3,284 students9. When comparing registered applicants (applicants who were accepted) in the 10 years, science grew the most at 7,811 students while engineering and commerce both accepted 2,500 students more10. Arts fell by 820 students. In 2016, universities admitted about 65% of applicants to the science faculty. That number drops to 49% for engineering and 53% for commerce11.

But there is more. Most universities require you to complete a secondary application to outline all the hands-on experiences you obtained. They include long and short written questions, essays and sometimes video interviews. Some require a resume and reference letters to validate the information. This sometimes, depending on the university, is more important than grades. But these secondary applications interfere with the work in grade 12. Students are trying to obtain a high average while completing their supplementary applications. Another factor to add to the competition.

There are many factors that lead to this grade increase. More students are applying to more competitive fields, they are getting higher averages and universities seem to not have the resources available to handle the flux of students entering post-secondary education. On top of marks, there are other additional pressures such as extra-circulars and volunteering duties that students need to consider as they try to achieve acceptance into their program.

Striking Staff

Striking staff members is another problem that is impacting the student population. Universities and colleges in the Greater Toronto Area were or are on strike for the semester. Last year, the Ontario Colleges went on strike, stalling thousands of students from reviving their diploma or degree. This year, the university’s teaching assistants and staff walked out putting degrees in danger. York University had four strikes since 200012, with the longest being the current one that is happening now. Currently in its 15th week, (105+ days), this strike has no ending in sight.

For The Globe and Mail

In my Instagram poll, 34% of the 76 people who voted were impacted by a strike during their time at a post-secondary school13. This might not sound as much but as students, we shouldn’t worry about when our professors or teaching assistants will walk out to demand better pay. The college strike impacted 500,000 students last year14. The York University strike has impacted 50,000 students15. Strikes impacted 550,000 in the past year. Not only was time and money wasted but graduations were delayed and job opportunities were lost. Post-secondary institutions should not be going on strike as it impacts thousands of students’ futures.

Tuition Costs

This section can be broken down into smaller sectors such as the tuition, books, rent or transportation, and food. The average for a post-secondary student in Canada, living at home is $9,300 and in residence, it nears the $20,000 mark16. The average tuition costs increased 3.1% from last year17. This led Canada’s average to be $6,57118. In my Instagram poll, I asked, “Do you pay too much for tuition?” 82% of the 90 voters said yes. To follow up, I asked, “Do you think your tuition money is being well spent at your university or college?” 72% of the 86 voters said no19. Despite paying so much for education in Ontario, students still feel that their institution is not improving their standards.

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In a 2017 poll, 77% of students regretted their debt from school20. 67% of graduates had college debt and the average student debt for Canada was $22,08421. Only 33% of students were debt free after graduating. This, unlike the United States where the average nears the $40,000 range22, is unacceptable for students trying to receive an education. From 2006 to 2016, the tuition fees rose 40% in Canada23. Students are investing more time into their jobs to pay off their fees rather than focusing on their studies.

Now onto residence costs. Both colleges and universities offer places to stay for the 8 months and meal plans can be added. At the university level, most schools sell their residence options at around $8000-$9000. York University is the cheapest at the $5,00024 while Queen’s University students pay about $13,00025. Meal plans cost $2,000 at most places. Meanwhile, the colleges average out to be $7,000-$8,000. Seneca College has the cheapest residence costs at $6,00026.

Moving on, transportation costs have been increasing each year. This means that students must fund transportation costs such as public transit or their own car which includes insurance, gas and the occasional maintenance. Universities include the cost of a transit pass for the city they are situated in and it is cheaper than purchasing one individually. This helps a lot with getting to campus every day.

On top of tuition fees, there are plenty of other ways for students to fall into debt. With transportation, housing, books, materials and more, the money adds up.

Conclusion

With acceptance marks and tuition prices increasing every year, students in Ontario’s post-secondary system are regretting choosing a path after high school. Yearly strikes is another issue that has to be dealt with. But these are only a few of many problems we face when pursuing an education for the future.


That’s part one done. What are your thoughts on the issues? Do you feel that students should stand up to the universities and colleges to demand more? Comment below!

Part 2 will be released a week from now. Part 1 focused more on the external issues with the system. In next week’s post, I will focus more on the student pressures and workload within their school.

Likes, comments and follows are always greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reading,

Bhavik

References:

1 Statistics Canada

2 Macleans

3 Common University Data Ontario

4 Common University Data Ontario

5 Common University Data Ontario

6 Common University Data Ontario

7 Council Of Ontario Universities

8 Council Of Ontario Universities

9 Council Of Ontario Universities

10 Council Of Ontario Universities

11 Council Of Ontario Universities

12 Macleans

13 Instagram Story

14 CBC

15 The Toronto Star

16 Macleans

17 Statistics Canada

18 Statistics Canada

19 Instagram Story

20 Global News

21 Global News

22 Student Loan Hero

23 Global News

24 York University

25 Queen’s University

26 Seneca College

Images:

NSN Canada, Piques, Globe and Mail, Kiplinger

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bobb288

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

For The Globe and Mail

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A Picture With A Story, Part 7: The Scarbrough Bluffs

3 June 2018 at 21:06
By: Bhavik

Part 7 is finally here and it is on the Scarbrough Bluffs. Basically, a tall cliff that overlooks Lake Ontario. The picture isn’t the greatest but it does illustrate scene at the top. I have included numerous pictures to detail the scene. I hope you like it!

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The TTC subway car chimes as it gently closes the door to the station. It accelerates abruptly as it hops station to station. 30 stops later, the doors open to Kennedy in Scarborough, Ontario. A short while later, we are walking a 2 km hilly road heading to a picnic site. The light blue lake water sparkles from the bright star.

IMG_20170723_143346The crashing waves in front allow the surfers to ride the average height tides. The warm sand below our feet makes its way into our running shoes. A quick glance back introduces us to an extensive wall that looms above the sandy beach. Brown rocks rise up to a height of 90 metres (300 ft). As the beachgoers enjoy the warm, sandy floor, a large, dark nimbostratus cloud forms above, making the water a light shade of grey. A slight drizzle commences leading to people gather up their belongings and head towards massive umbrellas that are tightly implanted into the ground. We take a seat and tune into crashing waves in front of us.

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Greg’s Flickr 

After a couple of hours, we follow shore to into a swampy region that engulfs the lengthy grassroots and comprises numerous private beach areas. One small opening invites us to fling tiny pebbles towards the body of water. The rock bounces on the water like a child on a trampoline. It isn’t that high. Onwards we trek until we arrive at a wooded region that contains mud traps from last night’s rainstorm. We walk back again across the arenaceous shore towards the route that will lead us up to the top of the cliff. The windy road returns but this time, the walk is different. It is all uphill. At the top, we are greeted with numerous small motels and stores that allow tourists to stay for the night. IMG_20170723_163639.jpgA colourful sign advertises a motel that contains coloured television. A right turn leads us to a small, bungalow style house neighbourhood. The entrance to the bluffs.

At last, we reach it. The top of the Scarborough Bluffs. A quick look towards the park makes you think that the sky is lower than the horizon. But, then you notice the blue lake water giving that effect. The waves, the tourists, and the umbrellas look like Lego pieces that are moving. 20170723_172900The only aspect that looks the largest is the lake. The overcast sky makes the lake a murky blue. It is boundless. One vast sheet of water. Trees sway calmly as the cool breeze blows. Large red warning signs are planted all around proclaiming the risk of a potential landslide. The air is fresh and clean up here with a slight smell of precipitation. Overcast skies create a dark and tranquil atmosphere overlooking the lake.

 


Thank you so much for reading the post! I never posted last week because I didn’t have many ideas to write about but after a week of researching, I started to form better ideas. This blog might start getting a flair for tech stories but I will definitely continue these types of posts! I also have a couple of opinion/editorial ideas which I will be posting. They will be controversial but that adds to more discussion!

If you haven’t read any of my other Pictures with a Story posts, then you can find all of them at this link!

Have you visited the Scarborough Bluffs before? Comment below!

Lastly, thank you to Wibble for sharing my post on Google Duplex and writing a great article about the new technology! I will definitely recommend you read it if you want to learn more about Google’s telephone service!

Bhavik 🙂

bobb288

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Google Duplex: Is Google Taking It Too Far?

13 May 2018 at 19:07
By: Bhavik

When Google showed the world two demos at Google I/O 2018, the world was stunned. When I watched it live, I thought it was an April fools prank that came a month late. If you haven’t watched the video, I linked it below. You will probably need to watch it to understand the rest of the blog post. It’s only 4 minutes.

In the first video, the assistant was easily able to converse with the receptionist to book a haircut at 10am. In the second video, the assistant was able to understand the accent of the restaurant receptionist and was able to determine that the restaurant does not take reservations for four people.

Why this is Revolutionary

After the first demo, Sundar Pichai (The CEO of Google) listed machine learning, natural language understanding, deep learning and text to speech as the key technologies that were able to create this type of artificial intelligence. So basically, Google had to incorporate almost all of its breakthroughs to make this happen. We have seen or used the Google Assistant, Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa to get detailed and focused answers back from our question. Since then, we have established that it doesn’t output any human sounds while it talks. Sounds like “Um” or “Mm-hmm”. But what makes these two demos quite outstanding is that it included these sounds. It also included an increase in pitch when it is asking a question, to make it sound more human. Not once did the receptionist question the authenticity of the caller. It sounded real. It sounded like an exact conversation that two people will have when booking a hair appointment. Google trained their machine learning and artificial intelligence software to handle all types of people and possibilities of where the conversation might head.

acastro_180510_1777_google_assistant_0003.0[1]The Controversy

Despite all of the positive responses it received, Google’s latest ambitious project sparked a lot of doubts and controversy, especially when ethics are concerned. Should we be knowing when the Google Assistant is calling? Should we react differently to these types of technologies? Is this taking A.I too far? (Also if you haven’t read my artificial intelligence post, you can read it here). All of these are valid questions and we have the right to ask them. But if we expect to have these types of technologies rolling out soon, why do we overreact and prevent ourselves from appreciating these types of advancements, especially when it is related to an artificial intelligence? Google Duplex is one of these breakthroughs in the technology ecosystem. We want it in our lives but we do not know how to accept it and use it for our well being without it going out of control.

Another question which I mentioned above is, “Should we know if Google Assistant is calling.” My answer is no. There are two reasons.

First, when talking to an assistant, we tend to talk with statements rather than questions especially when wanting to know something specific. An example of this is when I say to Google Home, “Weather,” rather than asking, “What is the weather?” Another example is when I ask it to check a flight time. I tend to say the airline and the flight number rather than asking “What is the status of this flight,” We assume that if we are more direct with the question, it will have a better chance of understanding us. So if the Google Assistant was to tell the recipient that it is the Google Assistant calling, the conversation will sound more direct as the human on the other side will try to speak in a way so that the assistant can understand them. Google does not want that. We don’t want to speak like that either. 

Secondly, would you continue listening to a phone call if the first thing that the caller says is, “Hi, this is the Google Assistant calling”? Probably not. I would assume that it is a robot trying to sell me something rather than trying to reserve a table for the night. So unless Google is planning to tell every business that their robot might call, more people will hang up rather than trying to hear out the rest of the sentence.

If we expect to have these types of technologies rolling out soon, why do we overreact and prevent ourselves from appreciating these types of advancements, especially when it is related to an artificial intelligence?

Conclusion

We reached a point when Google can make a phone call for you. That sounds small but in next year’s developer conference, what is the next command? Will it be, “Hey Google, drive me to work,” or, “Hey Google, manage my bank transactions?” The possibilities are endless. At what point in the future is the Google Assistant talking to itself? In that case, will the phone call be dead? Most people think that an A.I is a supercomputer that is hidden away in a basement of a large building. They forget that it can be as simple as talking to a small, puck-sized object which blends into your household.


What are your thoughts about Google’s new feature? Do you like it? Do you find it scary? Will you use it? Comment below!

Thanks once again for reading the post! Don’t worry, I will post a more creative post soon!

Bhavik 🙂


Pictures: AlphrThe VergeDesignboom,

 

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Why You Should Care About Cambridge Analytica

29 April 2018 at 18:48
By: Bhavik

Cambridge Analytica. You might have heard of them recently as more details emerge about their involvement in elections all around the world. A big data company that crunches numbers and figures to help and persuade voters that their candidate is the right person for the job. But are they really persuading or are they manipulating users to vote for their candidate?

Background

In the 2016 US elections, where Donald Trump upset Hilary Clinton, Cambridge Analytica played a massive part in cementing the result for the Republicans. As new reports start to surface, the company could have influenced over 230 million Americans during the time before the elections on November 8th, 2016. Over 50 million Facebook accounts were gathered and were used to target American voters to alter the outcome of the election.  Not only did they meddle with the US elections but they also might have altered the outcome of Brexit and other major elections all around the world. I posted the Channel 4 undercover story below if you’re interested in the entire investigation. It is quite frightening to watch.

How Does This Work?

Cambridge Analytica starts off by asking you to fill out a survey for a dollar or two. They download all your data on Facebook which includes your likes, comments, posts and they use this to make an accurate outline of you. Then they place you into a psychological group of people that have the same qualities and interests. Using their algorithms, they can identify the key topics that you care about the most. That could include the environment or the economy. Your Facebook feed fills up with incorrect information (fake news) about the major topics you care about the most.

You assume that this information is true. If you were a Hillary Clinton supporter, you would have started to see inaccurate information about her and you will start realizing what she would do to the key topics that influence you the most. Your eyes shift to Donald Trump and the policies he has entices you. This is just using the American elections as a backdrop but this template could be used in every election all around the world. Take Brexit, Cambridge Analytica might spam you with information that undermines your trust in the E.U and you decide to vote no.

When someone tells you that an election was meddled with, you might think that there were errors in counting, or ballots being printed incorrectly. No one would think that your liked pages on Facebook could influence such a major world event.

What Does This Have To Do With the Elections?

When the final votes were counted in the 2016 Elections, Donald Trump did not win the popular vote. Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes than him but still managed to lose. That shows how important Cambridge Analytica was to the Donald Trump campaign. They targetted the correct number of voters in the swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They did their job perfectly and deceived Americans at all levels. Cambridge Analytica ran media ads targetting Hillary Clinton and chose the perfect wording which changed the mindset of millions of Americans and that lead to the Donald Trump presidency.

Finally, Why Would You Care About This?

This is a major issue that transcends in all forefronts of civilized countries. The impact this can have is massive. This development shows us how in the era of big data, companies can manipulate you to think in a certain way. Careers of the most important people on this planet, ones that took years and years to build, can be demolished in a couple of hours. In the age of social media, any controversy against a company or person spreads all around the world and tarnishes the reputation that they built up. Fake news can cause havoc in our world, especially when regarding major positions such a president. Any news story that you might read and disagree with becomes fake news. When someone tells you that an election was meddled with, you might think that there were errors in counting, or ballots being printed incorrectly. No one would think that your liked pages on Facebook could influence such a major election.


I hope you enjoyed reading the piece on Cambridge Analytica!

Are you concerned about the future too? Comment below on your thoughts on this topic and if it scares you.

I haven’t posted in around two months but because my school has just finished, I am hoping to publish a post every second week (hopefully). I started to gather topics to write about and if you have any topics that you would like to read, feel free to comment below on your idea!

-Bhavik

The video is below:


Picture: Stabroek News

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared of an AI

23 February 2018 at 19:07
By: Bhavik

AI, you know. Artificial intelligence. The mysterious mankind killing force that will rule our lives in the future. It plans to kill millions of jobs, leaving millions unemployed. It is meant to carry out the next world war, one that will be fully fought by robots programmed by themselves. It is meant to ‘go rogue’ and attack the human population until it achieves its goal. You must have heard a lot of these stories. These negatively portraying topics that tarnish the reputation of an artificial intelligence.

But is it going to happen? Are we going to surrender, raise the white flag to a computer made by us, no matter its size? Possibly. There is a lot of hate against this science. A lot of uncertainties. Such as, do computers have morals, like (some) humans? Do computers have common sense or do they have some form of ethics? Can they differentiate right and wrong, positive and negative? Are we totally sure that the next AI-powered war vehicle won’t turn against humans? A lot of questions still linger on with this discussion.

Do computers have common sense and do they have some form of ethics?

But there are much brighter aspects of this largely criticized topic. Most of you have not realized it by now, but AI is already built around you today. From Apple’s Siri to Google’s smart speaker. From your web browser to your car. From searching for pictures on the internet to fighting terrorism, AI technology is being used to positively impact your life, to make it easier for you to achieve your goals, every day.

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There are some terms to define before I continue onwards. Weak AI is the term used to describe a machine that doesn’t have any self-awareness and is very narrow-minded. Examples would be the Google Home or the Apple Homepod. A strong AI is a computer that has a mind. It has free will and conscience, to the point that it is almost exactly like a human. The movies or TV shows that have some kind of AI is usually based on a strong AI. It can conduct research by itself, one that can grow by itself. This is the machine that everyone fears. Finally, an artificial superintelligence (ASI) is an AI that is far more superior than a human, a machine that can complete problems exponentially faster and the ability to grow to a point where it can control a lot of things by itself. Of course, an ASI will need to have the features that any strong AI will have.

Many large business owners and scientists such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking all are sceptical about AI. They warn us that we have to have total control of any machine we make that will inherit the strong AI characteristics. We should be able to ground an ASI before it takes over the human population. Yet, everyone wants to build one. Every company wants to be the leading force in AI research. This is the future.

Wiki-backgroundBut nobody has been able to create a machine that has a strong AI. So you might be asking why should we continue working on one, why should we invest in building a machine that has free will and conscience? If we can control the machine then the possibilities are endless with the stuff we can do with it. The medical enhancements and breakthroughs we can accomplish might do the opposite, save the human race from extinction. There are no boundaries with an ASI.

So do the pros outweigh the cons? Sure they do but can we control the beast? That is the challenge. Otherwise, the end of humanity is closer than you think. Are you up for the challenge?


Thank you so much for reading this post! What are your thoughts on the emergence of an ASI or even a strong AI? Comment below!

Wait before you leave, I have been experimenting and thinking about ways in which I can influence your understanding of gadgets, software and other important devices we use every day. So I decided to create another site where I write honest, consumer level reviews on devices such as smartphones, game consoles and other cool stuff! You can read this post to learn more about why I decided to open it up. I named it Bob’s Tech Support. Quite funny if you ask me. So if you are following this blog, and want to click another follow button, please go support me on my new site! Don’t worry, the creative, interesting stories I post here will not disappear and I will not prioritize that site over this one (unless it grows exponentially). There are currently three posts on there with more coming soon. Thank you to everyone who clicks that link and follows my other site!

Bhavik 🙂


Images are from gsfdcy.com and robotics.wikia.com

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