Tweet or Not to Tweet – What is @Norm’s role here?

It all started last night when I liked Norm’s article and called out Balkissoon for saying Twitter isn’t Norm’s job as I felt he was engaging youth.  I quickly read her article when it was first published and maybe I missed the other points in the article but the title “Twitter is not your job, Norm. Doing good for Toronto is” was about that he shouldn’t be on Twitter.  I since have re-read the article and to be honest I don’t know individually what each City Councillor does or votes against but I agree with Balkissoon that we need more space for our youth and meaningful engagement opportunities in the community.  As well, Balkissoon mentions about getting youth into pools for free and better childcare, I agree with her as those are things youth and families should have access to.  I like her reference to the 3 cities report which was something I used in my masters class on Urban Education.  I agree with the article content and I think it was the title that threw me off. Although I still feel there is value in Norm’s twitter feed as he engages youth a different way than most politicians. I like what Norm tweets as it has engaged a set of the population that usually isn’t reached by the government. I have also noticed what he hasn’t tweeted and I like what Cole points out in his article.  So Balkissoon, I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions to tweeting you based on your articles title. My apologies for that.

We have just moved over from a time where Toronto was known only by Rob Forb. I was in Taiwan teaching a couple summers ago and people came up to me and asked where I was from, and I would say Toronto or Canada and they would say oh where the big fat man who eats cats is or oh the rude fat man or oh Rob Forb. (See this video about cat eating reference which I didn’t get until they showed me the video –> Click here). I got calls from relatives in the states asking me what is wrong with Toronto over this as well.

But moving along to @Norm. I am one of his 223 000 followers and so are many youth of Toronto.  I have former students on twitter who tweet brilliantly, engage in critical dialogue, challenge societal issues, take action and document it through their twitter feeds. I also have former students who tweet random words, a bar of rap lyrics, cool photos, strange photos and comment on the Drake vs. Meek Mill beef. Maybe Norm appeals to the later half and irks the Balkissoon’s and Cole’s of the world.  I also have students who combine both those and tweet critically about Toronto issues and hip hop.  I don’t strongly agree or strongly disagree with Norm’s platform, I am not in his riding, and I don’t know enough about him. I do not feel he is the most amazing or brilliant person to be tweeting but I do think he is doing a great thing.  He has gotten onto the twitter feed of 223 000 people, he tweets his pride about Toronto, informs of city bylaws as they pass, lets us know what a snow storm costs to clean up, when we don’t have to pay for street parking, how to fix something that is wrong in the city, how to make a complaint to 311, random quotes and of course Drake references. Not all youth subscribe to their local Councillor or read newspaper articles on politics. In this day in age it is about instant, to the point information, that is relevant to their lives. Youth follow many celebrities, famous people, musicians, activists and friends. Just like reading a book or newspaper article it is always important to question the author, the source, the intentions and politics around it.

I love Twitter and so happy other people engaged in the conversation. Danielle (@settlingslow) recommended Cole’s article about Norm and I am glad she did.  She also mentioned about if youth get a chance to learn about media criticisms.  I am happy to say in Ontario there is that in the curriculum and even more relevant to social media OSAPAC has released a digital citizenship resource and TDSB ICT standards . Student’s need to watch what they consume and also look for what is being said and also what isn’t being said.  They need to be conscious of what they put out on social media as well.

Another amazing person who I look forward to seeing her tweets is @HYMire. Again why I love having such a rich PLN on twitter, she brought up Norm not doing enough for Black communities and issues around anti-Blackness. I am glad she brought that up and this allowed me to explore deeper into the issue. Cole does a great job in summarizing many of those points. I feel youth who follow Norm will read his rebuttal to Balkissoon, and then read what Balkissoon said, then read what Cole wrote after and open their minds to the situation.  This is the beauty of Twitter and how this has sparked the issues Balkissoon and Cole raise.  I know many students who talked about Cole on Twitter and issues of carding and took to twitter to express themselves. I have witnessed and intervened when my own students walk home and police pull up beside them to ask them what’s up, I came over and asked if everything was cool, and the cops moved along, the students talked to me the next day and told me it happens all the time on their way home. Good kids, going home only to be stopped because they are Black. It is heart breaking. What can I do as their teacher? Have critical conversations, involve community partners like the YOW worker at Pathways, spread the word about carding via social media and vote smarter. The pain I felt when I saw what was happening to my students is far less than the pain felt by those walking without that privilege to be passed by the police.

With this being said I still think Norm being on Twitter is good for Toronto and it is still engaging youth and giving them a gateway into politics and civic engagement. I don’t agree with Norm politically on all fronts, as I don’t think I ever agree fully with politicians and I am very happy there are Balkissoon and Cole with another narrative and challenging what Norm is tweeting (or isn’t tweeting). I have since read more of Balkissoon’s work and she has great points about our city and I have been a long-time fan of Cole and often discuss his work with youth.  I think both articles bring up the issue of co-opting culture and the dangers of that. Youth need to see who is co-opting different cultures (for example youth culture or hip-hop culture) and packaging it back up and selling it back to them. They are hit with this on a daily basis by people and corporations. Even in regards to hip hop in education there is much debate. I was in New York at Columbia University for the Hip Hop Think Tank and it was an amazing discussion.  There were University professors, grad students, community educators and community members all discussing hip hop’s position in schools. Some felt that you can’t put requirements on hip hop and then allow it to be institutionalized and then who could teach it? A scholar? An MC? What about a MC who went to school and successfully navigated the education system and now is a scholar? Or are they now a sell out to the community? Those were some of the great starting points to a super deep discussion (and some heated arguments🙂 ). We hosted a debate last spring in Toronto over this very issue with so many great voices and have worked with educators and hip hop artists on hip hop as critical pedagogy to explore issues of race, class, religion and barriers in education. Along the whole way youth need to be present at the table and driving the direction of the city as well.

To close, Norm’s tweets may be lacking some of the critical issues facing Torontonian’s, especially for people of colour/lower SES, but his tweets do have substance, information and starting points that are directed at youth as well. The beauty of twitter is that you can have as little or as many people in your PLN that shape your learning. I am happy to have @norm part of it and just as happy to have @balkissoon, @DesmondCole @settlingslow @HYMire part of it as well and appreciate the great conversations.

Here are some of the tweets in the last week I have found informative, and novel info about Toronto I wouldn’t have known without seeing his tweets even though I do follow many political / news accounts.






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