Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 16: A pleasant surprise in The Moncton Times and Transcript

My pleasant suprise was confined to two pages. Most of the paper was its usual, blah self. There was little on the federal election - and nothing of any significance. "Bill" Beliveau wrote a much too blatantly Liberal commentary. Evidently, politics in New Brunswick are rather like religious faiths in which one believes without knowing a whole lot about them - doesn't know what they mean, but jumps for joy and shouts Hosanna in the highest for (whatever) party.

But, oh, check out pages F2 and F3 in the Whatever section.

There you will find eight commentaries, all intelligent, well-written, and interesting to read. All of them are by students in our public schools - the same ones the The Times and Transcript has so unethically (and unintelligently) poured its venom on.

One of the commentators is Jana Giles, a grade seven student. I taught grade seven students for several years. I never in those years saw a piece of writing that came close to this one. Indeed, I have had university students, more than a few, whose writing was below Jana's level.

I disagreed only with one commentary. It was well-written. It was intelligent. On first reading, I quite agreed with it. This is the column by the Whatever Editor who is, like the other writers, a public school student. But I felt uneasy about it on second thought.

This is the item headed "One-size-fits-all approach to teaching. It is a complaint that the schools seem to be shifting shifting away from streaming courses which puts gifted students in a certain subject in one class, and and those who have difficulties in another.

The problem here is that to note the shift, and even to voice an opinion about it would be quite legitimate. To mention nothing of the other side of the story - and to blame the school disctrict for it - well these are not legitimate. What have here is a case of editorial disease. Luckily, we have caught it early, and the patient's mind seems unusually healthy. So, it can be cured.

1. I would start such an editorial with a statement that the teachers I have seen in Moncton have worked very hard, harder than I have known in other provinces (and countries) to help those students who need coaching.They freely give up their lunch hours, and they give up periods set for other duties, to help students. That is voluntary effort; and it deserves recognition and credit.
2. As a student who was educated in streamed-class schools, I know their failings. Students in the "bobo" class know damned well that they've been slotted as dummies. It can happen way too early in life that a person is, in effect, taught he is of low intellectual quality. And so it happens that Selective classes can convince children they lack ability - at an age when it is far too early to make such judgements.

Beware of anything that "brands" children - either with inferiority or with superiority. The errors you make can affect a child for life.

I feel a little stongly about that because I was branded as  hopeless loss, and was told by the principle to leave school in the last year of high school. So I became an office boy which, he had told me, was all I would ever be good for.

Ten years later, he still  had his BA.. I never got a high school certificate. But I did get a Ph.D.

3. Then there are the questions of cost and use of resources. Were they factors in the decision?
Did the editor ask those questions? I see no evidence she even thought of them.

Beware of modelling yourself on editors. For the most part, editors are hired hands whose job it is to sell papers, and to be the owner's mouthpiece. That can be true even of quite prestigious ones. The result is generations of editors who have written editorials (often inflammatory ones) on subjects they know nothing about - except that such is what the boss wants.

The editor of The Moncton TandT once wrote furiously about the illegality of coalitions in our political system. This was the official line adopted at the time by the Conservative leadership in Ottawa. In fact, there is nothing wrong with coalitions, a piece of information easily determined by reading those pages of any History of Canada which mentions the First World War. It can also be determined by a reading of the history of the Conservative party since 1867. Harper lied. The editor who believed him was either a hack or an ignoramus. Perhaps both.

Before writing an editorial with the judgemental tone of yours, it would have wise to ask some questions and, even then, to avoid assigning the blame.

(Oh, Shakespeare would never write "shoe-in". The expression is an old one going back to the fifteenth century, and perhaps dating back to Latin. It had various spellings such a showe-in and schowe-in.  Today, it is spelled shoo-in. It has nothing to do with the feet -( unless you swat at a fly, and say "shoo"..)

The Whatever Editor should take this as kindly advice. She's good. She can write. She's intelligent. She is much to good to waste her talents by imitating newspaper editors.

This is really an oustanding section of The Moncton Times&Trnscript. Today, certainly is was the best section.

1 comment:

  1. The "newspaper" should run a disclaimer under the Belliveau "column" pointing out that he is a lifelong Liberal hack, as was his father before him.