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Final Exam

A profile photo of 'The Agenda’s' Steve Paikin.

Notable Nerd

The Agenda’s Steve Paikin shares how his education shaped his love of history, politics, art — and his career.

By Laura Bickle
Photo: Courtesy of TVO

Name: Steve Paikin

Describe your elementary school self.

Absolutely, incredibly nerdy.

Describe yourself in high school.

Absolutely, incredibly nerdier.

What was your favourite subject?

The humanities: English, French, Latin, history. They’ve been very helpful in my job.

Favourite literary piece studied?

Johnny Tremain. It’s about a kid growing up in revolutionary times. It got me interested in American history, which I’m still into today.

Who are your favourite writers?

Elmore Leonard, Jeffrey Simpson, George F. Will, John Ibbitson and Jimmy Carter.

Favourite historical figures?

John A. Macdonald, Abraham Lincoln and John Robarts (premier of Ontario, 1961–71).

Who are your heroes?

Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson. I wish I had had the opportunity to interview them.

Which teacher did you most admire?

Bryan Wylie — I am still in touch with him. In Grade 13, he taught English 2, which included art, literature and classical music. He made that class come to life. Even today, when I see a piece of art or hear music that we studied, I am taken right back to his classroom.

What do you wish you had been taught in school but weren’t?

We were taught about World War II in Grade 8. I’d have preferred it later. In my opinion, it was the most important era in history and I was too young to appreciate it.

If you could create any new course of your choice, what would it be?

Something similar to that English 2 class I mentioned. Filling our souls with culture is so important. I fear we’re losing that. How will the Toronto Symphony Orchestra be around in 50 years if students aren’t taught how to appreciate classical music?

What was your dream career?

I thought I’d be a teacher because I was fascinated by the idea of knowing stuff and passing it on to others. I feel like I’m still doing that but in a different way.

Tell us about your Learning 2030 series.

We heard a lot of neat ideas on the show; classrooms will be very different in 2030. What won’t change is the need for great teachers — the foundation of education.

What’s it like to be a chancellor?

It’s a bit like being a Governor General — you have no power, but you can have influence. I hope to be there for the students — to support them and be their cheerleader.

Are you still a self-described nerd?

Absolutely. With my interests, there’s no escaping it!

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