To Have ENG4U or Not to Have?

“Literacy is about more than reading or writing – it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language, and culture” (UNESCO, Statement for the United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003-2012)

Students working together studying English

Most universities in Canada require ENG 4U as a pre-requisite for enrolment. Although there are some exceptions, it is highly recommended for most programs. In my opinion, all students should have to take ENG 4U to get into any university program. As the above quotation states, “literacy is so much more than just reading and writing.”

Most kids my age tend to think English is just about Shakespeare, poetry and essays, but English is so much more! Students need to look beyond the literature they study for that is simply the vehicle. In English students learn critical thinking skills, reading for understanding, the ability to synthesize and respond/communicate orally and written, and understand how to interpret media- biases.

Having ENG 4U is a MUST to get into university programs as it will not only benefit Canadian students, but also International students. With the number of International students enrolling in Canadian universities, it is imperative they have literacy skills in the English language. As an example, Mother Teresa Catholic High school here in London now enrols International students. The school works closely with Western University and King’s College in the hopes of graduating these students and sending them off to these post secondary establishments. ENG 4U will help these students as well as all students learn important skills that will help them succeed at any university.

“Language is the basis for thinking, communicating, learning, and viewing the world. Students need language skills in order to comprehend ideas and information, to interact socially, to inquire into areas of interest and study, and to express themselves clearly and demonstrate their learning. Learning to communicate with clarity and precision will help students to thrive in the world beyond school” ( Ontario Ministry of Education, 4). English is the dominant business language and it has become almost a necessity for people to speak English if they are to enter and succeed in the global workforce.

English is the base of all learning. We learn how to use proper grammar, how to format sentences, structure a paragraph, build an essay and use MLA format.  These are skills that are used in all programs in university and students must learn how to use them properly to succeed.

After all is said and done, ENG 4U is about creating successful language learners that “use language to interact and connect with individuals and communities for personal growth and for active participation as world citizens” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 5).

Works Cited

Date Accessed: July 5, 2017


Serial: Guilty or Not?

serial-2The hit podcast series Serial, by crime reporter Sarah Koenig, has become quite popular again, not because of its interesting plot and the fact that it is a true story, but because Syed Adnan, the subject of the Serial podcast, has been granted a retrial. Over 80 million viewers have been drawn to this podcast “prob[ing] the details of Lee’s murder, the investigation, evidence, witness statements and the trial in a quest to see if, in fact, justice was done”(Finn). And the question still remains: Is Adnan guilty or not?

Eighteen years ago, Syed Adnan, just a teen, was found guilty for the murder of his ex-girl friend, Hae Min Lee, but after listening to the Serial podcast and hearing all the information gathered by Koenig, along with more of my own research, I along with millions of others believe Adnan is innocent.

The most compelling argument for Syed’s retrial that leads me to believe he is innocent comes down to his former lawyer not doing her job to defend her client. “His new defense team argued again that he’d been a victim of faulty counsel the first time around, Gutierrez not only having failed to call a possibly key alibi witness but also failing to properly question the prosecution’s expert about data gleaned from cell phone towers that claimed to pinpoint where Adnan was when Hae was killed” (Finn).

Adnan’s Lawyer Cristina Gutierrez

Baltimore Judge Martin Welch explained that the court found Gutierrez’s trial performance “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment” (Staff THR) because she failed to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert. How is it that a defense lawyer in a criminal trial is that inept at cross-examination? Surely Gutierrez believed her client deserved a fair trial as the old saying goes, innocent until proven guilty, otherwise why bother taking the case? Money? Fame? Both reasons fall short for at the time the case was going on, there was no local press coverage. It was, however, brought to the court’s attention by Syed’s new attorney, Justin Brown that Gutierrez was having all sorts of personal problems: “her health was failing, her family was in turmoil. What was happening at her business, it was becoming unwound” (Harrison). Obviously, Gutierrez was so pre-occupied, she couldn’t possibly give 100% to Syed and the trial. This leaves reasonable doubt in my mind.

 A different angle that I have taken when viewing Syed’s innocence stems from my tendency to look for the best in people. In the Serial podcast, Syed is charming, believable – in fact he is so believable it is impossible to see him as cold-blooded murderer: “He was an honor roll student, volunteer EMT. He was on the football team. He was a star runner on the track team. He was the homecoming king. He led prayers at the mosque. Everybody knew Adnan to be somebody who was going to do something really big” (Rabia Chaudry).

Adnan in his football uniform

I am not naïve in thinking that good people can’t do bad things, but after hearing what Adnan’s family and friends had to say about him, it is hard for me to label Adnan as a murderer. A person’s character says a lot about that person as a human being and Syed, in my eyes, is a role model for all. He is the type of person who thinks about others first like when he says, “he wished he had committed the crime because it would be easier for his parents to cope with having lost him for a reason” (Haynes). The pathos I feel for Syed is real, and I truly believe he got screwed.

Lastly, there is Adan’s friend Jay, who was very involved in the case. Jay said that Adnan had shown Jay the body and had taken Jay with him when he went to bury it. But as told by the narrator of Serial, “Koenig would raise the question of why Adnan, who at the end of the day didn’t seem that close to Jay, would have enlisted him to help bury a body. She also spent a lot of time talking about the inconsistencies in Jay’s story between various interviews with detectives and his grand jury testimony” (Finn).

Adnan’s friend Jay

Jay’s story was never the same, which raises the question, was Jay lying? The suspicious stories from Jay lead me to believe he is lying, and Adnan once again is NOT guilty.

After listening to Serial and reading the statements from Adnan’s current lawyers, his family, friends (some of whom I feel threw him under the bus for no reason), and Adnan himself, there is ample evidence showing a reasonable doubt. I along with others are happy that Syed Adnan is getting a new and hopefully fair trial in hopes of celebrating in the future his new found freedom.

Works Cited

 Finn, Natalie. “Everything You Need to Know About the Adnan Syed Murder Case.” E!                  Online. E! News, 07 June 2017. Web. 27 July 2017.                                                                           <                    know-about-the-adnan-syed-murder-case>.

 Harrison, Lily. “Serial’s Adnan Syed Granted New Trial.” E! News. E! News, 30 June 2016.             Web. 27 July 2017. <                granted-new-trial>.

            Haynes, Natalie. “My highlight: Serial.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 05 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 July 2017. <;.

“Serial Podcast – Episode 1: The Alibi.” Genius. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2017.                                      <;.

Staff, THR. “How ‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed Received a New Trial.” The Hollywood                    Reporter. N.p., 01 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2017.                                                                             <                  sarah-koenig-907974>.

Serial: A Podcast

The term “podcast” is not new to me, but I’ve never really listened to a “podcast” before, especially a non-fiction crime story, as I tend to lean more toward television shows or movies. I did find, however, that I really enjoyed listening to the podcast “Serial” hosted by Sarah Koenig covering the genre of investigating journalism. I love unsolved mysteries and crimes and although this one was solved, I feel that this case has the ability to be reopened. The thing that drew me in the most was the fact that it is a true story and that it is about high school students. Thinking that a tragedy like this happened to people my age gives me chills.


Presenting investigating journalism in a podcast format is interesting. It leaves less room for bias because the viewer can’t see the real people, they can only hear them. By leaving out facial expressions, body language, etc., it allows for the listener to create his/her own mental picture of the people involved and the situation at hand. I like the idea of only being able to hear it. The narrator’s words partnered with the listener’s imagination help paint a unique picture of the people involved, as well as allowing the story to take on more of a personal meaning.

I must admit though that I miss seeing the reactions of people when questioned, and their body language when telling their side of a story. It often gives me insight to who they are and whether they are hiding something or not telling the whole story. I seem to make better connections with people or get a good “read” on someone when I can not only hear them but see them too.

“Serial” has become a very popular podcast over the years, based on a true story. All the characters and voices heard on the podcast are real. I wonder what the families are feeling now after listening to this podcast and having it blow up so big? The families must feel a lot of mixed emotions to this popular podcast. If I were the parent whose son was convicted of murder at age 17, I would probably feel betrayed. Thinking I have spent the last 17 years raising my son to be a good man, only to have him disrespect me in the worse possibly way is like taking a knife to my back and twisting it!

Because of the popularity of this podcast, I think the family would also feel uncomfortable or exposed. At least in a newspaper or on TV news, a story like this can be forgotten quickly once thrown out or watched, but in this day and age with social media being so dominant, this story may never go away. Not to mention the fact that the entire world is now privy to this sensitive story. I would definitely feel sorry for my son because so many people see him as a murderer, but his family still believes he is innocent. Maybe, just maybe the case could be re-opened.

Annan (left), his girl friend (right)

Personally, I would have much rather read this in a book, then have listened to it as a podcast. I tend to get easily distracted when all I have to do is listen because my eyes and mind tend to wander and I get unfocused. With reading, one does not get to hear the voices, but an effective picture can still be developed through the words on the page. Reading gives me the time to concentrate on what is being said, by allowing time to process, picture, and analyze the words. I find with the podcast medium, I am constantly rewinding and going back because I have not listened closely enough. On the flip side, with a podcast I get the chance to listen to someone’s opinion and hear their tone of voice. It gives me a chance to analyze the way the person is talking to get more into the subject and to try and find a deeper meaning. Both options have their pros and cons and it comes down to a personal choice.


The narrator begins the podcast by talking about memories, and how well people can remember things on a given day. If I were to think back a couple weeks, there is no way I would be able to remember clearly what happened, so why do the police think that anyone else in this case can? I can barley remember what I ate for breakfast two days ago! I think its absurd to try and get a teenager to try and remember what happened six weeks ago. No one can remember a specific day at a specific time that long ago, that’s just crazy, so to me, the accusations that the police put on Annan are based on lies and story telling, not true facts.

The Glass Castle: An Archetypal Lens


First of all, The Glass Castle is a great book. I am two thirds through it and I haven’t been able to put it down. I was sceptical about it at first, but it got me hooked. The thing I like about it is the diverse characters. Each character is unique, and each has his or her own story to tell giving the plot so much more depth. Although the novel is written in first person point of view, in this case, the author Jeannette Walls, she touches on each person and tells their unique stories.

When analyzing The Glass Castle from an archetypal view, I have noticed a few important things. The first is that most of the characters fit into the typical archetypal characters. There is the youngest daughter, Jeannette, (the story is told from her point of view) who I think fits the role of the hero. Jeanette shows so much love and more understanding of the world than the other children do, giving her some of the qualities the hero would possess. Secondly, all the other Wall children, (Brian, Lori, and Maureen) fall into the innocent youths. The harsh world that the other children live in is too much for them to understand. They are inexperienced and have to live without guidance from their parents, and their only safety is each other. The parents, Rex and Rose Mary, appear to be the villains.

bad house
A house on Little Hobart Street, similar to the one the Walls lived in.

The parents do nothing to help their children. Rex, is a drunk who spends all the family’s money on alcohol and gambling, but when he comes home with sandwiches he bought with some money he won from gambling, he thinks it is enough to supply for the family. Rose Mary tries her hardest only when the family lives in Phoenix and Battle Mountain. She obtains a job in Battle Mountain and works hard to allow her children to have the best life possible in Phoenix, but before they arrive to these locations, and after they leave, she doesn’t do much to help them. Rex and Rose Mary are content with being poor and don’t care what their children’s needs or wants are. They never do much to try and make their children’s quality of life better. They keep saying they will find riches, and that Rose Mary’s art career will take off, but so far, none of this has happened. In an article by Francine Prose she states how Walls makes the reader see how she and her siblings are convinced that their turbulent life is a glorious adventure. (1)

welch 1974
Welch 1974, a town the Walls lived in.

Another idea I have noticed while reading The Glass Castle is that of the archetypal journey. The first aspect of the journey is Jeannette’s quest for a better life. In my opinion, her initial start of the quest happens when she asks her father to quit drinking and he does, for about 2 weeks or so, but then goes back on his word. It is at this point where she realizes she will have to make her own future for herself. Jeannette is always trying to find ways to help herself, but more importantly, her family to live a better life. There is also the journey the family takes to finding riches and building the glass castle itself. The family moves from town to town, all the while the children’s parents explaining how this is the town they will strike gold. When Rex loses his job in Battle Mountain, Lori states how her father decides they are still staying in town. Jeannette explains how “he had arranged to have himself fired because he wanted to spend more time looking for gold. He had all sorts of plans to make money, [Lori] added, inventions he was working on, odd jobs he had lined up. But for the time being, things might get a little tight around the house” (Walls 67). Rex regularly gets fired from his employment and tells his family it will be okay, but eventually they always have to move so Rex can find another job. The journey consists of constant failure, and as of right now, I don’t see there being an end to this cyclical pattern. From evidence of foreshadowing at the beginning of the book, and because this is a memoir which is non-fiction, I know that Jeannette is successful in finding a better life, but her parents are not. She offers to help numerous times but her dad insists they don’t need anything. They are living the way they want to. (Walls 4) When she meets her mother for lunch and asks again how she can help change her life, her mother responds, “I’m fine. You’re the one who needs help. Your values are all confused” (Walls 5).

Finally, there is the archetypal theme of light vs darkness; in this case, the Desert represents light compared to the town of Welch which represents darkness. The family transitions from these two places (light to dark) and describes the desert as open, wonderful and full of adventure and learning. The desert is where the children’s innocence, happiness  and carefree attitude flows. The desert is bright and life is good here, hence the theme of light. Once they move to Welch, the darkness appears and they lose that innocence. Welch is a mining town and is described to be covered in black soot everywhere. It symbolizes the theme of darkness. Under their grandmother’s care, the children are undernourished and beaten frequently when their parents are out of town. Jeannette herself, witnesses her brother being sexually assaulted by their grandmother. They have moved into one of the worst houses they have lived in yet; there is no running water, no electricity, it is very small, and there is garbage everywhere. This is one of the darkest times in their lives.

Map with the locations where the Walls lived pinpointed on it.

Works Cited

Date Accessed: July 11, 2017

Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: A Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2017. Print.

Date Accessed: July 11, 2017